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Better late than never: Pippa’s E3 2017 diary

E3 2017,pippa tshabalala

E3 came and went quite some time ago. But with Cape Town’s own EGE having come and gone, now’s a good a time as any to take a look back.

And what better way to look back than reading Pippa Tshabalala’s E3 diary, having attended the week-long extravaganza herself?

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My first entry in a while

Dear Diary,

Sorry I haven’t written in a while, but I’ve been REALLY busy. There’s just so much going on at the moment, but something very exciting happened to me today however and I just had to tell someone!

I was asked to go to E3 by the organisers of ICON (the comic and gaming convention) and to broadcast a live Skype panel from LA the day after E3 ends! Pretty cool right? But there’s so much to get organised before I go, how will I get everything done in time?


Day of departure

Dear Diary,

I was so excited last night I couldn’t sleep! Luckily I’m travelling with a friend who is also going to E3, because it makes the trip that much easier — and what a long trip it is! I’m flying to Los Angeles via Dubai.

My friend is really tall so he managed to secure us seats by the emergency exit where there is a little more leg room. Travelling tip number one — if you can possibly secure bulkhead seats, do so! It makes the ache in your legs after flying for so many hours much easier!

It’s about an eight hour trip to Dubai, a three hour stop over and then another 17 hour trip to LA from Dubai. The first leg of the trip isn’t appalling — you fly at night so if you’re like me and can sleep on planes, then luckily it isn’t too terrible.

The second half of the flight however seems interminable. I managed to get through 5 Harry Potter movies with time to spare for napping and eating. #JustSaying



Dear Diary,

America is really expensive! I mean we all know this, but our exchange rate is so high at the moment that budgeting for things like travel and accommodation is one of the most expensive aspects of travelling to E3.

Luckily I have friends in LA that we could stay with, which was a huge help. Travelling tip number two — if you have people you know you can stay with, that is a much better option than staying in a hotel! Not only because of the cost, but also because it’s much nicer staying with people you know rather than in a hotel, well, in my mind anyway.

Read more: The Gearburn Podcast #14: Who won E3?

My friend picked us up from the airport and then we sat in traffic for an hour to get to his house because as I discovered last time I was here, traffic is a way of life in LA. There is always traffic! Even on a Sunday…

How long have we been travelling for? We’ve gone back in time by nine hours so I don’t even know, but we left Friday evening and arrived on Saturday and our first press conference is on Sunday, so we need to get organised and un-jetlagged very quickly! Un-jetlagged isn’t even a word. But now it is.



Dear Diary,

I managed to push through to Saturday night without sleeping, which means I actually feel pretty good today surprisingly! Our first event is EA Play (sadly we arrived in the US too late for the EA conference) and then later the Xbox Media Briefing.

Our schedule is pretty packed for the next few days and the EA Play event was pretty good as we had an opportunity to play Star Wars Battlefront 2 and the new Need For Speed but with such a tight schedule and the need to get across town for Xbox we couldn’t spend too many hours there.

We arrived at the Xbox conference with not a lot of time to spare, and of course you have to walk around the block to follow the queue which includes a security check with sniffer dogs for all your bags, then a metal detector, then a scan of your pre-authorised barcode in order to obtain a tag that allows you and all the other media access to the venue.

Once you’re inside the venue, it’s a matter of finding a seat available and if you’re slightly late (ahem we cut it pretty tight!) then you pretty much have to take what you can get.

Also, all the Xbox fans are on the floor and media sits around the outside, so the best seats are given to the people cheering like crazy every time an exec makes an announcement. Of course there was a HUGE announcement in the form of the XBox One X (you do realise that’s an acronym for XBOX right?) as well as loads of exclusive games, but it felt like it was more flash than substance.

I’m also concerned about the price point when it comes to South Africa, but we’ll see what happens later this year I guess.



Dear Diary,

Today was pretty free until this afternoon so we went and did some sightseeing. We managed to get to Universal Studios and do some touristy things before heading down to the Sony press conference.

Unlike Xbox, Sony didn’t make any big hardware announcements although I think we were all expecting it to be honest. There were no big speeches, just games on show. This was my first time attending the Sony conference, and the stage show aspect of it was really amazing!

I saw the stream after the show and it really didn’t capture the spectacle of what was on stage at all. For example, when they showed Days Gone, the zombie-type things (I learned later they’re called freakers) actually dropped down from the ceiling, and when they showed Call of Duty WWII and grenades were thrown in the trailer, flashes and bangs happened simultaneously on stage, really heightening the immersion and overall experience. I’m now even more excited to see what’s on display at E3, and get hands on time with the games!



Dear Diary,

I’ve been to E3 once before, in 2013, and it’s just as impressive as I remember it. The first thing that strikes me however is that there are so many people! Thousands and thousands of people and they sold 15 000 tickets to the public this year as well which means it was even more crowded than I remember.

