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I partied my way through E3 2016 and lived to tell the tale

In part two of The Spinoff’s coverage of this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) Kermath examines on the important bit: the parties. This is where the video game industry cuts loose after shilling their wares. Kermath braves Blink 182, spirit ladies and malnutrition to bring you this report.

Attending an E3 party is something close to a Cinderella Story for any media pleb lucky enough to obtain a ticket. Never in my entire life has my imagination been bent with the amount of money spent on a night like an E3 showcase party. Every year, a series of elite soirées unfold in the evenings after business hours during E3, and being invited to one, even as general admission, is borderline impossible, let alone gaining VIP access to the free bar. Every now and then through the power invested in PR higher-ups, a hand is swayed in favour of granting a peasant like me access to what usually becomes one of the most memorable nights of my life.

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As with any high profile party, they’re pretentious as hell with free gourmet finger-food, complicated theme cocktails, and everyone from the CEO to the most junior developer in attendance. What sets these parties apart from similar ones in other creative industries, and probably one of the most enjoyable facts about attending these, is that the grandiose spoils don’t create a conceited façade in those that worked on the products being showcased and celebrated. Everyone from any position in the company is free to bring shots over to whoever and strike up conversation. It’s organic networking at its finest, and quite beautiful to watch friendships develop through the night. I have to note, there’s always a couple of dick head media that always show up to any one of these. Telltale signs are slicked-back hair and buttoned-up bullshit shirts from Banana Republic, and a basic self-entitled attitude that renders validity to the reason why media aren’t usually invited.

With that said, here’s my rundown of what I managed to slither my way into this year.

UPLOADVR PARTY

Like it or not, virtual reality will be in your living room very soon, and with the overwhelming volume of announcements and politics of VR, an up-and-coming news site called UploadVR was born. The site’s rather flashy, and has some good depth; but I wish I could’ve said the same about their party.

 

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The event was held at the trendy Exchange LA, which UploadVR made this rather strange ‘walkthrough’ video for. This is the same venue I saw Galantis play last year at the Wargaming event, so maybe my expectation of fireworks and near-naked bartenders was too high. The venue is a multi-level ex-bank-turned club with a huge potential for hosting the 50 VR demos that the invite swanked.

Getting a ticket into the event was pretty painful, with multiple email requests going unanswered. I became desperate. I heard that apparently the DJ was doing their whole live set using the new HTC Vive virtual headset, and there was no way I was missing this. After explaining myself in a fifth email, I psyched out when they replied with confirmation of a ticket.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t read the email properly and realized the GA ticket issued would only get me as far as the ground floor. Apparently they were all out of VIP allocations, with the ‘celebrities’ they were pumping through. Still hoping for the best, I waited in a line that wrapped around the block. An hour later and finally inside with a vivid-painted ‘X’ on my hand I quickly realized that without a wristband, and this horrifying mark I was unable to pass go at any door except the main stage area. This meant no chance of spending time with any of the promised VR games or toys, and everything quickly became dumbed-down to the equivalent of an all-ages rave party. The stage floor was near empty and watching the DJ sway their hands at invisible objects wasn’t nearly as fun to watch as I envisioned.

I’m a pretty sour snob for not getting VR access, but I was really hoping to engage with the community and see some out-of-this world shit that’d been hyped. The world of VR is still very wild and I guess they weren’t sure how to micromanage attendee requests. Eh, maybe next time UploadVR.

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An audience: bored

MICROSOFT AFTERHOURS

Every year Microsoft host an amazing Xbox afterhours event on the first evening of E3 that give media and publishers some exclusive hands-on time with their upcoming titles inside their booth on the showfloor of E3. Schedules are usually tightly packed for media during the day with developer interviews and behind-closed-door previews, so it’s always a highly appreciated event by the industry.

It’s a very weird feeling being inside a tech venue that’s usually crawling with thousands of people, similar to being locked inside an arcade, but with food and alcohol provided.  This year I got to sink ships playing the new upcoming multiplayer title ‘Sea of Thieves’ with some of New Zealand’s top Twitch community, and met Jonno Stanton from Team 17 who’s making a new ‘Worms’ game (yes, Worms, it’s coming back), while drinking some very pink, very strong, Shirley Temple’s.

