E3 2017 Had Major Security Flaws – One Step Away From Disaster

This is an editorial piece. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of, and should not be attributed to, Niche Gamer as an organization.

This year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo has come and gone, and now that it’s been roughly a week since the last day of the show, both myself and the staff of Niche Gamer have had some time to collect our thoughts regarding the show, and how we feel about its current outlook. To be frank: The Entertainment Software Association (the folks behind E3) need to make changes, and fast.

Collectively, the staff of Niche Gamer has something like 30+ years of attendance at our industry’s yearly E3. I’ve gone these past six yeas or so, and our marketing / media manager Michael has been going for over a dozen years. This was the first year the show opened up to the “public,” i.e. anyone could buy a pass for a couple hundred dollars. We called these patrons the “green badges.”

Say whatever you want about non-press, I love seeing people getting excited over video games. It makes me excited. Generally, the majority of our bookings were off the floor, in private meeting rooms. Here’s the problem: security has always been lax at E3, and for the show to be totally public, this is a major security issue.

When we thought of the number of security flaws at this year’s E3, it legitimately worried us. There were numerous times our badges weren’t even looked at, and there were many, many times we entered the concourse meeting rooms only to see no security at all. These meeting rooms are strictly for industry and press, so you can imagine how it’s a problem to have regular patrons there.

The concourse meeting rooms are mostly small meeting rooms with one entrance/exit, with only a handful of PR employees – the rest are actual game developers working on said games. The strive by some to get as much free swag as possible had some people literally bugging these companies for freebies – something that’s not only annoying, but rude.

To go even further, people literally managed to sneak their way into the showfloor with zero credentials at all – you can read about one infamous and well-documented case of that here. I’ve been to game trade shows all over the country and the ones in California have the most nonexistent security.

One of our staff members was even assaulted by normal-badge wearers when he was trying to get a Super Mario Odyssey visor – getting his shirt ripped up only to later get the visor stolen off his head and never returned. There was also a literal fist-fight in the west hall with – you guessed it, normal badge wearers. They were fighting over free swag, of course.

An ongoing issue the ESA and the companies attending as exhibitors have run into is the increasing push to open the show to the public. First they allowed trade-related folks, GameStop workers, Doritos employees, etc., only to now fully open it to the public. Now, it’s virtually impossible to play a game as press unless you’ve booked a time way ahead in advance.

You could make an argument for the show remaining public, but honestly for that to be feasible moving forward a number of changes should happen, first security and then more kiosks as a close second. To offset the already burst-at-the-seams show, the ESA should perhaps consider following the Computer Entertainment Supplier’s Association, who run Tokyo Game Show.

Coming off this, should E3 remain a three day show, perhaps one full day should be restricted to just press and industry – honestly so long as we can get our work done we’re happy. I mention this because there were numerous times we had to record on the floor, both public and in private, where normal badge wearers constantly trashed our camera rig – or simply ruined our footage. At numerous times, you literally couldn’t move or walk on the show floor – an issue even for us as we went from booking to booking with our gear.

I’m not saying a disaster can happen, but it would have been pretty damn easy for someone to sneak a weapon into this year’s E3. Until this year, the show has mostly been focused on people involved with the industry. It felt like the ESA wasn’t prepared for the extra 15,000 non-industry people, and neither were the security. The above example of people actually sneaking in with zero credentials is just the tip of the iceberg – if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.

Whenever I go to PAX, they search everyone’s backpacks or purses because naturally you don’t want to let a sociopath or a religious zealot concealing a weapon into a densely populated trade show. PAX East security even has you go through metal detectors. This doesn’t happen at E3, and that’s deeply concerning.

I’m not telling the ESA what to do, I’m simply the messenger hoping to make E3 better than ever. We legitimately enjoy the show and everyone involved – most especially the developers and wonderful PR folks that make all our bookings happen.

Watch our feed and make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel as well as our big E3 2017 megathread for all our upcoming videos and previews!

Did you attend this year’s E3? If not, did you watch any footage from the showfloor? How do you feel about the current state of the event? Sound off in the comments below!

Brandon Orselli

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Big Papa Overlord at Niche Gamer. Italian. Dad. Outlaw fighting for a better game industry. I also write about music, food, & beer. Also an IT guy.