A Rambling Post About PAX East 2013

Each step further away from the Boston Convention and Expo Center feels like another mile closer to the real world. I can feel that same old sensation growing in my chest as the crowd of geeks around begins to thin and dissipate into the greater Boston area; it is a sense that echoes something close to bereavement. Later, sitting at Boston South Station is an eerie scene as geeks, subdued and quiet, huddle at tables or on the floor each group isolated and alone as if with the closing of another PAX East they lack the willingness to look around a meet the gazes of their compatriots; perhaps  they are afraid to see the loss mirrored there.

As usually it takes me a solid 24 hours before I can turn around and confront the memories of the past weekend. Three days of nerd heaven full of laughs, games, music, and all around good times. PAX (in its Eastern incarnation) is something quite special, yes I’m romanticizing a little bit here, but there is something about the sense of community, as Cliffy B. noted during his “storytime,” that allows us to revel in who we are in a way that the rest of the world never seems to understand. That is what PAX (and any conventions one chooses to attend for any slice of fandom you can name) is all about: an unburdening from the concerns of the outside world.

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(very) Late PAX Post

It is likely no small coincidence that PAX, the shorthand name of the Penny Arcade Expo, is also the latin word for peace.  As Wil Wheaton stated in his epic keynote (the second!) thanks to Jerry Holkins, Mike Krahulik, Robert Khoo, a legion of Enforcers, and a veritable army of attendees PAX is geek for home.  As Jerry stated in his own post-PAX East post:

We call it PAX East to distinguish it from the other one, it helps to make discussions about them possible, but I’ve been to every one of them and I can tell you:  this was just PAX.  Whatever entity you create when you attend, and when you play, was present in the same unaltered form we discerned years ago.   It is our task to honor it.

As an attendee of PAX Prime (as the Seattle show has become known) in 07 and 08 I couldn’t agree more.  While I browsed my twitter feed while at the show I couldn’t help note some griping about the lines (particularly from a one Rabbit).  While I agree that the lines were occasionally ridiculous I think something should be said that there is something different about lines at PAX over other kinds of lines.  Whether it be impromptu games of Mario Kart DS, elaborate pipe cleaner sculptures, or the entertaining styling of the folks from Get In Line Games PAX lines are, in addition to being a place to wait for an awesome event or panel, a place of community.  Nothing evidenced this more then the line on Saturday when the crowd, prompted by nothing more then a song we all recognized, spontaneously burst into song:

What that video doesn’t capture is the chorus of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody that followed the crowd as we marched towards the main theater; even after we left the overhead speakers behind.  Sure PAX East 2010 was crowded as hell but at least it was crowded with several thousand friends (well, except for this douche).

I didn’t spend a ton of time on the Exhibition Room floor, but managed to catch a number of smaller titles that really sparked my interest.  Myself and several friends had a blast playing Slam Bolt Scrappers over at the Indie Showcase; it is some sort of Tetris, tower defense, beat ’em up that is perhaps one of the best party games I’ve played in years.  Monday Night Combat, think Smash TV meets Team Fortress 2, looks like a frickin’ blast.  The gorgeously rendered silhouette world of Limbo was at once beautiful and disturbing.  Nvidia’s demos of 3d technology were sweet and far more impressive then I could have hoped but still tethered to glasses.

Every panel I went to pretty much rocked.  Stephen Totilo of Kotaku and N’gai Croal had an interesting panel on 10 Best Games of All Time, sort of a Video Game insider meme that looks like something everyone should be watching.  The Musical Guests panel was as entertaining as ever, the Penny Arcade Panel was hilarious, and the keynote made up for the fact that I missed Wil in 2007.  And the concerts…man…epic is even the right word.  Special nod to Video Game Orchestra and their “Vampire Killer” mix of Castlevania music; simply amazing.  Now I’m back at work and while the world around me is bit dimmer absent of PAX I am secure in the knowledge that I now have a second home here on the east coast.  See you guys in 2011.


OK now that I’m beginning to emerge from my post-PAX depression (it begins when the house lights come on after the final round of the Omegathon) I figure I can comment a little on the goings on.  PAX was packed.  With a number cited just over the 58,000 mark it was see of geeky delight.  While there was certainly complaints on overcrowding, particularly with some people being turned away as events filled up quickly, I am still suitably impressed at the level of enthusiasm and community evidenced by the PAX attendees.  Sure there is a certain geek stratification but by and large the feeling of solidarity at the con is certainly something special.

Con highlights:

  • Mega64 panel=awkward fun
  • Wil Wheaton panel= “How can one man be a whole panel?”  Wil: “Kinda like this baby!” Plus: Wil as Shatner sings Happy Birthday.
  • Dedicated cowbell guy during “Don’t Fear the Reaper” on Rock Band.  Seriously. Real. Live. Cowbell.
  • Spy and Engineer performing “Sabotage” on Rock Band.  The irony was not lost on me, sirs.
  • Left 4 Dead.  Didn’t get to play it but watching a horde of around 10+ zombies swarm 4 PCs was chill inducing.
  • the Fallout 3 airstream.  I ❤ Bethesda.
  • Judy Nails cosplayer/Activision employee.  Truth be told I’m more of a Casey Lynch fan, but still, props.
  • MC Frontalot:  Yellow Lasers and Goth Girls plus bonus JoCo appearance.
  • Darkest of the Hillside Thickets:  Lovecraft frickin’ rocks!
  • JoCo+Felicia Day= Dorkgasm
  • Rock Band 2 drums=bueno!
  • and more!

Con cons:

  • Give some 3000+ people pipe cleaners to play with and what is the most likely thing they will build?  If your answer was penis than you are correct.  Some major phallic fixation going on from the 4 foot long elaborate 3d pipe cleaner models to 10+ foot long 2d sculptures I quickly rocketed beyond wry amusement into being creeped the fuck out.  Seriously the line room was covered in penises. WTF.

I might have more to say later about the awesomeness of PAX but right now many a site and personality have impressions and breakdowns of PAX that say things way better than I can:

Tycho’s post after PAX

Khoo’s post after PAX

PAX Forums Picture Thread

PAX Forums Video Thread

JoCo’s Impressions

JoCo’s Set List and video links

The slightly condescending Arstechnica write-up

GameSetWatch’s PAX-related opinions

GamersWithJobs PAX Wrap-Up

ScrewAttack’s PAX Wrap-Up

Wil Wheaton’s Post-PAX Comments

Mega64 Podcast 63 w/ footage from Panel! At the Expo

Rocco’s (of Mega 64) flickr page