By Adam B. Vary
June 08, 2011 at 03:46 PM EDT
Chris Weeks/AP Images

If you’ve never been to the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, i.e. E3, but have always wanted to go, here are 10 steps for how to recreate the experience, which started for realsies on Tuesday in the Los Angeles Convention Center and lasts until tomorrow:

1. Start playing your favorite videogame on your big-screen TV, at full volume.

2. Borrow your best friend’s big-screen TV and Blu-ray player, put that directly next to your TV, and put on Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, at full volume.

3. Borrow your neighbor’s big-screen TV and Blu-ray player, put that on the other side of your TV, and put on the first 15 minutes of Saving Private Ryan on a constant loop, at full volume. 

4. Borrow your other neighbor’s big-screen TV and Blu-ray player, hang that from the ceiling, and put on Dawn of the Dead, at full volume.

5. Borrow your other best friend’s big-screen TV and DVD player, put that directly behind you, and put on an episode of Powerpuff Girls on a loop, at full volume.

6. Place a sub-woofer on your chest.

7. Invite your entire neighborhood to walk through your living room, all day.

8. Take all of it in while walking on a treadmill, all day.

9. Stop playing your game every 10 minutes, and pretend to wait in line for at least 30 minutes before playing the game again.

10. Do it all over again the next day, and the day after that.

As a sensory experience, that’s pretty much exactly what E3 looks, sounds, and smells like. And yet, somehow, amid the complete collapse of your synaptic facilities, this gargantuan videogame confab also manages to be a heckuva lot of fun.

So here are my highlights* from my first day on the infamous E3 show floor, which is actually two separate floors of L.A.’s expansive convention hall. (*At least, what my feeble brain was capable of observing.)

Best reminder that some things never change: There are always a few constants at every E3: The Sony pavilion will be a confusing lattice work that results in a constant crush of people; the Nintendo pavilion will be shaped like a single giant abstract white cube; the Microsoft pavilion will be circular, green, and a picture of orderly design; and the EA pavilion will have a bass system designed to liquify your organs.

Most impressive giant model: While I was impressed with the menacing dragon standing above a stone wall etched with runic symbols — Bethesda Softwork’s subtle promotion for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim — I’ve got to hand this prize to the life-sized statue of the lead soldier in Gears of War 3, Marcus Fenix. Turns out, in real life, the man’s biceps would be larger than Elijah Wood.

Most likely to give Steven Spielberg pause: Most of the demos for Street Fighter X Tekken featured a level in which two T-Rexes, a velociraptor wearing boxing gloves, and a man cowering behind an SUV with a circular logo on it watched the match from behind a damaged electrical fence.

Favorite line from someone demo-ing a game: “Please do not flash-bang your teammates.”

Oddest third-party product: A special lens designed for the Microsoft Kinect that allows you to play roughly two feet closer to your TV.

Standout sexy convention girl outfit: I’m torn, so you decide: Is it the girl in the red wig and platform red heels? The girl in the neon pink bunny ears and matching schoolgirl skirt? The girl in the jeans cut-offs, white dress shirt tied off above the waist, and orange fox tail? The girl in white, button-down smocks and yellow heels? The girl in a camouflage miniskirt and fishnets? The girl in the Glee Cheerios cheerleading outfit? Or the female reporter in a full Wonder Woman costume?

Most adorable pavilion: Last year, Disney’s section on the floor was an oddly abstract amalgamation of TRON and Disney Epic Mickey. This year, Disney created a micro-Disneyland in the middle of E3, complete with Mickey Mouse lampposts, shrubbery, and its own separate “worlds”: A gazebo called “Game Zone”; a lounge called “Coffee House”; a hangout/artists corner called “Community Park”; and a Disney-themed recreation of a typical gaming household called, naturally, “Home.”

Most. Dramatic! Pavilion: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 has every chance of breaking all videogame sales records when it hits shelves Nov. 8, so naturally Activision went the extra mile to showcase it, debuting an extended (and quite deafening) trailer for the game with a (roughly) 360 degree screen. What’s more, the video was prefaced with a dramatic countdown clock and a timeline recounting the major events in the Modern Warfare universe up until now.

Game titles best capturing the E3 experience: The House of the Dead: Overkill: Extended Cut; Anarchy Reigns (and it also “rains” — see what I did there?); and Sonic Generations.

Best lo-fi “game,” by far: On one relatively large patch of open ground along the outside of the West Hall convention floor, a group of seeming geeks were spending considerable time playing “Ninja,” a game that requires no controllers, no consoles, and no electricity. These brave souls were simply attempting to touch each other’s arms — physically, not virtually — with various single martial-arts-y poses. It was as if a summer camp had been randomly transported into the L.A. Convention Center. Like E3’s own private Brigadoon, it was almost too beautiful and rare to believe. I hope they’re still there today.

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Read more on E3:

E3 2011: Nintendo unveils new console! But will it recapture hardcore gamers?

Nintendo Wii U: We’ve played the successor to the Wii!

E3 2011: EA and Ubisoft tease ‘Mass Effect 3,’ ‘Rayman Origins,’ and more

Sony unveils PlayStation Vita at E3 (and apologizes about that pesky network outage)