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Being a huge Penny Arcade fan and a fan of geeky things in general, I was destine to one day walk the floors of PAX. Once PAX East was announced, it made me realize that actually attending was within the realm of the possible. Now lets jump forward to April 25th 2010. That was the day when Legacy Control went live on the web. Around that time I had started a LC specific Twitter account and awkwardly stumbled around the dark forrest of following and followers. The details are foggy but I somehow came in contact with one Mr. Chris Bergman and tweets were exchanged. He wanted to meet to have beers and talk about comics. Now to a normal person like Chris this was no big deal at all. To a weirdo social anxiety person like myself…lets just say it caused many unwanted bowel movements leading up to the meeting. I sure am glad I did though.
During this night of bromancing Chris said he was going to PAX East and invited me to go with him, and offered me a place to stay (among other things). Now anyone with anxiety know the duality of this prospect. I was both so excited to possibly go to PAX and also terrified to possibly go to PAX. I discussed it with my wife and she told me I needed to go do this…I had to. As a side note here, my wife Theresa is an amazing woman, who really does let me chase my dream and be a geek. So we got the green light from the boss and then it was done. My fate was sealed…I was going to PAX East.
I could not make the journey alone so I asked my buddy Brian Diefenbach to attend with me. He luckily said yes because the journey would’ve been horrible without him. You know Brian from the Legacy Control logo (designed by Brian’s masterful hands) and what you don’t know Brian for, is all the behind the scenes help and input he gives me on almost a daily basis.
So, lets jump forward once more to when the journey begins. I have spent months thinking about every aspect of the trip day in and day out and its still came down to the last day of me running around like crazy trying to prepare everything. The night before I leave, I have everything that can possibly be in the car in the car and the rest sitting by the front door ready for quick loading bright and early. I made a checklist for all my gear, which is something I do not normally do. I just wanted to be sure I had EVERYTHING. After a brief and restless night of sleep I struck out before the sun hit the sky. The air was crisp and my mood was one of excitement. I arrive at Brian’s house 2 hours away on schedule as planned and began loading up my car to proceed on the bulk of our trip. Now to be clear, we are driving to Boston, MA from Cincinnati/Columbus, OH. Our G.P.S. put us arriving in Boston right around 14 hours from Cinci. As we are loading the last of the gear it dawns on me. Of all the things that I could have forgotten two hours away in Cincinnati, out of all of the useless bobbles I carefully tucked into every available pocket, the one thing I could not forget…was forgotten. I forgot my passes into the convention.
After a few fevered phone conversations with the wife we decided it was best to just crisp drive back home to retrieve the mandatory pieces of plastic. We added an extra four hours to our already exorbitantly long trip. The amount of hatred for myself and embarrassment I felt was unparalleled. Luckily for me, Brian is a great travel buddy and made those early hours of the trip fly by. We took turns at the wheel and as the hours wore long we realized that we had made a miscalculation regarding the path that the G.P.S. was taking us. At the fifteen hour mark in the trip, both tired, underfed and cranky, the horrible realization dawns on us…we have to drive directly through New York City.
Technically, we didn’t have to drive directly through downtown or anything but were were close enough to see the famous skyline. That…was close enough. The city smelled like a giant mechanized fart…mixed with fish. That is to say, I didn’t find it appealing. After negotiation lanes under construction and traffic that I can only assume is of the devil himself, we made our way to what would be the greatest obstacle in our journey other than our frail bodies succumbing to extended sitting in seats designed by the inquisition. The road signs subtly started hinting to us that we were going to have to cross the George Washington bridge. That, by itself, was not an insurmountable feat, but add the fact the construction crews seemed to be rebuilding the bridge from scratch, and lets just say things got a little hairy. You know all the stuff about New York drivers, that shit is all true.
After our stint in the city that never sleeps (but mostly sucks) we made our way up the East coast to our destination. There was a bit more construction in the Boston and that got us turned around a few times but nothing a few traffic violations wouldn’t fix. We pulled into the condo at around 2:00 am. I remember little after that. I stumbled onto a couch and passed out.
We rose a little earlier than we should have the next day in order to get to the convention. The convention center was a short eight minute walk through beautiful south Boston. There was a brisk wind coming off the harbor that was less than ideal at times but not having to get a cab for every excursion made that more than bearable. Walking up those stairs to enter PAX East for the first time was an amazing moment. Seeing all the cosplayers and the big digital sign welcoming us in really struck me. Now if the entrance struck me, actually walking into the hall knocked me out. There was some kind of nerd electric there that I couldn’t see but was palpable. It felt…safe. After receiving a sturdy blow from the entrance and a minor concussion from walking in the front doors, seeing the actual show floor put me in a wood chipper.
After being struck by the sheer volume of humans walking around I had a secondary shock of a police officer telling me to move along in such a think Boston accent that we thought he was a cosplayer doing a bad Boston accent. Turns out, it was genuine. We descended the escalators to the show floor and I did feel a moment of panic as that was my first time being around that many people at one time in such a confined area. After about 20 minutes I started to settle in and take in all the glorious sights of PAX.
