I took an impromtu trip to the 2007 Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) last week with some friends from home. Geek oriented activities are fun, but I certainly am not an expert on evaluating their impact and/or awesomeness, so I can’t write an in-depth review of the activity. Rather, I’ll just relate my favorite lessons:
- Will Wheaton, of “Stand By Me”, “Star Trek TNG”, and now PAX fame, gave the exciting and nostalgia-inducing keynote address. I think having a keynote address at all says something about how serious this event is. At times, between the keynote and the various panel discussions, it almost felt academic. Wheaton entertained from the beginning (“Jack Thomson can suck my balls”), but I got a bit antsy when he came out so vehmently against video-game violence legislation. In fact I agree with his position on the role of the parents and video games being about fun, but I still am undecided on what the government’s role should be.
- I think I finally see the point of the Nintendo DS. My friend Bobby actually owns 3 Nintendo DS’es, and since that was my only pre-PAX exposure to the beast, I had a biased vision of the games system’s utility (“the Nintendo DS – a cool game system you can play anywhere with anyone, as long as one of you owns three of them!”). PAX made me realize the obvious point that I was missing; when nearly everyone around you has a DS, it becomes a social gaming experience even more fun than exchanging long protein strands!
- Moving to graduate school put me in an unfamiliar social element where my peers have fiances, spouses, labor-intensive pets, and generally no interest in playing video games. Very few of my friends here are video gamers (there are a few who enjoy the board games, but they are rare, and they don’t take loosing well, so playing with me is out of the question). Living in such a game-stifled environment can lead one to crazy conclusions about the world of gaming (see the point about the Nintendo DS above). PAX reminded me that there are others out there like me.
- I watch games like Battlefield and Bioshock and I think that modern gaming is just too complicated for me, that maybe I should just disconnect my internet and limit myself to games that involve bouncy balls and sticks. Do you have to grow up with these games to enjoy them? I can barely handle Guild Wars, and the 13-year-olds I play with regularly berate me for my slug-like reflexes and inability to type using foul language.
- Jon Coulton is awesome. wow. I wasn’t expecting this, but I fell in love with this guy from the get-go. John, will you marry me? It certainly doesn’t hurt that he lists They Might Be Giants first in his list of influences.
- Vertigo stinks. I get motion sickness when playing first-person-shooter (FPS) games… enough that I stopped playing them years ago. But I decided to see if maybe I grew out of it at the PAX PC freeplay in a friendly (read as “deathmatch”) game of Battlefield 2142. I think the motion sickness has actually gotten worse since I stopped playing Halflife nine years ago. Does anyone have any advice to help with this? As background information, I don’t get sick in cars, planes, boats, or other vehicles. Also, third person games don’t make me sick, and I do not recall having trouble with the original version of Doom or Marathon on my Macintosh in high school.
- Mike Krahulik (“Gabe”) and Jerry Holkins (“Tycho”) of Penny Arcade are funny. They have a nice way of dealing with fans and making the audience feel at home.
- Suckupery is rampant. Gabe and Tycho have a super fervent fan base. That’s awesome. It bothers me a bit, however, to hear a 12 year old boy refer to one of them as a god (strictly speaking, he was referring to Jerry Holkin’s writing skills as being godlike).
- Being a super girl gamer is rough. On the plane ride home I was serendipidously seated beside one of the contestants for the Frag Dolls “Casting Call” contest, where 8 girls competed to become the next Frag Doll. The contestant I met said that they had spent the whole weekend being media monkeys for Ubisoft, and that it was hard to actually enjoy the expo with that non-stop time-commitment and pressure.
- Rock Band is incredible. I will pay any price for this game.
I had an excellent time, and I’d love to go again next year.