A comprehensive and retrospective look back at PAX East

Extremely long blog incoming! This is pretty much a full comprehensive blog about my all-expenses-paid trip to Boston for PAX East, so be prepared for a lot of reading and picture viewing!

Dag yo! So, keeping with my one year old tradition of waiting roughly a month after PAX is over to finally gather my thoughts about the event and all, I guess some of you may be interested in what I thought about the trip to PAX East that I won. I originally had no intent on going. So sure that I actually applied to be an adopted avatar and had NikMonroe adopt my laboratory DOMO. I’m glad I found a way to get to Boston, as it was another fun filled weekend with Dtoiders.

I’m writing this blog more in the vein of trying to let whoever reads this feel like they were with me on the trip and experience what I experienced. I’ll add that for some awkward reason, I didn’t take like any pictures of myself with fellow Dtoiders, and the more I think about it, the more I think I didn’t because I was just having such a good time chilling out and just chatting with everyone. So pretty much almost all pictures with Dtoiders I’ve stolen from other members.

With that said, let’s begin!

You know what’s freaking awesome? Having an Exhibitor Pass! That pink pass you have there is pretty much the highest end pass you can get and pretty much trumps all. It even outranks the media passes that Hamza and other press were given. I didn’t have to wait in the massively long queue line, was able to walk wherever I wanted, and even had some people mistake me for being an actual employee of Southpeak Games. Much love and thanks goes out to them for getting me this super awesome pass.

The other pass you see here was a VIP Pass for the Gamers Gone Wild party at LIR that I was allowed to attend. You may have read that some other Dtoiders attended it as well and found it quite lame and all, but they were unfortunately not able to get to the top floor of the place, where all the fun was happening. It was actually a pretty sweet time, but more on that later.

Taking advantage of my “no lines for Funktastic” Exhibitor Pass, I actually went to the show floor about an hour early the first day to see everyone doing last minute setup. I took a look at a few booths and all, keeping an eye out for kickass swag, but then stumbled upon a couple gaming stores that were setting up. You can see from the pictures that these two stores had a whole crapload of awesome. I actually decided to kind of help them setup, while looking at what gems they had for sale. I managed to snag a number of things I had been looking for, but that’s for another blog.

If you live in Boston or are ever in the area, I highly recommend you check out Game Underground and Game Universe, especially if you’re looking for old school rare retro games.

Exploring the show floor when it opened proved to be another adventure. There were quite a number of cosplayers but these two (or three you could say) were probably my favorites. There was also a really good Witch from Left 4 Dead, a borderline obscenely tall Bayonetta, and a few others.

So, I’ve been to two PAXs now and I’ve met Bill Amend twice! Pretty freaking awesome! In case you don’t know who he is, he’s the creator and cartoonist of what I believe is the best newspaper comic ever, FoxTrot. I was going to buy his latest book in Boston to get it signed, but the Borders I went to were out of stock (plus they didn’t have any DOMO-KUN *waves angry fist at TheCleaningGuy*!) so I was sort of panicking. Luckily he had special prints he was selling for PAX East, of which I managed to snag one and get him to sign and pose for yet another picture.

Harmonix did a hell of a job with their Rock Band Lounge they had setup. As you can see, there was a bar and a stage for people to play on. Every single song released for Rock Band was playable and I know you can’t see them, but there were also a few couches and bean bag chairs spread around. It was a pretty sweet place to chill out and waste some time.

I’ve just come to expect awesome from Rockstar nowadays. Even though they had a pretty small both at PAX 2009, they had what I thought was pretty much the best swag, and a few good demos. At PAX East, they pretty much were just showing off Red Dead Redemption, and let me say that if you like Grand Theft Auto and western themed anything, you will LOVE this game. It controls very well, it has a very wide open world, looks great, and just plays all around awesome. The swag wasn’t nearly as good this time, though.

