PAX – The Penny-Arcade Expo

PAX – The Penny-Arcade Expo

Well, I had the weekend off, so I decided to go visit something I hadn’t been to in a long time – a gamer’s convention. How I do miss the sights and … smells of the oft under-hygiene-oriented gaming world.

PAX is run by the Penny-arcade guys (www.penny-arcade.com) and they have the convention each year in Seattle (www.penny-arcade.com/pax). So I loaded up the car, plunked in the latest Harry Potter audio book (17 cds!) and headed to Seattle. They had 3 big focus points: console games, pc games, and the old traditional board/tabletop/model/card/DnD games rooms. For $20 it was a very worthwhile, affordable, and well-run event.

There were a lot of free-play console and pc stations to just jump down and start playing a lot of the latest games – all networked and ready for fun. I found this to be really cool feature because there were lots of games there that I’d heard about, but never played (Katamari Damacy was one I had been dying to try). In the PC world, there were lots of high-end boxes and laptops donated by local companies trying to drum up exposure -for you to free-play games on (Half-life 2, CS source, BF2, etc).  I have to say I stayed true to my addiction and kept playing Counter-Strike Source most of the time; but I got to do it on some truly outrageous hardware.  Playing CS source on a 17″ ATI x800 laptop (which I had considered buying) was a great experience. CS Source with a sub-10 ping time at 1600×1200, full detail, 4x anti-aliasing at a 80+ frame rate is something you don’t get to do very often.

They had tournaments on all the different games all day long – both console and PC. Mario Kart derivatives, CS source, etc, but what is most amazing is it was not just the newest stuff. I wandered into a Quake 1 tournament at one point. I didn’t even know people still played that. For each tournament you played/won you got points to redeem at their redemption spot. They also had arcade games there – various DDR’s as well as other ‘interactive’ games of this sort.

Fun as that was, it wasn’t all just games. I arrived just in time for the two guys who do Penny-arcade to draw Monday’s strip with the crowd. They answered questions and did the strip from concept, sketches, to final mock-up in front of us. That was cool because they only use Photoshop. They had a merchandise room and folks giving out all kinds of stuff – T-shirts, stickers, etc. I did manage to get an event-shirt which was pretty sharp.

I got a few autographs as well – including one of the penny-arcade guys. I met the guys that did Red-vs-Blue (www.redvsblue.com) series and got the signatures of Griff and Gus who did the famous Mac gamer video. They had a really funny t-shirt (with a famous quote from the series “I would just like to let everyone know that I’m a girl, and I like ribbons in my hair, and I want to kiss all the boys.”) but they were out of my size. The guy from TechTV (Kevin Pereira) was there doing a lot of interviews, and he was everywhere. Every time I looking up I found myself in the line of camera fire – you might check out and see if you see me in the background somewhere. Finally, they had a Karaoke contest at night (which was hilarious), a classical pianist come in and did an arrangement of FF7 music, and then some rap band. I passed on the rap band because I thought they sucked; but that was me.

I didn’t leave till 11pm which meant I didn’t get back into Portland/bed until 3am – but it was worth it. Oh wait, and I didn’t even tell you about the board-gaming folks. Oh my, that was an experience in humanity in all its smelling glory. I guess I’ll have to add that later…

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