Kermath and the Kiwi crew

Kermath and the Kiwi crew

Unfortunately it wasn’t as eventful as last year, when I caught Souljaboy being bounced, along with his friend and bodyguard for not being on the guest list, but it was a wonderful time anyway.

Soulja Boy hightails it outta there. What a free soul.

Soulja Boy hightails it outta there. What a free soul.

TWITCH PARTY (5th birthday party)

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A 5-level theatre with a ton of outdoor space, and all of it utilized to its maximum capacity. Twitch are renowned for throwing incredible parties, and this year was no different. Held at the beautiful Belasco Theatre in downtown LA, they’d undersold and over-delivered on everything they’d promised, including an open bar and a menu of five Twitch-themed cocktails.

Cocktails.: they are drinks.

Cocktails.: they are drinks.

They pour ‘em strong in America and by the second I was quite sloshed, trying to make my way around the many floors. The outside area was completely dedicated to a 2-floor shisha lounge. It wasn’t long before we found a free space, and got a couple of pipes set up. We had two seats spare that kind of served as a resting spot for passers by, occupied most of the night with a revolving cast of Twitch personalities, devs or odd suits who’d stop by to introduce themselves. They’d swap cards, have a cocktail and a puff, and then be off again onto the next level. The size of the venue was mind-boggling with hidden bars and pockets of people spread throughout, and I’m pretty sure the lighting guy was on acid.

SONY VR SHOWCASE

Right after a super-strong Press Conference, Sony wanted to make double sure the VR message was being taken home by the media. What better way to do this than through the medium of worldly themed food and a literal wall of cheese and donuts?

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Sony absolutely won best food for any show or party I’ve ever been to at E3. My favourites included a conveyor belt of endless dishes, a two-manned moving platter of three types of Buffalo wings served on a clear Perspex table with a range of sauces, and the wasabi salad. Yeh, wasabi salad is a real thing. Every station in every corner of the room had a variety of gourmet platters specialized for a certain food culture, and was really great to see people mixing stuff together that would have your mum reeling at the mingling of the different food groups.

The VR on display was also pretty great, finally getting a chance to use the new PlayStation VR gun on an upcoming FPS called Farpoint. I find VR one of the most difficult sensations to explain, so I won’t even attempt to go into any detail here, other than if you haven’t tried it, you haven’t experienced the future. If you’re attending a local gaming convention this year, chances are they’ll have a few setups, so make sure you give it a shot before VR hits thick and fast.

#BE3 BETHESDA SHOWCASE

Apart from not getting in to the briefing that the party was actually for, this was legit the best party of E3, even if it was hosted at a warehouse in a ‘hood part of LA. Standing in-line outside the venue for an hour and a half a little scared for my life, while I was wondering if that was backfire or gunshots echoing through the neighborhood, it built up quite a thirst.

Part of the massive hold-up was also a step up in security with wanding, x-rays and pat-downs, because of the recent Orlando shootings.  After going through the checkpoint I looked up. Thank god. A free beer garden, themed to the new Elder Scrolls 6.

I’d also not eaten much during the day, and once in the venue, I was well on my way after two drinks. The party was split in two sections, with the beer garden outside, and VR showcase with mysterious stage inside. The free beer also came with free turkey leg, and my god was it good. I made sure to tell everyone, as you can probably tell from the vid.

Shortly after demolishing the first, I was on to my second turkey leg and stumbled into the Marketing Vice President Pete Hines, both of us gradually making less sense as the night went on, trying to out-fanboy each other. I’m not sure how we stopped speaking, but the next moment I was standing in a crowd of people, one on the ground with his laptop furiously typing about what I could only assume was the mayhem of nerds encircling the stage. And then, like a bucket of ice water to the face, I was hit with a wall of sound.

“Hi, we’re Blink 182, and we’re available for birthday parties, bar mitzvahs [inaudible mumbling] and we fucking love Bethesda! Let’s rock!”

There I stood in awe watching Blink, and talking to my phone about how much I love turkey. I am in fucking love with turkey.


 

Like all our gaming coverage this report was brought to you by Bigpipe, the ISP who aren’t a bunch of turkeys.

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