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Academy Students Get Rare Chance to Attend E3 for Free

“A Disneyland for video game lovers,” the exclusive trade show showcases groundbreaking technologies, products and companies

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(L–R) Academy of Art Univeristy animation students Leo Cruz and Camille Sloan at this year’s E3 event, posing with a LEGO statue of Kylo Ren at the Warner Brothers Games booth. Photo courtesy of Camille Sloan.

Each year, thousands of video game industry professionals from around the world flock to the Los Angeles Convention Center to attend E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo). The premier trade show for computer, mobile and video games connects attendees with others in the field while showcasing leading companies, groundbreaking technologies and exciting new products. 

E3 isn’t open to the public; you must be involved in the video game industry to attend the three-day extravaganza. And at $995 a pop, tickets for the 2016 expo held in June weren’t cheap. But thanks to the generosity of 2K Games, 15 students from Academy of Art University’s School of Animation & Visual Effects got to attend E3 for free.

“I’ve played video games my whole life and had heard a lot about E3,” said Camille Sloan, one of the lucky pass recipients. “It’s very exclusive—you can’t go unless you’re invited. Once I found out about the chance to go for free, I knew I had to take it.” 

Sloan, who graduated in May, learned about the coveted passes when Program Manager Becky Johnson posted an announcement about them on the School of Animation & Visual Effects’ Facebook page. Fellow class member Leo Cruz also saw the announcement and jumped at the chance to snag a complimentary E3 ticket.

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Camille Sloan trying out the Pop Up Gaming’s co-op demo for the Vive. Photo courtesy of Camille Sloan.

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Leo Cruz testing a VR tour of an interactive Hollywood Mansion using the Oculus Rift. Photo courtesy of Camille Sloan.

“As someone who’s been playing video games almost from the day I was born, being at E3 provided me with the chance to see them from a different point of view,” he said. “I got to look at them from a professional point of view instead of just as a player.”

Cruz added that going to E3 made him realize just how prevalent video games are today, and how much money companies invest in them. “For me, E3 was the real deal,” he explained. “The chance to be there helped me understand how important these games are to people of all ages, nationalities and genders.”

eo game professionals, Cruz and Sloan had fun checking out the elaborate, interactive booths of major vendors such as Nintendo. Cruz compared the exhibit hall to a Disneyland for video game lovers. 

“The whole place was very flashy and many of the booths were quite impressive,” he said. “I particularly enjoyed getting to try the demos of games that haven’t been released yet, even though the lines were really long,” said Cruz. “It was like waiting in line for a ride at an amusement park.”

One of his favorite demos was the latest release of Nintendo’s Wii U game, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. He and other devoted fans stood in line at the company’s colossal, theme park-like booth for hours to play 30 minutes of the popular game scheduled to ship next year. 

For Cruz, the crowds and long lines were a small price to pay for what he gained. “It was great getting to try the demos and speak to company representatives,” he said.

Since graduating last spring, he’s been working for a 3-D printing factory. But his experience at E3 only strengthened his desire to become a game designer.

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A view of the show floor around Square Enix’s booth. Photo courtesy of Camille Sloan.

“E3 made it official for me—video games are a big deal and I want to get a job in the industry,” he remarked. 

Sloan was equally inspired by the time she spent at E3. “I want to work in the video game industry or in another animation field. It was great to be around people from that world at E3.”