Tips for first-time E3 attendees

Photo credit: E3 Expo, 2015

We originally published this article in 2017, when E3 opened up to the public for the first time in a long while, but the advice remains the same today as it did then (with just a few adjustments for 2019).

For the third year in a row now, general admission tickets have been sold for the E3, inviting fans to join the fracas on the show floor. For first-time attendees, being crammed into the LA Convention Center with investors, salespeople, journalists, developers, and Snoop Dogg can be a little overwhelming. The same goes for second-time attendees, and fifteenth-time attendees, but it gets a little easier each time. 

We’ve been going to E3s for years and years—collectively, let’s say we’ve been to a million, because it feels like it—and have combined our wisdom into some practical advice. If you’ll be at the show, or are just curious about what it’s like, here’s how we get the most out of it.

Treat it like a hike

For starters, wear the most comfortable shoes you own. It’s a schlep between the halls, so treat E3 as you would a substantial hiking trip. That also means bring a practical bag, which should contain bottled water, fruit and nut-style energy bars, pain relievers, and something to read or play while waiting in lines. So many lines. —Tim Clark 

Find the quietest restrooms

The key here is: the lesser the footfall, the smaller the line before you get to relieve yourself of that Big Gulp you erroneously drank while waiting for Ken Levine to sign your face. Here I would recommend the upper level service corridor between the South and West halls (where the meeting rooms are). You’ll find one gents and two ladies. Plan your pooping accordingly with this PDF. —Tim Clark

Where to eat

I won’t go so far as to say avoid the main LACC canteens, which are fine for a basic breakfast or serviceable but bland lunch. But for a serious hit of flavor and carbs, head for the concourse between the West and South halls where food trucks/stands have been set up in recent years. There you’ll find hipster grade tacos and various types of fried chicken and slaw ensconced in buns. Extra pro tip: the lines are often long and the sun is blazing, so bring headgear and shades. —Tim Clark

If you’re out late, there’s a 24-hour Denny’s down the street from the convention center on Figueroa. And if you hope to catch the last games of the NHL and NBA Finals (go Raptors), there's a sports bar called Yard House across the street from the Convention Center. It'll be crowded, but it's the best way to maximize E3 time and still catch a game. Not that I’ve been repeatedly skipping out on work to catch playoff hockey games at E3 for the past 10 years. I’ve just heard this… from other people. —Tyler Wilde

Plan your day

It’s a forlorn hope, but when planning your day the ultimate experts arrange appointments by geographic location. So stack up things to do in the South Hall for one morning, then head to the West for a bunch of afternoon stuff. What you don’t want to be doing is wasting your preciously paid for time hopscotching between halls.  —Tim Clark

Also pick a landmark where you can meet up with friends. There are all kinds of ridiculous booths and giant plastic monsters to choose from. Cell reception can be really bad in the hall, so getting texts to go through is a pain and it's good to have a backup plan if you can't communicate. —Tyler Wilde

Know what you're going to get

These days, many of the behind closed doors ‘reveals’ are just the same canned footage that the developers will end up streaming on their own Twitch channels, or slightly expanded versions of videos that were shown at the big conferences. Check gaming sites (hello, we can help) and YouTube to see what’s already available, and focus on only queuing for things you can’t watch outside the show, or that offer some hands-on time. —Tim Clark

Photo credit: E3 Expo, 2016

Bring hand sanitizer

I’ve been in a big building full of bodies and it goes without saying that bodies are bad. They’re always leaking sweat and boogers and then that stuff gets on the bodies’ hands and then those hands touch controllers and doorknobs. Save others, save yourself, and keep your body sanitized. Pop some hand sanitizer on after playing a game, jump into a vat of alcohol and forget about the world—just avoid getting yourself and others sick. No one wants to be down and out at a cool videogame show! — James Davenport 

Keep your cool if you see Snoop Dogg

If previous, non-public E3s are anything to go by, it’s possible you’ll bump into a celebrity or two. And one of those celebrities, in all likelihood, will be Snoop Dogg. Snoop loves E3, but we’ll hazard a guess that he’s there to play (and sometimes help market) games and not take photos with us lowly nobodies. When spotting celebrities at E3, it is best to a) double check it’s not a hologram or cosplayed version of the celebrity and b) not approach the celebrity at all, hologram, cosplayer or otherwise. Unless someone else has done so beforehand and there’s a large crowd, in which case by all means: get that selfie. —Shaun Prescott 

Photo credit: E3 Expo, 2016

Pick up the E3 Show Daily

It’s a free magazine available from dump bins in the lobby each day, and contains a map of LACC plus info on where everyone’s stand is. Invaluable. —Tim Clark 

Drop by the AFK Room for a break

The AFK room, provided by non-profit charity Take This, is a safe and quiet spot away from the crowds where you can take a break if you need one. It is staffed by volunteers and trained clinicians who can answer questions and offer support, and is located in booth MR 407. Find out more here. —Chris Livingston 

Photo credit: E3 Expo, 2016

Skip the coffee

At some point during the chaos of another day at E3, you’re going to feel the urge for a pick-me-up. Energy drinks or coffee are fine, but I would recommend a more unconventional approach and take some caffeine pills instead. They can be found at any pharmacy and each pill typically contains about as much caffeine as a cup of joe. But the reason I recommend them is that, instead of filling your body up with shitty sugar drinks and coffee and then having to wait in line for a bathroom that looks like a sopping wet dog shook himself dry in there, you can just drink water, take a caffeine pill, and save yourself a ton of wasted energy. It’s all about efficiency at E3. —Steven Messner

Don't listen to Steven. Coffee is wonderful (#Garfield #Mondays). But whatever your caffeine intake method, please be safe.  —Tyler Wilde

Get to the airport on the cheap

If you flew to LA for E3, firstly bravo, we applaud your commitment, and secondly the cheapest way to get out again is by paying for a ride on the shuttles outside. You can also store your luggage in the venue cloakroom at the start of the day you leave for a few bucks, but bear in mind everyone else starts leaving around the same time so the line to retrieve your stuff is usually longer (but not heinously so). —Tim Clark

PC Gamer

The collective PC Gamer editorial team worked together to write this article. PC Gamer is the global authority on PC games—starting in 1993 with the magazine, and then in 2010 with this website you're currently reading. We have writers across the US, UK and Australia, who you can read about here.