09 June 2011

E3 2011: The B.O. Report

The plug was finally pulled on E3 2011 late in the day last Thursday afternoon. As thousands of attendees either sped to the airport to catch early evening flights or else retired to hotel lounges for much deserved drinks at the bar, the overproduced, overheated booths--including that daunting dragon looming above the Bethesda booth--was all being dismantled. Digression: Where do all the trappings of the booths go? Is there a landfill that gets stuffed with these things? Does the 50-foot TV in the Sony booth get shipped to Jack Tretton's house? Can the dragon be recycled?

E3 always has a mirage quality about it. For a few short days each year, it suddenly appears in in the shimmering heat of downtown Los Angeles, rising in the place where there previously was nothing (convention centers are always vacant, anonymous spaces waiting to be filled), sucking vast amounts of electricity from the power grid, and becoming a physical manifestation of a medium that becomes more ephemeral with each passing year. As games lose their status as physical objects, as game stores become less necessary--love them or hate them, it's only a matter of time before the GameStops of the world are forever shuttered--gamers have fewer real-world destinations to travel to and gather in. And, despite the old saw that gamers are antisocial nerds, I believe that we actually like to gather. We need to gather. We need to physically see one another, and have actual conversations--not comment-thread conversations; not message board posts, or curt twitter exchanges. We need to hug, to tell each other how happy we are to see one another, and to sometimes, on occasion, even discuss things other than videogames.

That's why, more than ever, we need PAX. We need Fan Expo in Toronto and Comic Con and the Game Developers Conference. We need regular excuses to sit across from one another, if only for a little while. One of the favorite topics of conversation at E3 this year, and every year, is the poor hygiene of our fellow gamers. Fact: body odor runs rampant through E3. We pretend to all complain about it--approximately 20-percent of all E3 conversations are centered around gripes about body odor and/or bad breath. Yet, in some strange way, I think that we secretly like the odors. Not simply because they give us common conversation ground, uniting people in an us-versus-them dynamic (we smell good, they smell bad), but because the odors somehow work to make the silly, ephemeral experience of E3 that much more tangible and real.

Because there is nothing more human than B.O. and bad breath.

On my way home on Thursday night, I boarded the plane and discovered that I was to be seated next to a man who honestly could not have smelled any worse. I was initially furious with the situation, and with this man. He was quiet. He didn't take up much space. He read the in-flight magazine and dozed. But his B.O. was not of this earth. I privately begged the stewardess to find another seat for me. "I'm sorry, sir, but the flight is sold out," she explained.

As the plane leveled off at a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet, as the man napped next to me, I suddenly made the executive decision to stop breathing through my mouth. I decided to embrace the man's B.O. I took it in. Jesus, it was strong. But, really, after a few whiffs, it wasn't that bad. The poor guy was probably a developer who'd just finished a 14-hour shift on the show floor. Who knew what he was leaving behind in L.A.? Who knew what he was headed home to? He was probably a sweet man. He probably had simply forgotten to pack his deodorant. He probably owned a dog, or maybe even a couple of cats. He probably loved videogames as much as, if not more, than I do.

When our plane finally landed later that night, I hustled through the sleepy airport, past the dark Hudson Newsstands, past the beverage refrigerators humming away in the shadows, leaving behind E3 2011, this man, and his wild, piquant B.O. once and for all.


  1. If you wrote a book, I would buy it. You have a fantastic way of capturing the world through words.

  2. I completely agree with what anonymous said!

  3. I can almost forgive teens that hangout at board game or comic book stores, but grown-ass adults, in public places?

    Grow the fuck up people!

  4. Please write a book, on anything!

  5. I'm certainly conscious that Dr. Mabuse is trolling, but I feel in a mood to respond. (Maybe I'm just cranky because a bunch of hooligans made my city look like a roiling mess of lunatics last night.)

    Dr. Mabuse made a request: "Grow the f*** up people!". I've spent a large portion of my life putting away such "childish things" as video games so that I could "grow up", become more responsible, get a career, et cetera, et cetera. I let other folks' perpetuation of a ridiculous stigma take away one of my true joys in life for too many years.

    And then one day I did "grow the f*** up": I took stock of my life and what makes me truly happy. I realized that NOT growing up is in part letting others and others' perceptions dictate your life.

    I love video games... I'm seriously happy when I have a controller in hand, and I'm privileged enough to witness to the skill, talent and sheer awesomeness that goes into the games that I love (and even the ones that I don't). I love hanging out with other like-minded folk and sharing our passion, or just savouring the warm fuzzy feeling that comes from like-mindedness. And I'm no longer shy about telling non-like-minded folks that my idea of a perfect night is in a pitch-black apartment with a great game in my hand.

    So, whatever your passions are, Dr. Mabuse, I hope that if you haven't yet, you, too, "grow the f*** up" and enjoy them with abandon… even if it is trolling.

    Meanwhile, I'm going to go back to (quietly) enjoying a damn fine blog.

  6. Kim, I think he meant "Grow the f*** up" about learning how to bathe and smell like human beings that function in a society, rather than about liking video games.

  7. Ah, indeed, perhaps your right, 007bgb (I like your interpretation better). In which case, my apologies, Dr. M...clearly I was pre-disposed to a rant, and if it was misdirected, I'm doubly sorry. :)

  8. I have to say, your tolerance and understanding for that man's B.O. is commendable. If I was in your place, I wouldn't know how to survive that plane trip.

    I used to think that putting deodorant on was as spontaneous as putting your underwear on before leaving the house. But a couple of days ago, I was running late and in my haste, I forgot to put on my deodorant! I didn't realize it until I was already out of my apartment so I thought "fck it, I'm already late!"

    I didn't get any weird looks from people that day, so it's safe to say I didn't smell that bad.

    Except for that one guy who fell off his bicycle trying to dodge me. He looked really pissed (I was running late and besides, people aren't even supposed to bicycle on the sidewalk).

  9. I forgot to mention one more thing.

    Since we're in the topic of human odor, let me just say that Scott Jones has impeccable hygiene. This man can sweat profusely through his shirt without emitting any offending scent. Amazing!

  10. "wild, piquant B.O."

    F'ng funny.

  11. Off topic for this post, but when I saw this this morning, it made me think of the unexpectedly-more-than-a-fart fart story from some time earlier.


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