What Is E3?

E3 (formally the Electronic Entertainment Expo) is a video game trade show held by the Electronic Software Association each year in Los Angeles, California, United States of America. The industry’s most expensive developers and publishers gather to show off their work in a three day convention filled with trailers, t-shirts, and electronic dance music.

E3 is simultaneously the most futuristic and backwards event in gaming. The developers at E3 have the largest budgets in the industry, and build around the latest technology available to consumers. Yet those costs involved make these companies risk-averse: They need to sell millions of copies, and that means they often favor increasingly-discredited “traditional” gamer demographics, mostly young white men. It also means favoring traditional game genres, especially the first person shooter.

This conservatism is everywhere in E3. It is not open to the general public, unlike many similar gatherings. If you want in, you apply, and a committee somewhere reviews your credentials, which should be grounded in either game development or games journalism. Until recently, E3 had something called “booth babes”, where companies dress young women in costumes designed to sell visitors on games. This practice has increasingly been banned from conventions, briefly including E3, but it still haunts the space. A 2013 Kotaku article discussed how this created a toxic atmosphere for women attending the conference, for example.

Despite this, E3 is legitimately a major event. It’s a look into the minds of the moneyed elements of the games industry, and a good place to watch for trends. Today’s internet has reduced the necessity of large showcases like this, but this is fundamentally a place where the juggernauts of the industry step out from behind the curtain to tell you what they think you care about. As annoying as it can be, that’s always worth paying attention to.


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