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Goodbye to E3

On 06/16/2024 at 08:27 AM by Cary Woodham

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Earlier this year, the ESA announced they would be cancelling E3 yet again and they wouldn’t have it anymore.  So I wanted to say my final goodbyes and reminisce on my favorite E3 memories here.  The reasons why I didn’t do this earlier when they first announced it I was pretty busy at the time, and I figured I’d do it when E3 usually occurred around now.

I’ve been attending E3 for quite a while. When I started writing for The Dallas Morning News, I thought I’d try going since I was a member of the press and could get passes. This was back in 1996 or 97. I went every year until 2001, when they let me go at the paper. But then a couple of years later, I started writing for and I went again for a few years. But after 2006, E3 went through a few changes and cutbacks, so I stopped going for a while. Which was good because it helped me branch out to other events like PAX.  For a while E3 got a bit picky on who they let in, so sometimes after that, they wouldn’t approve my press credentials.  That was annoying at times, but at least I could go to PAX, which was a lot like E3.  In fact, usually the companies that went to PAX would just use the same booths and decorations they had at E3, so it was kind of pointless to go to both anyway.  But for some reason, E3 let me in one final year and then stopped.  At one point they started letting the public in, but you had to pay a bunch of money to get in. 

So why did E3 stop?  Well, I’d say COVID had a lot to do with it.  But there were some other reasons as well.  Before E3, the video game show was just in a small area of the CES (Consumer Electronics Show), and the video game folks wanted to show the rest of the entertainment industry that they mattered, too.  So they started having their own overblown show and I think they proved their point.  And with online video conferences like Nintendo Directs and such, it doesn’t have as much impact.  And that’s a crying shame, in my opinion.  Nothing beats seeing the games in person and having a professionally trained games journalist analyze a game and tell you how it really played.  When you see a video a company puts out, they have complete control.  And that’s really not good.  So just keep that in mind the next time a video trailer excites you.  Some people may say E3 was too exclusive but that’s what I think PAX was for.  The public could go to PAX and the folks who worked hard like me to get into the games journalism industry could go to E3.  And yes I did work hard.  But anyway, enough of that.  Let me share my favorite E3 memories with you now.

E3 has changed a lot since the time I started attending. I remember when the press room was filled with cubby holes with press kits you could pick up. Back then, press releases were on actual paper and put into folders. I used those folders to hold my notes in college! Later, the press kits were on CDs, but now everything is online and the press room was filled with computers for media to use. While having everything online means it was easier to pack stuff home, I kind of miss the old days because the paper press kits would sometimes be really creative. Nintendo’s kits used to come in really nice binders, portfolios, and even backpacks!

And did you know that for a couple of years, E3 was in Atlanta, not LA? The first year I went to E3 was when it was in Atlanta. Since I have family in Alabama and Georgia, having E3 there ‘felt’ closer to home. Plus, when E3 was done, we’d drive out and visit family. That’s actually one of my favorite E3 memories right there.  I would also always bring my dad to E3 with me, because I’ve been blind in my left eye since birth and needed his help getting me around since I can’t drive and such.  But it was also fun because we got to spend time together.  I remember my dad being so blown away by the first E3 we went to, that when we left, the first thing he said was, “So when’s next year’s show?”

Press Conferences

When I first started going to E3, they had keynote speeches before the show started. I went to a couple of these. The very first one I went to was when the Intel commercials had the people in colored clean room suits dancing to the Bee Gee’s Stayin’ Alive song. So for that first keynote speech, it started with a dance number on stage with people in those clean room suits. At the end of the dance, one of them took his mask off and it was the president of Intel! Since he was pretty old and couldn’t do all that dancing, they must have done some tricky stage switching to make him look like he was on stage the whole time! But because that was my first impression of E3, every time I hear that Stayin’ Alive song, I always think of E3. Another keynote speech a year later featured Tom Brokaw, but by then keynotes got pretty boring so I stopped going to them.  Except the very last year I went to E3, I got to go to Nintendo’s press conference.  This was before Nintendo Directs started getting big, so the press conferences were always notable.  Although this press conference was when they were showing the Wii U launch lineup, so it wasn’t the best one, but I still liked the Wii U so I enjoyed it.  Plus I got to see Reggie Fils-Aime and Shigeru Miyamoto up on stage!

