If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to be one of 60,000 geeks in a convention center clearly not designed to hold crowds of that size, I am now in a position to tell you this much: It involves a great deal of standing in line, it is nearly impossible to get a 3G signal on an iPhone and, despite those downsides, it can be a heck of a lot of fun.
Yes, PAX East 2010 has just ended, and I’m still elated — because it wasn’t just the inaugural PAX East, but also the first time we’ve had a GeekDad panel at a convention. You know how sometimes you’re really nervous about something you’re going to do, and then, when it actually happens, it goes so smoothly you wonder why you were ever nervous in the first place? This was exactly like that, for all of us who were there.
The GeekDad presence at PAX East included six of us: Dave Banks, Natania Barron, John Booth, Doug Cornelius, Michael Harrison and me. Our panel was scheduled for 7pm (Eastern, of course) Friday evening, so we all met for an early dinner beforehand. We batted some ideas back and forth, and shared our mutual trepidation that we might end up talking to a roomful of empty chairs. After dinner, we all trooped up to the Wyvern Theatre. In the hallway outside it we saw a large line of people waiting for something; we laughed to each other that they must be waiting for something else, because surely so many people could not be waiting to hear us, right?
I think I’m safe in saying that none of us has ever been happier to be proved wrong. As we went in and got ourselves settled at the panelists’ table, the attendees started to enter, and just kept right on entering until it was literally standing-room only (we found out later that some people were turned away because the room was at capacity). In fact, we started the panel about ten minutes early because the room was already full.
And so began one of the coolest hours of my life. Each of us in turn talked about our personal histories as geeks, our kids, and some of the victories and pitfalls we’ve encountered in our attempts to pass along our geekiness to the next generation. The audience was engaged from the start, applauding remarks they identified with and clearly generally enjoying themselves. Then they started asking questions, and it really became interesting — there were questions from “How old do you think a child should be before getting his or her own iPhone?” to “How do you make sure you don’t force your kids into geeky pursuits if they’re not interested in them?” As will probably not surprise many parents reading these words, the latter question was asked by someone who is not yet a parent. But all in all, there were some excellent, thought-provoking questions. And there was one guy who incurred the envy of everyone there when he mentioned that he is paid by Cornell University to run D&D campaigns for students.
We easily filled the time, and could have kept going for another half hour at least had we been allowed to. When the audience applauded us, I felt that we’d really achieved something significant: that we had connected with our target readership in a far more personal way than can possibly be achieved through words on a screen. Assuming we can continue to convince the folks running conventions to let us, we will certainly try to assemble this sort of panel as often as possible going forward.
So if you were at our panel on Friday, we at GeekDad thank you again for coming and participating so actively! And if you weren’t, we hope you’ll keep an eye out for announcements on the blog about future panels. In the meantime, you can read Doug Cornelius’s personal blog post on the subject, or take a look at all of his and/or my pictures from PAX East 2010.