This morning, following a taxi ride that left us empty of wallet and aghast with incredulity, Alex, Kris and myself arrived at Heathrow Airport. It was early. I hate it being early. This wasn’t even the kind of early that offers that illicit thrill of feeling like it might, perhaps, actually just be very late. It was the kind of early where everything is a little too bright and a little too loud and everyone else seems to be far too cheerful to be real. Big grinning bags of meat, shaped into human form by their ill-fitting, brightly-coloured holiday track suits. Elastic cinching around the ankles, wrists, waist and neck like 85 kilos of thoroughly unappealing sausages. I hate that kind of early most of all. And that kind of human.
I’d made myself coffee in the hotel room before I checked out, boiling the world’s tiniest functional kettle inside a cupboard, tipping up a plastic pot of not milk and stirring in what I thought was going to be sugar but actually turned out to be a minuscule little pellet of something hard and offensively, chemically sweet. I almost never drink instant coffee because it’s not really coffee but I was making an exception today because I needed to patch together some semblance of mental acuity in order to navigate an airport check-in and the meaningless pantomime that is the post 9/11 airport security process.
About halfway down my wholly unsatisfactory, chemically-sweetened cup of instant coffee, laced as it was with not milk, I glanced down at the emptied paper sleeve from which I’d tipped the crunchy little brown crisps of freeze-dried abomination that Kenco optimistically referred to as coffee. It was decaf. Brilliant.
So, an extra shot cappuccino and a hearty hot breakfast later, we’d negotiated check in and security (yes, I packed my own bag, it’s the butler’s week off… no, I’m not smuggling crystal meth, are you smoking it?). And now, we wait. That’s what airports are really, just big halls full of people waiting and shopping for oversized packets of the same sweets they sell in Tesco for half that price. Sometimes you’ll find someone sleeping across three hard metal seats, like a well-to-do hobo with a black hard shell Samsonite for a pillow. But mostly it’s just waiting or panic-buying Toblerone. So we waited too.
As I type this, I’m sitting in a metal tube, filled with other people’s germs and farts and various vaguely offensive body odours. Before they banned smoking on aeroplanes, they used to vigorously recycle the air inside the cabin but now they barely bother. I can already feel myself contracting some airborne disease that has probably yet to be named.
We’re being propelled along a thin patch of atmosphere just above Greenland. We’re travelling at a surface speed of 586 mph, 11,000 metres up. It’s -49 degrees Celsius outside and there are still over 3,000 miles to travel. I don’t know exactly how many passengers a Boeing 777 holds but it feels about as packed as those Mexican trains you see in old cowboy films. I’m sure there are goats in the back row and chickens in the mid-cabin toilets.
I’m wedged between two strangers, one of whom hasn’t woken up since we took off, except to ingest some nondescript foodstuff. The other reads and wriggles and nudges legs with me incessantly. I like travelling only slightly more than I like getting up before Phillip Schofield’s had his cornflakes.
And it’s all worth it because at the end of this back-stiffening, arse-numbing tribulation, we’ll clamber out of our metal tube like the last few pale, broken Pringles, into the eye-watering sunshine of Los Angeles. We’ll be there under our own steam and as a (small) team, for the first time in this website’s almost six-year history, to cover E3 as it happens. It’s going to be a blast.
This year’s Electronic Entertainment Exposition promises to be the biggest, most exciting and perhaps most surprising for years. Possibly even since 2005 when Sony introduced the PlayStation 3 and wowed the gaming world with a ‘target’ video for Killzone 2. It feels all the more impactful this year because of the relatively quiet few years the show has suffered through. Predictable sequels, motion controls, annualisation of overly familiar franchises, spin-offs, shipped-unit willy waving, minor hardware redesigns, fifteen minutes of Wonderbook. But this year it really feels like it’s going to be different and that’s exciting. We picked a good year to finally manage to save and scrape together enough money to bring a small team out to the baked-and-salted streets of Los Angeles and experience it all first hand. We’re going to see the future of home console gaming and then, because you’re most of the reason we’re here, we’re going to tell you what it looks like.
You should all know by now that with TSA you won’t get the press-release version of what’s happening. I’m sure we’ll be enthusiastic – we do this because we love doing it – but we’ll also temper that with the usual mild cynicism for marketing doublespeak and headline hyperbole that we try to allow into all of our work.
We’ll be at Microsoft’s press event first, with our ever-reliable team covering news as it happens from the UK. Then we’re off to EA’s stage show where, we hope, there’s going to be some real surprises amid the talk of Madden and Battlefield 4. We missed out on seats with Ubisoft so we’ll have a couple of hours to see if we can get a reliable stream on mobile broadband, check on how things are being received back home and prepare for Sony to show us what they’ve got at the end of the day. We know that the Sony show is a late one for everyone back in the UK but hopefully there will be plenty of you staying up with us.
And then the show starts properly on Tuesday, with the doors to the show floor and meeting rooms flung wide open. We’ve got a busy schedule of appointments to see plenty of things we’re sure you’re going to be very interested in (and some things that are still top secret) but we’ve also set aside some time to just wander the show floor and look out for anything smart or funny that catches our eye. We’re going to be writing up, talking about and videoing as much of the experience as possible.
So that’s it, that’s the plan – such as it is. We hope you’ll stick around all week as we’ll be doing our very best to get as much as we can onto the site as quickly as we can and we hope you lavish all your lovely opinions, comments and observations on the plethora of breaking news posts that our UK-bound team is putting up as they happen.
Are you ready? We are, even if it still feels quite early.