Nintendo’s Booth

I know I’ve told this story many times before, but it’s important here.  The very first E3 I went to was the year that Nintendo was going to release Pokémon for the first time in the US, and at their booth they were showing off how they were going to market it and I knew it would be big.  I immediately called my editor and told him I wanted to cover everything Pokémon related.  He said, “Yeah sure, whatever.”  But he did stay true to his word so for a few years I was writing Pokémon articles left and right.  I like to say that Pokémon helped pay my way through college.  And E3 helped with that.

The best game booths at E3 are the ones that keep you wanting to come back every day to see what’s new. Nintendo’s booth has always done that with their games, but sometimes other things have been memorable to me at Nintendo’s area. One year they had a talking animatronic Mario who would greet you as you walked by. There must’ve been someone nearby behind it who could see what was going on because you could have whole conversations with the Mario robot. That year I was still in college and I was wearing my UT hat with a big UT Longhorn logo on the top, and the animatronic Mario said, “It looks-a like-a bird a-pooped on you hat!” The next year they added a talking Wario statue, and it cracked me up when he said, “Go to the Nintendo Sports section to get some free popcorn! But you’d better hurry because I’m-a gonna eat it all! WHA HA HA HA!”

Later on, when Nintendo was first showing the DS, they had a press-only demo room with stations to try demos of early DS games. It was SO crowded in there and you could only pick one demo before having to leave. Luckily, a nice Nintendo lady saved a demo for Pac-Pix for me to play. How did she know I liked Pac-Man? That was the one demo I really wanted to try! The big surprise was after leaving the DS room, I got to meet and shake hands with the guy who did the voice of Mario and other Nintendo characters, Charles Martinet! Another fun memory I have at Nintendo’s booth is playing Wii Sports with members of the GamerDad staff.

Namco’s Booth

Namco is another favorite game company of mine, so I always like going to their booth. When Pac-Man World was being developed for the PSOne, it had a rocky development cycle. It started out being called Pac-Man Ghost Zone, then Pac-Man 3-D before settling on World. It was really the first game I got to follow from start to finish as a game reviewer, so even though it’s not the best Pac-Man game ever, it’s special to me for that reason. I also got to know the members of the Pac-Man World team really well. In fact, when Pac-Man World 2 came out, that was about the time that the newspaper let me go. I had to e-mail the team and tell them I wouldn’t be reviewing it, and to not send me a review copy. But the team sent me a copy of the sequel anyway and they all signed the box! I thought that was very nice of them. Some of the members of the Pac-Man World team went on to make other games like Capcom’s Maximo. I doubt that any of them read my blog now, but Brian Leake and Scott Rogers, if you ever read this, I’ll never forget you guys!

A few years later, Namco’s booth starting having a stage show with booth ladies talking about Namco’s latest games. I never really paid attention to them, but one time they were throwing out Pac-Man goodies to the crowd. I couldn’t catch them, so I was a little sad. But later, a Namco booth lady hopped off the stage and handed me a Pac-Man goodie. I thought that was really nice. I think a Namco employee must’ve told them I like to collect Pac-Man stuff. Another year, Namco had a giant Katamari ball at their booth and you could stick stuff to it. I brought some things to stick on it, and by the end of the third day, it had gotten pretty big! And for Pac-Man’s 25th or 30th Anniversary, Namco’s president cut a big Pac-Man birthday cake! I wish I could’ve gotten a slice, but it was too crowded. I also wish I could’ve gotten to meet Toru Iwatani, Pac-Man’s creator, or Go Shiina, my favorite game music composer (He doesn’t work for Namco anymore, but still does contract work for them).

SEGA’s Booth

During the Saturn years, SEGA’s booth was kind of dreary. But in the Dreamcast years, SEGA’s booth felt like a nonstop party. One year, a graffiti artist was decorating the booth during the show to promote Jet Grind Radio, and they had a fun Space Channel 5 stage dance number as well. The year they did that, a funny yet embarrassing thing happened to me involving a lady dressed as Ulala. But I won’t tell you what it was because it was too embarrassing.  I think the last year I went to E3, I checked out Sonic Generations at SEGA’s booth, and then after I checked my 3DS to see who I StreetPassed, and Yuji Naka showed up!  I asked later and SEGA did say he came by as well!  E3 was a great place to StreetPass a lot of people on the 3DS.  I loved that feature of the handheld.

