[Late to the party? Get caught up by starting with Part 1.]
The L.A. Convention Center is a confusing, poorly designed space, especially for a first-time E3 goer. The place is chopped up into several cavernous halls: West Hall, South Hall, and Kentia Hall. The only "hall" I'd ever heard of previous to this was the "mead hall" that Grendel lays waste to in the Old English poem, Beowulf. Ah, 9th grade English class.
To make matters worse, each of these halls is approximately 4.3 miles from the other halls. So, if you get confused and head to the South Hall for an appointment that's actually in the West Hall, you can forget all about making the West Hall appointment.
I was trying to get the lay of the land in the name of locating the Press Room, where I would, hopefully, acquire an important object known as the press badge. The press badge is the key to E3, only instead of being wrapped in tinfoil and buried under some dirt in a planter, it was buried inside several tons of steel and glass inside the convention center. The Press Room, according to the useless L.A.C.C. map I was peering at, was not located in any of the halls, but in a "Meeting Room" on "Level 2A-1."
For the second time that day--but far from the final time--I was lost.
As I studied my map like Magellan, certain that I was on the cusp of discovering a lost, game-loving civilization--a civilization that I was sure I was always destined to be a part of--convention-goers milled around me with a great sense of purpose and direction. Almost everyone wore baggy-type khaki shorts and carried giant backpacks. A guy with a mustache walked by talking excitedly into a cellphone. "We need to get the live blog of the Nintendo presser posted NOW, NOW, NOW!" he said.
His trilogy of NOW's jarred me out of my map-gazing stupor. Live blog? Nintendo presser? What the shit? Not only did this guy have a cell phone, which seemed like an incredible indulgence at the time--like the last passenger on the Titanic, I was still clinging madly to my plug-in-the-wall AT&T home phone--he was speaking a language I did not understand at all.
The guy saw me staring at him as he barked still more important-sounding jargon into his fancy phone. He gave me a dismissive look before he and his dumb mustache strode off into the buzzing throngs.
I was suddenly overwhelmed with self-consciousness. I felt paranoid, as if all of these khaki-shorts-wearing, backpack-carrying people around me knew full well that I had no idea where the fuck I was going or what the fuck I was doing here. I recalled my first days in New York City, when I was constantly certain that I wearing the wrong clothes and doing all the wrong things; clothes and actions that were forever exposing me as some kind of banjo-plucking, jug-band-blowing rube from Upstate New York. (Which I was.) Here I was hemorrhaging cash, riding mysterious blue buses around L.A., looking for sets of keys wrapped in tinfoil, sleeping in some lady's apartment in Santa Monica who I'd never met before (and at this point, still hadn't met), looking at unreadable maps. In my head I heard that creepy Mr. Hooper from Sesame Street singing his creepy song, "One of these things is not like the other..."
I put away the shit-ass map and instead started to look at the people around me. I studied them the way that Jane Goodall studied her beloved tick-eating apes. Some people already had badges hanging around their necks; some people did not have badges. I focused on the badge-less. I noticed that they all seemed to be milling towards one particular nearby escalator. I followed these badge-less apes. I rode their escalator. And voila, they led me straight to the Press Room.
While congratulating myself on my display of cleverness, I located the "U.S. Media" line and took my place at the end. When it was finally my turn, I walked up to the attendant, a chubby, gray-haired woman who looked as if she'd recently had her entire mouth removed and had a frown tattooed in its place. I handed her my New York State driver's license--one of the so-called acceptable forms of I.D.--along with one of my flimsy, totally junky business cards. She looked these items over, shot me a skeptical look, then punched some data into the computer in front of her. She then spun around in her desk chair and stared at the large, humming printer behind her.
We both stared at the printer for awhile. Man, was it ever a big printer. It was the biggest fucking printer I'd ever seen. After a few agonizingly long moments, the printer began to groan, making a sound not unlike the front door of a haunted house opening. Then a small index-card sized piece of cardboard emerged. Without a word, the woman slipped the bit of cardboard into the pocket of a clear plastic envelope that was attached to a lanyard.
She handed the lanyard to me. "That's your badge," she said. "Try not to lose it."
Outside the press room, my need to don the badge became almost physically overwhelming. I found a quiet corner, then inserted my head through the loop of shoestring. I felt like I'd been knighted. I half expected a blast of clarions, or maybe a flock of dirty pigeons to take flight.
I looked at the badge, which, from my perspective, was upside down. It was still warm from the huge printer. Below my name, at the bottom of the badge, was the indicator of who I was here at the convention: MEDIA.
I let the badge fall to my chest. I surveyed the milling crowds below. Everyone was waiting for the clock to strike 10, so that the doors to South, West and Kentia--well, nobody was probably waiting to get into Kentia--would officially open.
With my badge in place, I suddenly felt a great sense of pride and belonging. I felt the day's momentum shifting in my favor. I was no longer a cash-hemorrhaging banjo-plucking outsider here. I belonged here now. This piece of cardboard hanging around my neck proved that I belonged here now. I belonged here because I was MEDIA.
I got onto the escalator, and as I descended into the crowds, I thought, Look out, you game-loving motherfuckers. Here I come.