I approached my first Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) not as a writer or a journalist, but as a fan. I didn’t do much work when I was there, and I’m glad I didn’t try. The experience was amazing, and certainly not something I would have missed if I could avoid it.
I saw plenty of cool videogames at PAX, like ‘Duke Nukem Forever’ and ‘Star Wars: Old Republic’. ‘Duke Nukem’ has so much ‘Borderlands’ in it that I can’t not like it. It also seems to keep that old Duke humor, but presents it in an almost ironic way – poking fun at the ridiculousness of the hero. ‘Old Republic’ is the best looking MMO I’ve ever seen and makes it difficult to even look at ‘World of Warcraft’ again, let alone play it.
I attended some amazing panels talking about ‘Dungeons & Dragons’, new videogames, old videogames, and videogame music. I even got to meet celebrities in the ‘StarCraft’ community, like Day and JP McDaniel. Day, by the way, is amazing. I think he’s honest-to-god interested in everyone and everything. If not, he fakes it amazingly well.
I got plenty of free shirts, some ‘WoW’ loot cards, a few starter decks for ‘Magic: The Gathering’, some postcards, and even a flyswatter promoting the new ‘Earth Defense Force’ game. Some of the swag didn’t even come home with me, there was so much of it.
That was all very cool, but I quickly realized that’s not what PAX is all about. It isn’t about the games or the panels or the celebrities. It isn’t about the cookies or the food. It isn’t about the concerts or the swag either.
In fact, I’d posit that if you went to PAX for the sole purpose of playing games before they come out and seeing the latest and greatest trailers and demos, then you’d have come home disappointed. There were a few really cool games there, but PAX isn’t E3. It’s not about new games or big announcements – they’re just what surrounds it.
PAX, more than anything, is about the people. It’s about connecting with people who share your interests, and about not just accepting them for their differences, but embracing those differences as something that makes them great.
The show is about making friends with fellow nerds from across the country, sharing experiences, and having the time of your life with folks you just met.
My friends and I spent Friday going to panels and checking out game demos, but on Saturday we decided to take a break and play a few board games, starting with ‘Zombie Dice’. As we were playing, more than a few people stopped to get some throws in. A group of guys even came over to the table with a game called ‘Last Night on Earth’, which – even though I’m still sick of zombies – was incredibly cool.
We didn’t know any of the people that we played games with, and we probably won’t keep in close contact with them for long, but we had a lot of fun. It’s a little like summer camp for nerds in that way.
On Sunday, I was feeling the vibe. I sat down to write up a post about the show and came away with the single sappiest, schmaltziest thing I’ve ever written. Seriously, it made this post sound as emotional as a grocery list. I used the word “community” five times and the word “love” at least twice.
Though I’m glad the sappy words will never find the light of day, I stand by the sentiment. ‘Duke Nukem’ was cool, and seeing Mega Ran perform was amazing, but what makes PAX the finest event that the gaming industry has to offer is the people who attend it.
Another highlight of the trip, lest I fail to mention it completely, was hanging out with Josh Zyber, Mrs. Z and Junie Ray. We ate some good food, and talked about LARP, the ‘Star Wars’ prequels and crazy roommates. Great times!