SNK’s Booth

Ever since I was writing for The Dallas Morning News, I’ve always had good connections with SNK. I’m not sure why that is, though. SNK used to have booths at E3, and some years they were really cool, with arcade cabinets you could play and everything. One year, they had one of SNK’s character artists signing posters of fighters he drew. I think his pen name was “Falcoon” or something. Only problem was the poster I got is of Mai Shiranui, and she’s NOT one of my favorite characters. Oh well. I also got a Fatal Fury hat that year. Another year when they were promoting the Neo Geo Pocket Color, I told one of the PR reps how much I enjoyed the recently released Card Fighters Clash. He had his NGPC and game with him, and so did I, so we spent some time playing that game with each other!

Cary Kicks Rayman’s Butt!

One year at Ubisoft’s booth when they were promoting a new Rayman game, they had a little movie theater where Rayman would tell you about him and his new game! I think behind the screen, the character was animated and voiced in real time using some sort of rotoscoping technology, because he was talking to us like he could see us. He even called me up on stage to talk with me personally in front of everyone! I was in front of a green screen, so on the monitor it looked like I was in Rayman’s world. Rayman and I talked for a bit and he told me to punch him right in the gut! So I did, and I kicked him, too. So yeah, at E3 I can say that I kicked Rayman’s butt! But then Rayman and I were friends again and even did a little dance together up on stage. Before leaving, Rayman told me to pick up a video tape after the show of us together on stage. When I showed that tape to my little brothers back home, it totally BLEW THEIR MINDS! I still have that tape somewhere.

Video Game History Museum

Another favorite booth was the Video Game History Museum, which showcased old consoles and arcade games you could play. I even got to meet David Crane there one year at E3. He created games like Pitfall and A Boy and His Blob.  Years later, the Video Game History Museum would plant roots and have a permanent exhibit in MY HOME TOWN, which killed me since I volunteered there and helped set it up, and even got to meet David Crane again.  But they would never hire me full time.  Very heartbreaking, especially since a lot of attendees said I belonged there.  But at least I tried. The museum is still there, surprisingly.

Breakfast, Lunch, and Parties

When I wrote for The Dallas Morning News, I always wanted to review kids’ games. But they had a lady already doing that so I didn’t get to. That’s why I like writing for GamerDad now, even better than writing for the newspaper. Anyway, back then, one of the best kid game makers was Humongous, creators of characters like Putt-Putt, Pajama Sam, etc. I wish they were still around. But back then, when I would visit them at E3, they always invited me to eat lunch with them! So I ate with them every day of the show. We did this for a few years; it got to be a tradition. It was always so much fun. I think their characters would make for a great Nick Jr. show.

While most people enjoy getting invited to press dinners and parties, I liked the press breakfasts I got invited to better because that’s my favorite meal of the day. One year a company was promoting some new Sesame Street computer products, and they had a Sesame Street themed breakfast to show them off! The tables were decorated with characters, we ate a blueberry muffin cake shaped like Elmo, and I even got my picture taken with Big Bird! We even got to take home some neat goodies, too. I never saw the products they showed off in stores, though. But then, the talking Big Bird plush that you could plug into the computer and it would say your child’s name was pretty creepy!

Another fun press breakfast I went to was promoting a PS2 fitness game called YourFitness. The game didn’t do very well because it was a little ahead of its time. But the breakfast had lots of yummy healthy fruits and cereals (my favorite kind of breakfast). And they had some ladies who worked at a famous LA gym showing off the game. They were really cool, and they wanted me to stay afterwards to show me more of the game. I wished I could have, but I couldn’t because I had meetings to go to, and I didn’t want to get too sweaty!

The first year I went to E3, I did get invited to Sony’s famous night party. I went, but the music was too loud and the food looked like it had been sitting outside too long. But it was still kind of neat being there because this was when the PSOne had been out for a couple of years and they were starting to really steal Nintendo’s thunder. It was a fun time because Sony was eager to adopt the new CD technology while Nintendo didn’t, and the PSOne’s possibilities seemed endless. Unfortunately, in future years I think Sony got a little too cocky. Another year when I showed my invitations to the party, Sony said they were fakes (they weren’t) and were really rude about it. But they were also rude that same year to the folks who run the Penny Arcade web comic, so I don’t feel too bad. But ever since then, Sony’s booth has always felt a little unwelcome to me.

