I’ve been going to the Penny Arcade Expo since 2005. It’s local to me, and I love games and want to see them and play them and spend silly amounts of money on game-related merchandise, so I go every year – at least so far I’ve been lucky in getting tickets every year, which is getting to be more and more of an issue, so we’ll see how next year goes, I suppose.
My point is, I love PAX. I love being able to spend time with a ton of other gamers. The average congoer at PAX is extremely polite. PAX-goers share with each other, they help each other out. Enforcers are the nicest convention police I have ever seen. The atmosphere and environment at PAX is the most comfortable of any convention I have ever been to.
So I’m biased.
This year, PAX was four god-damn days long. I am no longer in my twenties. It was extremely fucking hard to do all four days. I almost regret it, but not enough to not do all four days next year (assuming I am lucky enough to score tickets). I was exhausted at the end of the con, though. Saturday and Sunday nights were especially hard – I was so tired I had headaches that were bad enough to cause severe nausea. Getting old fucking sucks.
Friday started out with just me and my boyfriend. Our roommate couldn’t get the day off, so he graciously gave Nick his Friday pass. First thing we did when we got there was check out Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number. I have played a shitload of Hotline Miami; after completing everything and getting the secret ending I made my boyfriend and roommate play it. If you haven’t played Hotline Miami you should probably do that (unless you are offended by non-stop over-the-top graphic violence because it is very, very violent). It’s a top-down shooter that sometimes feels like it has puzzle elements; bad guys will be placed in certain configurations and sometimes you need to shoot a gun to bring them running to you, other times you want to avoid making noise with a gun, there are a bunch of different masks that give the player different abilities… it’s fun stuff. So the Hotline Miami booth was the first place I went.
First of all I was excited to see a clean version of the 50 Blessings logo because now I have a better idea how that image is constructed. I might put that shit in ink on my body someday. We’ll see. Secondly I was excited that there was a playable demo of HM2, so I chilled out and watched 2.5 playthroughs of the demo until I got through the line and had a chance to play it myself.
Unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of new gameplay mechanics (that I could discern) in the demo, but there was new badass music and new level configurations. I glitched the first floor of the second level; at one point I respawned and all the bad guys had vanished. The game displayed the “Floor Clear!” message. I poked around a bit and verified that everyone had gone away, so I just went up to the second floor.
The second floor was a fun puzzle-y kinda floor that took me several tries to work out and several more tries to execute properly. During one attempt I managed to glitch out the AI on one of the bad guys; he stood spinning in the corner until I shot him.
The demo, of course, ended with the brutal murder of a man who was definitely not innocent but probably not deserving of death, either. Also I got buttons! There was sadly no Charlie, so I grabbed a Tony and, err, whomever the swan-mask is. Also there was a Jacket cameo in the demo so hurray for that. Also also, hurray for the guy in the HM cosplay wearing a fox mask who played through the demo with the mask on. How do you even see, guy?
Once I had accomplished my goal we wandered around the expo hall for a bit. It was huge, loud, and dark, lit by the bright flashing lights of the various booths. I know it’s probably just because I am old and getting older, but I can’t fucking stand the huge booths with the loud fucking music and absurd concert lighting. Are they just trying to re-create the ‘euphoria’ effect people have at concerts, where loud music and flashing lights create a quasi-religious feeling? Is that it? Because it just makes me nauseous anymore. The wargaming.net booth was the worst; every time I walked past it I wanted to yell and scream and punch someone in the face.
The Friday trip through the expo hall wasn’t very productive. I did peek at the necklaces Fangamer and Sanshee had brought, but they were very small, so I decided to put off spending money on them. That and the Udon booth are about all I can remember from Friday – I was thinking about picking up a WoW book, but they were $100, which was all of my money. Ulp.
We met a friend downtown to buy his Sat-Sun passes for Nick (he couldn’t use them due to a family emergency), ate, then went and found our other friend who was a bit lost in the expo hall. We wandered about for a while – I think we poked into Classic Console, and I think Friday was the day we made our ill-advised trip into Tabletop Freeplay.
Tabletop Freeplay is a really cool place at PAX where people donate their copies of Tabletop games for the extent of the weekend and others can check them out and play them. Last year we played the Penny Arcade: Gamers VS Evil game and some David Sirlin game and they were super fun. So we decided to try out Tabletop again this year.
Nick didn’t see anything that interested him, but I found the L5R Card/Board(ish) game War of Honor, which I had been really really reeeeeeally interested in previously. It incorporates Legend of the Five Rings decks (I love L5R, it is the best CCG) and some other weird hexagonal tiles into one game. So we checked it out.
The first problem was this: War of Honor comes with four prebuilt decks. These decks are wrapped in cellophane; when you open them, you are not supposed to mix them up with other cards. Of course, this was a previously used version of the game, so the cards were not wrapped in cellophane.