Next up we have the 2K Games booth. As you can see, this was also a pretty effing huge booth. I managed to demo Mafia II and after playing Red Dead Redemption, I was pretty impartial. I mean it wasn’t terrible or anything, but I’d much rather play the latter if given a choice between the two. They also had some BioShock 2 multiplayer going on and a special “you have to schedule a time to get in” preview of Civilization V, which looks damn near amazing if you’ve played any of the others.

It was really nice to see Aksys Games getting a bit more exposure than at PAX 2009. They still had a relatively small booth, but this time they didn’t have to share it with another company. Plus they had three games on demo. If you love shoot-‘em-ups like BulletMagnet and Zoel do, you will just love DeathSmiles. It’s absolutely top notch for the genre and so far there’s a pretty kickass Limited Edition that’s coming out in the summer. BlazBlue: Continuum Shift just honestly felt like more BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger to me, but then again, I’m not an overly big fan of that kind of fighting game. Finally on the left hand corner, you can barely see Bit.Trip Runner, which for someone who had never played the previous entries in the series, was thoroughly impressed. Jonathan Holmes won one of those Commander Video LEGO “trophies” as he showed off in his blog, but on the whole it was a pretty sweet small booth. They even had an auction for those scrolls you can see in the background, but due to constraints, I didn’t bid on any of them.

Here was Hudson’s modest booth and all, which pretty much looked the exact same as the Seattle convention’s, only with different games. There was nothing really outstanding besides some pretty decent swag, a demo of Rooms: The Main Building that I found to be a really fun puzzle game, and the cute chick from the Seattle show that was once again running the Diner Dash demo, of whom I chatted with for a while …

This is just a general picture of the Microsoft area and the show floor. There were just a bunch of demos of games, with the most predominant one being Crackdown 2. I didn’t really want to wait in line to play it nor abuse my Exhibitor Pass, which would’ve let me skip the line and all. Some booth attendants thought I wanted to do it on a number of occasions and even offered to boot people off for me. That was one of my gripes about the show, actually.

Now we have Ubisoft’s booth. This picture is of the Prince of Persia one, where there was a giant screen they used to show off the new game coming out, as well as have people dance to Just Dance. The other one right next to it was a big Splinter Cell multiplayer funfest. There was an exclusive PAX beanie available to those who pre-ordered the game, of which I tried to do since I’m a swag whore like that. I was shocked to find out that they hadn’t taken Canadian attendees into account, though.

That’s where Psyche comes in! She also thought that Canadians shouldn’t be left out, so she still gave me a beanie! Hopefully this won’t get you in trouble for that, Psyche! She also mistook me as a Southpeak employee, like a number of people did. I told her that I won a contest on Destructoid that was sponsored by them, so that’s how I ended up in Boston. She immediately asked if I knew Hamza, of which I told her I did, which led to the exchange of some funny stories about him. My fellow Dtoiders, let me tell you that our beloved Community Manager is quite the party animal! Plus she seems to be pretty into my good friend and travel buddy DOMO as you can see in the picture!

Now we have the Nintendo booth. Truth be told, they had a very small showing and was pretty much showing off the latest Pokémon’s and the DSi XL. This was the guy manning the booth and while I didn’t catch his name, he was pretty cool. So cool that DOMO wanted a picture with him. They had some pretty bitchin’ Pokémon bags they were giving out, but you’d really expect more from such a big company and all. Also, the guy got an OBSCENE amount of watts for his PokéWalker, and I think he was at around 60,000 at the beginning of the last day of the convention. DOMO’s a pretty big Pokémon fan, so he wanted to get in on a picture of all the Pokéaction!

My knowledge of Fangamer prior to checking out this booth was the Mother 3 Handbook they pretty much made from scratch that my buddy Zoel harps about all the time. After seeing this booth, I can say that my mind was thoroughly blown. The fan made stuff they had was nothing short of awesome and wasn’t tacky or just so blatant and lame like most Hot Topic videogame related items are. I really loved the subtlety of the items they had for purchase. As you can see from the first picture, they had white board markers for people to draw on the surfaces of the booth, and I’m pretty sure ScottyG drew a Mr. Destructoid on there somewhere, but I was retarded and forgot to take a picture.

