E3 was like that elitist club I never thought I would never be a part of. And you know what? I was totally cool with that. After all, I had my life planned out (or so I thought) and absolutely none of it came remotely close to assuming any role within the video game industry. Nope. I was going to marry my high school sweetheart, form a career with the State of Washington as an office clerk (I would try to promote, of course) and have children by the age of 25. Top it off with a charming one-story house surrounded by a white picket fence and BLAMMO. That was going to be my life.
They say hindsight is 20/20. I’m now 27, and to the best of my knowledge I don’t have a husband (my ex and I simply weren’t meant to be), I’m most certainly not a mother and I sure as hell don’t own a house with a white picket fence. I’m now self-employed and spend most of my time basking in the wonderful world that is the video game industry.
So, what happened? What about that career with the State of Washington I mentioned?
See, in early 2009, a few years into the thing I once considered to be my future “career,” I began to realize that my job and I were like oil and water. I couldn’t relate to the subject material, I shared little in common with my co-workers and I was growing tired of the routine. My workplace reminded me of dramatic reality television. Someone was always irate, someone was always stirring up trouble and someone was always plotting against you.
Yet as unhappy as I was, I didn’t have the determination to look for a job elsewhere. Plus, the bigwigs were accommodating with my daily, three-hour roundtrip commute and losing that sort of flexibility would’ve been a severe blow to my sanity.
I felt stuck.
Do I leave this place and find something more compatible? Or do I stay at this job for the sake of convenience? After all, they are accommodating with my commute. But I’m so miserable here!
This vicious cycle birthed incessant stress, and to help deal I spent more of my free time playing video games, a hobby I’d had since I was a little girl. And because I couldn’t relate to the people I spent 40 hours a week with, I thought it may help ease my stress to find individuals I could relate with. In my search I stumbled across IGN’s community blog section.
The blogs were a place for anyone with internet and a keyboard to write about video games, the industry, or anything, and as the weeks went on I found myself reading IGN’s community blogs whenever I could. I wasn’t a blogger myself, nor did I ever leave comments, but the simple act of reading what others had to say about the industry made me feel good and gave me a quick escape from the negativity of my workplace.
That said, I was a bit intimidated by their industry knowledge. Some of these bloggers were able to back their opinions with facts and examples I had never heard of, as well as use a sense of foresight I didn’t have. This made me come to the harsh realization that I didn’t know much about the industry itself, the ins and outs, the guts of it. So during my work breaks I practically lived on Wikipedia. I studied the history on console releases. I learned about developers and publishers. I tried to memorize what years iconic video games released and how many copies were sold. Hell, I even made flash cards to quiz myself with.
During these industry “studies” E3 was, unsurprisingly, mentioned hundreds of times. I understood E3 was the single most important event for the video game industry, and it was an event I had always looked forward to, even from the sidelines. But in my quest for knowledge I wanted to learn more. Upon taking a deeper look, I was awestruck. E3 looked like THE place to be if you were a gamer. Flashing lights, huge parties, hundreds of video games…I had never seen anything like it. To give you an idea of how obsessed with E3 I truly was, I once went on eBay and searched for paraphernalia from prior events. When I found someone selling E3 programs from 2003 I was ecstatic and spent $20 to acquire them.
Fast forward to the evening of June 5th, 2009: After spending the typical hour and a half getting home, I wanted nothing more than to unwind, so I slumped on the couch and flipped the channel to G4. E3 was running that week, and G4 was airing their coverage. While I was watching the hosts chat among themselves regarding the latest announcements, something clicked with me. Maybe it was seeing E3 unfolding live on television, maybe I had unknowingly reached my breaking point, I don’t know. But my mind cleared and I suddenly had an urge to write. No more than 15 minutes later I was on my laptop, writing a blog, and posting it to IGN’s community. After months of reading blogs, I had finally submitted one of my own.
I was hooked.
My life started to change once I began blogging about video games. This unexpected surge of drive and motivation ignited within my being, and gaming was no longer a lifelong hobby, but a fiery passion. Blogging gave me a sense of purpose that I hadn’t felt before, and it did wonders on keeping my sanity in check after tough days at work. After five or so months of participating within IGN’s community, I founded a video game podcast with two other IGN bloggers. And in March of 2010 I earned my first PAX East media badge from the podcast, which was an incredible feeling.
