So... PAX East. I'm still feeling the post-con crash pretty hard, but I want to talk about it while it's still fresh in my mind.
I had a good time overall. There were some definite hiccups, due to the noob factor (most of us had never been to a gaming con before, and it was the first time this convention had ever been held on the east coast as well) and just some bad luck, but it was a surprisingly enjoyable experience anyway.
We got in very late on Thursday... as in 5 am late (we didn't end up leaving Buffalo until after 9 pm because of my brilliant boyfriend almost forgetting his passes, Guy's girlfriend having a minor crisis, and so on). The trip there was pretty fun-- I played a bunch of Phoenix Wright on my new DS (sold my old one to Chris and bought a shiny blue DSi), and Guy told us horrible stories about the creepiest girl in the entire universe (trust me, you don't want to know). We got to the hotel and tried to get some sleep before the festivities started the next day.
Friday: Events didn't start until 2 pm on Friday, so we got to sleep a little late and arrived at the convention center at about 1. We grabbed our programming schedules and badge lanyards and ended up in a huge line-- honestly we weren't sure exactly why or where it led, but I guess it was... for the expo hall? Or maybe just to get into the con in general? Still not sure, honestly. Organization was not one of the strong points of this convention. There was a lot of lining up and it wasn't always terribly clear where or why or how, but I guess that happens to a certain degree at any con.
Eventually we got in and went to the expo hall-- missed the keynote speech, because by the time we got in we would've had to go straight there, and I wanted to look around before committing to any panels or events. The expo hall spanned two rooms and had a lot of interesting stuff, mostly new or upcoming games set up for congoers to try. There were some big-name games (Red Dead Redemption, Starcraft II, etc), but also a lot of interesting little indie games and developers. Chris and I discovered an awesome little game called Slam Bolt Scrappers that we are now totally obsessed with (but unfortunately it hasn't been announced for release on any platforms yet D:)-- it's basically 4-player/2-team Tetris, except the blocks come from enemies that you fly around and punch in the face, and you use them to build bases with shields, lasers and missles to try to bring down the other team's base. IT IS SO MUCH FUN. We went back and played it about 5 or 6 times and completely beat the crap out of other people who were trying it for the first time. ^^;;; We tried a few other games, but nothing really stood out as much as that game-- Chris liked this one Team Fortress-style multiplayer shooter called Monday Night Combat, and I tried it as well but it wasn't my kind of thing at all.
After that we tried to get into the Design an RPG panel, but it was already full. One of the problems with being new to cons/this particular con was that at first we didn't realize you needed to line up REALLY early in order to get into any panels. I did manage to get into an interactive fiction panel on Friday, but that was probably only because it was a more obscure topic, and even then it filled up surprisingly quickly. The IF panel was pretty cool-- I went by myself because no one else was really interested and Chris wanted to wait in line forever to play Starcraft, so we split up. I think I was one of the only people there who recognized most of the panelists, so it was really interesting to hear, for example, the guy who wrote the incredibly traumatizing Shade talk about stuff like choice and separation between player and character in text adventure games.
We couldn't get into any more panels that night, unfortunately, so we went to the console freeplay room and I played Heavy Rain for a while, this time attempting to screw up as much as possible because I'd already seen the "good" results for most of the scenes. I was a little disappointed in that it didn't seem to change as much as I'd hoped it would, which seems to hurt the game's replayability a little, but I'm sure there are repercussions later and I still really want to finish it. (Plus Guy and his friend bitched the whole time about what a terrible game it was, which was sort of annoying... though his reaction to the initial showering scene with Ethan was pretty hilarious. "WHAT KIND OF GAME STARTS WITH SOME DUDE'S NAKED ASS?!") After that we were really tired and since the buses only ran until midnight, we called it a night and headed back to the hotel.
