My First E3 with Xbox

Note from Editor: It has been a huge month for Xbox. Huge. We’ve shared lots of exciting news here on Xbox Wire and it’s been a great time to hear from you on everything you liked about Xbox One and some things you didn’t. Along the way – I continue to be amazed by the passion of this team and their devotion to gamers. My co-worker, Blain Howard, summed it up incredibly well in his recap from E3 – his first with Microsoft, although he is a lifelong gamer. As we wrap up the week before our long holiday week-end – still basking in the excitement of an award-winning E3 – I thought I would share it with you. Enjoy!

Have you ever been part of something and thought it was so big that you couldn’t be part of anything bigger? That is what I used to think before I got to Microsoft.

For those who might not know, I am the former X-Play Content Executive for G4. I have done approximately 50 hours of live television from E3, San Diego Comic-Con and PAX along with supervising the content, demos and appearances for hundreds of X-Play shows.

But E3 with Microsoft…that is big. You are on a world platform the moment you step off the plane and get to the press briefing through the entirety of the show floor hours and behind closed doors meetings. We are looked at by the world, we are under a microscope. Luckily, I LOVE that stuff. This gave me the opportunity to be part of something big…world changing big.

But let’s get something straight right off the bat – first and foremost I am a gamer. It is easy to say that nowadays since gaming is part of culture. It is also easy to say that I have played games for my whole life since so many people are saying that as well. I don’t obsess. I also like other things besides gaming. I read but don’t contribute to NeoGAF. But that is why I started working here at Microsoft. I love the products and the experience Xbox provides.

I have a special attachment to “Halo.” To make a long story short, I was in the hospital for a prolonged time and my friend Xan, yes that is a real person’s name, brought his Xbox and “Halo” for me to play.

Admittedly, I had lost touch with games for a bit. I was playing rugby, going out with college buddies and I had started training with some friends in MMA. But this simple act of kindness from my friend changed me forever more. I fell in love and never looked back. But as a gamer, I had both systems…still do in fact. Games are frakking awesome. I play everything I have time for. So I am not the typical Xbox fanboy, I am a GAMES fanboy.

Back to E3.

I can honestly say that this was the most excited I had been for an E3. A friend snuck me into E3 for my first time eight years ago and that was exciting. Another year I shadowed a friend and producer from MTV which was my first taste of TV for games. That was pretty rad. This year though…new console? New IPs? New games? And I get to work with them? Yeah, this is what I signed up for.

This was the longest I have been in the downtown Los Angeles area for E3. I arrived Thursday before the press briefing for rehearsals. I work on a lot of amazing titles that I can now talk about – “Dead Rising 3,” “Sunset Overdrive,” “World of Tanks,” “Project Spark,” “Lococycle,” “Killer Instinct,” “Max: The Curse of Brotherhood,” “D4,” “Below” and “Minecraft.” I get to work with some of the biggest and best names in the industry. This was my time to be involved in the review process and help ensure that everything goes smoothly.

The press conference begins and my heart is pounding. I make a point to listen to the crowd when my titles are announced. I feel every demo and every speech. I am part of the crowd when they all get excited to see Ted Price and “Sunset Overdrive” on-stage. “Project Spark” is debuted and I feel like there is magic on the stage. “World of Tanks” rocks and blows everything up. 

And yes, my heart drops when “Crimson Dragon” has no sound. Life isn’t perfect, I know I am not, so let’s focus on the majestic dragons and let it be. The “Dead Rising 3” team comes on stage and shows how they took this great franchise and amped it up. And yes, I got giddy when Mike Jones threw the Sledgesaw through an approaching zom and banana peeled it. Yes that is what it is called. After 90 minutes of game reveals I head out feeling like something special just happened.

Post-press conference we had our Showcase Event at the Vibiana. The Shins played. It looked cool. I had responsibility for 80 percent of the games included at the event. Stress? Yea you might say so. But additionally I always remind myself to step back and look at everything going on around me. I had friends in gaming and friends in media attending and we got to catch up. We talked at length about life, not just games. E3 is a big gathering of people you mostly know and love. This was one of those times that I looked out and thought, ‘this is not a bad situation you have Blain.’

Now the real work and fun begins…show floor opens up on Tuesday. 

To prepare, my co-worker Ryan Luckin from such hits as “Gears of War” and “Fable” did a little workout at our hotel. Just like every other day so far. Then I step into our booth. Big. This is a BIG booth. OK deal with that. Then they let people in. WHOA. OK I have not seen that many people in a booth…well…ever. You couldn’t move just look out and see a sea of people looking at our games. If I were claustrophobic I would have freaked out. But I am not so I took a step back, snapped a pic and took it all in. This was a great start to the day.

Next I look into all my games that are having press meetings. These go back-to-back-to-back for the entire day. The developers and spokespeople need props since they are constantly talking and showing off their games. Furthermore, they are always passionate about their games. You might not think it, or maybe you do, but the games are not really just games to them. They are children of sorts. Most of these titles have been thought about, worked on, sweat over and developed for years. This IS their heart and soul. They leave their families and friends on a Friday night to code and get a level done. Because they also love games. The meeting day flies by and we all have great meetings and feel pretty good about our games.

Next up, “Forza” Event at the Vibiana. You like cars? This is your place and that is your game. There were Lexus (Lexi?) and McLarens everywhere. They even started off the evening with Dan Greenawalt arriving in a race-legal IndyCar.

Pictures and fun happen. Cars are touched, much to the dismay of the security guards. What? I needed to know what a McLaren feels like. You only get a limited number of opportunities for that.

Wednesday the award nominations start trickling in and the meetings continue. The teams are happy and that means I am as well. Games are going great. Conan O’Brien stops in and Jeremy Hoffman, my fellow “Game of Thrones” enthusiast / obsessor from GameTrailers, Google Glass’es him. Roy Hibbert and Paul George swing by to make me look short. Today is awesome.

That night is our PR team dinner. This is a highlight for the week. I love this team and they are amazing people. These are not people who work here for the paycheck, every one of us believes in Xbox with every fiber of our being. Our hearts are in this. We are not going through the motions. This is a team who reads the news, the blogs, tweets, posts and whatever else we can because we care that much. But tonight was a night we can just bond.

I will leave it at this: we had dinner, laughs and karaoke. Details are for us and our personal experiences. But I have never felt closer to them and am honored to work with them each and every day.

Thursday things start to wind down, but not a whole lot. We still have packed meetings and today we have the developers from Press Play who make “Max: The Curse of Brotherhood” and Swery65 from “D4” for meetings. Nothing ever REALLY stops at Microsoft’s E3.

Then 5:01 p.m. hits. The show is over. Though we had a blast, there is a weight lifted off your shoulders. We completed something that we all worked on for so long and now it is on to our next big thing.

E3 2013 was a blast. It was hard. It was fun. It was CHALLENGING. But most of all it was the best E3 I have ever been part of. I met with friends from around the industry whom I have known for years, some are even from Sony and Naughty Dog.

But this is something we always agree on: no matter what company you work for it is a great time to be a gamer. This is the most exciting time you can have in fact. Once per decade we get to do what we are currently doing. That is rare and beautiful and we should all step back and look at what is going on. Gaming is in a place it has never been in before.

We are bigger than most movies and have a grip on culture that has never been experienced until now. Cherish this time and really do what gamers started out doing – have fun. Love the time playing games and the people who make them since they are just like me and you – they are gamers. Let’s band together as a gaming community and love games. I know I will.