(Note: the podcast was hosted through the website Vagary.TV, which housed several other podcasts as well. The combined traffic from these podcasts, including mine, was what often earned the website, and therefore podcast hosts, media passes to different events.)
Participating at PAX East 2010 as media was the final nail in the coffin, and I knew from then on that the video game industry is where I wanted to be. I finally understood that I wasn’t meant for passionless work. Knowing this, I had to make changes. Remember that daily, three hour round-trip commute to work I had? I soon moved into an apartment that was five minutes away from my workplace. This way I had a few extra hours a day to blog, podcast, make videos and more. I’d say I was spending roughly 20 hours a week on these after-work activities, and I loved every minute of it.
Spring came and went, and in early summer Vagary.TV decided to apply for media passes to E3 2010. To be completely honest, I didn’t have high hopes. I mean PAX media admittance was one thing, but E3? The mother of all video game conventions? Sure, our podcast had accrued a nice following and my blogging was going well, but was I really E3 ready? Either way, the simple act of applying to E3 was thrilling in itself and in a small way felt like an accomplishment. Like, who would have thought that a year after writing my first blog post and recording my first podcast I’d be applying for E3?
When we were accepted, I nearly cried.
I often tell people that my first E3 was akin to Charlie seeing Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory for the first time. A member of gameovernation.com made this recap video, in case you’re interested in seeing what it was like that year. (One of my favorite memories from that year was waiting in line to see Sony’s press conference. At 2:37 we mention we had been in line for three hours. In the end, we waited for seven hours. But hey, we got in!)
As E3 2010 came to a close I dreaded leaving. This is where I belonged, this is where I wanted to be, and I wanted nothing more than to rewind time and do it all over again. But reality had different plans, so back on the airplane and back to work I went.
It goes without saying that I had hoped to attend E3 every year thereafter, but there was a potential issue: Our podcast wasn’t independently hosted. Remember when I said Vagary.TV hosted other podcasts as well? If I wanted to attend next year but there weren’t enough passes, or if someone claimed the passes before I could, I wouldn’t be able to attend. I was dependent on someone else, and that scared me.
Because I didn’t like having to depend on another outlet, I started this website (yep, the one you’re currently on) in February of 2011, and I hoped to start earning media passes independently and exclusively through my own credentials. (It was time to step away from the IGN blog as well.) But by the time I started this website, E3 2011 was only four months away, and there was no way my website would meet the traffic requirements. When I heard Vagary.TV had been granted passes for E3 2011, I reached out in hopes of attending two years in a row. (I had still been doing work for Vagary.TV on the side.)
Unfortunately my fear came true and although Vagary.TV was granted press passes, they were distributed in such a way that I was not awarded one. I was crushed. But, dammit, I refused to take no for an answer and was determined to make SOMETHING happen. I thought about it, and realized that while I had been told there was no way I could attend the show floor, that didn’t mean I couldn’t attend the press conferences…right?
With less than two weeks until E3 I shot off a ridiculous amount of emails and somehow, someway gained admission into Sony’s, Microsoft’s and Nintendo’s 2011 E3 conferences. After I received confirmation from the publishers, I realized I hadn’t made sure I could take the time off of work. Whoops. (If you can’t tell, my priorities were significantly shifting at this point.) Thankfully it all worked out, and I was able to take a few days off. When it came time, I flew to Los Angeles for the sole purpose of watching “The Big 3” unveil their latest and greatest in person. Sure, I could have watched online, but by this point it wouldn’t have been good enough for me.
After the last conference I had to rush to the airport to catch my flight back to Seattle. On the way to LAX I was overcome with a rush of bitter jealousy towards all those people who, later that day, were going to be inside the convention center playing the latest video games.
Sitting in the airport terminal I was still so disappointed and so incredibly bummed. In my frustration, I pulled my laptop from its bag and wrote a blog post titled “E3 2011: Lighting a Fire Under Yer’ Ass.” Here’s an excerpt:
“I’m going to post a personal goal of mine. This time next year, I want to be inside the E3 show floor on my accord. I want to gain access under my brand name, BlondeNerd. It’s very ambitious, but not too off the rocker where it’s not possible. To get there I’m going to have to post more written content, more videos, up the ante on my social networking, advertising, etc.
