Monday, March 29, 2010

PAX East 2010: My Magical Trip To Hogwarts

An image of a screen with a .jpg on it, that I'm reconstituting here to use as a .jpg!

A little over a month ago, when I was blasting my way through the Harry Potter series, I had a moment of absolute, pure unadulterated desire to just close my eyes and BE a student at Hogwarts. Studying spells, making potions, hanging with the Gryffindors students (naturally I'd be one of them), playing Quidditch, you know, the typical life of a young wizard. Then I'd open my eyes and I'd lament the boring, magic-less world I currently lived in. (Side note: A friend once revealed to me she doesn't enjoy fiction because she gets upset that it "can't be real," and thus has stopped reading it [as in, all not 100% plausible fiction] entirely. My jaw just DROPPED - I'd never felt more disconnected from another human being in my life before that moment)

Early on during my trip to PAX East 2010 in Boston, I had a funny little revelation: I was actually, in a way, on a little mini-trip to Hogwarts! Don't believe me? See for yourself:

It all started off with a train ride. A train that could be found on track 3...and well, exactly 3. (I know, I know, but bear with me)

You can't really tell by the picture, but only I can see this train!

When I arrived, there was a Great Feast! Several of them, in fact. Often times at the nearby food court in the mall connected to the convention center.

Dinner @ P.F. Chang's

The Joystiq Blueberry Muffin Tops breakfast

The Ancient Food Court that someone always had just enough seating for all of us! OOOoo000....

There were wizards and witches!
Hey bro, why not magic up a razor or something?

Emasculated by a bullet witch. Now my life is...complete?

And mystical beings abound!
Why oh why did I leave my enchanted bastard sword in the cave of elders?!
These two were the victims of a particularly powerful sexy curse.
What makes this horse magical? Well look how brightly he shines, so obviously late at night!

Of course, it wasn't all fun and games, there were important classes to attend, to educate the young minds of tomorrow for the world ahead of us.
Will Wheton's Keynote Address To Nerds Everywhere

This is not a picture of the "So you wanna work in the game industry?" panel,
but you'd never know that unless I just told you, which I did. Do'h.

And after classes were over, all eyes were turned to the competition that only a select few participants were allowed to play: The Omegathon! 16 teams of 2 eventually whittled down to a final round of 2 vs. 2:

And of course, it wouldn't be Hogwarts if there wasn't lots and LOTS of magic:

Look at the Magic!

And the deople, um doing magic!
So F-ing Magic(:The Gathering)-al!

What's that you say? I'm just grasping at straws, making loose associations with things I saw at PAX and connection them tangentially to things in JK Rowling's books? Fine, fine, you're right. Way to spoil my fun. But wait...there was this last thing I saw:

Whew. Saved once again by a chocking hazard warning.

That's right. I caught the mother f-ing GOLDEN SNITCH. Pretty easily too. But it was like, way too expensive so I put it back on the Barnes & Noble shelf where I found it.

There were some other things that happened at PAX too, that I suppose are non-Harry Potter related but probably still worth mentioning:

-My first night there I was (I think) hit on my a 45 year old gay man jacked up on coke who was absolutely entranced (likely in part due to the cocaine) by the gaming world. He came over to a table we were playing a card game at and just sat down at first, staring at us. Our conversation went something like this:

"Hey man, what's up? You play?"

"No man...Not. At. All. This is just...crazy to me, you know?"
"Heh...well actually, this is normal to us, it's why we're here. You here for the convention?"
"Yeah...well, no, it's for work, but I just saw you guys and I thought how crazy is this? You're just all sitting here...playing games, and it's like, you're all adults, you know? I haven't played games since I was a kid!"
"Yup. Well...that's what this thing is all about. All those people who grew up still playing games, we all get together and come here to play games..."
(here's where it gets, well, SO weird)
"But like, I'm 45 years old, and I'm GAY, and it's like, no one cares. It's SO weird!"
"Well, it's 2010..."
"This guys GETS it! Right here, I like this guy!"
"Uh, thanks." (he stares at me with a smile for about a minute)
"Do you do coke? Because I just came down here, did some coke, and was hanging out, but man, this is so weird..."
"Yeah, thanks for telling me that. That explains a lot of what just happened."

-We all fell in love with a board game called Munchkin that I had played before, but never as intensely as we played it there. This game, kind of a D&D lite played with a deck of cards, easily took up 1/4 of my time there.
Hour 2 of 4 into this game.

-Last year at PAX '09 I had the pleasure of meeting Kotaku writer Stephen Totilo and meeting and subsequently being interviewed by the creator of the gaming podcast "A Life Well Wasted" Robert Ashley. This past time I was lucky enough to meet with Justin McElroy and Ludwig Kietzmann, two of the three writers and podcasters for Joystiq. And Justin (who I emailed over a year ago about my year off from games and who ultimately wound up interviewing me for the site) actually recognized me and called out my name before I said anything to him, which I thought was awesome!
What a sexy bunch of gamers.

I also met up with Stephen Totilo again at the Kotaku after party, this time a much hungrier version of him. AND - in a funny, random moment, wound up in line for the Joystiq Blueberry Muffin Top breakfast right behind the LoadingReadyRun guys who organize the Desert Bus charity drive each year. What's crazy is that I was second in line right behind them, when they just so happened to be the previous/first act of the podcast I was in back in September. So I was literally second in line behind the guys I was virtually second in line behind a few months earlier. To quote a guy I once met: "So weird!"

-I got to meet up with Jon Huie, who runs the gaming website I write for. We even took some time to record a podcast together too - live and in person, like how those radio guys used to do things back in the days when radio existed!
One step backwards for technology, but two steps forward for friendship!

-I didn't see as much of PAX heads Gabe and Tycho as I did last year, and it's very easy to forget them a sea of so much else that's going on (they've said time and time again their goal is set things up and then step aside) but I did manage to catch the two of them drawing their webcomic together live on stage. It's funny - once upon I time, and I mean before the age of 10, I used to LOVE drawing and wanted nothing more than to be a cartoonist. That dream faded with no real regrets, but I definitely admire the passion and dedication these guys put into what is not apparently only 1/3 of their jobs. Actually, scratch that, I pretty much admire everything they do.

I could totally trace that!

At one point, at an audience member's request Gabe and Tycho switched places, and Gabe gave drawing a shot and drew what could only be described as the best drawing of his character ever:
We officially need a spin off comic.

-I actually didn't play many video games at PAX East, believe it not. PAX has become, at least for me, more of an excuse to be social around gamers than about picking up a controller at any given time. But one particular game I wound up WATCHING a ton of was Skate 3 - specifically a mode (Thrasher? Hall of Meat?) where you purposefully send your skater flying off a cliff and try to cause as much harm as humanly possible. Absolutely ridiculous, but enthralling and addictive. I find myself unable to look away at times.

-While I didn't play much at PAX East, I did at one point stop to play a Bioshock 2 multiplayer game at one point, against 5 other people, and I totally came out on top, having never played before! And the other players were totally competent looking, really!

Psst - hey guys, he doesn't have a job right now, let's give him something.

-Finally (and boy is this post getting long, huh?) some pictures and videos I like but don't have anything particularly exciting to say about them:

Some fantastic cosplaying from one of my favorite DS games of all time, The World Ends With You

These are the guys I spent most of the trip with - former coworkers/patrons of a really really sweet game job I used to have. RIP NYCLAN!

And finally, this.

Totally psyched for the next PAX (and the one after that),

Up Next...POST #100!!!


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