After tremendous anticipation, Chooch and I attended PAX East last weekend in Boston, MA. Unable to attend on Friday, we enjoyed the convention on Saturday and Sunday. In spite of the shortened experience, it was a fantastic weekend and we hit almost all the things we wanted to see.
I have to say that this was a seamless and tremendously enjoyable convention. We’re not pro’s at this in any stretch of the imagination, but it was so well planned and executed you’d have to be a fool not to appreciate it. One of the smartest things they did was to mail out the convention badges a few weeks before the convention. Instead of having to get in a long registration line we just breezed in, got our bearings and off we went. It was awesome.
Another fantastic detail was the constant presence of the courteous and efficient volunteer Enforcers. You barely had time to realize you were in disoriented before you spotted one to keep you on track. They kept the queues orderly and moving, and all I chatted with were very pleasant.
The only real drawback was that the venue was undersized for the event, which is something that the organizers realized early on. They’ve already committed to a larger venue for 2011 and 2012, which will also be held in Boston. The biggest complaint as a result of the too-small venue was that many were unable to get into events. We didn’t have this problem, likely because we immediately stripped down our intended panel attendance to ensure that we’d see and do what was most important without spending the necessary hour or more to get into less important (to us) events.
Backing things up, we left home at 1:00am on Saturday morning after Chooch took a long nap after work. We were too early for check-in at our hotel, but knew this would be the case and really just made the stop to utilize their parking garage. We hopped on the subway across the street from the hotel and headed in to PAX. We arrived too late to attend the City of Heroes panel, so instead made our way to the queue for the Penny Arcade Make-A-Strip Panel. The queue for the biggest events in the Main Theater was actually a gigantic space on the first level. We settled into line and got to take a look at our fellow con-goers. It will come as no surprise that there were more Nintendo DS/DSi/DSiXL devices in sight than I have ever seen in my life.
We made it through the line, wound our way around the first floor, up the escalators and into what ended up being my favorite experience of the entire weekend. While we had hoped that it would be a live brainstorming of the Penny Arcade webcomic, as we so love on their podcast, it ended up being a Q & A while Mike did the artwork for a strip they had already scripted. I was crestfallen, until about 45 seconds later. It was an absolutely delightful, hilarious and poignant hour and a half. I’m very hopeful that a video will appear, because I doubt the notes I took will do it any justice. I may post those later, but for now want to jot down my thoughts of the entire convention.
We bolted immediately after it ended in the hopes of grabbing spots in the Dungeons and Dragons for New Players session. Chooch has obviously played before, but I never really have and we were excited to remedy this situation. It was packed, and there were no spots open for the rest of the weekend. Bummer. There was apparently a much larger turnout for all of the D & D sessions than were expected, and I truly hope they expand it next year.
We instead made a pass through the Expo, and while there was a tremendous amount of … well, everything… we were both surprised at the under-representation of the MMORPG’s. No WoW, no STO, no Champions, no Aion… It was disappointing on that front to be honest, as I’d hoped to grab phat lewt for friends that play. I’m happy to report that Turbine was represented in a big way for Lord of The Rings Online, which is one of the games that Chooch and I play. They loaded us down with awesome gifts when we told them we’d played in beta and were lifetime founders subscribers. They even let us in on even more loot they were giving out the next morning! Our dear friend and longtime gaming buddy has benefited from our good luck, as we grabbed gear for her birthday the next day. We even got to meet the developers and that was another of my favorite experiences. They really know how to make their players feel appreciated.
After our run through the Expo we headed to the hotel, checked in and collapsed briefly. As exhausted and sleep deprived as we were, there was no way we were going to miss the City of Heroes Meet and Greet at Jillian’s. Feeling slightly recharged, we headed over and to our great delight the event was packed! There had to be over a hundred attendees, and the spread that the CoH devs laid out was fantastic! Shortly after we got there, the pace of the weekend had caught up with me. Dizziness hit me, and a migraine started up. We contemplated leaving, but honestly just didn’t want to leave. We met both Brian Clayton and Matt “Positron” Miller, and even got a rundown from Matt on what we missed during the panel for our City of Heroes Podcast feed. We chatted with a few other players, and had a wonderful time in spite of my symptoms.
After collapsing upon our return to the hotel, we got up early on Sunday morning to make sure we got to the Turbine booth bright and early. We passed by Jonathan Coulton *squee*, and realized that he and Wil Wheaton were doing signings there. We waited out the line for Jonathan Coulton and again enjoyed the queue because of those around us. What an intensely cool guy! We bought his concert DVD since he only performed five or six songs at the They Might Be Giants concert that he opened for in early March. Chooch and I both really wanted more, and are happy that he’s passing through the area again soon-ish. We also couldn’t pass up a second chance at getting a gift for the person that first exposed me to his musical goodness, this time autographed!
Next we hopped into the line to meet Wil Wheaton, and while waiting got pictures of one of the cast members from the Playstation Network show “Testers”. After meeting Wil, we grabbed a bite and headed down to get into line for the book Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins book signing. The wait was again fantastic, and in the ocean of Nintendo handhelds I actually spotted a Sony PSP! We were surrounded by super cool peeps, and the sense of camaraderie that we witnessed all weekend continued. After a long and worthwhile wait, we very briefly got to meet Jerry and Mike. I’m such a huge fan off all they do that I don’t even remember what I said to them, but was disappointed we couldn’t get a picture with them due to the huge line behind us.
We made another pass through the Classic Arcade rooms, mainly because we couldn’t bear leaving. Before you ask… yes, I’m already budgeting for next year. And it looks like at least one of our sons will be going with us!