We made the rounds through the sea of geek to marvel at the indoor shrines erected for their respective games. The most striking were the Borderlands 2, Max Payne 3 and Aliens: Colonial Marines. Most of these towering monuments were festooned with beautiful booth babes and some of you may roll your eyes, but I was surprised, pleasantly might I add, that most were not just eye batting voids. The great majority of the beautiful both babes I ran into seemed to know their shit and were, in fact, pro gamers themselves. Yes, I’ll wait, go take care of that drool. Ok, where were we, ah yes, the convention itself.
I mentioned that there were a significant amount of people at the convention, well this fact made the thing that we all wanted to do most, exceedingly difficult. There were many panels and games that I desperately wanted to see and play and could not stomach the wait to do it. This may call into question my nerd devotion and to that I would reply “I SPENT OVER 35 HOURS IN A CAR AND LEFT MY FAMILY ON EASTER TO BE AT PAX!” Now that we’ve resolved that, we can move on to the games and panels I did get to experience.
The first panel we saw was the Gamers With Jobs Panel. This panel was great but it was just a bunch of guys in the industry talking about their life with gaming. So they are basically just like me, and it was good to hear but it didn’t change my life. The second panel we saw was by one Mr. Ben Kuchera of the PA Report. This one, this one changes shit for me. His words on writing and being a writer specifically in the game industry really hit home with me. I know what you’re thinking, “Javis you’re a comic creator, how the fuck did a game writer change your shit man?” Well I will tell you fictional person asking that question. The writing process is a creative process after all and all his advice was easily set over my processes. Not to mention comic creation IS writing. Now shut up make believe heckler. Ben really laid it out there for all the wanna-be’s, in that, you have to work hard, for a very long time, for anything to come of it. There is no trick, you just have to buckle in and nut up. We made the mistake of staying up until midnight to try to catch the third panel, which was Robert Khoo and the Business of Penny Arcade. I thought this was going to be my most informative portion of PAX. It unfortunately wasn’t. Robert was visibly worn and the interviewer seemed a little too concerned about getting a laugh from the audience as opposed to conducting an in depth interview. I don’t want to say it was a bad panel because it wasn’t. It was entertaining but I wanted to get all up in them brains of Khoo. We ended up leaving the thing early when the first question out of one of the audience members mouth made me cringe.
Shall we move on the to the games? I thought you might want to but let me offer this warning…we didn’t play many. As I said the lines were inordinately long. At one point the wait for Aliens was 4 hours and they had to close the line because it was encroaching on other booths. I should also mention we waited until Easter Sunday to even try and it was still that long. The first game we played was Tribes: Ascend. I have never really been a PC gamer, though I did play a very small amount of tribes on the Playstation 2. Don’t laugh. I was willing to wait regardless as the line didn’t seem that long and they had an efficient and interestingly set up booth. When it was finally our turn to play, I was immediately shocked that I wasn’t totally awful. It seems my many hours of Minecraft had afforded me a acceptable degree of control.The bigger surprise was that not only was able to maneuver but I was actually having a shit load of fun. Getting the timing down for skiing up and down the hills is very satisfying. I am currently trying to get some Windows 7 up on the Mac, son!
I played a game called Raiderz….that’s about all about that. We played some of the new Trials game and that was pretty much fun, though on a couch drunk with pals is likely the optimal place for it. Sadly, those are all the games I actually played PAX. We did see the demo for Assassins Creed and though I haven’t played any of the others, this one did look pretty amazing. In the demo they highlighted the pains they took to make the tree and rock navigation seem fluid and realistic. They also demonstrated the new battle mechanic of moving forward through your enemies to your adjective in a sort of chain attack. I saw many indie games that tickled my fancy but I shan’t get into that. I will let you get the real scoop on those with something they are calling “the internet.”
There were many other highlights of PAX that weren’t really, or I guess explicitly PAX related and I’ll go over a few of those now. Did I mention the babes? Booth and otherwise. The phenomenon where hot gamer girls not only exist but mate with gamer guys wasn’t clear to me until PAX. That shit just didn’t happen when I was young and it warms my heart to see it happening now. I had the best sushi I have ever had in my life whilst there, but I try not to think about it too much because I am afraid all other sushi has been ruined for me. The fellas and I played a fair amount of Magic The Gathering, both at the con and back at the condo. We found ourselves feverishly building decks and accosting people assigned to teach newbs for clarification of rules. We may or may not have also bought a crap ton of new cards. P.S. We totally did. Speaking of the condo, that is another huge highlight. Not only was it within short walking distance to the convention hall, it was literally across the street from the Atlantic Ocean. We walked out of the front doors and there it was. It was very very cool. The condo itself was very nice with a fully equipped kitchen, laundry room, two bedrooms, big screen TV and an entire wall of windows. We couldn’t get the internet working, but thats ok. The biggest highlight for me personally was hanging with my PAX companions. Brian, who made the harrowing trek with me and kept us all laughing the whole time, my new bud DaveO who just made me feel happy being around him and has promised to show me the way of DnD, and last but definitely not least, Chris, who forced me to get outside my comfort zone and provided the plush living quarters and went above and beyond to make the trip a good time. My deepest and sincerest gratitude.
Well I could just keep droning on about the trip but you all likely didn’t make it this far anyway. So, I bid you farewell and promise that Monday my post will be back to a manageable length. Thanks for reading and if you have the opportunity, go to PAX. It really was a life changing experience for me.