Fun, friends, and mixed feelings on this year's expo.
Where to begin? I'm back in Vancouver and finally ready to post about my long weekend in Seattle at the Penny Arcade Expo, and Bumbershoot Music & Arts festival. The event filled weekend had me at first questioning whether or not planning for 2 major events was a good thing, but in the end, it all balanced out quite nicely thanks to the strategic placement of the monorail conveniently located near the convention. Would I do it again next year? Probably.
As you might have noticed it's been dead around these parts for the past several days -- I didn't have time to do any updates live or otherwise, nor was I interested in doing so. I was more concerned with going with the flow of the daily expo happenings, rather than stressing about blogging, running around covering panels, or gathering research for articles. I just wanted to chill out for once, though the fact that the PAX Panels were pretty weak this year worked in my favor! So expect related posts over the next few days.
This year's PAX was different. Not that everyone's expo experience is the same each time around, but in my opinion it was different from my last year's PAX adventures in a slightly negative sense. That's not to say I didn't have any fun, because I did with Jen, Jon, David, Doug, Kevin, Mike, Shane, Flips, and all the other peeps I hung out with (random elevator people included). The thing is, the expo just wasn't the same in terms of overall appeal.
Whether it was because of the missing friends, that made the last expo so fun and who inspired a sense of community, or the E3-esque exhibit hall lineups, weak freezepop performance, timid concert crowds (PAX-goers have a tendency to just stand, watch, applaud, and wave their DS), or limited panel selection, PAX 08 was lacking something. Maybe it's just me, and I've become too used to the GDC, and Comic-Con atmosphere, growing a little distant from the geekery of following the webcomic, but I doubt that's the reason why I feel this PAX fell flat. After much discussion with other PAX-goers, they seem to agree that the vibe has changed a bit. As a regular PAX attendee since 2005 (4 years and counting?) this year was kinda 'meh.'
If it wasn't for the people, and after hours fun, no amount of exhibit hall bells and whistles, or panels would have made this expo entertaining. It's all about the gamer community after all. It always was, and hopefully always will be, and though it seems PAX is getting too big for it's own good, the staples of gaming in a large scale social setting remains at it's core. Gamasutra did a pretty good writeup on PAX 08... an estimated 58,500 attendees???
I spent sometime in the PC freeplay arena, and console freeplay which was cool, but I never did break out my DS, or PSP because I was always on the move, with no time to crash on the bean bags. I also intentionally skipped out on collecting swag. I didn't want to carry a bunch of shit with me. I mean I wanted that Skateboard, and that's pretty much it, but I couldn't answer any of the trivia questions. I never really bought anything too, aside from food. Went to a few Panels, one of which featured 1UP's own Karen Chu on game reviewing. I also went to another panel about why the game industry doesn't suck, by Jason Della Rocca, and I was pretty surprised to see that the majority of people sitting in on the panel didn't know who he was. A definite difference between PAX versus GDC demographics. It was like watching a teacher lecturing a bunch of high school students, no offense intended. The topic itself was meh, nothing most people didn't already know, so I got up and left. I did however notice he used a tablet pen with his laptop, which is what I do whether on a desktop or laptop.
The 1UP Gameworks meet up was cool. No community managing was really required when the 1UP members pretty much organized themselves. Of course with all the 1UP members who already knew each other from previous years, it was always like being in a 1UP meet up. I missed out on Anamanaguchi though for the 1UP meet, but that's cool. After getting buzzed at Gameworks briefly speaking to Toasty, and for the first time meeting one of my longtime readers Doug, new community manager Tina, former gamespotter Brad Shoemaker, and 1UP member Amarisse (whom I thought worked at 1UP as the new Karen Chu with her massive professional camera), a few of us headed over to watch some Rockband stage, then to Kevin's other Sheraton hotel party. The hotel party was quiet until I invited a bunch of random people from the elevator. They just so happened to be Canadians and harsh drinkers. After a while (around 3 or 4am) I received a txt message from my other group of peeps who were at a Club. Ended up going there, for a bit, but then after feeling threatened by Vietnamese gangbangers, headed on back to the hotel to crash.
When thinking about the growth of this once little gamer centered expo from Bellevue, it has me curious to see where this event is going next year. Will it get better or worse?