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Joystiq at E for All, the highlights and lowlights

Kevin Kelly

We wandered the booths of E for All in Los Angeles over the weekend, taking in what the show had to offer. It all inexplicably began with a rousing tune played by a troupe of bagpipers. What? We weren't sure what the tie-in there was either, unless there's a Bagpipe Hero in the works. You heard it hear first.

Inside, we made our way through the maze of games and past the hordes of schwag-seekers to the interior, where we watched people vie for prizes and sampled some of the local fare. Check out some of our highlights after the break, including the audio of the bagpipery, our encounter with both Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell, and also Wolf from American Gladiators and what we thought about the show in general. Plus, you can also revel in the glory of our E for All gallery.

As an extra treat, check out the audio from the bagpipes that began it all below. Now if you just mail us your $35 money order, you can feel like you were there.

Gallery: E for All: 2008 | 84 Photos

We arrived well before the show opened on Friday, and noticed fairly decent-sized lines of people waiting to get in. These were people who braved the early morning traffic of Los Angeles, which isn't anything to be sneered at, in order to get dibs on that first in line spot. The show is fairly cavernous, however, so when the doors open that line dispersed in about .5 seconds.

Inside, we noticed how much more organized the show seemed this year, which is sort of disappointing given the fact that companies aren't really participating. There's a Microsoft Games for Windows booth showing off already released titles, with the Xbox Live Arcade and EA booth doing the same thing. Ubisoft had a small booth showing off Far Cry 2 and EndWar, and there was a Gears of War 2 booth stuck way back in the distance, but that's about it. A few smaller companies are showing off games, Beyond Protocol, Rohan, Seal Online: Evolution, Entropia Universe, and others... but where are the big gaming publishers? Not here.

However, there were a few retailers here, from niche markets like DDRGame, "Where Exercise Gets Fun!" all the way up to Target, which sponsored a Guitar Hero: World Tour contest, and even had a full-fledged game store on the premises. Do you want to go to a trade show and purchase your next gaming console? That's a lot of stuff to lug around. There were also enormous booths from both the World Cyber Games, the Intel / Dell Extreme Gaming Tour, and even *shudder* Fatal1ty, who wasn't banned from E for All like he was from PAX.

On the flipside of the "professional" gamers, you had a lot of old school action going on, courtesy of AllGames. Steve Wiebe, Billy Mitchell, and Walter Day were there together on Friday, although only Steve was publicly going for the Donkey Kong world record. He didn't hit it, but he did break 1,000,000 points in public, which was pretty damned impressive. Then he hit the infamous kill screen, and that was all she wrote. Mitchell was just content to judge the gaming events and autograph bottles of his hot sauce.

But what about the bizarreness that you always run into at these events? We supplied some of our own. For instance, if you don't love that photo of Justin McElroy getting fitted for the Third Space Gaming Vest, then you just have no soul. We also sampled the Gamer Grub... and we have to report that it's actually pretty damn tasty. Justin's a big fan of the "Action Pizza" flavor. We thought it was promised to be "non-greasy," but as it turns out that's only if you use the delivery system, and not your fingers. And by delivery system we mean the plastic tube it comes in. It'll be out next year and should retail for around $3. However, we snagged a ton from them and we'll be giving it out. Keep watching.

We also met the guys responsible for Mana Energy Potion, which comes in a little plastic flask and "packs the punch of two red bulls, without sugar." It's some sort of space-age concoction that almost made my heart explode. They set up a treadmill that was wired to World of Warcraft, and brave gamers could get on and literally run across Azeroth. If they did it for 5 minutes straight, they won a six-pack of the drink. They were kind enough to give us a six-pack, which will be perfect for washing down your Gamer Grub if you win the contest.

IndieCade also had a strong showing with a pretty large booth, and although we'd seen most of these games in our comprehensive look at the 25 titles that will be at their festival next week, there were a couple that we hadn't seen before. Rooms looks like a fun game, and we're going to be giving it a whirl soon and talking to the Korean developers. It's a flash-based game that combines elements of board games, The Matrix, and puzzle-solving.

Strangely, we also saw Wolf, from American Gladiators... who actually resembles Billy Mitchell a good deal. He was there plugging for "Fusion-IO Ultra-High-Performance Data Storage." Their idea was to have people ride around on a mechanical Fusion drive. Crazy. Also, yes Victoria, booth babes do still exist. As do gaming girls. Friday night we attended a party thrown by Gaming Angels and Gamer Vixens, which included sponsors like Girl Gamer, Game Betties, and Girls N Gaming. Wow, there sure are a lot of sites aimed at gaming girls. You go.

It's $35 for a day ticket, and $75 for a three day pass, but you can honestly see almost everything in just a few hours. Is that value for your money?

So what's the final word? E for All isn't billed as a trade event, which is why most of the major publishers don't hit it. It's not cost-effective for them to trot out a big dog and pony show to hit a small audience. However, if this thing grows in size, they might be able to attract bigger attention, which would make it more worthwhile for gamers. It's $35 for a day ticket, and $75 for a three day pass, but you can honestly see almost everything in just a few hours. Is that value for your money?

Well, every gamer we spoke to was having a great time, and they didn't mind that the big guns weren't there. Honestly, it was a lot of fun seeing people at an event that were just enjoying the gaming for what it was. The biggest draws seemed to be the Target gaming area, with everyone wanting to hop on GH:WT. After that it was a bit of a free for all between the Gears 2 booth and the All Games booth which had a arcade-style booths that gave you a gaming test to see if you were "ready to go pro." We definitely weren't ready for that, and faded into the sunset.

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