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Our Trip to E3 2006 (Day 1, Tuesday)

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The Electronic Entertainment Expo, otherwise known as E3, has once again come and gone, and once again I was lucky enough to attend. The plan this year was for myself, Treese, Victor, and Chad to rent a car and drive all the way from Redding to Los Angeles, however that plan changed shortly before we were about to leave when Treese learned that she got the job that she had been going for. They were to send her a packet of time-sensitive material, so she had to wait until it arrived and she could get all that taken care of. Thus, instead of driving down with us on Tuesday, she flew down to LA on Wednesday. Lucky her.

So while my wife got to stay at home and watch TV, Victor, Chad, and I all began the long drive down to LA. Chad, also known as DJ Chad who is a local radio personality here in Redding and who some of you may recognize as the voice of Hiro in Lunar II, started out in his own car, while Victor and I were in the rental. Chad needed to fly back from LA early because of his radio show, so he drove his car to the Sacramento airport (it's WAY cheaper to fly into Sacramento than it is to fly into Redding), which is where we picked him up and all continued on in the rental.

Despite how long it was, the drive wasn't really all that bad. We talked a bunch, and Victor had brought his satellite radio along for the ride, so we got to listen a load of really funny comedians. Luckily, Victor knew just about all the comedians on there, so he'd turn it off when someone whenever someone crappy would come on. That left us either chatting away or listing to some really funny bits. We didn't really stop, except once for a bathroom break and once to fill up the gas guzzler.

It was evening by the time we got into LA, and it took a little while for us to find the place where would be staying. Instead of a hotel, this year we would be bunking at Chad's aunt's mansion. And yes, that thing was really a mansion! It was three stories (with an elevator), and had its own game room complete with pinball machines, a TV room with three flat-screen plasmas mounted on the wall (and one in the bathroom), and then my favorite room, the theater. Just pop in a DVD, dim the lights, then sit back and relax in one of the recliners while the curtains open and the movie starts. While Chad stayed in the guest room, Victor and I stayed in the guest house... yes, they have a friggin' guest house!

Our Trip to E3 2006 (Day 2, Wednesday)

Ah, the first day of E3. After stopping at McDonald's for a quick bite, we eventually found ourselves at the famous Los Angeles Convention Center. We already had our badges, so no waiting in line this year! We first entered the West Hall, right in between Sony and Nintendo's giant booths. To the left was the ever overly self-confident Sony, with a line leading up some stairs to their second level where people got to check out some PlayStation 3 games on display. I didn't see anyone actually playing, but then it was hard to tell from the ground floor. Loads of PlayStation 2 games littered their ground floor, but a quick scan revealed that none of them were anything that we hadn't already seen before in years past.

Over to the right was Nintendo, once the absolute leader of the videogaming world, now a company trying desperately to regain its former glory. In the center of its booth was a huge cylindrical mesh screen that rose high up into the building, allowing nobody but those inside it to view what laid hidden within... which I think was really, really stupid because inside was Nintendo's flagship product, their newest revolutionary console which is destined to but Nintendo back on the map, the Wii. And it was playable! So why would you hide this?

The line to get in was friggin' three hours long, but instead of getting to watch people playing with this amazing console, all you got to see for three hours was watch people playing at the Nintendo DS stations that were set up all around the outside of the both. Or if you turned your head the other way, you got to see the white mesh screen with the Nintendo logo. I sure hope whoever designed that booth doesn't actually work at Nintendo, because the last thing they need right now is an utterly crappy design for anything.

A quick scan around the rest of the West hall left us with nothing to be impressed by, so we then headed over to the South hall. This place had a lot more interesting booth set-ups, with various statues and booths made to look like various types of buildings and what-not, but still all the games on display weren't anything that really blew our socks off. So far, over both halls, the most fun game that we played was the new Castlevania for the Nintendo DS. It was very similar in style to the original Castlevania, except that now you had two characters which you could switch between at anytime. The top screen was used for the map, and I didn't notice any use of the touch-screen capability of the DS, though it might have been present and we just didn't know about it.

