Monday, September 07, 2009

What a weekend that was - PAX09!
Outside Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle.

MY FIFTH PAX!!! The more things change, the more they stay the SAME. I think it's safe to say Penny Arcade Expo retains its gamer appeal despite its growth, and increasing exhibitor spectacle. Just read these Tweets from PAX goers:

"Astromantic There's too many to list here, but thanks to all who made this #PAX the best yet!"

"EscapingBurger #PAX was wonderful."

"Kentdoggydog Thanks to @EscapingBurger @Astromantic @albertart @thatjonguy and others for good times at PAX."

Sure the scope of this years PAX was larger than last, taking up more of the building, and sure, for a brief second as I walked through the expanded exhibit hall at the Washington State Convention Center, I thought I was at a different convention altogether, but I was quickly reminded that this was indeed PAX. It was the familiar atmosphere, (smell?) of gaming and gamers united under the roof of a web comic, and the culture it celebrates.

Some previous PAX goers may have had doubts, (myself included) that this year's PAX would not be as good as years prior given it's growth, and rumored E3-sized proportions, but once the smoke and mirrors cleared, it was PAX underneath it all. Once friends got together, those doubts were set aside, for there was fun to be had. The PAX party was in full force, as Astromantic put it, and indeed it was.

The road trip was pretty smooth, with little traffic to slow us down. We had a variety of music bumpin' in the car, from Mega Man 9 to The Lonely Island to keep us entertained. I found it hilarious that the customs officer at the border-crossing said, "No wonder you're going to PAX", referring to the occupations of those in the car: A programmer, a tester, an animator, and designer.

Arriving in Seattle around lunchtime on FRIDAY, my Vancouver crew checked into the hotel Sheraton, grabbed our badges, then headed to lunch at the mall nearby the convention center. I had already begun coordinating with more members of the PAX pose. MISSHO and I exchanged some txt messages, where I found out that she and escapingburger, were delayed, and would be showing up a bit later than expected.

(PAX is best enjoyed with friends. And if you didn't come with any, I'm sure you could make new ones.)

After a quick bite to eat, we didn't hesitate to head straight for the exhibit hall, straight for the swag, and games. Getting used to where everything was, took some getting used to, and getting distracted by random games, didn't help either. The lineups for game demos were pretty thin in some instances, so you simply couldn't resist jumping on a game, which was something that we would all miss come Saturday.

(PAX attendees deserve the bigger E3 sized spectacle. They deserve their own E3-esque show floor, with the lights, bells, and whistles, but without the exclusivity of those other expos that is so often a barrier for average gamers. PAX has the right formula now, not too little, and not too much.)

I ran into Mr. Hickey, while exploring the show floor, who was as well trying to make the rounds checking things out. Had a chance to watch a live demo for GTA Horse aka Red Dead Redemption, which the developers toted as being bigger than past GTAs, with more dynamics, and cause and effect scenarios based on your reputation in the world, as either a good guy or bad guy. Huh, that sounds familiar?

That night there was the CO-OP meet up at The Blarney Stone a few blocks away from the expo where some nice pre-drinking occurred with Kentdoggydog, escapingburger, missho, flippy, violentmike, and jonguy. It was great to catch up with everyone. IGN threw their big bash at Gameworks as well, where they treated guests to free nachos, chicken wings, and first round drinks. There were quite a few 1UP faces in attendance, which is always the case with media parties, where everyone knows each other in the industry, hanging out with peers. It was a great way to kick off PAX.

SATURDAY came after a late night drinking, with breakfast at Pike Place Market. Headed to Le Panier one of my 'must hit' food stops whenever I'm in the Emerald City. My brother Ryo loved this place.

After breakfast, CDNGRRL, finally showed up after having trouble getting out of Vancouver, Friday night. I met up with her in time to see her play in the Tetris DS tourney going on. It was too late for me to join in on the competition, so I was bummed I couldn't take part in a sibling rivalry, sibling domination of Tetris. I'll never forget the 1UP meet up in 2006, where CDNGRRL and I were the last players standing.

At this point I had collected lots of schwag, which I had to make frequent trips back to the hotel room to drop off stuff. I didn't hear any complaints about the amount of swag, either, in fact, everyone I know couldn't get enough. The PAX swag bag this year was even better. Gamers can't complain about that.

The biggest difference at this PAX, was that I didn't attend many panels. In fact, I only attended ONE -- the Legend of Neil panel -- only because it was fun to watch drunk. Everything else I was kinda uninterested in, when I could be playing games, and hanging out with people instead of sitting in a room watching people talk.

What's there to say about the event that hasn't already been said in my numerous tweets over the Penny Arcade weekend?

It was effin' fun, and I'm effin' tired, but I'm lucky I'm NOT coming down with a cold, or flu. The bacterium delirium of being at PAX is finally settling in for some, from what I've heard. After staying up late, binge drinking, touching unsanitized game controllers, and keyboards, getting little sleep, and not eating proper meals, immune system down, a typical convention scenario, but it was worth it.

The rest of my PAX weekend was a flurry of fun, almost a blur. An exhausting time that surpasses all of my previous PAX experiences.

More Twitpics here

To the exhibit hall at PAX on Twitpic At the concert hall waiting for shit to happpen on Twitpic TMNT bus at PAX on Twitpic Another PAX crowd shot. on Twitpic The happy couple from last night @astromantic @escapingburger on Twitpic Schwag shot from PAX on Twitpic Got my Aion postcard!! on Twitpic Its like church, but for Gamers #PAX on Twitpic Spaceneedle or Space Needle? LoL on Twitpic

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