I attended the GameStop Expo last Wednesday, the first convention I’ve ever gone to as press. By now you’re probably used to my storytelling style of writing. If you’ve got a few minutes, let me take you on a journey through my day in paradise.
The morning begins with some bad news: Marissa, my good friend and TSG’s Convention Correspondent, told me she got called into work and won’t be able to attend the Expo with me. All week we talked about how excited we were and I feel awful for her but it also means I don’t have a ride. I throw on clothes and pack my drawstring bag. I call around for a ride. Nobody comes to my rescue. I look up bus times; the convention isn’t too far from my apartment. I don’t have any cash but I have a change jar so I grab it and run to the bus stop.
The sun was beaming and I begin to sweat lightly. I don’t want to jog and get sweaty, but I don’t want to miss the bus. I choose the bus. As I wait, I count out the two dollar bus fare by first extracting all the quarters from my little container and then finishing the rest with dimes and nickels. I don’t know if I had enough money for the second bus ride, but I decide not to worry about it. I’m not even sure if I will even make it on the first bus. After waiting nervously for ten minutes, the city transit vehicle whisks me down the street and drops me off just as the connecting bus arrives.
The bus ride allows me to cool down and check in with Marissa. She is stuck in traffic and says she will try to make it to the Expo later in the day. At some point, a black girl with Snow White leggings and an afro boards the bus. The driver tells her that her destination is close and that it wouldn’t be worth the money. After a moment’s consideration, she leaves to wherever she was headed by foot.
The bus drops me off in front of the Anaheim Convention Center. I cross the street and attempt to open some doors but they’re all locked. I walk around aimlessly until I see the girl with the Snow White leggings walking across the street towards me in a group she picked up along the way. The other party members consist of a couple of teenage boys, about 13 or 14, and this woman who I thought was the mother of one of the boys until I notice her VIP+ badge. Snow White talks with the older woman about how she’d been to previous GameStop Expos. I look at everyone with their VIP badges and want to let on that I here as press but decide against it. They lead me into the proper part of the convention center.
I’m an hour early but it takes me forever to find where to check in. In my wandering I find two double doors with security posted outside of them. Right through the doors I see a host of Hyrule Warriors stations and an even bigger set up of Smash Bros. stations. That becomes my target and all plans of doing anything remotely journalistic during the tournament fly out the window.
It turns out there is a special line for press but it isn’t labeled so its filled with common folk. Eventually I’m handed a lanyard and two passes that say Press and VIP. I didn’t know press passes got me the VIP treatment as well but I don’t question it and go into the VIP line to receive my free swag bag.
From there I travel to the VIP lounge, which is a short escalator ride away. It’s really not impressive inside. It looks like a giant bomb shelter with a few tv stations set up with multiplayer games, a small breakfast dining area and a lackluster table area. Everything there hardly fills up a third of the massive space. It feels more like a holding cell than the VIP lounge. After exploring it and finding nothing to do that interests me, I get in line and wait until they let people up into the venue. At 9:30 sharp, the security starts letting people go up the elevator. As I’m rising, I feel like I’m entering into a magical new world with endless possibilities. The reality isn’t too far off.
The Show Floor
The Microsoft section is placed right at the top of the escalator so it’s the first and only thing anyone sees until they trudge through it. I tear through it, skipping by the Sunset Overdrive and Halo: Master Chief Collection booths. I need to get to Nintendo before the Smash Bros. line gets long. As someone who waited two hours at Best Buy to play the game for two minutes, I consider it of the utmost importance that I get at least a couple rounds in today. I walk briskly to the opposite corner of the convention hall, where I suspect the Nintendo area will be, but when I get there I can’t find it. I ask a guy with a nametag where the booth is and he says its probably over by Xbox. Probably? I don’t have time for guessing. Besides, I was just there. All the while I feel anxious knowing that with every passing second the line for Smash Bros. is growing. I start running back to the Microsoft booth and look for any area I missed. I walk behind it and round the corner where I finally see the Nintendo booth in all its glory.
I rush over to the first Smash station I see and start playing with a ten year old kid with glasses. I freak out. I literally freak out. The game looks so beautiful up close and there are twenty playable characters in this demo build. And what’s more? Four Gamecube Controllers are connected to each station. The controller feels so comfortable in my hand and the game becomes real for the first time, instead of this far off dream. I scream about how excited I am and he starts screaming too. And we play a couple rounds before I move onto a station with people more my age.
I find my place at a large television with big speakers. I stand next to another black dude who says who used to play Smash competitively. I tell him I also used to play competitively as well and we start duking it out. I am surprised there’s no line forming behind me despite there being around 30 Smash Bros. stations for Wii U and 3DS. As long as there is no line, my new friend and I keep our controllers. We talk about how each character and the game overall feels different. Eventually the kid with glasses joins us, and he keeps stomping everyone. The environment is so jovial as all these people come experience the game together, that all I can do is laugh at the fact a little kid kicking my butt in a game that I’ve won money for playing before.