Meeting Celebrities

Since E3 is in LA, sometimes famous celebrities show up, and I’ve met a few of them. I got to meet Gary Colman and Evil Kinevil before they passed away. I also got to meet the lady who was on X-Files, but I can’t remember her name now. Which is sad since I used to like that show when I was in high school and college. I also got to meet Stan Lee one year. I met some wrestler lady another year but I can’t remember her name either. Stacy something I think, I don’t know, I don’t get into wrestling. She was pretty, but didn’t look much like a wrestler to me, but what do I know? And as I said before, I got to meet David Crane and Charles Martinet, too.  My favorite celebrity meetup was actually at PAX one time when I met the guy who played Lando on Star Wars.  Billy Dee Williams.  I talked with him for a good 15 minutes!  But that was at PAX, not E3, so I want to keep this blog focused on that.

People Are the Best

While playing the games at E3 is fun, my favorite part of any E3 is meeting all the nice folks there. PR reps, game developers, and even the booth lady helpers have always been nice and accommodating to me. One of my favorite years was when I got to meet other members of the GamerDad staff in person!  And of course, spending time with my dad is the best part of E3 for me.

Count Your Many Blessings…

When I was in college I was writing game reviews and other articles for The Dallas Morning News, and there were many good indications that I’d be doing that for a living when I got out of school. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out that way, and sometimes I get discouraged because of that. There’s actually a church hymn about counting your many blessings when you are down, so when I do get bummed out about not being able to write gaming articles for a living, I just remember the fun times I’ve had at E3. Each one of those memories is like a blessing. And when I see how many blessings I have, I realize that I’ve had many opportunities and experiences that many gamers don’t get. So I consider myself very lucky!

You know how people talk about their “happy place?”  Well, when I would go to E3, I always felt like I belonged and I was doing something I was supposed to be doing.  So I consider E3 to be my “Happy Place.”  Going there was some of the best times of my life, so I’m going to really miss it.  Luckily PAX is still around, but I haven’t been to it in four years thanks to COVID making it smaller and killing off PAX South.  But maybe someday I can go back to that, too.  With online videos and virtual events kind of taking over, I truly hope that people realize that nothing replaces doing things in person, like going to E3.  I will always cherish those memories.

And that’s all for now.  In the comments section, let me know your favorite E3 memories.  You don’t have to have gone, but maybe you read an article about it you really liked or something (maybe one written by me?).  Later!  --Cary




06/21/2024 at 01:32 PM

You are lucky. I always wanted to go to E3 but never did. I used to follow it every year until they stopped having it. This year I went to a local convention, watched the Xbox reveal and Nintendo Direct, and watched a video on a model building convention in Japan. I'll be going to another real world convention in Sept. So we still got loval conventions at least. E3 was the big show however. That, CES and the Penny Arcade Con (is it still going?). I do miss E3. It feels like gaming really doesn't have a show anymore. Although, there's the game awards show in November. I usually watch highlights though. 


Cary Woodham

06/21/2024 at 10:04 PM

PAX is still around. I just haven't been in a while because it's been a lot smaller since COVID and now I have to watch my money more since my living expenses are different now.


06/22/2024 at 12:19 PM

Oh, right, PAX. I had forgotten it's been so long since I considered going to one. I have a few local ones my friend and I go to like Retro Con, Too Many Games and the one in September I forgot the name of already. 

Cary Woodham

06/23/2024 at 05:49 AM

I'd like to go to more local ones but I don't know which ones are in my area. Plus I usually have to work on weekends and price and transportation are issues too.


06/25/2024 at 03:34 PM

I work on weekends too. I usually wait to see what Con my friend wants to go to and then take a day off for it. He's in a wheelchair, so I'm the designated driver for these things. 

Cary Woodham

06/26/2024 at 08:20 AM

That's good that you drive your friend around to do things.  I can't drive either so I know how that is.


06/28/2024 at 01:48 PM

He used to drive himself but not since his shoulder's started going on him. 

Cary Woodham

06/30/2024 at 08:08 AM

I imagine it must be rough for people who could drive but now they can't because of a disability.  Me, I've been this way all my life so it's all I know.


07/05/2024 at 01:36 PM

Yeah, my friend really wants to get out more. I just can't afford that wheelchair accessible car.

Cary Woodham

07/06/2024 at 08:00 AM

Going out in general is expensive anymore!


