Sunday, January 22, 2012

PAX East 2011



Although I am currently making progress in The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask, I’ve yet to complete it and rather than slack in the month of January on the only New Years resolution that I seem to be sticking with I decided to blog about something Zelda related, my first trip to the Penny Arcade Expo East (PAX East, from here on out). I’m headed back this year with some friends who are much bigger gamers than myself but now that I’ve logged multiple hours of playtime maybe I won’t be such an outsider. But what does this have to do with Zelda? You’ll see. Sit back and relax and enjoy the long lost PAX East 2011 blog…


It all started at the Boston DoubleTree. Jaclyn and I were sitting at the overpriced hotel lobby bar sipping $9 Sam Adams and eating buffalo wings when the text came through.  We had rolled into town late and PAX had already begun, so we needed to leave the womb-like comfort of the DoubleTree bar and head out into parts unknown to meet up with Jaclyn’s sister and boyfriend, but the four hour car ride had left us famished and even the ridiculous price tag on my burger didn’t phase me (until I got the bill, then I was more like WTF). But as much as I was enjoying paying $9 a piece for my beers (I wasn’t) it was time to go. Unfamiliar with the city, we first found ourselves standing in a city bus stop, which seemed like a perfectly reasonable place to stand if we were looking to catch a bus, but we weren’t looking for any run of the mill commuter transporter. No, ours was a special bus and I don’t mean one of the short variety.  We were looking for the bus that would shuttle us off to the magical world yet untold, the world of PAX. 

After the first metro bus passed by full of the gruff faces that make up a lunchtime crowd, a feeling we were not yet in the correct space quickly washed over us, a stark realization that we hadn’t a clue where we were or where to go from here. Why did we pay the $45 to give up access to our vehicle, our freedom? Before my mind completed darted down dark corridors of remaining lost on the streets of Boston, Jaclyn (being more reasonable of our pair) walked up to a neighboring hotels doorman and asked for assistance. Maybe it was because of her cool demeanor, or maybe just because she’s a pretty face but the doorman graciously offered his help or at least pointed us to a sign in the lobby of the hotel.  To this day I can’t really explain how the shuttle worked because it seemed we were at the right place and this was the right time, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Or maybe the doorman was just looking to get us out of his lobby. Our party grew by one as we stood confused staring at a shuttle sign. I never caught her name but she was from South Carolina and had come all the way to Boston to experience PAX, and this wasn’t her first trip either. She smiled at us warmly and much to the doorman’s pleasure, the three of us (Jaclyn, the new girl and I, not the doorman) decided to split a cab. Before I could blink, the three of us were crammed in the back of the quick moving vehicle, darting around the streets of Boston - we were on our way. But it was in the cab that it first happened. At first what seemed like a pleasant enough ride turned into something else, something off. Our companion talked a little about herself, her wide eyes darting back and forth between Jaclyn and I, a large smile on her pale face. Maybe it was Jaclyn’s tan or my lack of knowledge on basic subjects of gaming, but you could see a switch go off and her once smiling eyes washed over with a look of panic. At the time I was unsure what had happened but something had indeed changed, you could feel it, as if the temperature had dropped inside the cab. No longer was our new consort rambling on about various gaming quests, instead she shuffled uneasily through her wallet and her eyes remained fixated on her window; her level of discomfort was palatable. What had we done? What had changed? As the cab pulled up to the curb of the Boston Convention Center, she threw her share of the money at the driver and dashed away into a crowd of her peers, forever lost in a sea of likeminded faces. Looking back on this now I can only imagine that she realized we were outsiders and she felt like we didn’t belong. Like if she stared at us long enough, she might actually be able to see us sprout horns, or worse…


The cab ride left us a little shaken to say the least; here we were, outsiders amongst outsiders. I had never been a solid gamer. I mean, games have never been my lifeblood. But with that being said, I have an incredible comic book collection (a fact I hid from my wife well until our first year of marriage) a semi-impressive collection of action figures and over 1300 movies but so far at PAX, I had no street cred. Games and I have always had a weird sordid past. I admittedly never owned a Nintendo Entertainment System (okay I will say when I graduated High School my Dad bought me one, a top loader at that, but one of my ex-girlfriends took it) but I did grow up with an Atari 2600 (there’s some street cred, right?). I was one of the first kids on the block to own a Gameboy and we did eventually get a Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast, Gameboy Advanced, PlayStation 2, I inherited a Xbox (through marriage), Nintendo WiiNintendo DS LiteXbox 360PlayStation 3 (actually own two) and now a Nintendo 3DS (not to mention an original NES deck and a Sega Genesis). Point being, I game, just not like a quote unquote normal gamer. I’m in love with the games of my youth, but I’m not a big fan of the first person shooter unless we’re talking about GoldenEye 007 (and I do mean for the 64 not the Wii knockoff) and fighting games. While I can button mash with the best of them, I’ve never been a skilled virtual fighter. When games got overly complicated or you had to play them for a month to beat them, well, I kinda lost interest. I kept trying to stay current, but I just didn’t have the time to play the same game for hours and hours. Even now I’m beating myself up mentally for the amount of time I’ve invested in my goal of conquering all of The Legend of Zelda games (but it’s a challenge I’ve taken and one I will be victorious in!).  But I digress…


