See that goofball in the blue shirt trying to get out of the shot in the background? Itsa me!
With E3 only a few days away, it got me thinking – I had a nice nine year run covering the show in one form or another, but never really had the chance to share some of my most memorable experiences with the world. My favorite memories from the video game mega event actually happened during my last year at the show in 2006… Yes, the same show where Nintendo showcased the Wii and people were willing to wait in line for hours for just about anything. Lucky for me, I didn’t have to worry about any lines – my then employer, Nintendo, held a company wide contest for it’s workers and offered a large portion of booth positions for those who wanted to travel down to Lala land. I couldn’t pass up the chance, and after filling out a brief questionnaire I was selected to be one of the booth bab… err guys. These are my confessions:
NCL Employees Demand Perfection.
Immediately after landing at LAX, a group of us were whisked away to the LA convention center to help setup the booth. This in itself was a huge task, but luckily we had a ton of hands on deck. After installing the flat screens and doing some minor DS booth construction – I finally saw it – the then super secretive Wii remote and nunchuck combo. Sure, I had seen a ton of pictures of it beforehand, but it was a whole new experience actually getting my hands on the remote for the first time. There was no time to play though, we had to work our asses off if we wanted to make it to the Nintendo party that night – featuring the Black Eyed Peas no less! After a long setup process, the crew was ready to go… that was until NCLs (Nintendo of America’s parent company) inspection crew hit the booth. These guys were ruthless – I can’t blame them for wanting perfection, but things were measured and ordered to be replaced down to the centimeter!
Now I respect everyone that works at NCL, these guys are geniuses at what they do, but their attention to detail was almost overwhelming. Finally when all was said and done we all got a good play through on the Wii, which was a blast. Quickly there after we were given our booth assignments (more on that in a bit) and jumped on a bus to catch the tail end of the Nintendo shin dig in Hollywood.
Demo-ing Super Mario Galaxy to Spielberg and Fam.
The next morning was the first day of the show. We all awaited patiently on the show floor to find out what demo station we were going to be assigned to. I was personally hoping for Super Monkey Ball (as I’ve always been a huge Sega/Amusement Vision whore) but was bummed when no one could find my name on the list… was I going to be stuck manning the soft serve ice cream machine in the back? Luckily I found out that I had the golden ticket – I was assigned to the VIP booth, the place to be in the Nintendo booth that year!
I assumed that working in the VIP booth would have it’s privileges, and boy was I right! Every major game designer in the business came upstairs to check out the multiple demo booths without the worry of crowds. Kojima, Naka, Itagaki… a whos-who of industry legends. Even more exciting were all of the celebrity appearances, my personal favorite being my childhood hero, Steven Spielberg.
That big forehead shining in the back? Me again...
Spielberg was greeted in the room by another living legend, Miyamoto. This was an incredible place to be. The above photograpgh made USA Today the next day, and if you look closely, you can see me behind the guy with the glasses in the background. Steven had his son and daughter there also and spent quite a bit of time demoing almost all of what Nintendo had to offer. I was lucky enough to be doing the Mario Galaxy demonstrations at the time, and it was just a magical moment handing over the controller to Spielberg and explaining the onscreen actions to a man that was (and still is) a hero to me.
Hey That’s a GameCube Under There!
Alright, enough name dropping, now on to the juicy stuff. Being that we were still 6 months away from launch, it was expected that some of the software would be a little buggy. What wasn’t expected was the fact that the Wii dev kit/demo units at the time were 90 percent modified GameCube kits. I’ll never forget being red faced when having to reboot certain systems and having a showgoer catch a glipse of the turquise GameCube underneath. Forget all those white shiny Wiis that were on top of the demo stations – every single one was a plastic facade! I’m pretty sure this was picked up by a few websites back in 2006, but always thought it was an interesting fact.
Almost Turning Off a Demo Station Iwata was Playing.
Perhaps my most embarrassing moments of E3 2006 was at the end of the first day of the show. I was unofficially nominated to be the bouncer of the room. When play time was up, I had to pry the Wii remote from peoples overly excited hands and tell them it was time to leave. After a long day, there were just a few people left in the VIP area and we begun powering the demo stations down for the night. Out of the corner of my eye I saw someone walk right up to the WarioWare demo station I had just turned off a few moments ago and power it back up. Furious, I stomped over to the machine only to realize it was NCL president Iwata taking a swing at Wario’s mini game fest!
Just before tapping him on the shoulder I put two and two together and decided I better let this one slide… I guess it truly is good to be the king.
Japanese Developers Wear Crazy Offensive Things.
I mentioned earlier that some of the industry’s giants were invited up to the VIP room to get some private time with the first batch of Wii demos, but one of my personal favorite moments was when Toshihiro Nagoshi, head of Amusement Vision, showed up to the booth with a wife beater on that clearly stated ‘f#%k’ on the back of it. Immediately other booth reps started whispering to each other “who is that?” “we need to get him out of here”. Being the development groupie that I am, I made sure that Mr. Nagoshi was not ushered out, but was given the VIP treatment he deserved – after all, he blessed us with FZero GX… the man is a god amongst men!
Cock Blocking Nintendo Stalkers.
Nintendo fans are an intresting bunch, and just like any entertianment medium you have your fans and then you have your “fans”. On the last day of the show I ran accross one of those “fans”. It was 5 o clock on a Friday afternoon, the booth was a great success and some of Nintendo’s A-List stars (Miyamoto, Iwata, Reggie) decided to go down to the check in area and sign autographs. The area I was working in was up a set of stairs, so it was easy to get a bird’s eye view of the massive crown forming to get their swag signed.
Towards the back of the crowd I noticed something a little off – a woman had her eyes fixated on Miyamoto but had no intrest in moving forward… weird. After the crowd subdude I noticed she was still standing in the corner with tears running down her face. She started moving erraticly so I decided to investigate. Since the show was over I politely asked the young woman to leave the area, as it was almost time for tear down… she refused to leave! Mumbling something about marriage and then spurting out words like “I need to tell him personal information” I new this chick was a more than a few pennies short of a dollar and again asked politely for her to leave. Finally, after three more failed attempts of leaving and then sneaking back to the check in area, crazy Nintendo stalker was reported to E3 security and was escorted out.
That wraps up E3 2006: Confessions of a Booth Bab… Err Guy. Again, it was a amazing experience and one that I will never forget. Thanks again for tuning into SquidTV this week, perhaps next week I’ll take another trip down memory lane and spill the beans on another favorite E3 past time of mine – the parties!