I fought Destructoid, but Destructoid won
When I first came home from PAX East 2011, I described it as a taste of what Heaven must be like. If that was a mere taste, then this year was an entire spoon full.
The previous two years I tried to do and see as much as possible, darting between panels and the Expo Floor trying to miss as little as I could. This year I tried a different approach. I instead chose to focus on the Expo Hall, concerts, board games and social gatherings while ignoring the panels and some other activities.
As a result, I had the best PAX ever. I did not have a chance to meet with any members of the Destructoid community outside of a quick run-in with Hamza and whoever was wearing The Helmet(TM), but I did manage to spend much time with my friends over at GamersWithJobs (I'm sorry, Destructoid, you know I love you, but no one shall have my heart like GamersWithJobs).
Between games of The Wonderful 101, Mercenary Kings, The Last of Us, Remember Me and more, the Curse party where I discovered I like dance music as long as I'm shit-faced enough, and a variety of board and card games I got to try with friends, I also got to experience the concerts. Seeing Those Who Fight and The Protomen with old friends from College and new allies in meat space, head banging together, jumping and throwing the horns, it's a wonderful experience. Some might describe it as spiritual, as a collective group experiences the same chemical-flooded brain haze at the same time, bonding in a hot and sweaty chamber of hard rock and metal.
It is epic.
The GamersWithJobs 3DS Advocates at PAX East
I thought I was fortunate that The Protomen would be playing near my town a week later. Sadly, none of my friends were able to go that night, but I figured "what the Hell, it'll be like reliving PAX all over again". My Post-PAX Depression would be soothed ever so slightly while others continued to wallow in the reality that is the non-PAX world.
What a fool I was to believe that atmosphere would carry over. Throughout the night I approached people that looked fun, interesting, those who felt like they'd know the secret knock, a sort of password that could take the form of Live Long and Prosper, or the Wilhelm Scream, or some other small piece of nerd culture.
"Hey, have you heard the opening act before?" "You get to check out The Protomen at PAX?" "You get to see them play with Powerglove last year?"
I asked all of these questions to a variety of folks, hoping to get some sort of reaction. Some sort of response that would start a friendly conversation. The advantage here was that everyone would be reasonably local! Our friendship, our bond, didn't have to end after the concert, but could continue for weekends after. Theoretically.
In actuality, I was met with short, curt, "no" responses before they physically shifted their bodies in an effort to shut me out. A complete disinterest in speaking with me. After an hour of trying to speak to people, I finally settled onto the main floor, waiting the concert to begin. Alone.
Instantly my mind went to the week before, standing beside friends new and old, banging my head, throwing the horns, singing along (as best as I could hear myself) with the music. Now, I would be left to bang my head and throw the horns alone.
I left the concert and hung out with my other friends. Thirteen dollars spent be damned, I was not going to tarnish my more recent, joyful, exuberant memory of the concert with a lonely one.
PAX isn't about the games. It isn't about the panels. It isn't about the industry members you get to briefly shake hands with. It's about the conversations you get to have.
True, there are some total ass maggots at the Expo, too. As hard as we try we shall never recreate Eden on Earth. I overheard a guy discussing the first two Bioshock games, trying to recall who developed the second. "2K Marin," I pipe up. "A number of previous Irrational developers split off and formed a new studio." The guy shrugs, "Yeah whatevers", and continues to ignore me. Asshole. Other folks were willing to shove people in the Expo Hall, or to stand around obliviously blocking the path of others, or potentially even cut in line.
Yet these folks are not the majority. The majority of folks are willing to take part in a communal joke, tossing about beach balls while waiting for the expo to open up, willing to step up and ask "Hey, what board game is that?", willing to hold your camera to take a random photo, to get into an hour-long conversation about the entire Halo franchise.
Or perhaps the highlight, a discussion with a nineteen year old boy in line for a copy of Luigi's Mansion. Now, my recent interactions with this demographic have left me jaded. I have debated with those that would call Activision a good company, who expect more games to be like Call of Duty, who feel Treyarch did a much better job than Infinity Ward because of minute changes to the multiplayer. Those who dismissed innovative titles because they weren't familiar enough, and could care less for story or single-player campaigns. The sort of demographic that feels like it is ruining this industry, all aged sixteen to twenty-one.
Yet this nineteen year old heard I had a physical cartridge of Earthbound still and his enthusiastic jealousy made me smile. He missed Earthbound when it was new, and only heard of it when playing Super Smash Bros. at the age of six. Yet here he was, wishing they'd release Mother 3 in America, just like an old twenty-seven year old fogey like me.
It really hit home for me what PAX was about. It wasn't just about the games, the panels, or the "community". It's the celebration and passion. All the people that are there not only for the games, but to experience it with others. Willing to say hello to a stranger and strike up a conversation because, hey, why the Hell not?
It is this little slice of Heaven that I don't think I'll be able to recapture outside of an Expo.
Fortunately, TooManyGames and Escapist Expo are just around the corner. Who knows? Maybe I'll finally get a chance to meet some DToiders at those events.view gallery