E3 is upon us like some sort of mad video games convention, and once again I'm here to tell you how to get the most out of it. I personally won't be there this year: I've served my time, and now you must serve yours. But before you go, take this lovely advice. I guarantee it will help.
Outside of the LA Convention Centre's West Hall, next to the Staples Centre (where the Lakers play their home games) and the Grammy museum, is a cluster of restaurants, coffee shops, and bars called LA Live. Now, this may not seem very exciting, but hang out there on Tuesday morning – before the show proper starts – and you may encounter some of the biggest and brightest stars* in the world of video gaming. You too can stand next to Phil Spencer in a Starbucks, lamenting the fact that he has the same shoes as you, overhearing his opinions on many things, none of them that interesting.
You'll also run into famous game developers and not-so-famous-but-maybe-you-kind-of-recognise-them games journalists, all of whom will already look like Charlie Sheen at the end of Platoon, the poor bastards. Z-grade celeb spotting aside, LA Live is also pretty much the closest place you can get food which isn't the convention centre itself. Which leads us to...
Like most theme parks, E3 has enough food courts to make sure you'll never go hungry. Whether you'd want to actually eat any of its offerings is debatable: the food at the show is terrible. Like everything else in LA, it resembles a ghastly, oversized version of a reality you're used to: fries are served in portion sizes which can only be described as 'gallons'; each slice of pizza is like a cheese and tomato duvet. It also costs, roughly, about a trillion dollars per meal.
Still, unless you take a packed lunch – and you may very well do that, probably in a Final Fantasy lunchbox, classic – there's not that many options available. Leaving the convention centre to go and try and hunt out better food is an option, but also a pain in the arse. So bringing your own meals seems the best option, even if you have to lug it around. With that it mind, who better to tell you what to eat at E3 than Simon Miller, nutritional mastermind and Officially Jacked Human?
"Take a minibag of protein, a box of protein bars, and around a kilogram of nuts, in order to maintain essential fatty acid consistency."
Three slices of pizza it is, then.
Go and see the lizard show at the Saddle Ranch
Ah, the Saddle Ranch. For those of you yet to have the dubious pleasure of its company, it's a chop house on West Sunset Boulevard (which, on the whole, is a lot less glamorous than it sounds). It is primarily known for two things: one, a mechanical bull which people can ride, and two, it being absolutely RAMMED with UK games industry, particularly on the days before the show itself starts.
Anyway, you'll probably end up there at some point if you have a UK passport and an E3 lanyard, because there is nothing more achingly British than flying five thousand miles away from home and pitching up in a fucking theme pub. (At least it's not an Irish bar. That's Gamescom's angle.) When you get there, you'll probably wonder what all the fuss is about: it looks like a mad, steroidal version of quality drinking establishment Outback, only with fewer fire pits, although more of them are approved by management. There are demented-looking mannequins everywhere. And that's before you get inside.
Once behind the (literal) curtain you'll find two constants: drunk people on the bull, and drunk people at the bar. And all around that, astonishingly, are people eating. This shouldn't really be amazing, as it is a steak house, but fuck me, people: given the amount of braying idiots and barely-disguised bull-enabled lechery you may as well be eating dinner on the dancefloor of Tiger Tiger.
You probably won't be in the Ranch for long before someone decides it's time to 'get the shots in', at which point the night will invariably take a nasty turn. In Britain, shot-drinking is seen as a bit of generally-accepted stupidity, a good way to 'get the night going', irrespective if it's been 'going' for roughly five hours and is about to explode into a ditch at any moment. The clue is in the title: a shot. A small amount. Tiny, really. How much damage could it do? In America, ask for a shot of Sambuca and you'll receive a fist-sized glass of sheer terror. As you submit to the third gulp of sickly black oil you'll probably wonder why you didn't go to the Standard instead: Sure, it's just as twatty, but at least you can throw yourself off the roof there.
Still not convinced? Complex voted it the "douchiest bar in LA", which, to quote The Big Lebowski, puts it high in the running for douchiest worldwide.
In last year's E3 insider's guide I gave a glowing endorsement to the bathrooms of the LA Convention Centre, and by that I mean I likened them to a portal to hell. Little more need be added, of course, bar one small if crucial addendum. Last year, upon entering the gents, I saw that not only was every urinal taken but – and this is 100% true – there was a large camera on a tripod pointing at the pissing men. After a short but sharp Jaws dolly-zoom moment I turned around and walked out, where I saw the owner of the camera – now revealed to be one of the pissees – walking out with it like nothing had happened. In his desire to not leave his equipment outside the bathroom he had brought it in instead, and nobody had objected, it seems, to a fucking great BBC-in-the-90s camera pointing at their junk while they excreted waste from it. E3, ladies and gentlemen.
Don't walk on the ground floor
I'm not saying get a jetpack or anything, but if you do get one, get me one. Anyway, the LACC concourse is split into two main floors: the booths and media centres are on the lower one, while the meeting rooms and such are on the upper floor. Whenever you get the chance, traverse the south and west halls via the higher deck. The first and most obvious reason to do so is that there are less people up here, meaning if you want to get from one side of the center to the other quickly, you can. (Which is also helpful if you're famous/don't want to be bothered by people: last year I saw Peter Moore and Anita Sarkeesian up there.)
The other reason to be up there is that people are inherently lazy – especially the people at E3 – and so with fewer people going upstairs it means fewer people using the toilets. Sorry for all the toilet chat, but my therapist advised me to talk it out.
A general rule for California, this one: never read any signs, because they're always banging on about cancer or birth defects or something equally hideous, and you've got enough on your plate.
You heard. Pop down to Urban Outfitters in Santa Monica and get yourself The World's Greatest T-shirt. Doing so will change your life in ways you had never imagined*. The biggest benefit is that security people – the door guards at the E3 media room, TSA agents – seem particularly disposed to treating you better should you be wearing it, like some sort of mad Hitman disguise. I walked through LAX on the way back from E3 with it on and at least three people – the men and women responsible for patting you down and making sure you're not a bad 'un while generally being the most humourless people of all time – complimented the shirt. One of them shouted 'STEP BROTHERS!' across the hall. Another of them actually smiled. The same happened in the convention centre itself. I had arrived, and all it took was the purchase of a T-shirt with Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly's face on it. You may think I'm taking the piss. I am seriously not. Buy this tee and find out for yourself.