This year, E3 came full circle for me. It was my eighth show and my fourth for Engadget. More than either of those, it was the show that felt like I’d finally kind of settled into my groove. Jess was ridiculously busy working on a huge feature about the past, present and future of nuclear warfare (go read it; it’s incredible) so I did a bunch of the planning myself. Booking 50-some appointments for an editorial crew of nine was a nightmare, but looking back at our coverage, I’d say we did a hell of a job with lots of smart written-and-video pieces.
We had a stage on the show floor this year, too. Seeing it in South Hall was pretty wild. It made ground reporting tricky to schedule, but I think it was really worth it. Some news broke from it over the course of the week, and we even debuted a dark VR take on Duck Hunt. We also got to do something that was an analog for why I got into journalism in the first place: a post show wrap-up with booze and coworkers. It felt like our own little 1Up Yours. I even TSlipped onstage and turned beet red with the Internet watching.
I didn’t go to many industry parties because I had tons of work to do every night, and more often than not found myself in my hotel room, hanging with coworkers. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a direct throwback to my days cramming as many people as possible into a hotel room and staying up until God knows when, staring at a laptop, physically passing it to one another to get their read on a piece.
The room was a lot bigger (and higher) this time, and better than that, my digestive issues never woke anyone up because we all had our own rooms. Us actually getting to hang out is rare because we’re all spread across timezones and across the globe, so I prioritized my hours outside of the show to hanging with them. If you were hoping to have seen me outside of the show floor, you have my sincerest apologies.
Another throwback: Beyond Good & Evil 2 is actually happening. Its first appearance was at E3 2008, which meant that at my first Ubisoft media briefing, everyone was hoping to see more from the game. That never materialized. Instead we got Joel McHale cracking jokes about Ryan Seacrest and James Cameron putting the entire audience to sleep while talking about his forthcoming Avatar game.
Speaking of media briefings, I noticed a theme this year. Before switching into liveblog or breakout mode, I was often finishing up a story from wherever I was previously, publishing it minutes before having to switch gears. I was pasting my interview with Electronic Arts’ executive vice president Patrick Soderlund into our CMS while he was onstage at EA’s keynote address so it could publish once the show wrapped. That continued the next day with me finishing a piece about Need for Speed: Payback before co-running our Xbox keynote liveblog, and then working on my Xbox One X hands on before Sony’s briefing began.
E3 2017 was also the show where a lot of my longterm professional relationships paid off. There were a few surprise announcements and I was able to make sure we got closer looks at them by making a phone call. I’m not naming names, but if the person who was on the other side of the phone is reading this, you have my sincerest thanks.
I was also on camera this year more than I’ve ever been. I discovered that I work much better when I have someone else to play off, too. Finishing a demo, writing a script off the top of my head five minutes later, then staring into a retina-searing LED flash and trying to remember my script was a nightmare. Especially with some of the more esoteric games I played. But sticking a coworker next to me made things way easier and a lot more fun.
Another callback to E3s passed was that as I was walking around the back hallways in search of a bathroom, I saw the spot where I had a very worried (on my end) phone call with then Engadget managing editor Darren Murph. I’d applied for a job a few months prior and had gotten it, or so I’d thought, and was scheduled to start working with Engadget a few weeks after the show.
I’d put my two weeks notice in with my old job before leaving for LA and excitedly whispered the news to a few people I’d run into at various pre-show events. Who are we kidding, though? I have a loud voice and alcohol amplifies it; I’m incapable of whispering. So when an email came through earlier in the week that my on-boarding wasn’t going exactly as planned and that I needed to go through another layer of approval, I was devastated.
Everything worked out, obviously. But seeing that nook reminded me of that conversation with Darren, who’d just gotten off a plane. As he often does. He helped calm my nerves me and gave me some advice of how to move forward. Now the Guinness-record-holding blogger is head of global communications for Dolby, and his company has partnered with Microsoft for some of the One X’s fancy audio tricks. Unexpectedly he was at the show this year and I got to see him on a pretty regular basis. I even got to meet a Dolby employee I’d interviewed for my last big feature prior to joining on with Engadget.
And now to talk about photos instead of the show itself.
On his last day in LA last year, features editor Aaron Souppouris taught me how to adjust aperture and shoot in manual with my D5300. It was a game changer. This year, I was carrying the D700 everywhere and using a new 50mm 1.8F lens almost exclusively. It was nothing fancy, but the old version I had had quickly become my favorite piece of glass because of how versatile it was. I left it behind on a recent work trip and really wasn’t looking forward to buying another one. I’m really glad I lost it though because the updated model is awesome.
It’s not as squat, but there really hasn’t been a noticeable difference in weight. On top of that, it’s quieter, faster and has smoother bokeh. The only thing I’m disappointed about is that the filter size is different (52mm versus 58mm), so I had to buy a new UV filter and polarizer. It also meant that the variable neutral density filter I bought for the old lens and didn’t get to use is kind of moot now. Not bad for $200, though. For me, it serves as proof that I don’t need to spend a shitload of money on myriad lenses and the latest body to get great results.
The D700 is nine years old at this point and has its share of shortcomings (low-light performance is most indicative of the sensor’s age, that magnesium case is absurdly heavy, no video capabilities), but a year later and the body never fails to surprise and impress me.
This show was the first time I was fully comfortable adjusting ISO to get the shots I wanted in low-light situations. As late as last October I still hadn’t figured out how to use the dial and what the camera’s limits were. I’ve lost count of how many photos were “ruined” by auto ISO settings and too much noise because, for instance, the D5300 thought ISO 640 was perfect for golden hour.
For long exposure stuff at night I can get away with ISO 100, but carrying a bulky tripod around the Los Angeles Convention Center in addition to my messenger bag wasn’t high on my list of priorities. Whether it was taking photos of EA’s stage from my and Jess’ spots in the balcony at the Hollywood Palladium or grabbing candid shots of coworkers at our hotel’s bar, I found myself reaching for the ISO control with confidence.
I’m honestly blown away with how a lot of these turned out. As you’ll notice, the essay is huge, and the largest single set I’ve uploaded. There are lots of pictures of my coworkers and friends from throughout the week that you could say are redundant, but each one is tied to a memory. I really don’t have a lot of objectivity unless one of their pictures was out of focus or over-exposed.
As I noted earlier, E3 2017 was my fourth for Engadget. Now I’m going into my fifth year with the publication and am charging headlong into a feature series I’ve been dying to explore since my original pitch. In terms of scope and reporting, it’s the most ambitious thing I’ve worked on — far surpassing my profile on the Gamers Outreach Foundation.
With this post, I’m fully done with E3. Booking the show started in late April, my last two stories published last week and today I filed my expense report. I have a few other sets I’ve been meaning to publish (they’re uploaded to WordPress) and now I finally have the energy to spend writing the posts that go along with them. Keep it locked here for more.