Double Buffered

A Programmer’s View of Game Design, Development, and Culture

PAX ’09 Was Pretty Great, In Case You Were Wondering

Posted by Ben Zeigler on September 7, 2009

I just got back from Penny Arcade Expo 2009 (first time for me), and it was probably the greatest weekend of my life so far. I’ve had better single days, but on average PAX reigned supreme, which says more about my life than PAX. Anyway it was pretty rad. Awesome things:

  1. Everyone was basically cool. Gamers may be a bit confrontational on the internet, but get them together in person and it’s a giant love fest. Essentially everyone I saw looked extremely happy to be there (except for a small number of booth babe who were out of place), and hygiene was of an acceptable level. I was expecting awkward conversations with antisocial nerds, but I guess all the REALLY antisocial ones were too afraid to come. Most of the game booths were staffed by actual developers, and I talked to a few of them about random dev stuff. You can’t beat the vibe of 70,000 people who want to be exactly where they are.
  2. I went to an Idle Thumbs meetup (spot the side of my head in one of the photos!), and it was pretty sweet. Got fairly drunk at the Taphouse Grill (they were awesome for letting 30 nerds crash their party room with no advance notice), and talked to a variety of loud but interesting people. Turned down a free copy of Trine because I already had it. Met one of the developers of Sol Survivor, which I played the next day and was pretty fun.
  3. The Live Brodeo Reunion rocked. I don’t see any links to the video or audio yet, but if you enjoyed the old GFW show you are required to check it out. It was awkward for about the first 5 minutes, but after the dramatic reading of Anime Diaper forum posts it loosened up. It then rambled for about 2 hours, in the exact way I wanted it to. The Q&A questions were either good, or so bad that everyone made fun of them. Jazz English might feel bad though.
  4. Paul and Storm tore down the place at the Saturday concert. They were the opening band for Jonathan Coulton and I’d never heard of them before so had no expectations. What transpired was an hour of ridiculously funny comedy music, that worked due to the crowd being totally in to it. The PAX crowd is the most open to audience participation that I’ve ever witnessed, and instead of coming off as contrived and weird the energy made everything work. Honestly, Coulton was a massive letdown after them and I kind of left halfway through.
  5. The variety of fun games was ridiculous. A group of us from work entered a TF2 tournament (won first round, got slaughtered second round). I played some Marble Madness for NES. Cthulhu Munchkin and Nuclear War were played. I watched Spiderman dance on stage at Ubisoft’s booth (because, why not). I played some No More Heroes 2, which looks sweet and will be a day one purchase. I looked over the shoulders of people playing Diablo 3, Borderlands, Left 4 Dead 2, and Mass Effect 2, all of which looked like lots of fun. I participated in pictochat discussions of pirates before the Monkey Island panel. I like all forms of gaming, and all forms of gaming were well represented.

Sometimes it’s a bit hard to explain why I love working on video games, but there is now a succinct and powerful explanation: PAX. I’ve been to other nerd cons in the past, but I’ve always felt a bit out of place due to not really caring about comics or fantasy novels, but the whole weekend I couldn’t get over the feeling that PAX was created explicitly for me. Okay, me and a growing mass of people who all derive deep and lasting satisfaction out of what I do for a living. Much like Woodstock was, I can honestly say that PAX is the statement and embodiment of a unique culture. It has already outgrown Penny Arcade itself and it will immanently outgrow related internet nerdom (still don’t get the Wil Wheaton thing). We’re probably at the point where (like Woodstock again) the culture will quickly outgrow a single venue, so I advise everyone to check out PAX before it’s too late. I’ll gladly go again next year, but I can’t help but think that this year was something special, never to be repeated. I hope I’m wrong.

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One Response to “PAX ’09 Was Pretty Great, In Case You Were Wondering”

  1. Yeah, I’m mostly sorry I missed PAX this year. Except for the whole H1N1 thing, I’m pretty OK that I missed that.

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