I've been trying to get a decent enough connection to post something worthwhile for the last couple days and now that I'm back at home on stable internet connection I've decided to post my story of why I came here and how I met my newest best friends, Teh Uberone and Nameless Ted.
Ah, yes... I remember it like it was the day before yesterday.... It was the last day of PAX and my friend and I were looking for a good party. We met up with a bunch of cats that we knew from the Penny Arcade forums who invited us to the Robot Chicken Farewell PAX Party. Just like that, it was on.
I don't remember exactly what sparked the conversation, but I do know that I'd pounded a couple brews and was beginning to go cross-eyed when the subject of "blogging" came up. We watched a dude play some NES games on his laptop as I blurted something about my blog to the effect of, "No one fucking reads my blog." With that, the man I would soon come to know as Nameless Ted extended a warm invitation to join Destructoid. Now, I'd heard of the site many, many times before, I've read articles that had been on Digg and even had friends who sent me links to some of their favorite stories, but until this moment, I'd never actually spoken to anyone who claimed to be from Destructoid. It was almost too cool a proposition to refuse -- plus the filthy backwash of some nameless domestic beer was impairing my judgment -- before I could stop myself, I'd made an account. I remember playing a glitchy, fucked up ROM hack of Barbie and thinking it was pretty neat and wishing more Barbie games were like that. Then we played another hacked ROM called Lesbian Tennis, which was exactly what it sounds like. Seriously, I'm not explaining it any further -- use your God damn imagination for Christ's sake. Finally, we moved on to saner, better games like City Connection, Uninvited, Contra, and Battletoads. As the Guitar Hero II competition that was happening directly behind us turned to some karaoke game, I remember hearing the sullen sounds of Wham! - Careless Whisper, and I knew it was time to go. Grabbing a Corona, we headed for the lobby to get some actual, honest to God work done.
While in the lobby of the Sheraton, I began setting about to construct a framework of the post you see here. Through beer goggles, my writing is immaculate; there will be no second draft of this! That sort of work is for mid-wives and perfectionist junkies who settle for nothing less than a 100%. Why, even now, in my sleep deprived euphoria, I feel the swaying motion of a jetliner careening through a pinball machine made of turbulence and fowl weather -- only, on this table, one roll down the drain and we're all buggered. I don't pretend to be unafraid of death, and while fear of the unknown is a powerful aphrodisiac, it still isn't the reason I withstand this mortal coil. No! I fear that terrible picture the right-winger zealots have painted for me: the idea that there could actually be a place worse than this. I have seen the promised land, and while the swap meet folks battle it out for one last Velvet Elvis, I simply live to write this post. Remember: no second drafts.
So, my new best friends and I have been discussing this year's PAX and a number of interesting characters have come about as a result of the epic rolls being tossed out there. For example, the highlight of PAX this year, for Ted, would have to be the social aspect -- meeting people like Tom Kim from Gamasutra and Bobby Blackwolf, aka "Gamer Andy" from the Gamer Andy podcast. According to Teh Uberone, Haze was the highlight; but I agree with Ted -- that the highlight of PAX was certainly the social aspect. PAX is all about the community -- as Tycho said during a Q&A panel, the people in the Exhibition Hall are here for us. They are here for the gamers -- not the industry, not the journalists, but the actual people who play these games and who feel the most impact of decisions made by the industry. It is a gamer fest for the gamers and in as much, I feel it has succeeded quite well.
I've had conversation upon conversation with the folks from BioWare who were on hand at the Microsoft booth to show off Mass Effect, a game which has been garnering a lot of attention. The topic of conversation usually revolved around slight defects and occasional hiccups that presented themselves during the demo but we also discussed a number of topics on the subject of RPGs and the RPG elements BioWare kept in mind while designing this real-time combat shooter. No matter how many questions I had, no matter how much time I took up talking about the slightest minutia of a demo that lasted all of ten to fifteen minutes, they were taking me seriously and answering every one of my questions -- never once being condescending or treating me like I didn't belong simply because I didn't have a media badge on. It was delicious. As much as I, too, enjoyed meeting people I had only read or heard about, one of the things that made this event truly special was the amount of openness and distinct lack of elitist attitude that made me feel like I had a place here. I truly felt the intention that Gabe and Tycho had in mind when they were designing an expo just for us. Four years later, it's good to see that the original idea is still going strong.
The worst part of PAX, if indeed there were one, would be the lack of sleep I believe we all felt by Sunday night. Somehow we still had the energy to party well into the wee hours of the morning and get some work done while sharing good times, steeped in debauchery and mischievous, random acts of hilarity. The crew I partied with tonight are hardcore about being nice guys who are great to hang out with. Nobody copped any kind of 'tude about anything at all -- just don't pass out at the party.
As Teh Uberone and Nameless Ted put the finishing touches on their video for Rockstar's Tabletennis, I watch a parade of drunken, young men escorting another man through the lobby. These are people we were with, and I wondered if the booze had turned on them. I'd had a similar experience, earlier in the day, after eating a whole tin of the guarana mints the Haze guys were handing out. They had this buzz-cut dude who intimidated the ever-loving shit out of me. I'm sure the man's a pussycat when you get to know him, but anyone wearing a tank-top with a buzz-cut and rock-hard nipples poking through his tight tank-top is enough to make me about-face, forward march, and pretend those mints weren't as good as I believed they were. The worst part was the nipples -- why, God? Why? I've got a nine-foot gorilla pushing guarana mints on me while talking about the army and showing off a God damn video game about a guy who becomes a turn-coat in a game that is, from what I've heard, designed to put a whole new perspective on the idea of warfare combat video games -- and I just can't stop humming "O Canada" while staring at rock-hard nipples and wishing to Christ someone had thought of adjusting the A/C to make it just a touch warmer in this exposition hall. Won't somebody think of the nipples? That's when the man handed me more mints and I walked away. I didn't even get to see the game. Was this mints' doing? Indeed, they had turned on me and left me with an imagine of terror seared into my mind. Rock-hard nipples and guarana mints shall, henceforth, be hand-in-hand in my mind -- evermore.
It turned out that the gentlemen in the lobby, walking with the third man who was visibly unconscious, had been up to no good. There are photos -- available now, on teh intarwebs -- of a dude who most definitely had a blue Monday. Let's hope he has a good sense of humor.
One last thing that stood out about the expo, something that we just couldn't stop talking about was how great Wil Wheaton's keynote speech was and how genuine he seemed to be about the kind of person he said he was. He echoed many of the ideas and feelings that we all shared and it was obvious that he was one of us simply for his being there. Although I missed the opportunity to shake his hand many times, I almost felt as though it wasn't necessary. Just knowing that he showed up each day to be there as opposed to simply taking off after his "job" was done was enough for me to know he meant what he said. When he talked about the social aspect of gaming and the political impact of gaming and the attitude the world has about gamers, you knew it was sincere. He wasn't simply saying things we wanted to hear, he was actually putting his heart out there for us to see. As I sit here talking to Teh Uberone and Namelss Ted about the keynote speech, Teh Uberone sums it up in one word: Epic.
Hours after Gabe defeated Tycho in Halo 3 in front of 30,000 screaming fans before saying goodbye to us all and closing the doors on the fourth year of PAX, we shuffle home for one last night of revelry before returning from whence we came -- and even this night is too quickly over. And so begins another year of planning as we look ahead to PAX 2008. read