E3: Scenes from the video game circus

E3 the hydra

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E3 is a hydra. There's so much going on at any given moment that it's hard to keep up with everything being shown, talked about and hinted at.

While the show is closed to the public, Nintendo once again offered fans the chance to play demos of "Super Smash Bros." at over 100 Best Buy locations around the U.S. And while that may gave fans a taste, it hardly filled their appetites.

While it's impossible to fully showcase E3's eccentricities, here are a few snapshots of the industry's annual party/trade show to give you a taste.

—By Chris Morris, special to

Virtual reality settles in

An attendee wears a 3-D Oculus headset at the 2014 E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo.
Chris Morris | CNBC

No one's sure when the Oculus Rift (pictured) or Sony's Project Morpheus will be released, but the demos both products gave at E3 have only stoked the fires of enthusiasm. There were VR games that let you step into outer space and explore the depths of the ocean floor. You could ride a luge down a busy street or fight a dragon. And they all offered a vastly different gaming experience than most people have experienced before.

First impressions

World of Tanks display outside the 2014 E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo.
Chris Morris | CNBC

Publishers don't contain their over-the-top marketing stunts to within the walls of the LA Convention Center. Free-to-play giant Wargaming let fans get their pictures taken standing next to a tank that had crushed a perfectly good Ford. (On the show floor, the company had another tank photo op—this one crashing through a wall and hanging 20 feet above their head.)

Big bad monsters

The Evolve display at the 2014 E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo.
Chris Morris | CNBC

Creatures in games might seem intimidating, but when they're standing in front of you and are 2 stories tall—like the Kraken from Take-Two's Evolve, pictured here—it gives a new sense of scale. Underneath the beast's shadow, fans were able to play the forthcoming cooperative/competitive online game.

Nerd icons

The Batman Arkham Knight display at the 2014 E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo.
Chris Morris | CNBC

There were plenty of celebrities at E3 who are nerd heroes, including actress (and gamer) Felicia Day and "Reading Rainbow" host Levar Burton, but it's iconic things like the Batmobile that really turn heads. Here to promote "Batman: Arkham City," the battle vehicle turned heads of many people who passed it.

Sonic Rebooted

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Sega's iconic hedgehog is getting a new look—and new friends—in 2014. "Sonic Boom" is both the name of his latest game and a TV series that will air later this year on Cartoon Network. Sonic is taller, and now sports a scarf as well as athletic tape around his wrists and feet. Knuckles is transforming into a hulking character—with fingers. Tails has added aviator goggles and a toolbelt to his look. And Amy? Well, she carries a big honkin' hammer with her everywhere these days.

After 'Halo'

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Activision and Bungie are betting big on "Destiny," the developer's first game since creating the iconic "Halo" franchise. The action game, set in a future timeframe when humans have colonized other parts of the solar system, is a mostly multiplayer affair and utilizes the cloud—meaning if you play on your PS4 at home, you can still use your character on your friends' Xbox One when you play at their house. Activision has committed $500 million for the life of the franchise, but is expected to more than double that investment.


Chris Morris | CNBC

Nintendo is jumping aboard the game/toy gravy train this year, taking a Skylanders-like approach to Mario. These figurines are still prototypes, and the final product may look different this holiday, but collectors and Nintendo fanatics (not to mention kids) are bound to embrace the new style of play.

Console wars, round two

Xbox and PlayStation signage on display at the 2014 E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo.
Chris Morris | CNBC

Last year's launch of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 was closely watched, but this holiday season is when you really want to keep a close eye on things. Both Microsoft and Sony have assembled big game lineups for the holiday season, and even bigger ones for 2015. The traffic flow at both booths was steady throughout the show.

Games as art

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While the emphasis of E3 is on playable games and slickly produced trailers, the industry has a section carved out to remind itself that it's creating more than just retail products. The Into the Pixel exhibition features beautiful concept art from past and upcoming games. The two images featured here are from Ubisoft's "Assassin's Creed: Unity" and Microsoft's "Project Spark," both due later this year.

Old school gaming

vintage Atari cartridges and console on display at the 2014 E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo.
Chris Morris | CNBC

Next gen consoles and virtual reality headsets wouldn't be here if it weren't for classic gaming systems. The Classic Arcade Expo gives E3 show goers a chance to escape from the modern technology overload and relax with some of the games they grew up with, including the Atari 2600.