--This has been split into two parts for its ridiculously long length. Part 2 will go up tomorrow :)--
It's certainly a bold proclamation. I have attended seven of the eight PAX shows (not including PAX East, which has been going for two years), and each has contained something truly wonderful. For a week now, even before the PAX weekend began, I have wondered what this blog entry would contain. Would it be long, or short? Would I have had such an amazing time that simple words would not suffice? Would this be a dread year, lacking in personal interests and I would be short on stories? And if fantastic things did happen, how would I choose which ones to share with everyone?
I sit here, hands poised over the keyboard and a mostly white screen staring at me. The week's passing has not eased the writing process. The wonderful truth is that many amazing things happened. I had what was probably the most incredible PAX ever. But why? Seven out of eight shows, and this one was the best in my mind? I suppose I'll start by examining why I believe this is the case. Don't worry now, it's a very simple answer.
Participation. That's it. See? I told you it was simple. All those years of attending one of the greatest video game conventions in existence and I finally started to participate. Every year I go and sure, I have fun. I play the demo machines in the expo hall and I attend panels and laugh along with the crowd. I stand in lines among my fellow gamers and I relax in the handheld lounges. But this time I talked to people. I engaged those around me and I got over my intense fear of I-don't-even-know-what. Of course it helped that my absolute best friend was there with me. She makes everything better.
As a result, I had an extremely memorable PAX. I had the one-of-a-kind social experience that almost a hundred thousand gamers have. A new friend everywhere you turn. What could be better? The tall man in line for a free ICO shirt, the friendly cosplayer in line for a signing. The amazingly talented and sweet female Link and Dark Link cosplayers who not only posed for pictures, but found us later and chatted with us. The developers who are happy to meet rabid fans, and the new vendors who are overwhelmed by their product's popularity. The incredibly kind man that is Wil Wheaton, the total strangers who welcome newcomers with open arms to play fun and complex board games. This was my weekend.
I considered doing a run-down of each day, but that would take far too long. Plus, so much happened on Friday and Saturday that it felt as though a whole week had gone by and honestly I just can't remember everything. You will be given the highlights and spared the exhaustion! I don't have any particular order in mind, so I'm going to start writing memories as they come to me. I hope that's alright.
On Friday night I did something that I have wanted to do every year that I've attended PAX: go to a board game room and play with some strangers. I didn't care which game or who I was playing it with. I desperately love board games of almost every kind, and there aren't nearly enough of them in my life. I am beyond thrilled that Andrew and one of his housemates love board games because now they are becoming so much more present in my life. I always knew that playing at PAX would be a good time. The convention provides a monstrous array of games for attendees to check out and play, and many PAXers bring their own from home as well. The game that Jacki and I had the pleasure of playing was Battlestar Galactica.
She happens to love the show, I have never watched it before. It seems right up my alley though, I certainly love Farscape, so I'm sure I'll give it a watch before too long. We played with some friendly folk, two were from the Seattle area and the other two were a couple from Australia. They were traveling all over the U.S. hitting various conventions over the past month. I believe they left for home yesterday, and I hope that they had a pleasant journey back! The game was really fun, but also fairly complicated. Although in my recent exposure to a bunch of new board games, it would appear that they're all complicated. Moreso than something along the lines of Monopoly (which everyone is familiar with). So long as all players can be patient, things will eventually get going. We didn't have the chance to finish our game, but we enjoyed what we did play.
Something that has always been lacking in my PAX experiences (that was very prevalent in other people's) is good free swag. If you're unfamiliar with the term, swag is free stuff received at an event. There are always swag bags, and occasionally they have something fun, like a toy or a d20, but for the most part I feel pretty 'meh' about the bags. After the weekend is over I invariably read about people who won great items in raffles, or managed to snag some super awesome rare shirts. I usually leave empty handed aside from the merchandise that I paid for. I don't mind though, because that merchandise is most likely a fun shirt or one of the newer books. Happy faces all around!
This year, however.... this year, I walked away with three supremely great and limited edition free shirts. The first one was a total accident. I feel a little badly about this, but after seven attendances I think I deserved it. My friend James and I made a beeline for the Sony booth first thing on Friday morning. We heard from our friend Jake that Sony was giving out ICO shirts at 10:30. I may go so far as to say I'm a 'die-hard' fan of the Team ICO games, so I had to get in on that. While we stood in the monstrous expo hall attempting to piece out where we needed to go, vendors started excitedly urging us to play Resistance 3.
If anyone knows me, they will know that I am not an FPS fan. I am terrible at them, and they're too violent for my tastes. But, I was at PAX, so what the hell? James and I shrugged and walked up to the rows of empty demo machines. I picked up a controller and thought, 'I don't even know which buttons do what.' The round started and I experimented with each button, figuring out scope, shooting, grenade and duck. Before I could finish all of the buttons I was killed by the opposing team. 'Oh well', I thought to myself. I hit respawn and continued mapping the rest of the controller. BAM, I was dead again. I laughed to myself and went, 'Well at least I know how to play now'. I respawned again and aimed at the first enemy I could find. I had already forgotten which button I needed, accidentally threw a grenade at a teammate, then was killed again. I shrugged and looked at James, who didn't appear to be having much more luck.
The round was then over and we were corralled to the other side of the display where we were told to line up for t-shirts. Again James and I looked at one another and shrugged, then got in line. We were given what turned out to be extremely rare (only 100 given out for each day) Resistance 3 t-shirts. They had a small option, which astounded me, and it's actually a very comfortable shirt. I like it.
More exciting though, and less serendipitous, were the ICO and Shadow of the Colossus shirts. I stood in line by myself for the ICO shirt, and chatted up a very tall man in line behind me. The announcer reminding people that they were giving out shirts at 10:30 kept pronouncing ICO as 'ee-ko', and I am fairly certain it is pronounced 'eye-ko'. I used this thought process to strike up the conversation, and we were well entertained during the wait. The ICO shirt ended up being bright orange, which was weird, and the smallest size available was medium. A bit of a bummer, but it appears to have shrunk a tiny bit in the wash. I will wear it either way.
Saturday had Jacki and me lining up at Sony for Shadow of the Colossus shirts. The line was positively astronomical. By the time we were up to the front they were out of mediums! I grabbed a larger size anyway, and one of the vendors said they'd be giving out shirts again at two. Jacki and I lined up again, and the second time around I managed to snag a medium for myself! This ended up working out very well because I was able to give the larger shirt to Andrew. I love happy endings.
For tomorrow: read all about our encounter with Link and Dark Link cosplayers, which lead to my insanely awesome opportunity to meet Wil Wheaton! PLUS, chatting with a Minecraft developer and the new online shop that Jacki and I are in love with. All that, and so much more.