Here at Selective Hearing, our main focus is music –mostly Asian Pop music– but in recent years, we have slowly been covering other things that interest us here. You have seen our coverage of past conventions such as Sakura Con and Anime Expo. But, even those had some Asian Pop hook for us to attend. But with Greg’s coverage of Calgary Expo earlier in 2012, we have begun covering things that aren’t music related, but still have some vested interest in.
So here I am, with my account of the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) in Seattle, Washington. PAX was created by the minds behind the gaming focused webcomics. It’s a three day long convention dedicated to gaming culture. Video games, board games, tabletop games, anything related to gaming, it’s here. PAX has expanded from Seattle, to PAX East in Boston, and there are plans for a PAX Australia sometime in 2013, making the Seattle event the original, thus PAX Prime.
PAX Prime takes place at the Washington State Convention Center, the same location as Sakura Con. Sadly, by the time I had a chance to buy badges, only the 1 day badges were available. So I got the Early Bird price for the Day 2 on Saturday, September 1st. This wasn’t my first convention, so I knew I had some things to buy to prep myself for the adventure.
Although I was there for only a day, I couldn’t risk catching something. So hand sanitizer came in handy. It also made for a good ice breaker. I would simply offer some, whether or not they accepted, it got us talking. That lip balm I’ve had for a bit now so that was already in my kit. I suspected and was told that PAX was gonna be quite smelly, so I also grabbed some deodorant. I thought about the anti-perspirant, but sweating is a natural bodily function so I declined.
For those wondering, the smell of PAX wasn’t the greatest, yet it wasn’t as bad as I was led to believe. Maybe people cleaned up the night before, perhaps my nose has a higher tolerance of wicked smells. No idea.
I hitched a ride with two friends and off to Downtown Seattle. On the way to a parking garage, I saw a car with a sign telling me that this was going to be a great day.
I thought I was gonna only feed my nerd, but my hip-hop junkie got a taste.
You walk through the doors and on the first floor is a few food spots and people sitting around socializing or whatever they were doing.
On the second floor is where the tabletops were located. There were rooms dedicated to certain products like Warhammer 40k, but some rooms were just for free play games. You could rent out a card or board game for exchange for your ID, then you can take that to a room or some empty table and get games going. Yet, the most noteworthy thing on the second floor I think, were the Handheld Lounges.
This picture is of the smaller beanbag lounge, with the larger one a couple of yards in the opposite direction. People can relax, play some DS games, try to get some Streetpasses or just generally hang out. I avoided these beanbags, because I felt these were germ central. I still like the idea, in theory anyway.
Later on in the day on the same floor, I ran into Sonic the Hedgehog.
The elevators that Sonic is waiting for is off to the left of the beanbags of the picture before. Keep going left, there were private rooms dedicated to companies like Bioware and Sega. My friend was looking the other way and almost got ran through by the speedster.
Floors three through six were a mixture of theaters where panels were being held, exhibition booths and gaming rooms. On floor six, the League of Legends Regionals were occurring. The space that tournament took was huge. There was a live stage, a bunch of chairs and computers for various teams across the world to compete to advance in the tournament. I was a bit overwhelmed by the sight, so I forgot to take a picture of it. Actually, I was so involved in the PAX experience, that I forgot to take more pictures in general. I would like to apologize for that.
The console freeplay room operates the same way the tabletop floor did. You exchange some form of ID for some controllers and a game of your choice. You go find a TV with the console and get to playing. These people were playing Persona 4 Arena (Chie all day!), but there were people across the room playing Mario Party, Street Fighter, Sleeping Dogs, among other things. What surprised me was a girl playing Heavy Rain on the PS3. A single player game that I think takes some concentration to play, especially in a ongoing event such as PAX. I even got in some action, playing some Mortal Kombat on the 360. I went 2 for 4. 50% is pretty good.