PAX East for a N00b was quite a site to behold. Between the panels, nightly concerts and the exhibitor’s hall you could easily get lost and never come back (well, until they kicked you out Monday morning). Friday night was a blur. We missed the commencement ceremony which meant when we made it to the turnstiles to walk into PAX they were empty, but it was easy to imagine the almost 70,000 people milling through trying to work their way to the front. We simply strolled to the front and got out our Behemoth badge lanyards (makers of Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers) and our swag bags (that’s right you get swag bags!) and joined by Jaclyn’s sister and boyfriend headed into the madness that was (and is) the exhibitor’s hall. I tried to walk in and think to myself, “be strong, you’ve got days here, you don’t need to spend any money the first day.” But approximately twelve steps in we found ourselves standing in front of Oni Press booth (you know, the publishers of Scott Pilgrim) and all of that went out the window. They had all kinds of amazing Scott Pilgrim stuff, from t-shirts to limited edition posters (from the comic not the movie, not that the movie was bad). Money was spent. I walked away with a limited print of all the characters in a 16-bit design, a Scott Pilgrim Boxset box (I already owned the comics but now I had a box for them) and Jaclyn got herself a Ramona Flowers shirt. Besides having to carry the bags around I was psyched (and also a little nervous, didn’t want to damage the print). A lot of what we did the first night was a blur, but I know I was happy to find out that the food and beer inside of PAX was cheaper than eating at our hotel (a fact that still puzzles me). I know we attended the Giant Bomb Bombcast panel but besides that I’m not really sure…

Dawn of The Second Day – 48 Hours Remain

Arriving at PAX we already had a plan (a plan that had been set in action when we properly caught the shuttle at the correct stop). It was the second day and now we had gained some experience points and washed a little bit of N00b stink off of us. We were on a mission – before we left the hotel, we flipped through the PAX East 2011 guide and formed a list for must do’s: Snagging the Marketing or Writing Job of Your Dreams panel, Video Game Music and Nerdcore Hip-hop panel and possibly the most important (at least as far as this blog goes) play the unreleased Nintendo 3DS. I’m sure there was probably more to the plan, but it’s been almost a year and I’m a little rusty on details, so those are the things that definitely stood out.


The Snagging the Marketing or Writing Job of Your Dreams panel was interesting and informative. I’d never really thought about how important the story is to games, but duh, it’s like an interactive movie. I did really enjoy this panel, it made me re-think the whole blogging thing (I’m still working on finding my voice, I’ll get there) and how it truly is a marketing tool to get your message and brand out there and recognized (like I said, I’m working on it). It also made me realize I’m too old to not carry a business card, you have just one chance to make a first impression and unfortunately last time around I was unprepared. Can’t say the same thing for the guy with the puppet, he sure turned heads. I hope he had content to back up his showmanship because if he did, I’m sure he’s in a much better place now. As for me, well, I can say I have a solid year of blogging behind me now, and I will have a business card to pass this time.


The Video Game Music and Nerdcore Hip-hop panel introduced me to MC Frontalot, K. Murdock, Mega Ran and also the Random Beats Jay-Z/video game music mash-up album American Gamer – all pretty awesome stuff. Don’t believe me? Get ahold of the American Gamer album and check out just how well Jay-Z verses sound layered over the top of videogame beats. Still don’t believe me? Check out the documentary Nerdcore Rising and follow MC Frontalot and learn a little about what it takes to be a Nerdcore rapper. Still not convinced? Check out the albums Mega Ran 9, Mega Ran 10, and Mega Ran & K-Murdock Famicon Forever, however I’m guessing since you’re reading my PAX blog, you might already have those albums in your repertoire.


For a full recap of my first Nintendo 3DS experience please check out my previous blog on The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but I can say PAX East and getting to play The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D probably set in motion my Zelda quest that is underway today. 


The second day was busy and Jaclyn and I flew solo (well, sans her Sister and her sister’s boyfriend) and navigated our way through the world that is PAX. Our only real disappointment was our inability to score access to the newest Rockstar title L.A. Noire (although we did get some sweet stickers). After spending hours (days really) playing Red Dead Redemption, I was very curious to see what Rockstars latest and greatest would be, but we were confused with the line to get in and decided it wasn’t worth the frustration. Some cool things we did get to see were the Castle Crashers arcade system (set up like an old X-Men arcade game) and the figurines at the Behemoth booth, Mortal Kombat before its release, and Duke Nukem Forever before its release. PAX is where I first learned PopCops widely popular Plants Vs. Zombies and got to see many people walking around with traffic cones on their heads. PAX is where I first heard of Steve Jackson - even though I had already purchased Munchkin decks as birthday gifts, it wasn’t until PAX that I heard of Zombie Dice (which would become one of my favorite non-video games). I’ve always heard if you dance with the devil, the devil don’t [sic] change. The devil changes you. But I don’t think this has ever been clearer than my first PAX experience. Gaming has taken up a bigger part of my life, from listening to even more chip tune music and nerdcore hip-hop, to logging hours upon hours of game time, to trying my hardest to roll all brains and not get shot gunned, I have changed, and in my own humble opinion I think for the better. But I guess we’ll see when I make it to the end of my Zelda marathon and come out on the other side and when this April I once again venture to PAX East. Until then… GAME ON!


Oh, what happened on day three of PAX East you ask? We ducked out early. We didn’t have the experience points to level up yet, but we will be back…
...And Jaclyn promises the photos will be in focus... This year...