And they had been mixed up together.
I guess mixed up might be misleading; the cards were separated into piles of Events, piles of Personalities, piles of Followers, Items, Holdings… but they were not separated into decks.
I spent fifty minutes valiantly trying to cobble two workable decks together from the cards that were available, based on my several-years-old working knowledge of the L5R card game. I finally came up with two decks that I thought of as passable, then went to the rule book to see how to incorporate the tiles into the game.
I was informed that if we were using the prebuilt decks, we were not supposed to use the tiles.
Nick had gone to the bathroom as I began reading the rule book; when he came back I had the game mostly repackaged and ready to return to the library. He was not surprised.
Friday night we went to the concerts so that we could see MegaRan; Nick and I both watch VGCW on a regular basis and are big fans of the song Avalanche. Before MegaRan was Bit Brigade, whom I had never seen before. They were excellent. Their gimmick: One guy plays through Mega Man II, while the band behind him on stage plays the music of the game. It was super fun to watch and the guy only died once, obliterating everything with Metal Blade. I can’t even get through all of Mega Man II at home, privately; I can’t even imagine what playing it on a stage in front of a couple thousand people would be like.
After Bit Brigade was MegaRan who had a fantastic show. He played with a group called The Lo Classics, and they had a nice soothing groove. Even though he likes FF7 better than FF6, he’s still a cool cat in my book. He had a song that used a backing track from Illusion of Gaia, called out Big Bang Theory as nerd-exploitation, and then mixed in some Little Nemo music. Fuuuuuuuuck yes. Sadly, we had to leave after he was done and didn’t get to see The Protomen; our ride home was leaving downtown at 11 PM. I saw the Protomen a few years back and their show is fucking rad; hopefully I’ll get a chance to see them again sometime.
On Saturday our roommate joined us and we revisited the expo hall. I picked up Magical Game Time at Fangamer and it was a great way to spend $20. I cried in three places reading that book. I also grabbed a copy of MegaRan’s Black Materia and he signed it for me. Super nice dude.
Saturday was the Fighting Game Community panel. I was in the same room as Spooky! I had to clamp down on my inner fangirl so hard. All I wanted to do was yell “SPOOBY PLS” and I’m sure no one wants to hear that. I thought the Q&A of the panel was actually very interesting stuff, and there was some intense emotion when the woman came up to the microphone for the final (I think) question about the treatment of women in the FGC. I think everyone on the panel was a little flabbergasted; it’s good that they admit that this is a problem that needs to be addressed, but I don’t think anyone knows how to address it. Sitting through the panel made me really want to get involved with my local community, but I’m shy as fuck and also really bad at fighting games so it’s hard. As a not-young, not-skinny woman I feel really unwelcome, which I guess is part of the problem? I don’t know. I think there are definitely going to have to be some brave people getting in there and breaking down the barriers and I have no idea if I can ever be someone like that. But it was a great panel with some great ideas regarding funding for FGC events and ways to keep the FGC sustainable, and I hope the discussion will continue on all fronts.
On Saturday the Classic Console room was having the best high-score challenge I have ever seen: Typing of the Dead. I had to try, so I waited in line and we all just chilled out in the Classic Console room and chatted with the other guys hanging out waiting for their Typing of the Dead moment. Typing of the Dead is the best game because it is so hilarious. It is a re-skin of House of the Dead, but instead of shooting zombies with a gun, each zombie appears with a word or phrase which you then have to type to eliminate the creature. All of the character models in-game have been modified so that they have keyboards strapped in front of their chests, connected to Dreamcasts on their backs. It is AMAZING. I did not get a high score – I was about 2k underneath the top scorer, who was at around 6k at the time I played. I was very nervous and shaky and did not type well. Alas.
Saturday night was also the Giant Bomb panel, which of course was fucking hilarious. Unfortunately I had a very difficult time trying to see the stage; I was a bit too far back and the guy in front of me kept tilting his head back and forth. WHY ARE YOU TWITCHING SO MUCH GUY WHAT THE HELL. So I closed my eyes and pretended it was a podcast. We stood and applauded for Ryan Davis for what must have been a few minutes at least, and then the talking got underway. I remember they liked Titanfall, which I did not get to try. There was some talk about blazers and sexual harassment training, and then companies gave some stuff away. I did not get hit in the head with any copies of The Last of Us or Disney’s Skylanders, but I did end up with $6 in Microsoft Points courtesy of Harmonix, who doesn’t care what I spend it on. Please note that I did not actually catch any of the three vouchers I obtained; they were all given to me by people around me who didn’t have Xboxes or were just wanting to share. This is how nice people at PAX are.
My original plan was to swing by the concerts after the Giant Bomb panel, but it turns out that I am very old and tired and was suuuuuuper nauseous by now so we picked up our friend and went home. Fuck getting old.