So after a little while, we sat down so Chad could transfer his current recordings of the show from his mini-tape recorder to his laptop. Before he could finish, though, Victor was able to get a hold of ex-Working Designs employee Matt, who now works as a big-shot PR person at Nintendo, and Matt was able to get us into the giant Wii cylinder without us having to wait in line for three hours! Inside was cool, as you could see people doing all sorts or weird movements while they played games such as WarioWare: Smooth Moves, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Excite Truck, and a bunch of others, including a few sports titles. I even got to play a little before engaging in conversation with a big-time Working Designs fan standing nearby.

But soon it came time to skedaddle, as we were scheduled to be part of the audience at a taping of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Of course, in order to leave we had to get Chad to come with, and that proved to be a minor challenge in itself as he was completely fixated on a Wii football game. Anyway, once we were on our way, Chad had to break out his trojan-infected laptop so he could edit together and email off material for his show that aired later that evening. He completed edited down the clips only shortly before we arrived at the studio, but unfortunately we had thus far been unable to locate a wireless hot-spot. Thus he had to leave it behind as we crossed the security check into the studio, and just hope that we'd get out of the show in time to find a hot-spot before his material was supposed to air.

I've never been to a taping of a TV show before, so I was eager to see what it was like. As we sat on benches along with the rest of the audience in a little covered area outside the studio building, some of the show people came out to talk with us. They explained that this was a comedy show, not a comedy club, and thus we the audience needed to laugh at everything, not just at what we found funny. They also told us that we had to laugh really loud, much louder than how we would normally laugh. They called us "show enhancers", and said that they better job we did, the more free stuff they would be giving us, such as hats, t-shirts, mugs, and whatnot. I didn't come expecting to get free stuff, but that sounded pretty sweet to me!

Once we were taken inside the studio, they had us practice our super-laughing. If anyone else would have heard us laugh like we did, they would have though we were some kind of freaks or something. Anyway, as they kept having us practice the laughing, they handed out candy to everyone. I got one of those mini-Reese's Peanut Butter cups. It surely was delicious, but those things are so tiny all it did was make me even more hungry than I already was. After about twenty minutes of almost continuous over-the-top laughing, the show finally began... but not with Craig's opening monolog as one who watches his show would expect. No, instead Chris Isaak came out and played two songs. Afterwards, they removed all their gear from the tiny stage, and finally out came Craig to do his open monolog.

The monolog was some rant about fraternity hazing, and really wasn't all that funny, but we laughed our asses off just like we were trained to do. After it was over, the crew setup the desk and chairs for the guest interviews on the same tiny little stage. The skit for that evening was just some pre-made video that we all watched on the monitors. It wasn't very funny either, was just Vince LeBrea (Craig in disguise) "interviewing" Tom Cruise about Mission: Impossible: III. If you don't know that type of skit, it's just asking a real interview someone and splicing in your own questions to make the responses seem funny. Sometimes these can be hilarious, but this one fell flat. It also screwed up, as several seconds into it the tape just jumped back to the beginning and started over. When we watched the show later that night on TV, there was no sign of that minor technical glitch.

The guests and interviews with those guests were really, really dull. There was Chris Isaak who was promoting his new greatest hits album, Jane Fischer from The Office, and Bill Carter from... well, if you don't know who Bill Carter is, you're not alone on that one. He's some guy that wrote a book called "Desperate Networks" which talks about how networks often pass over shows that become huge smash hits. None of the guests were funny or had any interesting stories to tell, and Craig didn't seem to know how to coax any entertainment value out of them. Oh yeah, and then we were all forced to clap and clap and clap which we found out later when we watched the show that it was just for one of those stupid promo things, you know like when a show comes back from commercial for about five seconds only to announce their sponsors and then go back to more commercials... that kind of thing.

