A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

Cultural Immersion – My Time At PAX East 2013


This past weekend was the highly popular Penny Arcade Expo in Boston and I had the good fortune to attend. My impression of the convention? SPECTACULAR! AMAZING! I CAN’T WAIT TO DO IT AGAIN!

There’s nothing quite like being in a place where everyone is a gamer and everyone wants to have a good time. Everyone I encountered was on their best behavior and I have never heard so many thank you’s. The lines were some of the most fun I had. Once I got past the initial anxiety about striking up a conversation with someone new, I was able to just plop down and talk to anyone. Everyone in line is there because they have some sort of investment in the panel and in gaming and you always have something to talk about. For example, in the Mass Effect Retrospective line, just asking about their Shepard, you see everyone’s eyes light up and you hear the passion in their voice as they tell you some of their experiences.

It’s like I went to a convention with thousands of kindred spirits. I’ve never felt such a sense of belonging before and it was quite remarkable. There was no shunning, only willingness to understand. Like, when I explained to someone my preferences for the Star Wars prequels and Special Edition over the Original Trilogy, I did admit that I have a hard time separating the Expanded Universe from the movies, so I have this big picture view and the changes in the Special Edition just don’t have that big an impact on me. I saw comprehension from everyone who heard that and I felt relieved.

On Friday I hit up the Expo floor, visiting the Neverwinter booth and the Awesomenauts booth pretty early. Then I picked up a Red Vs. Blue shirt and attended the Rooster Teeth panel. Later I attended a panel talking about turn-based games and it was starting out slowly until there was a technical issue where the speakers were sharing a microphone that wasn’t in the room. The panelists kept trying to out speak the disembodied voice and it was quite hilarious. Afterward, I attended a panel dealing with types of gamers and found it pretty enlightening but overall pretty straightforward and easy to understand. For more information and how to figure out your gamer type, hit up Game on Girl and take their quiz. Then I hit up the LoadingReadyRun panel and stuck around for the extremely hilarious Game Show Night (which hit mature humor levels in record time).

Saturday was a pretty simple day. I arrived, got in line, attended the Penny Arcade Create-A-Strip panel (which you can see the NSFW fruits of the labor of Gabe and Tycho on their site now) and then when it got out, I immediately got back in line for the same room to attend the Mass Effect Retrospective. As with all things ME, I almost cried at their Retrospective Video. You can see the panel I attended here. Then I left and got into another line to attend a panel talking about behind the scenes at Firaxis Games. After a quick stop at FedEx to get a tube to protect my new awesome poster, I went back in line for the third round of the Omegathon (it was Jenga) and the Saturday Night Concert (it rocked so hard I felt it in my hair). By they way, there’s nothing quite like Paul and Storm live.

Sunday was an easy day too as I got into the groove of the convention. I attended a panel on gamers dealing with depression which helped immensely as it’s always nice to know we’re not alone with our problems. Then I queued up for a panel entitled: “You Game Like A Girl: Tales of Trolls and White Knights” and I had flashbacks to my wedding planning class in college where (aside from the Professor’s unborn child) I was the only male in the room. It wasn’t that bad as there was a significant number of males in attendance and the all female panel was very welcoming and encouraging to men. One person got up to mention that she would play Mass Effect 3 multiplayer on XBox Live and no one would revive her because she was a girl. Shocked, I immediately gave her my Origin name and told her I’d always help her if I could (she just got it for PC to get away from the unhelpful XBox Live environment). Yay, new friend! After, I went down to the Bioware Base and hung out until the convention ended. It was a lot of fun and I got Raphael Sbarge to sign my PAX Pass for me. Well, I also told him that he brought some of my favorite companions to life and that meant a lot to me. He seemed genuinely moved by that and we shook hands.

A quick little story about that night though: I had just finished dinner at the hotel bar and I went to leave and froze. The whole team from Bioware that attended PAX East was RIGHT THERE kicking back and having drinks. A guy came up to the bar to order a lemonade and I was all, “Psst, look over there… that’s BIOWARE.” “Oh, wow.” “Yeah, I have to walk past them to get to my hotel room.” “Good luck with that.”

Then I chose the Paragon choice and didn’t bother them as I made my way to the elevator. The moment the doors closed though, I burst out laughing. The whole convention was like that.

All in all, I met some fantastic people, made a few amazing friends (especially in the airport waiting to fly home, you know who you are) and I had a wonderful time.

Lessons learned: a satchel with snacks and a bottle of water was a brilliant idea of mine. A pen and a small notepad, also genius. I needed a hat because DAMN it was cold outside the convention hall. Next time get a closer hotel. Next time maybe bring someone to attend with because it’s pretty lonely eating alone. Try to get a bit more swag. Ask people their names more often (even if I will forget it pretty quickly if I don’t write it down… see pen and notepad).

Anyway, I’m back and I’ve got plans for a new Let’s Play after I do the Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge one. I think everyone should enjoy watching that one as I’ll probably be cursing up a storm. You’ll see.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “It’s not about being modern or retro or a Luddite or being hopeful or pessimistic about the future; it’s about clinging on to what makes sense of our lives, and what give our lives value, and what gives us a commonality and a feeling of belonging.” – Jack White of The White Stripes.

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