Saturday: Saturday morning was the event I was quite possibly looking forward to the most out of the whole convention-- a panel with Bill Amend, writer/artist of the comic strip FoxTrot. FoxTrot has been my absolute favorite newspaper comic since I was a kid-- I own almost all the published anthologies, and for a while I even used to cut out the strip every day from the newspaper and save them all in a scrapbook. I haven't really been following it since he cut back to just Sunday strips, but it's still a huge nostalgic thing for me and I still read the old anthologies from time to time, so getting to see him speak was something I was really excited about.
Good thing I almost missed it, then! Saturday morning was the biggest clusterfuck ever, to the point where the con staff actually apologized to everyone at the panel. I dragged myself out of bed at 8 am to get ready, and we ended up getting there a little before 9:30 (I would've been there earlier, but certain people are terrible at getting up on time >.>). We go in and there's a short line of people going up the escalator to get into the con, so we join it. Suddenly, some conference center staff comes over and blocks off the escalator, tells us we can't stand there because "it violates the fire code," and oh, by the way, the Bill Amend panel is already full. I'm pissed, but I don't see how it could possibly be full if they won't even let us in yet, so we head to the queue room in the back to see what's going on. And one of the con staff tells us to get in the left line for Bill Amend. ...wha? I said "they just told me over there it was full" and they respond with "we're working on it."
So... whatever, I follow the line. Everyone's really pissed off at this point, because some of them had apparently been there all morning and waited to get up to the front of the escalator line before being sent all the way back to the queue room, so of course instead of walking slowly through the queue maze they all start ducking under the tape and running for the back. Some idiot decides to duck under one of the metal bars instead of the flexible tape and breaks the damn thing, so con staff comes over and yells at us, and we yell back that we've been led around in circles for almost half an hour and we just want to see the damn event. Finally one of the enforcers says "come on, follow me and I'll get you in," so we follow him back to the escalators... and the fucking line disperses. We have no idea where to go and at this point I'm pretty certain I'm going to miss the panel, so we just went back to the main queue. And FINALLY got in. And the line for the panel is, of course, huge by this time, and they're already saying that standing room is a possibility but we probably won't get in. I was going to just leave, but Chris convinced me to stay and try to get in while he went to another panel he was more interested in, so... by some miracle I managed to be one of the last 20 or so people to get in. It worked out in the end, but it was ridiculous-- they REALLY need to work on their organization, communication among staff and actually making it clear where you're supposed to go and why. Hopefully this will be improved next year.
ANYWAY... Bill Amend was great and I'm so glad I got to see him. He talked a bunch about his history as a gamer, and about the difficulties of writing a strip that uses a lot of geek humor but is ultimately targeted at a mainstream newspaper-comic audience (as opposed to webcomics, whose artists/writers can be pretty safe in assuming their audience is mostly nerds and familiar with that subculture's humor). He showed a bunch of the geekier FoxTrot strips, or ones that pushed the envelope in terms of possibly alienating mainstream readers, and commented on them. It was just really cool to see as a longtime FoxTrot fan and despite all the hassle it was one of my favorite moments of the con. I wish I could've gotten something signed, but the line was way too long and I had other stuff to get to. :(
After that I met up with Chris again, and we wandered around the expo hall a little more, tried unsuccessfully to get into the Dead Space panel (though I got to hear about it from matrarch and her brother later), and instead ended up at a panel about "the death of print," how gaming journalism is moving away from magazines and toward online/interactive content. Honestly, it was kind of boring and I ended up playing Phoenix Wright the whole time. :P After grabbing food (and running into alicia250 and Jason!), we got in line super early for the Adam Sessler (guy from X-Play who apparently is a very love-him-or-hate-him figure) and... some other guy who was not Adam Sessler panel. Because my boyfriend is a fanboy. It was actually really interesting, though-- they brought up a lot of issues like the importance of reviews/Metacritic to determine a game's success or failure, DRM, and fads like 3D gaming and motion control and how all that affects the gaming world. I didn't agree with everything they said (there was a lot of "we should do away with numbers/grades in reviewing entirely!" and "we should get rid of the 'gamer' label!" which seems kind of knee-jerk to me), but at least it made me think. (I felt bad for the other guy, though-- he was obviously not an entertainer, so having to perform with someone who is used to being on TV and naturally funny and charismatic, he came off as kind of boring and stiff... and he refused to hold the microphone close enough so anyone could hear him. Still, that's totally what I would be like if I had to speak at a panel, so I could relate. D:)