I got to the the sixth floor in hopes of meeting Supergiant Games. They made one of my favorite games of this generation in Bastion. I had to go show some love to them. But, before I got there, I got sidetracked. A woman stopped me and I was roped into playing a game of Star Fluxx. A variation of Fluxx, the basic premise is to fulfill the requirements of the active goal in play. For Star Fluxx, a goal could be was to have The Captain and The Doctor in your play field to win. Every turn, you draw a card and play a card. Depending on what card you play, it changes the rules of the game. You can play a card that requires people to play multiple cards in one turn, draw more cards, etc. By the game’s end, I was sold, yet when I tried to buy a deck of Star Fluxx, the booth was out. The even more sad part was that every other booth vender who would sell the version of the game ran out as well since they all share the same supplier.
Finally got here. Supergiant Games. I got into a conversation with the game’s composer, Darren Korb. We were talking about my struggles with some downloadable content (DLC) and he game me some good advice. I congratulated him on his work on the soundtrack and we shook hands. (Go buy the soundtrack and the game. I highly recommend it.) I bought myself a shirt and a poster and was able to get the team to sign the poster. So awesome. Their booth was cool, with cute plushies of the enemies from Bastion, along with the newly released iPad version of Bastion. They also had playable their first protoype of the game. Comparing the prototype with the final product was crazy to see.
I have to admit, I wanted to immediately tell them how much I love the game and how big a fan I was of theirs, but I seized up in the moment. But, I was able to gather myself later on in the day and confessed my love to them.
Around 2:45, I got in line for a panel. The people in the blue shirts are PAX enforcers; volunteers to help facilitate and entertain people during PAX. As we were waiting, they were quizzing people and playing games with us in line. The wait wasn’t that bad even when got their early and I was able to activate my hand sanitizer icebreaker.
The panel’s name was Stuff Your Criticism, I Want a Review! Part Two. Part 1 occurred at PAX East earlier in the year, so I was at the sequel. Part 1 concentrated on making a distinction between a video game review and a video game criticism. Part 2 was about the review itself. What goes into a review? What is the reviewer’s duty to their audience? A lot of meta questions. The people on the panel were: Dennis Scimeca [Freelance writer, Freelance (The Escapist, G4, Ars Technica, Gamasutra)], Arthur Gies [Reviews Editor, Polygon], Kyle Orland [Senior Gaming Editor, Ars Technica], Kirk Hamilton [Editor, Kotaku], and Jeff Gerstmann [Co-Founder, Giant Bomb].
Two reasons why I attended this panel. The first is that the topic is applicable to me. While I don’t review video games here on Selective Hearing, the ideas brought up in the panel, such as timing, relevancy, content of a review, things of that nature are transferable to music reviews. The second was for Jeff Gerstmann from Giant Bomb. I’m a huge fan of his work and have been following it for years now. Sadly, Giantbomb.com had their panel on Friday, but I couldn’t make it. So, this was a constellation to get my Giant Bomb fix. There were a couple of other panels later on in the day that piqued my interest, but my ride wasn’t having it so I had to let them go too.
After some more playing of video games, and failing to find some other internet personalities I would have liked to have met, once the exhibition hall was closed, we left. PAX does continue on later into the night with panels and offsite fun, but said ride wasn’t having it.
I have a belief, that if you are press and you are covering a convention such as PAX in an official capacity, to have free shwag is stupid. Why are you even covering the event then? You can have fun and network, but to abuse your press badge to get free shit is low. I, however, did not have a press badge. I attended PAX as a con goer. So, I can have free stuff.
It’s not a lot, but I did get some cool stuff. The merchandise from Supergiant Games is amazing. An official program is always nice to have. There was a line for a free shwag giveaway, so I lined up and got that Magic bag, crayons and starter Magic cards, along with the Game Career guide. That’s kinda cool, but meeting Supergiant and having my poster autographed by them is the prized gem.
I sorely wish I was able to get a three day pass. I’ll try to be on it much quicker next time registration opens. PAX was great. I’m itching to go back.