You also had a display case of all the Earthbound figures they made and that was pretty cool to see. They pretty much had everything you can buy online at their store for sale at the convention, which was hella sweet. I did my fair share of shopping with them and already believe it was a grave mistake I didn’t spend more there, as I’m really thinking I should’ve picked up a few more things for me and for a few friends.

Just across from Fangamer, we had the perennial favorites of Mega 64. The whole gang was there and I was lucky enough to watch their first impromptu dance party. I freakin’ love these guys for the crazy shit they do.

Full fledge Ghostbusters? How the hell can you go wrong with that? The only thing missing is DOMO, of which I should’ve asked one of them to hold.

So, I have more pictures of other booths and stuff but I’m already pretty damn picture heavy in this blog. I’m missing some of stuff I really should’ve gotten pictures of, but the following are a few other plusses about the convention and a number of things I was sorely disappointed with. They’ll be denoted by either a “+” for a “-“

+ The Rooster Teeth, Behemoth, Wizards of the Coast, Monday Night Combat, and Xbox Live Arcade booths were also very nice booths with cool stuff to see and play.

+ How accommodating the cosplayers were of people wanting to take pictures of them, despite a fair number of the people being huge douchebags.

+ The amount of seating and how the main theater was actually like a theater for the big panels, concerts, and Omegathon.

+ The classic arcade area that actually had retro cabinets and all was totally effing awesome.

+ Puzzle Quest 2 kicks total ass! They’ve gone back to the original Puzzle Quest formula with a few tweaks, and it is nothing short of awesome again!

+ How a lot of the people who had never been to an event like this, or haven’t had the chance to experience the much superior PAX Prime, were all really happy and enjoying the convention.

+ During the last day and close to the closing of the exhibition floor, there were Enforcers FINALLY doing their job and trying to usher people out. When they saw ScottyG walking around they tried to kick him out, but then when they saw he was with me and my Exhibitor Pass, they backed off. It was pretty funny.

+ The staff of Uno’s being nothing short of incredible and amazingly accommodating to our very large group and the shenanigans we caused.

How incredibly oversold the event was! As ScottyG mentioned in his blog, the event was massively oversold with lineups becoming obscene and just way the hell too many people everywhere. Honestly, if I didn’t have the “God Pass” I did, I would’ve probably been too frustrated and pissed off to have even see half the things I did.

How piss poorly organized the lines for meeting people (like Bill Amend, Jonathan Coulton, Wil Wheaton, etc.) were. I mean, there was a point where they wanted me to jump in the giant ass line for Wil Wheaton to meet Bill Amend as well, when there were only like 10 people for him, as opposed to the 100+ for Wil Wheaton. Might I also add how having them sign stuff and their tables in a place with like NO ROOM to line up was goddamn stupid.

How mind-bogglingly incompetent the Enforcers were. As ScottyG mentioned, while they’re volunteers and all, the least they could do is do their job! Besides the usual ones that are actually affiliated with Penny-Arcade, the others were useless and didn’t actually enforce anything like lines, organization, or the like. It got so bad that actual Boston police officers had to takeover security, organization, and fire regulation detail.

How the checking of badges/passes was pretty much non-existent. I would’ve put money down that if ANYONE had a PAX 2009 badge, they would’ve got in the first two days. They were letting everyone in for everything and once again, the Enforcers did nothing. I mean, while this is the first PAX East, it’s not like the Penny-Arcade crew have never done one of these before, and the organization was just a mess. Once again, it got so bad that Boston police officers were in charge of checking badges on the last day.

How Destructoid was somehow not invited to do the “Online Gaming Communities and ‘Real Life’ Relationships” panel.

How Sega once again had an extremely small booth and might as well not have showed up.

How upon talking to the Nintendo guy before the show started, I discovered that Nintendo originally wasn’t even going to show up for the convention, but since they felt that the East Coast is usually ignored, they should at least make an appearance.

