My Day at PAX 2008

Starting with a neighbor’s Atari 2600 and, later, my own Commodore 64, I’ve always loved gaming.  And, up until a few years ago, I’ve always tried to “keep up” with the industry.  But, even then, I was never into consoles; only PCs.  Now that more consoles have more collaborative/collective gaming (Guitar Hero, Rock Band, most things Wii), it is a bit more tempting to get one.

I still try to keep up on some games, though, especially my favorite type: First-Person Shooters.  To that end, I decided (very late this summer) to attend the Penny Arcade Expo in downtown Seattle on Saturday.  It was the second of the three days the convention spans.

The number of people there were ovewhelming.  I know lots of folks don’t like that, but I didn’t mind.  I was just disappointed that I didn’t get to attend some of the major talks (previews/chats with the designers of Fallout 3 and Far Cry 2).  Those were in the main convention meeting hall/theater.  If you didn’t camp out there at the beginning of the day, then you would never get in there, basically.  They don’t force everyone to leave between sessions/meetings.  Irritating, but I understand, and I suppose it wasn’t that big of a deal.  Those games will be out soon anyway (September and October, respectively).

The few sessions my friends and I got into included: “Game Developer Parents: RaisingOur Kids on Games” and “Sex in Videogames: A Comparative Study”.  The first one was terrific, espeically since I am a proactive parent that is trying to establish ground rules on “screen time” before my kids really start caring.

The second one started out well (going over the history of the inclusion of sex in U.S.-based games).  And, yes, clearly the Japanese took it, and still take it, much further than we did and do.  Once that was out of the way, it felt like a bash-America’s-prudish-values fest.  So just because we have a higher tolerance for graphic violence than graphic sex makes us, essentially, backwards and evil?  I’ll leave it to you to decide.  All I know is that I don’t have a problem with it being in games, even if they get the allegedly dreaded AO rating (Adults Only) from the ESRB.  I say, let it have its place in the market, but parents HAVE to be involved and SHOULD be involved in the video game purchasing process so such titles are appropriately avoided.  Kudos go to retailers who help enforce the rating system and are looking out for the kids.

The problem lies with folks, parents especially, of all stripes not being educated on what these game ratings mean.  People can grasp the MPAA rating system; it’s been around for decades (roughly 40 years in various forms).  The ESRB: only 14 years.  And over the last 14 years, video games, and their content has changed and grown more diverse and involved.  All I can say is: parents keep up.  I know it seems daunting, but just git’er done.  The information is there waiting for you.

Anyway, back to PAX.  My friends and I spent a healthy amount of time at the core of the expo: the booths.  Booths touting released and soon-to-be-released games.  We scored swag, beta-testing codes, and entered some contests.  It, like everything else, was packed, but we had a good time.  It was fun to see the die-hards dressed up as their favorite characters.  My favorite — always a classic —  was the fellow dressed up in fully-detailed Darth Vadar garb with a contingent of Storm Troopers. 🙂

I also caught a glimpse of Wil Wheaton.  I think Felicia Day was there the day before.  She even performed Still Alive with Jonathan Coulton in the early morning hours of Saturday.  Here is one of the better videos of the performance (slow loading).  You can find other faster loading ones throughout YouTube:


So, I would recommend PAX to gamers of all stripes.  Early-early bird registration starts in the spring.  If you register that early, total 3-day admission cost is $40!  Well worth it.  Pick what you want to see and be willing to stick it out in line.  Or, if you’re up for challenges, there are tournaments all over the place… even for card and board games.


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