Delayed Reactions: PAX EAST 2010!
Don’t say you didn’t see this coming. After all the time we spent at PAX over the weekend, we’d be stupid not to weight in with our final report card for the first PAX in Beantown, USA. So without further ado, here are my personal thoughts on the weekend that was (and wasn’t).
Oh yeah it’s a party! If there’s one thing PAX has above and beyond anything else, it’s the sense that everyone there is part of the biggest video game experience on the planet. We’re all nerds, geeks, and video game fanatics in one place where people just want to talk about games non-stop for three days. It’s insane. But it’s wonderful at the same time. Simply put, if you’re a gamer, you need to be here…even if only for one day.
Indie-land. Due in no small part to a lot of the big boys (i.e. Activision, Square-Enix, Factor 5, Atlus, Capcom, *cough* SONY!) being MIA, the Indie developers were able to take up a very large cross section of the show floor. Notable companies like Hello Games (Joe Danger), Dejobaan Games (AaaAa a Reckless Disregard for Gravity), Klei (Shank), Marc Ten Bosch’s (Miegakure), Gaijin Games (Bit.Trip Runner), and many others got the kind of coverage you just can’t buy and, I’m sure, picked up a bunch of new fans in the process. Hopefully this will be a trend that continues as PAX EAST expands over the next few years.
Ending the night with a song. Who knew that concerts staring the video game music elite like Jonathan Coulton, Paul and Storm, and others would be so unbelievable. While I’m not the biggest fan of any of the groups that played, being united with so many other people in awesome, nerd-core, musical bliss, with hands and cellphones waving madly, is something I won’t soon forget. Again, if game culture was in search of a Mecca, PAX is definitely it!
PC’s alive and kicking, thank you very much! APB, Lost Planet 2, Lord of the Rings Online, Civilization 5, Dragon Age Origins: Awakening, Nvidia, ATI, Alienware, Antec, Intel, AMD, holy jebus! After a lackluster showing of PC titles and hardware at E3 2009, it was nice to see that the PC got some serious love on both the show floor as well as in some of the major panels of the event. Nvidia unveiled its new, bleeding-edge line of video cards (with built in 3D) the GTX 470 and 480 respectively. ATI showed off its absolutely insane six-screen, one card Eyefinity setup. And Realtime World’s All Points Bulletin both was never, and I mean, NEVER empty. Attaboy PC…attaboy!
THE BAD (okay, maybe the FRUSTRATING):
Can you hear the words coming out of my mouth? Although only slightly less annoying than the constant crowding (which I’ll address later) the never-ending bombardment of noise was enough to make a person crazy. Booths were so close to one another that it was impossible to discern one booming PA system from another. And while it’s common for conventions to be loud, there was almost no escaping the worst offenders like the Tritton guys, screaming their guts out off the roof of their bus, or the Alienware crew, shouting out about contests no one was even watching. Every booth had loudspeakers, which they were using to the fullest effect possible. Combine that with a constant stream of horrible pop and alternative rock tunes emanating from god knows where and you’ve got a headache that just won’t quit. It’s also worth mentioning there wasn’t one person who had set of working vocal chords by the end of the show. Not us, not the gamers, not the publishers, not the developers, not anyone.
Sold Out. It’s a shame to say, but how do you sell out an entire event, but not have enough t-shirts for every-single-patron that showed up? I mean, really, you just have to do the math. Double or triple the number of people coming to the show, and there you go. If that doesn’t work, cap the number of t-shirts to one per person. But seriously, don’t expect people to be happy when you tell them they were supposed to spend four hours on line the first day waiting to get a shirt instead of enjoying the convention you’ve been teasing them with for over a year.
Calling Sony. Hello, Sony! Okay, so it’s not just Sony. Activision/Blizzard, SquareEnix, Sony, and Capcom, just to name a few, were nowhere to be found! While I understand companies taking a “wait and see” approach to this very new gaming convention, I’m a little disappointed that they didn’t have more faith in the PAX community at large. Square just released their biggest game to date. You’re not going to have some showing of Final Fantasy XIII and XIV on the floor? Capcom’s Lost Planet 2 was at other people’s booths, but where’s the official presence? And BLIZZARD? You guys have two games coming up that people are stoked for. Not a single word on Diablo III or Starcraft II? Even after you had both playable at Blizzcon? That’s just unfathomable. Especially when it’s a good bet that all of these companies will have something to show at PAX Seattle.
We’ve reached capacity! So you’ve waited in line for your panel to begin and just before you get to the door *SLAM* they tell you it’s full. While this is to be expected at most cons of this size, it seemed like an all too common outcome at PAX EAST. Here’s the rub: Hynes convention center is small to begin with. The conference rooms, even the main theater, are smaller still. This is a nightmare when you consider PAX EAST catered to 60,000+ people this year. With the show moving to the much larger Boston Convention Center next year, I can only hope that some of these issues will be alleviated. But the truth is with a bigger venue comes more people and the likelihood that this problem will rear its ugly head yet again.
Send in the “Crowds” If there was one constant gripe that was shared by all of us at GameCrashers, it was the sense that there was a lack of space throughout the whole event. Despite being very well controlled by all of the hard-working enforcers, the floor of the show always felt packed with people, even when not at full capacity. And booths were so badly laid out that people were constantly spilling into nearby exhibitors and aisles. If I had a dollar for every enforcer I heard say, “please clear out of the aisles, thank you” I’d be rich.
Media “Hour” This…is my own personal gripe. Originally, the media hour was scheduled for one hour before the start of the convention on Friday afternoon. This was quite an okay time as far as I was concerned. It would have allowed for us to get a lay of the land, before the crowds descended upon everything. It would have given us a chance to set up for the flood of people and capture the whole thing on video. And it would have meant that we could get stinko Friday night, like everyone else, without having to worry about being up at 6am the next day (told you it was selfish). But then, for some reason, it got moved to 9am Saturday morning! What…the…hell? Seriously, that’s just harsh fellas. One look at the number of sunglasses being worn the guys in the press room the next morning was enough to confirm that we were all feeling like vampires caught outside after sun up. It was horrifying. So please, next year, let us go in on Friday…the first day. Pretty please?
So…what does this all mean? In short, PAX East was a rip-roaring good time with a few stumbles here and there. It wasn’t graceful, it wasn’t pretty, and at times it was downright frustrating to deal with. But all in all it was a very successful show that has some growing pains to work through between now and next year. I wish Penny Arcade the best of luck with their future endeavours (including their upcoming summer PAX from Seattle) and look forward to next year’s show with a bubbling, if reticent, anticipation.