How Sony was completely non-existent at PAX East.

The poor showing from a lot of companies in general, and the very poor quality and amount of swag compared to PAX Prime.

How a ton of press were trying to make this into a press event as opposed to one for the fans, as they’d just barge to the front of demo lines and get exhibitors to boot people off who had been waiting upwards of an hour to play the demo!

How about halfway through the first day, they ran out of PAX East Scarves, of which I really wanted to buy one, but thought they would have a sufficient supply and I could get one later. Stupid non-football loving (even though he’s British!) NikMonroe got one, and now I’m just super envious of him, hah!

Getting water balloons dropped on us from some crazy university students. Mainly on megaStryke, but his head apparently isn’t “sharp” enough to burst the balloons, so they just bounced off of it!

With all that said, it was still a pretty good convention and all. It was very evident that it was a first time thing and well, they’re moving to a bigger venue next year, so I guess we’ll see how that pans out.

I thought to myself, “how often am I in Boston?” so I decided that I would go exploring one afternoon to see what the city was like. I can say that I absolutely love the architecture and buildings in that city, as it’s got a nice old school British kind of look. It was nice to see that the city kept the buildings and the stores embraced them. The second picture is what I believe to be Copley Square in downtown Boston, which was pretty awesome and spacious. DOMO was quite a fan as well! I walked down Newbury Street, which from what I can tell, is Boston’s “high-end” stores area.

As I began my trek from the convention center to the waterfront, I came to Boston Commons, which was like a giant public park that at even this time of the year was really pretty with the tree’s starting to bloom and all. In the first picture, we have a statue/monument of George Washington on horseback. I had to contain DOMO, since he thought the horse looked mighty tasty. It was nice to see a lot of the history of the city on my way to the Atlantic Ocean. The other picture is of DOMO and a tree that was just starting to bloom and just looked really cool. You might also notice the empty lake which was unfortunate, since during late Spring and Summer, they have swan boat rides and a frog pond. I really want to come back during the Summer to see this place, as I’ve been told it’s nothing short of gorgeous.

As I continued my afternoon stroll, I came upon a statue of Samuel Adams, so you beer fans should be pretty happy with that! Not too far from the statue was Quincy Market, which had a bunch of cool stores and tourist stuff in it. There was also the “waterfront” Cheers restaurant, of which DOMO got pretty excited about! Going into Quincy Market, I discovered a plethora of stores and food kiosks. I had many choices, with the majority of them having fresh seafood, but I finally settled on freshly shucked scallops wrapped in bacon with some butter rice. I can tell you it was nothing short of delicious!

After about an hour and a half of walking, I finally made it to the waterfront. It was nice to see the Atlantic Ocean once again, since it had been probably over 10 years since the last time I saw it.

On the last day of the convention, ScottyG was kind enough to accompany me to Harvard, which was another site I wanted to see while I was in Boston. Unfortunately, MIT just couldn’t fit into the schedule. Still, there are cities that are considered “university towns” and all, but let me tell you, Harvard is literally its own city with how absolutely huge the campus is. The lame thing about it would be that there’s no “main entrance/gate” to get a nice touristy picture of, but DOMO decided this one was as close as we’d get. We also stopped by The Harvard Shop for some souvenirs and all, because I mean Harvard!

Another place I really wish I could’ve toured would’ve been Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. Despite how I deem baseball to be a joke and not a sport, I do have a lot of respect for the tradition and history of some of the teams. I’m totally with Samit as he approved of me hating baseball, but loving  the Yankees! This picture is from walking back from Jillian’s, which was the bar/bowling alley we went to before our last night at Uno’s.

Once again, I’m trying to keep the picture count of this blog manageable, but hopefully it’s given you guys a taste of how beautiful the city is. I can tell you that I really want to go back and would suggest that if you have a chance to, be sure to go there and check the place out. Now onto the community portion of my blog.

