PAX Prime!

September 10th, 2010

I spent last weekend in Seattle geeking out at PAX. I may not be the most hardcore gamer around, but it was a great weekend just letting myself enjoy everything that was offered. It is almost therapeutic letting yourself get swept up in the excitement of this subculture and escaping from the real world for a few days. Not to mention the awesome swag you come away with. This year I didn’t get as much as I did last year, but I did finally manage to snag a trial code for Aion, which I’ve been dying to mess around on for a year (not that I can afford another MMO either time or money wise right now).

This is my second PAX, I attended last year as well with my then fiance (now husband). In case you don’t know what PAX is, it’s a gaming convention (tabletop, video and computer) that was started by the two guys who create Penny Arcade the web comic. Every year it has grown bigger, and it really is an amazing event. I’ll be the first to admit that conventions are not my thing. I have never been to another, but from what I hear the community feel at PAX is pretty unique. Now my husband and I are pretty quiet people, but all it takes is asking a person one question and you can while away the time you spend in line having a pretty interesting conversation with a complete stranger.

I think one of the most impressive parts of the PAX community is the dedication to just being a group of pretty awesome people. The PA folks have created a charity called Child’s Play that donates games and toys to children who are in hospitals. There is a group of people who wander around the convention called the Cookie Brigade, that sells homemade cookies and gives all the profits to Child’s Play. The last I heard they had raised around $6000 this year. They aren’t even organized by the convention, these are just awesome people who donate their time and efforts over the weekend. It makes me proud to be part of a culture like that.

This year, unlike last regrettably, we attended the keynote. The person chosen this year was Warren Spector. While I didn’t know who he was going in, I definitely know him now. He’s a pretty impressive guy. He started in the gaming industry in the ’80s when it was just beginning. He’s now working on Epic Mickey, the new Mickey Mouse video game (which looks pretty awesome by the way). He brought up some interesting points about gaming and gaming culture. He talked about how as a subculture we tend to be pretty defensive and adopt an “us vs them” mentality. He made an interesting and pretty awesome point, however, that any “outsider” activity will either enter the main stream or die out. And gaming is definitely entering the main stream. This requires us as a culture to start being more accepting of pop culture and designing games for the masses. I agree with him. We are on that brink right now, and we have to be accepting of it. However, I think that these people I spent the weekend with are still a unique and amazing group regardless of how popular their chosen past time becomes. It’s like movies, almost everyone enjoys them, but only a few are really movie buffs. Merging with the mainstream does not have to equal a loss of the gamer identity.

Overall, it was a pretty great weekend. And did I mention it was in Seattle? Which made it all the better. I absolutely love Seattle, and the Pacific Northwest kinda feels like home to me even though I’ve spent most of my life in the deserts of the southwest.

On a final note – coffee shops in Seattle. They are everywhere. What is up with that? How do they manage to keep so many in business? It’s one of life’s mysteries…

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