The last thing we did on Saturday was the LoadingReadyRun panel-- they're a sketch comedy troupe who do a lot of gaming humor, including Unskippable and Escapist News Network on The Escapist. I've watched some of their stuff and liked it, but Chris is a big fan. They were really funny. Amish friendship bread is apparently like a sexually transmitted disease. And don't go to French restaurants with "catapult" in the name. They actually filmed a brief sketch at the panel, but we were sitting on the wrong side of the theatre to be included in the shot, alas. After that I guess I probably could've gotten into the Jonathan Coulton concert, but a) I was tired, b) I didn't know if there would be a line/if people could come late/etc (apparently no and yes, but oh well), and c) we would have had to call a cab because the buses would have stopped running. Maybe he'll be back next year, though.
Sunday: Last day, and the last-day blues are already setting in. The morning was spent getting our stuff together so we could check out of the hotel before leaving, and then we all took the train over to the convention center for the last time. *sniffle*
Chris and I immediately got in line for the X-Play Live panel (...again, fanboy >.>), which was enjoyable. Morgan Webb is not nearly as much of an airhead as I expected her to be (though I maintain there are plenty of female gamers who don't get jobs hosting gaming shows because they don't look like supermodels -.-). Also, they actually mentioned The Secret World, which made me flail. And again, the whole thing was filmed (and this time we were sitting right in front!) so... maybe you'll see us in the crowd when that episode airs :P
After that... not much, actually. Chris wanted to go to a "Future of PC Gaming" panel, but we found out it had actually been held on Friday and the time in the program was wrong, so we spent the last few hours of the con wandering around the expo hall one last time. We played a few more games of Slam Bolt Scrappers, and Chris played Starcraft II again, and then they announced that the expo hall and convention would be closing in 15 minutes... :( We couldn't get a hold of Guy because apparently his phone had died, so we went over to the mall that was connected to the convention center (oh yeah, the same mall we spent so much time at during nationals... I've now been to Boston twice and spent pretty much the entire time in the same extended building -.-), played Pokemon for a while, and finally he called and we left. :(
The ride back wasn't so great, because we were all tired and Guy decided it was a good idea to not stop for dinner and I was really hungry and that pissed me off (probably more than necessary, but no sleep for 3 days = grumpiness). It was incredibly late when we got back and we slept through most of the last few hours of the trip, and... it was just weird, but I guess it's like that with any convention-- by the end everyone is physically and mentally exhausted and a little tired of each other and needing some rest and space. Hopefully it'll all be okay after a few days to recover.
And... now I'm back, and still feeling sad that it's all over. I hope I can go next year-- I've already heard it's going to be held in a larger venue, which I think will really help with the wait times/difficulty getting into panels, and hopefully they'll get some of the organization stuff together as well. I think it'd be better next time because we'd know a little better how things work, as opposed to just figuring it out as the con was ending. I hadn't realized that everything needed to be planned out in advance, and there are so many different things to do that it's hard to keep a group together because it's unlikely that everyone will want to do the same things.
But I had fun and it was amazing to be around so many other nerds-- gaming/geeky shirts everywhere, memes being quoted in the hallway, awesome cosplay (there was a tiny girl dressed as Pyramid Head! Splicers from Bioshock! A guy in the yellow foam mask from Dead Rising! A steampunk jetpack!)... it's tough to be back in the real world now. Is it spring 2011 yet? :(
- PAX report... looooong