So yeah, talk about annoying. We really didn't get to enjoy the show because we had to concentrate so much on laughing and clapping, and then not even half-way through the end of the show both Victor and Chad had headaches from forcing themselves to laugh to much, and by the end we all had sore palms from all that clapping. But hey, we did do a great job, so at least we'd get some good free stuff, right? Wrong! It was a total gyp! They gave one person a cap, and one person a mug. The rest of us got squat! Nothing! Nada! Oh, wait, unless you include the VIP pass that would guarantee you entry into the audience if you ever wanted to come to another taping... but who would include that?! Who in their right-mind would want endure such an awful experience for a second go around?! It's craziness! It's a total rip-off!

We were scheduled to go see a taping of Jimmy Kimmel Live the next day, but none of us wanted to even take the chance that it would be as bad as The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. We watched the show later that night, and I've tried watching it a few times since, but with such a bad experience I just can't enjoy it. It's all feels fake now, and I know all that laughter is not only phoney, but downright painful. They aren't there trying to entertain the audience, not even a little. The audience is there to make people at home watching it on the tube think that the show is way better than it actually is.

After we got out of there, we were finally able to locate a Starbucks for some much needed internet access. Unfortunately, Chad already missed his deadline, but he went ahead and emailed the material anyway for use on the next day's show. Dinner was our next stop, which came about at the wonderful Yoshinoya. Then it was time to make our way over to the airport to pick up Treeses. She had received the time-sensitive paperwork the same day the rest of us left for E3, so she was able to get it all taken care of and fly down to meet us. She was definitely impressed with the mansion when we got there.

Victor and I were going to try out the theater the previous night, but they didn't have any DVDs that we either hadn't already seen, or that Victor wanted to see. The only one was The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, which Victor had already seen, though he said he didn't mind seeing it again. But for that, I wanted to wait until Treeses was there to watch it with me, as she hadn't seen it either. So this was the night that we tired out their theater. Unfortunately, the air conditioning wasn't functioning, so the room got really, really warm. Perhaps this was part of it, I don't know, but that movie just seemed really, really boring.

Our Trip to E3 2006 (Day 3, Thursday)

Once again we arose early from our slumber to make our way out to the Electronic Entertainment Expo. Before we left, however, we had to pack up all our stuff and shove it in the closets of the guest house because they were having some kind of party/fund-raiser thing for some politician dude and they were going to be letting the guests use the bathroom of the guest house. Fund raiser? Please, give me E3 any day, the place very videogame fan yearns to be at during the month of May. Oh, and this time we had Treese's handicap plaque, which made for nice and easy parking.

Once inside, we went around the West and South halls again, partially because Treese hadn't gotten a chance to see them yet, and partially so we could see if we missed anything last time. And once again, there wasn't anything that really impressed us. I'm sure Treese would have been thoroughly impressed by the Wii, if she could have seen it being played. Thank you, Nintendo's booth designers, for being complete morons. Or maybe, they were actually undercover agents from Sony trying to screw up Nintendo as much as they could....

We ended up spending most of our time in Kentia hall, where all the non-mainstream companies hang out. We played some truly classic games, from both arcades and home consoles, and then walked around looking at all the weird products that were on display. We didn't see the Pyramat guys again this year, but the E-Real Games people were there again. Unfortunately, they still didn't have the second player light gun available. They did have two other new products, though. One was called the Amazing Fortuneball, which is a general fortune-telling device that predicts how good or bad your day will be. The other doohickey was called Skyhub, and apparently lets you use SKYPE over your regular telephone. That could possibly be useful, though they didn't have any pricing information.

During a rest break, Matt was complaining about his trojan-infected laptop again, so I went to help clean it up. I went through all the typical cleanup procedures, and eventually it started moving very, very slowly with various error messages popping up here and there. I didn't understand it, the thing should have been working better, not worse! Once we met up with Victor, he sat down to take a look, but seeing as how slow the thing moved, it was pretty much impossible to do any kind of troubleshooting on it at that point. Boy, did I feel bad! Sure, it may have been infected before I got to it, but at least it was functional! I found out later, after we were back in Redding and Victor had a chance to look over it while being next to a fully functional computer that I had in fact removed just about all of the trojans from the machine, and that the problem came from one small piece of a trojan that didn't get removed. This piece couldn't find the rest of its evil trojan body, so it was making the whole system unstable. Once Victor got that removed, the thing worked great.

After the show we met up with Barbara St. Hilaire (AKA Old Grandma Hardcore) and her grandson, Timothy. For those of you who don't know the story of Barbara and Timothy, let me give you a real quick overview. Barbara is a grandmother and a hard-core videogamer who acts like a lot of us do while playing videogames: throwing controllers and cussing at the screen. Timothy posted about this on his blog, which he called "Old Grandma Hard Core." Then he put up some webcam footage, and eventually some real high-quality video footage to provide all the non-believers with proof. His blog and the videos quickly became an online phenomena, the story got picked up by various national news sites, and eventually MTV had the come out for E3 to shoot some footage.

Anyway, so she has been a big Working Designs fan and had really wanted to meet Victor, so we all hooked up after the show and when for dinner at Lawry's. Man, talk about expensive! And not just expensive, but supremely limited choices... and you don't even get to select what salad dressing you want. You either take their specially made dressing, or you don't eat the salad. Talk about over-confidence. Do you think any restaurant could do this? What if Denny's reduced their menus to five items and started charging $45 for a grilled ham and cheese sandwich? Do you think rich people flock there and brag how they went to Denny's? Just seems stupid to me. Besides, I love the food at Denny's. To me, it's either as-good or better than Lawry's.

After dinner, we all headed out to some bar for drinks. Somehow it was decided that we'd got to the Top of Five, which is a rotating bar at the top of the Westin Bonaventure Hotel. It rotates slowly to give you a view of the city, which may have been nice, but upon opening the menus and seeing the prices, it was decided to try a bar on one of the lower levels. I didn't have anything to drink, and mostly talked with Chad, who was sitting directly across from me. He was interested in learning about some aspects of programming, so I tried to explain what I could, though it was much more difficult that I thought it would have. How do you explain why programs are faster than scripts without explaining about compiling and assembly code? He was also curious why nobody has been able to come up with a perfect non-crashable operating system... that was even more difficult to explain.

Our Trip to E3 2006 (Day 4, Friday)

The final day of our excursion finally dawned, and once again we had to rise early. This time, it was because we had to take Chad to the airport so he could get back home by the time he had to be on the air. We then headed back to E3 for the last time this year. Treese and I did a little more walking around while Victor had meetings, and we played a few more games here and there, but still, there was nothing to get really excited about. There was a new Ratchet & Clank game, but it was for the PSP, and there's just no way we could justify shelling out that much money for a PSP when our GameBoy Advance SP works perfectly well as pocket-side entertainment goes.

Fortunately, Victor was able to get a hold of Matt again so that we could go check out the Wii. Treeses hadn't even seen it yet, and I wanted to check out some more of the games... unfortunately, we were separated from Victor at that time, and Treese's cell never indicated that Victor called until later on when she checked her phone and it said there was a voice mail waiting. The call apparently came in while we were resting in a quiet little place (well, quiet for E3 anyway), so we should have heard it. Still not sure what happened. I was disappointed that she didn't get to try it out, but I'm sure we'll be buying one when it's released.

Eventually it was time to take our leave and head home. The return trip was relatively uneventful. We stopped for lunch at the same place we stopped at last year, Pick-up Stix. In was dark by the time we got into Redding, but it wasn't too extremely late. Something like midnight or one. Treeses had to get to bed soon thereafter because she had a class at the college the following morning. I went to bed too, not because I had to get up, but because I was TIRED! And so there ends our annual trip to the Electronic Entertainment Expo. Hopefully we'll be going again next year and I'll be able to tell you all about that trip as well.

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