After an hour of playing and trying all the characters and talking to most of the employees, I realize that I’m THAT guy who never leaves. I determine that maybe it is time to try out some other games.
I literally have access to dozens of unreleased titles. What am I doing limiting myself to a game I’m going to play for hundreds of hours anyway? Around the Nintendo booth, I played Bayonetta 2 which feels great to play but looks unimpressive after coming off of playing Destiny the night before.
Hyrule Warriors doesn’t do a lot for me. Unlike Bayonetta, there is no depth in the combat. I love the feeling of sparring with my enemies, not just mindlessly barreling through them. Marissa will disagree with me, but that’s one of the great things about having multiple perspectives writing for the site. Look out for her review, by the way. I’m sure it will be glowing.
Anyway, after the Nintendo booth I venture over to Sony’s side of the woods. The first game I play is The Order: 1886. I aim at the first enemy and the controller doesn’t respond. I press triangle to cover and my avatar stays out in the open and gets shot down. I respawn and try it again and encounter the same problems. I ask the representative to help me and I see him struggle like I did but he plays it off like that’s how its supposed to be. Quick time events abound, I fail a lot and it’s not very fun. This ten minute slice surely isn’t be a good representation of the full game but it makes me less excited for its release nonetheless. Sony has other titles for me: Little Big Planet 3, Bloodborne, etc. They’re fun to play but all these games are the same as the E3 demos so there’s nothing new.
I venture over to Microsoft and wait in line for Sunset Overdrive. The demonstration shows off the game’s 8-player cooperative wave-based multiplayer mode. The game is fun and high paced, but hard to get a hold of in the short time. I begin to get the hang of the traversal system and manage to rank third overall on my team. The booth next to me is another multiplayer demonstration, except this time it is for Halo: Master Chief Collection running Halo 2. It looks gorgeous and if I was a bigger Halo fan I’d definitely wait in line for it. Instead I go back to Smash Bros. because Smash Bros.
After 30 minutes of hopping from television set to television set, I go back to exploring the show floor. Some of the games I try include Fantasia: Music Evolved, Harmonix’s latest rhythm and music game tailor made for the Xbox One Kinect. I play through “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons and find that the game is actually pretty fun. I play many other games including Far Cry 4 which didn’t do much for me, the new Adventure Time game which pays homage to A Link to the Past, The Evil Within which is absolutely terrifying, Toad Treasure Tracker which looks promising, and Evolve.
Evolve deserves special mention for a couple reasons. First of all, when I get there the line is incredibly long. There are two set-ups with five people each with matches lasting between fifteen and twenty minutes. The line is easily fifty people long which means it is unlikely I will get a chance to play. I go up to the guy running the booth. He calls himself DB Sinclair; maybe you’ve heard of him. I flash my press pass and ask if there’s anyway I can get to the front of the line. He looks at me like I’m crazy, but after a couple minutes of talking he agrees to fit me into the next match.
Evolve is a 4 vs 1 action game where one person plays as a devastating monster and the remaining players try to hunt the monster down without being killed themselves. I get to play as the Support hunter whose abilities include a laser gun and making another player invulnerable so they are able to get up close and personal with the monster. The game is surprisingly balanced for being 4v1. My team manages to defeat the monster but other matches I watch go either way. When I finish Evolve I pay another visit to Smash Bros. because the booth is just a few feet away.
I’m an avid poster collector and I keep seeing other people with rolls of posters and other free swag. I wonder why I haven’t found any yet, refusing to consider that it is because I spent all my time playing Smash Bros. I travel from booth to booth picking up any free stuff I can. I find some cool posters including some Game Informer magazine poster covers signed by the editors. GameStop’s booth has a flurry of PC download codes and they even give me a pair of Beats by Dre. They tell me I got the last one. I’m satisfied. I meet some cool people including the Power Rangers and voice actor Nolan North.I go around collecting as much as I can before I go back to Smash Bros.
I have work at 7 so I know at some point I need to put Smash Bros. down. I begin reaching out to people who can come pick me up. At this point my feet are aching and my thighs burn from walking around in pants that were too tight all day. After a half hour of attempting to contact some friends to rescue me, I take a bus back part of the way back. I’m paranoid of people seeing me with an Xbox One bag full of stuff. I don’t want to get it stolen from me.
I arrive at the first stop. I check my phone and see that the connecting bus doesn’t arrive for another 20 minutes which would make me late for work. I decide to walk the rest of the way home in the interest of time. Every step is painful. My feet, my legs, my arms…everything hurts. Oh, and I stink. Thoughts of showering and then taking a nap push me to trek onward towards my apartment. When I arrive I feel defeated and victorious. But mostly victorious.