E3 2007 is just over three weeks away and despite the fact that the show will be reduced in size and possibly in importance this year its still the single biggest week in games for journalists such as myself. This year will actually be the 10th anniversary for me attending my first E3 and as we get closer to this year's event I though it might be fun to look back at E3 of year's past from my perspective. As the industry has changed and gotten older so have I and looking back at the show from 1997 until now it's clear that covering video games has changed a lot. 10 years ago, Internet media was barely a blip on the radar at E3; now its a major if not the major way people read about the event. I also changed from being a newspaper reporter to becoming a full time online gaming journalist. It's weird to realize that my life can be measured in some ways about what I experienced at E3 in the past.
One of the big reasons I attended my first E3 in 1997 was that it was near where I lived in Morganton, NC. The show's organizers decided to hold E3 in Atlanta, GA at the World Congress Center when it was decided that the size of the Los Angeles Convention Center was too small to support E3 at that time. While the show was just four hours away from where I lived I know it was very hard for video game publishers, most of whom were based on the West Coast, to move their massive E3 exhibits nearly 3,000 miles to Atlanta. Still it was cool to know that the video game industry was still going to hold its biggest event right in my back yard, so to speak. As I was working as a newspaper reporter for the News Herald in Morganton it was pretty easy for me to get a media pass to the show (and yes I did write about the event for the newspaper).
It was a new experience for me to attend a trade show like this as I had never really covered an event like E3 before. Thankfully I knew my way around Atlanta (I was born and raised there) so it wasn't hard at all for me to get around. One of the big highlights of my first E3 was attending the Sierra press conference where I saw the opening cut scene to the original Starcraft. It was held at an auditorium at the Omni complex (now called CNN Center) the packed house went nuts as the then advanced CGI rendering blew people away. We also got a intro to Warcraft Adventures, the planned Blizzard adventure game that unfortunately got canceled.
I also saw a game I first read about on the net called Half-Life, made on the original Quake engine by some folks I had never heard of called Valve Software. When I saw the advanced graphics such as the impressive lighting, the imaginative creatures and the then revolutionary skeletal animation that brought the creatures to life I knew that this game would be one to watch. I didn't know then that the game would take over a year after its first showing to be completed.
I also managed to sneak a peak at various other games on the show floor, including Quake 2, SiN, and two games from 3D Realms behind closed doors. One was the original version of Max Payne from developer Remedy (a game that changed a lot before it was finally released years later) and Prey, the cool portal based PC game that 3D Realms was developing on their own. Seeing the cool TARDIS-like dimension warping effects was a sight to behold back then. E3 was also the first show that really showcased what was being done with 3D accelerators 3Dfx was the hot company that was going all out to promote their add-on hardware cards and what could be done with them. They made the console games from Nintendo, Sony and Sega look awful by comparison.
E3 also had its share of special celebs and booth babes as well. The first Lara Croft model that was hired by Eidos to promote their massively popular Tomb Raider franchise was Rhona Mitra who later went on to a rather impressive film and television acting career. GT Interactive, then the publishers of Duke Nukem, had a rather cool looking Duke male model roaming around with two equally impressive looking booth babes. The show had people like Bruce Willis holding an event that I attended to promote the Activision game he "starred" in Apocalypse and then NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw spoke at the E3 opening address where he talked about how NBC was going to use this rather new thing called the Internet.
Covering E3 for the first time was, and still is, an overwhelming experience. However it was a great way to get introduced into the industry and meet people that I still know and communicate with 10 years later.