Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Semi-Geeky Girl Goes to PAX - East

I got home from PAX - East over a week ago and I'm just now ready to write my thoughts on the expo. I've been trying to figure out how to break it down and I've decided instead of a break down by day I'm going to break everything down based on categories. So we'll start off with pre-convention, followed by panels, expo hall, game play, and post-convention.

Pre-Convention
We arrived in Boston on Thursday and had some time to kill before the 7pm game time meet up in the lobby. There was no forgetting this meet up, Sam kept reminding us every 10 minutes or so. I had already checked it out and knew that the main building for the Boston Public Library was just down the road from the convention center and there were some other historical locations in the area I had wanted to see. Being a library lover I had wanted to take the tour of the library but never got around to it, so just seeing the outside would have to do for this trip.

Our first stop was the Boston Public Library. History note: The BPL "was the first publicly supported municipal library in the United States, the first large library open to the public in the United States, and the first public library to allow people to borrow books and other materials and take them home to read and use." - Wikipedia On the facade of the old building are two carvings that I thought were just great. One was "Free to All" and the other says "The Public Library of the City of Boston Built by the People and Dedicated to the Advancement of Learning".

Across the street from the library is Trinity Church and Old South Church. Both of these buildings are beautiful examples of detailed architecture. I'm not sure of the history of Trinity Church but I know that Old South Church was meeting place associated with the Boston Tea Party.

We ate dinner that night at McGreevy's Irish Pub & Sports Bar which credit's itself as being America's First Sports Bar and The Birth Place of Red Sox Nation. It's just 1200 steps to Fenway Park. Now while I am a NY Yankees fan, I did appreciate the history of this place tied to the Red Sox. It was quite interesting and the story behind the place was really great too. You can read it on their website.

After dinner it was time for the gaming meet up in the lobby. For this I steal from Sam:
Upon returning to the hotel, we joined the throngs in the lobby playing various card games, and broke out some Munchkin. We were joined before even sitting down by a handful of interested first-time players, and eventually broke into two groups. The first group, playing the original Munchkin, had their picture taken by a passing Wil Wheaton. This may end up being the highlight of the trip for Amelia.

When their game ended, they joined us at the Star Munchkin table to watch the game, where myself and a guy named Matt were battling it out for the win. Amelia, who was stalking Wil Wheaton on Twitter, noticed his tweeting on our lobby activities. What made this relevant was that Wil is apparently friends with Steve Jackson, who invented the game Munchkin. Mr. Jackson responded to Wil's post with a decree that the next Munckin-playing PAX attendee to say, out loud and without shame, "Game over, Moonpie," would gain two levels in the game (this will probably make a lot more sense to fans of 'The Big Bang Theory'). Since two levels would win me the game, Amelia shared this tip with me, and to the confusion of all I spouted the quote for the win. We ruled it as Divine Intervention, untouchable by any other cards, since a tip from Steve Jackson was about as close to Divine Intervention as we could get. And all of this happened while I was half-tipsy on whiskey drinks. A fun night.


PAX Panels
PAX East 2010 Keynote: The keynote was given by Wil Wheaton. Being a fan I follow his blog and Twitter feed and followed how he struggled to write this speech. I believe he worried for no reason, it was great. He talked about the convention being Home and how we were home for the next three days. This meant being able to play and just geek out with out worrying about what people thought of us.

Penny Arcade Panel #1: Immediately following the keynote Gabe and Tycho came on stage for a one hour Q&A. Some really interesting and non interesting questions were asked. We were introduced to the PAX East swear word. Saw them participate in a brief demo of the live action Action Castle panel and participated in the group "cracking knuckles".

NVIDIA Unveils the Next Generation of PC Gaming: After Sam told me about this panel I wanted to see it, but about 2 minutes into the panel I wanted to hurt the presenter. It was just sales pitch after buzzword after slogan. I don't think they understood that we wanted to be there and were interested in the technology of 3D gaming he didn't have to sell us on the concept. Just show the room a demo, hell other panels do that and it works just fine. OH on a side note, I'm really getting over this whole 3D thing, but the concept for gaming is new and if they can do it correctly will be great.

A Sophisticated Evening with Rooster Teeth Productions: The Rooster Teeth Gang panel was great the last time we went to PAX so I was geared up for them this time. I had only seen a little of Red vs. Blue and was hoping to see more of it. We got a preview of the new season (Sam purchased the box set so I'm looking forward to watching the past seasons), and saw some live action stuff they were working on plus a Q&A session.

Prince of Persia: I don't play the game, I want to see the movie based on the game, but I'll never pass up a chance to see a demo of a game. We got one hell of a demo. The game looks amazing and it could have been that the creator was running the demo, but I was really impressed. I cut out early before the Q&A.

D&D Seminar: Save My Game! Live: We really hadn't planned on going to this, but we were late getting in line for other panels and had done a quick tour of the expo hall, again. So Chris and I decided to jump in line, it might be interesting. Four guys from Wizards of the Coast were there to answer our questions about our games. Advice and Feedback were exchanged. Chris got an answer to a question he had and I think we all walked away with a different perspective on our own games and gaming experiences.

Closing Ceremony: Final Round of the Omegathon. This was a team effort where they played four old school games. The team on our side of the room was in the lead but there was a problem with one of the games and everything had to be restarted. Our team lost, but it was great fun watching them play.

Expo Hall
The expo hall was packed and I know we got a lot of swag. There was so much going on I'm only going to talk about the few things that really stuck with me. There were a few games that looked really great but I was intrigued but Power Gig! Rise of the Six String. There was no demo running, it was just a van with a guy playing an electric guitar and people talking about the game. It's a six string electric guitar as controller in a Guitar Hero type game. If you know how to play your golden, if not you can learn.

Wacom had tablets you could try out. We all took a turn trying them and I have to say if I had a use for one, I'd want one, hell I want one and I have nothing to use it for. Geek Chic had a booth and if I had the money I would be buying
this, it's a customizable card catalog style storage system. They describe it as storage for comics and cards, I could do so much more with it!

Game Play

Wizards of the Coast had some of the best expo hall game play. They had a live action demo of D&D. A group of six players takes to a small grid area and has two rounds to defeat an opponent. I did this twice, first with Sam, Chris and Sean where our group beat our opponent. The second time I went with Chris and our group failed. This is also the booth where I discovered I like playing Magic The Gathering. We played on online version and then demoed a card version.

Wizards of the Coast was also running D&D gaming sessions to try out the new Encounters. Sam went to sign up for this and ended up being asked to DM on Sunday. We did however get to play two dungeon delves. These were mini games, one hour sessions where you picked a character and were given limited information. Sam and I did one and then were joined with Sean and Chris for the second.

There were some other computer and video games we demoed in the expo hall. I really liked Monday Night Fights, we watched Chris play this. I tried out this sports thing for the DS and Wii. Sam and I also tried out some games by independent companies. One's on Facebook and I have to check it out some more.

Post PAX
After the closing ceremony on Sunday we had dinner in the bar area of our hotel. Then Sam, Chis and I played some games. We talked to fellow gamers and had a great time. We played some Magic, Muchkin, and Primetime Adventures. I forgot how much fun Primetime Adventures was.

I had a great time, I can't wait for next year!