The 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo marked my return to the show after a long hiatus. I stopped going in 2005, the year my daughter was born. (Funny story: My wife was in labour while E3 was taking place, and when her young-ish anesthesiologist found out I was a game journalist he stopped what he was doing - poking a needle into my beloved's spine - looked at me, and said, "Really? Why the hell aren't you at E3, dude?")
I wasn't sure what to expect coming back to the show after so many years. The conference has been in a state of metamorphosis over the last half decade, and was at one point pared down to a much smaller and less showy affair scattered across downtown Santa Monica.
However, it felt very much the same to me as it did the last time I attended. The show floor was packed far beyond comfortable levels. Vast screens attacked attendees with wildly violent images that likely would have terrified most non-gamers while too-powerful speaker systems made both visitors and exhibitors flinch with percussive explosions and cacophonic soundtracks. Non-VIPs were forced endure hours-long lines to see some of the most popular attractions.
It was a menagerie of frothing nerds, pinstripe-suited executives, and scantily clad booth babes who knew nothing about the products they were hired to promote.
But behind the audio-visual assault and perpetual state of semi-confusion could be found some excellent and exciting interactive entertainments.
I spent quality time with the people behind dozens of fun looking games that I can't wait to play. And hands-on sessions with tantalizing new hardware from Sony and Nintendo helped me get a feel for what the future of both portable and console gaming might be like. I saw and learned more than I will going to all of the other press events that I will attend this year combined, and I was able to consume only a small fraction of what was on offer.
In short, it was useful.
That's why E3 exists the way it does. And that's why we can expect to see it continue on, warts and all, for years to come.