Your Daily McMaster: nausea and loathing in Los Angeles

, | Features

Oh E3, you get me every year. Something always happens that makes the experience less enjoyable than it should be. The first year I brought a hundred pounds of equipment and schlepped it over hell and back, just for my footage that was never even used. Other years have been ruined by scheduling. But this year?

After the jump, this year was a doozy

I get in late on Monday night and hit the show early to pick up my press badge. I call Bill Abner, the Blanche to my Dorothy, to find out his current location. He’s trying to get in for our noon appointment. For some reason, E3 decided to let people in via a round robin system of small groups climbing the stairs and then from the side. I come at the event from up top and Bill is down in the pit.

If you’ve ever been to E3, you know the pit. It’s in the South Hall and there’s always some sort of carnival barker screeching at you to ring a bell and win a prize. It’s swimming with humanity. If you’re not fond of crowds and being jostled by strangers, this is not a place to be.

I make it to the Namco booth shortly before Bill and have a moment to cool down. It then occurs to me that I shouldn’t need a moment to cool down. I’m not that out of shape. Bill shows up and informs me that I don’t look well.

Oh good.

We see Namco Bandai and part ways. I then go see a quick demonstration of the new Magic the Gathering game. It’s a pleasant demo and I get to sit in a cool quiet office the entire time. Then I gather my things and go outside. I start to walk to my next appointment. Something doesn’t feel right.

At my age, I know this sensation all too well. I’m going to throw up. In fact, I am starting to throw up in my mouth. Oh god. Why? I hustle ass around the corner of the booth and see a garbage can near the wall, directly past the Future Media office. A show attendee, taking a break and charging his cell phone, is sitting on the ground with his back against the wall, down a bit from the can. Is he going to see me? No time to assess the situation. Shit is getting real.

I finally manage to reach the can, dragging my laptop bag and trying to keep it together. That’s when I realize that all the E3 garbage cans have closed tops and open sides. No time to waste, I shove my face into the side of the can at a 90-degree angle and begin to hurl. I’m not sure if I imagine this or if I really impress someone in the Future Media office, but through the open door I hear someone exclaim, “Nice!”

If you’re from Future and you saw me vomit, my bad. I’m so very sorry about that. I will buy you a 45 dollar bottle of water at the E3 commissary next year to make it up to you.

After I have that little accident, I decide it’s time to leave the area. I hobble to a snack bar for water, hoping to settle my stomach. I start to notice a bit of delirium descending over me. The pit in the South Hall is a Terry Gilliam fever dream of villains and marks in their dance of carnival pitches. “Answer a question, win a car! Saw this zombie in half, get a candy bar! Punch a baby, get your picture taken with Master Chief!”

I find a quiet side hall and lean my back against a wall, sliding down near an outlet to charge my cell phone. After a few minutes and a bottle of water, I move to my next appointment. When the day finally ends, at the metro station, a man sits down next to me and begins pantomiming something. I’m not quite sure I understand. He gasps at me while clapping his chest, waves his hand in a circle and points to the sky. I’m assuming that last bit has something to do with Jesus. In no mood for this, I grab a piece of paper from my bag and hand it to him. He quickly pushes it away and pulls out a well worn printout covered in pencil-marked smiley faces and donation suggestions. I give him 5 bucks so he’ll leave me alone. This works. Luckily, no one else waiting for this train is interested in me.

The train ride is about 30 minutes and makes about 10 stops. I’m going to the end of the line and have to stand the entire time. I’m beginning to sweat like a lunatic. I chew Pepto chewable like Pez and whiteknuckle grip the balance pole. On the wall across from me, a young guy talks to a young girl. He’s making some progress. “Good for him,” I think as the train shifts and I feel another hot wave of nausea. I focus my attention on the poster behind them, depicting an elderly gentleman wearing an oxygen mask. The poster informs me that dying from lung cancer is very unpleasant. Holy shit, for serious?

After what seems like a generation, the train comes to a halt and I depart the station. At the top of the ramp, I sit on a concrete bench and wait for Tom to pick me up. I’ll spend the next two days at his house, shaking and dry heaving in his spare room, but I don’t know that yet. I don’t know that this will be the last day I feel even remotely well until I go home.

There’s a small Hispanic boy, around three or four years old, playing near me. He’s cute as a button. His father is shout-talking to his mother on a cell phone. The little boy has a pink Hello Kitty scooter that he’s riding around. He hits a bump, tumbles over and starts to cry. His father stops shouting into his cell phone to comfort the boy.

At this moment, I realize that I miss my wife. All this effort to fly out to E3 to see games that I see on the internet before they’re announced. We could have been sitting home, watching the press conferences or downloading the demos, and on this beautiful day in Los Angeles, the neon nightmare of E3 behind me for yet another year, I’m thinking about how next time I come here, I’ll bring my wife and we’ll just spend the time with friends.