Luckily the awesome guys we deal with in South Africa have organised meetings with publishers and developers for us, so we get direct access to the games rather than having to wait in the queues to play the games.

My friend and I decided to split our appointments so we could maximise the number of people we were able to see over the three days. In my diary for today was Playstation VR, PES, Spiderman and Days Gone.

The one I was most excited to see and which really didn’t disappoint was Spiderman! Sadly no one was allowed to play it but the developer walked us through the game and answered any questions in as much detail as they were allowed to (which incidentally is never as in depth as you would like!). The guy who spoke to us was also really enthusiastic and excitable which makes a huge difference as the excitement is infectious.

I really liked Days Gone as well for instance, but the developer demonstration wasn’t as satisfying as the guys obviously weren’t as used to talking to people publicly. They were a little more nervous and read their presentation. I’m pretty exhausted after the first day I won’t lie, but I’m looking forward to my next set of interviews!



Dear Diary,

Today was Nintendo day! Pretty much my whole day is booked up with Nintendo which was great, because all the new titles being announced are for Switch, which I absolutely love! The queues for the Nintendo stand were insane and I would say it was probably the most popular stand of the expo. They had this massive area with everything on display and a traffic controller directing everyone to minimise the (massive) congestion.

There was also a weird Professor Layton tea that seemed a bit pointless on the whole, but maybe that was just me… Anyway, I managed to spend the morning playing the upcoming Nintendo titles, then the afternoon with Ubisoft in the influencer lounge playing and capturing footage of The Crew 2 and Mario Rabbids Kingdom Battle. I also managed to get some time with the new Far Cry but sadly no footage capture allowed there.

Then dinner with the guys from Nintendo, the other South African media attending E3 and our local team at Core, which was just a huge amount of fun! Tomorrow is going to be a loooooong day, so I better get some sleep.



Dear Diary,

Today is probably my busiest day. I literally have only a single hour free from the time the show opens until it closes and it means running from one end of the convention centre to the other and trying not to miss out on anything as you go! In my schedule today was Dead Alliance, some time set aside at the Ubisoft booth to play Assassins Creed and Skull and Bones, Shadow of War, Plague and Call of Cthulhu.

Shadow of War was definitely one of my favourites on this day. I enjoyed Shadow of Mordor, its predecessor, but this was just so much deeper and more impressive in its complexity, plus the developer who stayed with me while I played it was really cool and showed me a whole lot of tips and tricks for organising your troops before each battle.

Assassins Creed was also a highlight — some cool new elements that I think will make a huge difference to the longevity of the franchise.

Read more: Your gaming news roundup for July 2017

The biggest surprise for me of the day, and actually maybe even the whole conference was an Ubisoft title called Skull and Bones. What a great game! It forces you to work together with your pirate fleet as you plunder merchant vessels, battle against the opposing pirate crew and then evade capture from the pirate hunters! I can see myself spending loads of time playing that game when it comes out!

I finished up and felt like it would be impossible to walk another step. Of course the traffic is still so bad in town at that time that you really have to hang around for another hour or so until the surge pricing with Lyft and Uber comes down so you’re not paying an absolute fortune to get home!


Friday and Saturday

Dear Diary,

Because we were speaking on the panel via live Skype connection, we needed to take into account the time difference with South Africa. We were connecting to ICON at 4pm their time, which means it was 8am our time! Up early while being really smiley and perky is hard to do when you’ve been walking around a convention centre for three days!

The panels went really well though on both days, and it’s definitely something I’d like to do again! It’s great when you have people on the other side who really know how to direct the conversation as well because otherwise I can go off on a tangent about the stuff that gets me excited!

I also managed to organise a trip to the new Nickelodeon animation studios in Burbank, which was AMAZING! What an awesome, creative space to work in!



Dear Diary,

We managed to get a few days of touristy/leisure time in before our flight departed so I spent it buying geeky gifts for my friends and my kids. Then I stressed about the weight of my luggage (when I actually had nothing to worry about) but I think that’s par for the course! Now begins the long, long, long flight home…



Dear Diary,

It’s always fun to go to these events, but how much better is it to be home? Even if you arrive at 5am… Plus I have to go back to work tomorrow, so best take advantage of the opportunity to rest while I can! Too tired to write any more… I just want to sleep in my own bed…


One month after

Dear Diary,

Why does something so vivid seem so much like a dream a mere month after it happened? I have memories, I have notes, I have the paraphernalia I collected in the week I was there — from
ticket stubs to press gifts — but there is a sense of loss. The excitement of the convention seems like a distant memory and yet I’m hoping that next year I’ll be able to return…

Doesn’t everybody? E3 you sly devil you, you know we can’t quite forget you…


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