So- Penny Arcade eXpo! I think it's appropriate to first describe what went into getting to PAX, and it really wasn't alot. Last Christmas, my brother suggested it and we hashed it out with our parents. Some frantic preparations over Google Wave in the days before the expo were pretty much the only planning that happened.
I could tell you the whole story of the trip, but I'll just give the skinny, for the sake of time. After a ten hour train ride, our first real PAX experience was waiting in line, in the expo center's queue room. Now, one would assume that waiting in line with a bunch of excited nerds might be a little weird, and it was, but it was also a load of fun. There were several large projector screens with a few fun little distractions on diplay: The main screen was a command prompt with a hidden typist, ghost writing for the computer, in a dialogue with the audience. From here, transitions were made to trivia with audience participation via text, choose your own adventure stories, and a game sort of like Doodle Jump, except the jumper was Gabe, and controlled by the left-or-right-leaning raised hands of the audience facing a camera. In the glorious name of metagaming, the scores attained by each crowd (morning crowd and night crowd each day) were displayed.
The expo floor was a sea of booths and nerds. A few rad booths out of the ~60:
NVidea, showcasing their new 3D system for games. I was surprised by the clarity and the comfort compared to what I've seen, movie theater 3D, that is; no nausea here.
EA, with a big SKATE booth. I mention them because through the duration of the expo, I saw people running around with some swell skateboard decks. My brother and I decided we would give it a go, and rushed to the booth, first thing Sunday morning. Other expo-goers had the same idea, evidently, and the line had grown to the point at which it was no longer worth it to wait for the chance to fail.
Instead, we stumbled upon the Uber Entertainment booth. We signed up for the tournament for a game called Monday Night Combat, a Xbox Live Arcade game that is due to release this summer. It was kind of a farce of a tournament, in that it had only two rounds. Nevertheless, we won and were the proud recipients of Pit Girl trophies, while the losers received Baconnaise. Extrinsic rewards aside, the game itself was a load of fun, something like DoTA, only an FPS with a futuristic bloodsport twist.
Outside of the main expo hall, there were numerous exhibits and events. Among these events were daily Q&A sessions with various weighty figures in the gaming community. We, in our lousy planning didn't really see many. We did, however, get to watch Mike and Jerry (real life Gabe and Tycho) create a Penny Arcade strip while fielding questions. It was a great chance to see a smashing artist at work, as well as hear some quality comedy. At the audience's request, Jerry even sang a soulful ballad about some fantasy love -not as weird as it sounds.
On Saturday night, we managed to snag some pretty okay seats to the night's concert. The first to perform was the Video Game Orchestra. It was amazing. Hearing their classical, rock, and metal renditions of some classic game tunes reminded me of the wonder I experienced the first time I heard the music. It might sound silly, but some of the Final Fantasy songs nearly brought me to tears from nostalgia alone. Foolishly, we ducked out and missed most of Paul and Storm, a duo of musical comedians. We caught their last few songs, whose content, combined with top-notch banter had me laughing out loud. Things got a little weird when the audience startedtrolling, but I guess nerds are pretty good at dealing with nerds, because they managed to diffuse the aggression. The final act (for which we were initially most excited) was Jonathan Coulton. Coulton is famous of his nerd anthems, and notorious for writing Still Alive, the ending theme to the smash hit Portal. Talk about a shaggy man with a voice. His words, whether sad or happy or desperate, slid like butter into my ears and down to my heart.
Like I said in my filler post, PAX is about The Gamer. I found that this objective was met with great success, and the atmosphere of the whole weekend was consistently positive. In the Sumo beanbag-filled handheld gaming lounge, the rows and rows of console and PC freeplay tables, and every room of the expo center, the spirit of gaming could be found. Of course, when I say the spirit of gaming, I mean Fun, because what are games but an escape from the anxiety and pressure of reality? This post would not be complete without recognizing the jolly Enforcers - the volunteer security guards that ensured the smooth execution of the weekends merriment.
To conclude, I want to go again.