Upon getting to Boston and settling into my hotel, I met up with people at Uno’s, which essentially became Destructoid’s evening headquarters much like how the Red Lion’s Elephant and Castle is for PAX Prime. I came with a bag full of goodies like extra games and swag that I had that I thought my fellow Dtoider’s would enjoy and it seems like they did. As I said in my intro paragraph of this blog, upon looking back at the pictures I took I realized I pretty much don’t have any with other Dtoiders since there were tons of other cameras being used and I quite enjoyed just sitting and enjoying my time with the community.

The following are a few of my favorite pictures along with the one above this paragraph, and once again, I’m trying to be picture conservative here. If you want to see more pictures I suggest you go to the Dtoid Flickr Photo Account or the Memoirs of PAX East 2010 from the Dtoid Community article!


Now for some shout outs. ScottyG, absolute pleasure to see you again my fellow Canadian!It was  awesome to just chill with you again and thanks for accompanying me on my adventure to Harvard, as well as just chatting about your life and what you’ve been up to. It’s one of the reasons why I love the Destructoid community so much, since the stories and backgrounds of everyone is so different and awesome. I guess it was okay seeing you again bunnyrabbit2, hah! Hopefully your girlfriend enjoys the Jonathan Coulton DVD and you keep the Rock Band love up. MrChewie! Was awesome meeting you as you were my Destructoid Secret Santa. Plus you and Volkarin were always up to hilarious shenanigans. It was awesome seeing you again as well mate, but I think the best part of the weekend was when you were drunk, ordered a nice looking burger, put it together, ate all the fries, then tried to pawn the burger off!

Andrew Kauz, you are awesome and a blast to meet in person. You did quite the job with your adopted avatars, plus it was nice chatting with you and trying to shun away the elaborate homeless guy. I also can’t forget walkyourpath/Sean Carey either, as he just seemed like the most sophisticated guy there, plus he will annihilate anyone in an Irish Coffee drinking contest. Then there’s the third “recently” added to the Destructoid contributing member in megaStryke/Tony Ponce that I got to chat with. The guy really does know his Off Brand Games, of which I’m jealous of a few he has. Plus you were easily the most dedicated avatar adopter. It was also nice to chat with you, Jonathan Holmes, about Nintendo stuff, podcasts, and various other stuff. Plus, I may still follow up on your suggestion of me and Wry Guy doing a community podcast. Samit buddy! MERRY BIRTHDAY YO  Glad I had a chance to talk to a fellow sports enthusiast and Yankees fan mate! Quite the awesome and touching gesture they had for Matsui eh?

Yet another Brit that was super awesome to meet, especially since he volunteered to adopt my avatar before I won the contest, was NikMonroe. So awesome just chatting it up with you about England and how you’re a fake Brit since you don’t love football! You can’t forget DanlHass either, since he got third for the Pitch Your Game Idea contest with Lady Gaga’s Moonwalker. Congrats again dude! Tino and his roommate Val were just awesome and fun loving people to be around. Despite how I didn’t really talk to you, your work in terms of organizing meet ups and keeping the community update was greatly appreciated power-glove. It was quite the kickass experience to listen to your tunes and all Zen Albatross! I’ve got your business card and I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for more GameBoys for you.

Despite never playing it even though I own it, it was awesome to hear your Wild Arms 3 a cappella Analoge! Wexx buddy! It was awesome to just chill with you at Jillian’s and Uno’s dude! Necros my fellow collector. It was a pleasure to hang out with you again and your buds. I don’t see how anyone couldn’t possibly love Cataract and all? Awesome meeting you in person and thanks for organizing the Destructoid Secret Santa. Hopefully my in person “Dag yo!” made you happy! Plus, congratulations on beating Justin Wong at Street Fighter IV.

It was also very awesome to talk to you and your lady JT IceFire, and I was incredibly jealous of your Power Glove you had! FatherChesz dude, we still have to figure out a trade! How could I possibly forget about the local crew of Senisan82 and rawnewdlz? I was very happy that I had much more time to talk to you guys this time around. Also, much thanks for taking me to Newbury Comics to pick up yet another DOMO to add to my collection. It was some pretty awesome Bostonian hospitality.