SEE?! Now I’m excited, and this is exactly what I’m talking about. Instead of loathing in jealousy or self-pity, use those emotions to fuel your motivation. Dream big. You might be surprised where it gets you. Hell, it’s gotten me this far already.”
To add more fuel to the motivational fire, things were getting pretty tense at work. Every single day that I had to walk into that building was like a sharp slap to the face. But it paid the bills and it funded my travel to conventions near and far. And at least my cubicle was kinda cool.
In case you’re interested, here’s a link to a post I wrote in April of 2011 that goes into a bit more detail about why I disliked my workplace so much.
Let’s fast forward a year to spring of 2012. This website had been active for about a year and a half, and while I was proud of the growth it had seen and the following it had accrued, it still didn’t have enough of an audience to qualify for a 2012 E3 media badge. To be honest, I was pretty upset at myself, as I felt there were things I could have and should have done differently. (“I should’ve written more articles!” “I could have spent more on advertising!”) But moping only gets one so far, and thankfully Vagary.TV had once again been awarded several passes to E3, and since I was still with the same podcast, I claimed a pass for myself.
When it came to plan for E3 2013, I knew this website housed the audience I needed for an E3 pass. I excitedly filled out an application right before I went on my first-ever cruise. All throughout the cruise I was thinking about my application. Man, if I could land this pass, I would be so ecstatic. To think, just a few years ago I had started up my own rinkadink website and holy shit, because of it I could actually get my VERY OWN E3 pass?! That would be a HUGE check off of the bucket list for me.
After our cruise was over and I had cell service, I excitedly checked my emails.
I found an email from E3.
I opened it…
…and I learned I had been denied.
Thankfully there’s a happy ending to this story, as the reason for my denial was a silly technical one that was easily fixed. So ultimately, I was approved. It was weird though. As that “Welcome to E3 2013!” confirmation email hit my inbox, I didn’t get a rush of overflowing excitement like I thought I would’ve gotten. I then realized that I had expected an E3 pass from myself. I knew I was capable, and there wouldn’t have been anything I could have said to justify a denial. I had set a goal for myself, and I had accomplished it. It was as simple as that.
Covering E3 for myself was exhilarating and I was more motivated than ever. I was previewing and covering titles left and right, I was able to meet tons of new people and could FINALLY say I was there representing myself. It filled me with a sense of pride, you know? I wasn’t at E3 because I worked for a major news outlet or because I had a paying job within the industry; I was there because I had worked so hard for so many years, and it had paid off.
But upon returning to Seattle and my job, my excitement was cut short. Tension at the workplace was at an all-time high, issues were spiraling out of control, and I was put in a difficult, yet opportunistic position: I could either fight for this job, or I could walk away from it. Let me clarify that “walking away” was never presented to me as an option, but you know what? I made it an option.
I freakin’ quit. Shortly thereafter I formed a small marketing side business that still supplements my income to this day. Crazy, right? There’s much more that could be said about that situation, but that’d be a whole ‘nother 2,700 word story in itself. ;)
Regarding last year’s E3, E3 2014, I didn’t encounter any issues gaining admittance via BlondeNerd.com. Let me tell you, it felt damn good. There were no denials, no technical hiccups, just a simple application submitted and a pass granted. (My stress levels greatly appreciated that!)
It’s hard to believe, but here we are again: E3 2015 is right around the corner. And this year, I will be a part of something I never could have imagined.
What. Seriously, can someone please explain how this happened? I mean, wasn’t I just bumbling my way through a rinkadink blog over on IGN.com? Wasn’t I just scrambling to make it to my first E3? On that note, wasn’t I just scrambling to make it to my second and third E3?
Wasn’t it just yesterday that I had accepted I would never attend E3?
And now, listen to me carefully because I want to make sure I got this right, you’re telling me that E3, the ESA themselves, have selected me, a tri-color haired dork, to assist with their first ever E3 Takeover. Is that right?
Dude, life is weird.
Of course, none of this would be happening if it weren’t for your support. Seriously guys, I may have worked my ass off for the past six years, but if I didn’t have you, my friends, supporting me all the way I would still likely be at that old job of mine, pencil-pushing my life away, wondering what else my life could have been.
So hey. Thank you.