Famous people! Yay! (GameX 2009)
I remember graduating College in 2009 and being excited for VGXPO and GameX that year. What's that? Never heard of 'em? Yeah, not surprising. They were both in the Philadelphia region, which is evidently a place that hates video games despite a growing Indie scene. Just not as growthful (growthilicious?) as, say, Boston or North Carolina.
In truth, I think it was merely the people running the shows. VGXPO made a bad name for itself when the guy running it tried to hijack exhibitors from PAX in '07, amongst other things
. I don't think they ever recovered from that, and by time I got to go to VGXPO it was small, deserted and populated by nothing more than indies desperate for attention that the attendees didn't want to give.
GameX's head guy was evidently not too spiffy a fellow either, and word is there was some financial fallout that really pissed sponsor NBC off. I don't really have much to go off of other than word of mouth, and it is extremely telling that you can't find the website anymore.
I enjoyed attending the events, but it was...depressing. No one wanted to give the Indie games a chance. Everyone wanted to find another E3 and was angry when it turned out to be, well, less. Or rather different, I'd say. I sighed, wishing the East Coast could just light up with more options for gaming conventions and expos.
Maybe I wasn't paying enough attention, but it seems to all have come out of nowhere. First was PAX East, which I got to check out in 2011. It was amazing. I had been to a few anime conventions before, but while my love of the oriental animation has waxed and waned like the phases of the moon over time, video games have always remained my first true passion. So being in a community where you could strike up a conversation with anyone about damn near anything you love was just...
The best way I could describe it when I came home was I got a taste of what Heaven must be like, and it was the Utopia that was PAX East.
Internet famous people! Yay! (PAX East 2011)
Now, I should note that all this time MAGFest had been going on in the D.C. area. I had heard about it when I visited VGXPO, actually, as they had a booth there. However, I'll get into that later as I was never able to visit MAGFest before. The timing was always at an odd time of year for me (first weekend after New Years) and I wasn't very familiar with the D.C. area.
In any event, to me, PAX East seemed like all the East Coast would be getting. Then The Escapist announced their very own Expo down in North Carolina. I gathered what friends I could manage (enough for a hotel room, sweet!) and we made the drive this past September to Durham, what is one of my favorite cities. This is, of course, because it is pretty empty, yet still has all the compact awesomeness of a regular city. Durham is the perfect city for people that don't like other people.
Escapist Expo was, all things told, a completely different experience for me. I wrote about it on my blog
, describing it as a "Small Town Expo". This is because it was in a smaller venue than most events I have attended with a rather small population compared to previous years, but that only made it a much stronger social event. Before the Expo even began I made good friends in The D&D Sluggers
(check out She's Got a Job, it's an awesome song) and got to frequently hang out with Cory Rydell, artist of Critical Miss
. I got a brief moment to even speak to Jim Sterling in the hallway of the hotel, though I was drunk enough that I am not sure I made an ass of myself to a man that was tired and needed a nap. Either way, despite the persona he puts on for The Jimquisition and other such things, he's a nice chap (for all of five or ten minutes I met him). Without even trying I found myself stumbling upon other folks I had met several times before during the show having small snippets of conversation.
Mmm... chocolatey goodness... (Escapist Expo 2012)
It was, on the whole, easier to make friends at Escapist Expo than anywhere else simply due to the confined space and smaller attendance, and that was fantastic to me.
So I left feeling pretty good about two events on the East Coast. Two chances a year to go out, make new friends and to speak again with old ones.
Then I spontaneously took a trip down to MAGFest last weekend as an old College friend of mine was going to be there. He lives in Washington state, which means the chances to see him are rare indeed. I was expecting a smaller Expo like Escapist, a place that would be fine to visit for just a day.
Holy SHIT was I wrong.
MAGFest is absolutely huge and amazing. They really do combine two different loves in a fantastic way, mixing a passion for games with the emotional adrenaline provided only by your favorite genre of music. Chiptune? Metal? Synthpop? Rap? They pretty much have you covered from what I can tell. Some of it covers, some of it original, MAGFest is completely loaded with stuff to see and do. A Leliana (from Dragon Age) cosplayer managed to aggro my drunken ass over to her friends where I got to spend a bunch of time talking about Game of Thrones, fantasy novels, Assassin's Creed and a whole bunch of other stuff, making new friends once more.
People be sellin' shiz all up 'n' down the block. (MAGFest 2013)
This is what the gaming expos are about, and thanks to a few e-mails I barely paid attention to, a streetpass tag and a Google search, I've found that Philadelphia has been getting a second chance with Too Many Games
It blows my mind. Just a few years ago I felt as if the East Coast had zero gaming presence and looked to the West Coast in envy. Over there they had stuff like E3, CES and San Diego Comic-Con. What did we have over here?
Well, I'd say right now, the East Coast has it better. Even the largest event, PAX East (and man, is it huge
) is an emphasis on the experience of the attendee rather than being a trade show. It's not about press releases and trailers and marketing, it's about a love of games and bringing gamers together as a family. Escapist Expo takes this a different direction, focusing more on the press and critic side of things while still offering content for the culture. MAGFest is about combining mediums into a wonderful weekend-long concert. And now, TooManyGames, which looks to be of a similar scope as Escapist Expo.
I officially have an Expo for every season. Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter can be packed with events to go to and meet new people or make new friends.
I get to experience Heaven four times a year, and that is awesome.