Any other Dtoiders that I missed giving a shout out to, my greatest apologies. Regardless of if I mentioned you or not, it’s you guys that make PAX such a fun experience, as it’s just good times with good people. I find PAX is more of an excuse to get everyone together, as opposed to the reason of actually travelling to Boston/Seattle. Once again, much love to all of you and hopefully I’ll be seeing you guys in Seattle in September.

But wait, it doesn’t stop there! I’d like to give an extra special shout out and thanks to our one and only super kickass shark and Community Manager, Hamza! I can honestly say that I don’t think a lot of the community members know how much this incredible man does for us! From organizing meet ups and making sure everyone’s in the loop and feels included, to bailing on apparently kickass and women filled parties like the Frag Dolls one so he could come hang out with us at Uno’s, Mr. Hairy Arms does it all! I’d also like to personally thank him for helping me out with the whole preview and interview I had to do for Two Worlds II, and how he let me tag along for a nice dinner and party with the TopWare Interactive and SouthPeak Games people! He also seems to have a crazy messed up sleep schedule like I do!

His contribution to the community is immeasurable and for that I truly offer you a wholehearted thank you! Those of you who haven’t met him yet, despite how he may be a shark, he’s not overly dangerous or anything and very approachable. The only time you’ll have to be wary of him is if he’s a bit too intoxicated and begins showing off body parts … Thanks Hamza for everything you do. You’re doing a great job and please keep it up!

Good lord! When will this blog end? I’m pretty much almost at ten pages, so if you’re still with me, I commend you for actually getting this far. Hopefully my journey to PAX East has been somewhat entertaining and all. I saved the best for last though!

I would also like to give a hearty thanks to everyone from TopWare Interactive and SouthPeak Games for treating me so well and for hosting the contest that sent me to PAX East. Let me tell you that these are some of the nicest, down-to-earth people you’ll meet in the game industry, and you can tell just from talking to them that the passion they have for making a great game knows no bounds. I’d like to thank Jake, Jonathan, James, Devon, Joey, Aubrey, Angela, and the few others whose names I didn’t catch, for putting so much time and effort into making sure I had a good time. I’d like to thank them for working so diligently on Two Worlds II, of which I hope you read my preview and interview about the game, since it’s looking really good!

From the airfare and the accommodations, to the super kickass Exhibitor Pass, to the free drink tickets James kept giving me at the exhibitor only dinner (damn I just remembered how good that beef was), to how nice, welcoming, and inviting you guys were, to the awesome preview of the game, to the very nice meal at Barlow’s, to allowing me into the VIP section of the Gamers Gone Wild Party, to talking about REAL football (GLORY GLORY MAN UNITED), to posing for pictures with DOMO, to just being all around awesome, accommodating, and incredible. It made for an absolutely wonderful trip that I’ll remember and cherish always. Everything you guys did for me was greatly appreciated and hopefully I can meet up with you guys again and just chat and have a good time!

P.S. For you TopWare guys in the California office, expect your Maple Syrup and other Canadian goodies in a couple weeks, despite how we were robbed by Mike Dean yet again, but luckily he’s been sent down to the Championship where he belongs!

P.P.S.  Aubrey! NINJATOWN 2, make it happen!!!

Well, that’s all folks! Hopefully I didn’t bore you to tears and all with this extremely lengthy blog about my PAX East experience. It was super fun and awesome and hopefully it gave you guys a glimpse of the fun that can be had by going to Seattle or Boston. I’m looking into finding out when a possible family reunion is, which would keep me from PAX 2010, but I’m hoping I can figure things out and I’ll be able to see you all in September. Also, if you’re interested in seeing more of my pictures and all, if you have me as a friend on Facebook, they’ll be going up on there somewhat soonish. Until next time, latez mates!

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