06/26/2024 at 12:45 AM

The last E3 I really enjoyed was seeing Microsoft get torched by Sony and everyone else at E3 2013 over the myriad poor decisions they made for the Xbox One, decisions which are still dragging them down eleven years later. 

I guess I also sort of enjoyed the reveals of the crowdfunded games at E3 2015 like Shenmue III. Pity so many Kickstarter video games turned out to be complete busts. Nintendo shadow-dropping Earthbound Beginnings was kind of cool, too, even if they were doing it to try to tide themselves over until they could get the Switch out the door. 

Other than that, though, E3 was a product of its time, and that time passed long before E3 itself closed up show. Even Geoff Keighley's Kojima-fest... I mean, Game Awards doesn't quite attract the same interest as E3 in its heyday.

Cary Woodham

06/26/2024 at 08:23 AM

I never got a Xbox console after the 360.  It's a shame because I really liked the 360.

I never could get into Kickstarters.

I never liked the Game Awards.  That's why I made up my own.


06/26/2024 at 02:06 PM

At this point, I'm going to say that the 360 was a lucky fluke on Microsoft's part whose success owed more to Playstation's mistakes than to any good planning on Microsoft's part. My 360 E74'd, and by that time, games like Valkyria Chronicles that were more my taste were starting to show up on PS3. So I dipped out on Xbox. I just wish they would stop buying up other game companies, because they're only leaving more wreckage behind. Hopefully the board of directors is going to tell Nadella and Spencer to STOP at some point. To borrow a phrase from Better Call Saul, Xbox is like a chimp with a machine gun.

I think with Kickstarters, the excitement was over games and genres being made through crowdfunding that major publishers wouldn't touch anymore by game designers who had made their names at big publishers. Unfortunately, it's been hit or miss. A few of them turned out okay. I've been playing Eiyuden Chronicles, which was made by the creators of Suikoden. It's good, but probably needed more time in the oven. Mighty no. 9 was pretty much a disaster.Some of those guys really needed a publisher to be the adults in the room and ride herd on them.  Chris Roberts comes to mind here. Star Citizen has raised a half-billion dollars and is still in alpha.

Cary Woodham

06/27/2024 at 07:33 AM

Didn't Microsoft pay Japanese companies to make games for the 360?  I think that's why that console had more variety of games.  Even though it seems like I'm hugely loyal to Nintendo, I just go to where the fun games that I like are.  Usually that is Nintendo, but sometimes it's Sony, or Microsoft, or even SNK's consoles.

It's hard for me to get into Kickstarters because I don't like paying for something that i don't know what it is.  Plus I can barely afford to get all the games I want that aren't Kickstarters!  And most are disappointing to me anyway.  I think the only two Kickstarter games I was really impressed with was Shovel Knight and one of the Shantae games.


06/27/2024 at 12:32 PM

Microsoft did pay Japanese companies for limited excusivity. The companies that took the deal ended up regretting it when the fans didn't show up on Xbox 360 in either Japan or the United States. Microsoft did a lot of damage to by doing that.  That's why I dislike that they won't take the hint that Xbox is never going to be a thing in Japan (it isn't doing well anywhere these days). 

I don't back Kickstarters because it's basically investment without return and without any of the fiduciary laws that govern businesses and protect investors. After the initial wave of Kickstarter games was kicked off by Double Fine, it's kind of petered out with too many disappointments. There have been some decent ones. Bloodstained and Eiyuden Chronicles were follow-ups to Konami games that the company doesn't seem to be interested in making anymore. I think Yooka-Laylee was a KS game, too. Tesla Effect was the sixth game in the Tex Murphy series, which was a series of PC adventure games that I loved. They even brought back the original Leisure Suit Larry with the intent of remastering the whole series, except that the development process didn't go smoothly and Al Lowe decided to back out and go back into retirement. Another company makes LSL games these days. Shenmue III was interesting, but it was also criticized for largely being stuck in the 2000s as far as game design. I think Bloodstained probably got the best reception of any KS game I can think of.

And then there was the Ouya...

Kicikstarter seems to have done better for board games than for video games.

Cary Woodham

06/28/2024 at 10:55 AM

Yooka-Laylee needed more time in the oven.  It also had a couple of really annoying boss battles.  I think it's cool they made a second game that was 2D and played more like Donkey Kong Country.

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