On Sunday we were a bit late getting into town and missed Bigger Blacker Boxes from Cards Against Humanity (we never got one during the weekend). The guys went to go sign up for P4A and Divekick tournaments and I decided to sign up for Divekick too. I mean, it’s two buttons. Whatever. Then we split up and wandered for a while. Nick and I watched the Transistor demo. I thought it looked pretty fuckin’ neat; I really liked the setup mode and its quasi-puzzle sort of environment. Just like with Bastion, the visual style of the game is absolutely gorgeous, and the music is wonderful. I probably should have stayed in the line to play the demo, but I got restless.
I checked out the Watch_Dogs demo on Sunday while Nick was looking into Wildstar; Ubisoft showed off the versus mode that involved one player on their free mobile app playing against the console player. It was a really neat idea that looked like it executed pretty smoothly. I was pretty hype for Watch_Dogs before (kill people with a train? Hell yes) but I’m more excited about it now.
I also stopped by and played Duels of the Plainswalkers 2014; they had laptop and iPad demos, and I was slow and ended up on an iPad. Not the end of the world, certainly (I have an iPad), but it resulted in a little confusion for me regarding the controls, and it didn’t help that I had totally forgotten phase order and was way too embarrassed to use Help to look it up. I didn’t really get to play very well before the time was up, but it was enough of a look into it to intrigue me, and for ten bucks I will probably buy it when I have money again.
Stopped by the Twitch.tv panel which was fun and interesting; won 3 rounds of the Guess-That-Mustache game while in line. I wanted to go up and ask the Twitch guys who their favorite VGCW wrestlers were, but they ended with only 8 minutes for Q&A so I felt like I would be wasting time with my question. Of course, then the Q&A ended with what was basically “hire me, please,” so maybe I should have gone up. Oh well. After that I met up with Nick who was checking out the PAX 10, and we played this really great game called Sokobond that I highly highly recommend. It’s a puzzle game where you are trying to bond a bunch of molecules together to create a chemical compound, but you only control one particular molecule, and each molecule can only make as many bonds as it has electrons. The shape of the stage also makes it difficult to bond the various molecules together correctly. It was super fun, has (I think) 125-ish puzzles, and is 8.95. Also the developer who was at the booth was the nicest person ever. You should buy this game. I am going to buy this game, as soon as I have 8.95.
We also checked out Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime which looked incredible (and also divorce-inducing) and Towerfall, both of which I will probably end up buying.
I watched my roommate and friend get bodied in P4A, and then later that night (after some VSav and Melee in Classic Console) we went back to Console Tourney for Divekick.
There were 100+ people for Divekick and it understandably took some time for them to organize the brackets. Again, at this point in the night my head was pounding and I was feeling nauseous. Despite trying to chug large quantities of water, nothing was helping me feel any better. All I wanted to do was lose my match so I could go home.
I won my first round.
Here’s some info: Before this, I had played Divekick 3 times. One of those times was on the expo floor, and another on my friend’s Vita right before the tournament. I got lucky.
Then I got lucky again!
My second round came down to the very last point, and it was very fun and exciting. I enjoyed it immensely. After round 2 was over, I was the last of my group (of four) still in the tournament. All I had wanted to do was go home, but now I was having fun.
Until my third round, where I got bodied for (damn near) free. Frauded the first set, I think I went 5-1 the second set. I was out of my damn league, but it was still fun. Divekick is a great, fun game that anyone can pick up and have fun with, at least until they get to S-Kill or The Baz in story mode, and I highly recommend it.
Monday I was exhausted. We tried one last time to get the BBB, but no joy. Went through the Watch_Dogs demo again with my friends. Swung by Classic Console and gave a half-hearted try at the FFVII high score challenge: the motorcycle game in Gold Saucer. If it had been the snowboarding game I would have crushed all of the fools. Oh well. Lost to my roommate at Pong. Talked about Karateka with some dudes.
We threw our previous plans out the window to get to the Gearbox panel when we found out that there were FREE DICE in the offing. The panel was fun and hilarious and I would have totally enjoyed doing it even without the free stuff. Good on the cosplayers all getting loot chests – yay for the Tannis cosplayer I saw! I love Tannis. I also love Torgue. And basically everyone else in Borderlands 2, so I guess that’s irrelevant, but Tannis doesn’t get enough love.
After the Gearbox panel, we raced to Jimmy John’s for food, then back in line for the final round of the Omegathon. Spy Party looks like a really fun 2-player game. The sheer balls of the guy spending his entire final round on autopilot made me want to scream. I’m still not sure how the audience didn’t completely ruin that last round, entirely unintentionally. That shit was fucking intense.
And that was PAX – we went home, I slept for a day, and now I’m getting ready for work tomorrow. I really shouldn’t do 4-day conventions. But I’m sure I will again next year.