PAX is the Penny Arcade Expo a weekend long gamer festival that up until now has taken place in Seattle every year, where its founders are based. I went there last Thursday - Monday, and now I'm back! Onto the highlights!
I took a huge gamble on my trip to PAX - I stayed with complete strangers. I went onto the PA message boards and looked for people willing to share a hotel room, and basically took the first offer than came my way, no questions (other than $) asked. And the four guys I wound up bunking with - Zack, Corbin, Andy, and Hastin - were four very cool gamers who I instantly bonded with. We all had our different areas of interest, and at the PAX event itself we'd often split up and each do our own thing. But we always met back up to check in and see what the others had seen, usually followed by a meal together. It was an important tentpole in my trip, where I might otherwise had been a little more of a solitary experience, which for someone like me, usually equals less fun.
I met lots of other great people too on my trip there - despite some other gaming journalists' opinions, I found that anyone I attemtped to be friendly with was equally friendly back to me. I even managed to run into Stephen Totilo, a writer for Kotaku who I've been following for some time. He was super friendly and nice, and if he ever takes me up on the offer (since he lives in NY) he may even come see me in an improv show one day.
The Games, and the Technology!
Obviously, I've got to mention the meat of the convention (there's something very sing-songy about that line, try saying it). I enjoyed the games available at PAX on two levels - one was the upcoming games that developers had brought for attendees to demo - tons of great titles I can't wait to have in my hands in a few months. One top of that, there was the cool tech demos for new technology that was going to change the way we game - including 3D technology, just like they are apparently doing to movies these days.
On top of this, there was a freeplay area for PC, Tabletop and Consoles, where you would just walk in, hand over your license, and be able to borrow any play from a super wide variety of old school and new school titles. It actually reminded me of my old job at NYCLAN here in the city, only this was on such a grand scale. And although I really only played Halo, Left 4 Dead, and some more Smash Bros., I loved that this area was around waiting for me whenever I had any downtime from the showroom floor.
Not much to say here other than I tip my hat to these guys, who obviously all devote a ton of time and enery they could otherwise be spending gaming, texting,or sexting.
The Culture and Events!
Good 'ol Skeeball. I missed the other rounds of it, but the basic concept and execution of it (Six rounds over the course of the weekend with random PAX attendees competing in various games, including Connect 4(!), with a grand prize of $5,000 and a trip to Tokyo) make me smile.
...and there's me riding "Ruin" the Bull/Horse at the Darksiders booth. Man did those guys want to make me fall! I'm glad they did though, because it obviously makes for a much funnier video.
So what sucked? The Food! Well, that's being a bit unfair. What I did eat, I enjoyed. But my new friends and I scoured Seattle on Saturday night for a meal, and other than the shops inside the convention center, and the Cheesecake Factory right across the street, it seemed like there was NOTHING. Especially after 10pm. It was kind of ridiculous - there are literally coffee shops EVERYWHERE (more Starbucks than in NYC, if you can believe it, and that's along with their many competitors), which leads me to believe the people of Seattle apparently have learned to live on coffee and pastries.
I also didn't make many of the panels this year, but given that all the information from those usually winds up on the internet anyway, I'm pretty ok with that. I did manage to make the Giant Bomb one, as those guys consistantly crack me up (and they did just that at PAX), but I wound up falling asleep during a panel on the future of games due to lack of sleep the next day(!), and I decided to just avoid them from then on.
Overall it was an amazing trip, and I'm incredibly happy that, despite my current financial/employment situation, I managed to keep the promise I made to myself a year ago, and get out there and have a kick-ass time. That is...until I was SHANKED:
PS: Oh, also, apparently the Riddler was on the loose...
Currently Playing: Another month, another broken system! Just sent in my DS which has had malfunctioning L&R buttons since the day I busted in open back in January. Which puts my Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box and nostaglic return to Final Fantasy VI on hold. In the meantime, I've just stopped the Joker (spoiler alert!) in Batman: Arkham Asylum, yes, less than two weeks after getting the game AND with a 5 day break. But it was such a goddamned fantastic experience, and I've still got the challenge mode to tackle. Finally, I've just realized that after Plants Vs. Zombies and now this new XBLA title, Defense Grid: The Awakening I apparently LOVE tower defense games!