Through some crazy voodoo, Kyle and I managed to get to PAX this year. The short story is that I’m insanely lucky when it comes to e-mails and clever timing, so let that be a lesson to you. Basically, Kyle and I do a podcast elsewhere (go listen to it by the way), and somehow that translated into free PAX 10 passes. So what was it like going to the Penny Arcade Expo? What did I see? What did I do? I’m getting to those, so here’s my big ol’ PAX 2010 wrap-up.
I’ve never been to any conventions or expos for gaming, but to my untrained eye, PAX was huge. The convention spanned six floors and three buildings, so there was always something to see or to do. The best part (since I’ll get this out of the way now) is the atmosphere. Everyone is happy to be at PAX, so it can get sort of difficult to find someone who’s being a jerk. Mostly, everyone is incredibly nice, an aspect that makes the community feel that much more real.
An example: The first night I went to a concert where the band responsible for the Scott Pilgrim game soundtrack (Anamanaguchi) played a bunch of original stuff plus the game’s soundtrack in a massive medley. The lead guitarist was having technical problems, telling us in between songs that he couldn’t hear himself out of his monitor, so he was getting noticeably freaked out, what with having to play a song he’d never played live for people without the aid of hearing how he sounded. Instead of people heckling or something, the massive crowd essentially started a motivational contest, taking turns shouting out the nicest comment such as “I believe in you!” and “I accept you for who you are!” Eventually a girl even rushed the stage and gave him a huge hug while everyone cheered. That’s just awesome.
The show floor was pretty hectic though. Dozens of game companies had demos set up for play, though not a whole lot were purely “new” games, by which I mean “games we didn’t previously know about.” I got a chance to play Kirby’s Epic Yarn, the Goldeneye Wii remake, and Donkey Kong Country Returns, but Metroid: Other M was also on the floor, a game that’s already out. Missing, however, was the Nintendo 3DS, a fact that disappointed me to no end.
Besides playing Kirby and DKC, both of which are great games that I want to spend more time with, I finally hopped in front of Microsoft’s Kinect and tried it out. Yeah, it works, at least for the game I was playing. I don’t remember the name of it, but it’s essentially Wii Fit for Kinect. I was able to show off some sweet yoga skills to everyone, an aspect that worked well enough, and then busted some virtual blocks with punches and kicks. I was pretty disappointed that the game could sense my hands but not my elbows, so I couldn’t break blocks with epic elbow strikes or headbutts or things like that, but the game, set up against a pristinely white background without anything interfering, worked and was enjoyable. Not $150 enjoyable, but enjoyable nonetheless.
I did also eventually pick up a Sony Move controller and play around with it, though that yielded vastly different results. Kyle and I competed in a match of table tennis with the result being Kyle soundly defeating me. Most of this came from my inability to figure out how to play the game. I tried putting the difficulty at the highest setting, not thinking it pertained to controls, but in doing so I lost any ability to perform. I repeatedly hit the ball too hard, too sharply, or not at all, a feat that frustrates to no end. I don’t like complaining about a loss as a result of controls, but it was definitely the case right here. I can’t speak for the Move as a whole because I only played that one game, so right now I have no opinions other than “Don’t put controller settings at the max difficulty.”
I didn’t really play too many other games during the expo, mostly because I can’t stand waiting in lines. This didn’t stop me from playing Duke Nukem Forever, a game that does exist and is awesome. I’ll have the full preview for that game by Friday. I tried Epic Mickey (epic fail), messed with Marvel vs Capcom 3 (utterly destroyed by someone who had been practicing all day, eliminating all fun for the title), and saw a demo for Firefall, a game that looks pretty cool until I heard it was for PC and thought, “Nope, don’t have one that can play your game, so oh well.” It did look extremely cool, though, so don’t let me sell it short.
Something like 40% of my PAX time was spent in room 310, the Developer’s Lounge. It was the whole reason I was given passes in the first place since the guy running it, a gallivanting developer named James Portnow, brought me, Kyle, and Other Chris in to interview people for The Escapist. By the way, be on the lookout for our interviews later next week at The Escapist. The Dev Lounge was cool, just because it gave people a great chance to simply chat about whatever regarding games and the industry. I met a writer named John Sutherland who used to work for Microsoft and now has his own company at www.vidgamestory.com. That alone was worth the trip since he was a genuinely great guy. I even found myself preferring to hang out in the room a few times instead of seeing official panels since the conversations were so interesting just shooting the breeze with fellow gamers.
Speaking of interviews though, the best PAX 10 moment was, without question, the first night’s concert featuring The Protomen, Anamanaguchi, and Metroid Metal, among others I believe. I wasn’t planning on seeing the concert, but James called me up and asked me and the others to interview Anamanaguchi back stage. I had no clue who they were until I walked into their room and heard them practicing songs from the Scott Pilgrim game soundtrack. That was cool enough, until we headed up to one of the balconies to record the band playing. Other Chris had the camera and Kyle had the mic, but I had nothing to do but watch. At that point I realized the guy standing next to me was Jerry Holkins, AKA Tycho from Penny Arcade, AKA one of the duo responsible for Penny Arcade. So meeting the band of one of my favorite game soundtracks and then watching them perform while next to one of the most important individuals at the expo, yeah, that was pretty cool. What did I say about luck at the beginning of this?
How about cosplay? Let’s talk cosplay. There were a ton of cosplayers everywhere, as to be expected. I would have loved to dress as something cool, but I know me and I know I can’t come up with something as crazy amazing as the Mass Effect Garrus/Tali/Sheppard team or Big Daddy outfit. One of my favorites was simply a Blue Pacman ghost, easily created with an umbrella and a sheet, but it made me happy. Kyle said he saw an April O’Neil costume and even showed me some pics he took on his phone, but alas, I didn’t see her in person. Team Fortress 2 cosplayers were everywhere, as well as Final Fantasy XII and Mario Bros cosplayers, but it was great to see Captain Hammer and not one but two variants of Dr. Horrible. Glad to see everything awesome getting represented.
There’s just too much to talk about from PAX. I enjoyed myself, but I’m insanely tired now. If you can acquire passes for next year, by all means, I highly recommend doing so. You won’t find a better event for gamers and geek culture lovers anywhere in the world. It just has too much heart to let you down.
Want more articles about gaming culture? Check these out: