PAX: First Impressions


PAX giant d20PAX giant d20

Photo: Ken Denmead

It was sort of a last-minute decision for me to attend PAX Prime. I’d read (with some amount of envy) about the GeekDads attending PAX East earlier this year but hadn’t even considered the possibility of attending PAX myself, at least not this year —we had too many trips planned, vacation time was running out, etc. But here I am anyway! I’m just a lucky guy, with a fantastic wife who indulges my geekery.

I really didn’t have much of an idea what to expect. I’m staying with a friend, about a half-hour bus ride away from downtown and the convention center, so I missed a lot of the hustle and bustle when I arrived Thursday night. Riding the bus into town, I was torn between gawking out the window (watching for my first glimpse of downtown Seattle) and reading the con-appropriate book I’d brought with me, Tom Bissel’s Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter. (Note: if you love video games, you need to read this book. I’ll tell you all about it later.) I did glance up from time to time, and got a glimpse of the loading cranes down at the harbor. They had the look of giant metal giraffes gathered around a watering hole—sort of a starved cousin of the AT-AT, maybe.

PAX GeekDad gamingPAX GeekDad gaming

Photo: Ken Denmead

My bus stop was right across the street from the Benaroya Theater, where Warren Spector would be delivering the PAX keynote speech in about an hour and a half, and I saw people in geeky T-shirts and PAX badges on lanyards headed that way. But I’d seen on Twitter that some people had been in line for the keynote for nearly two hours already, so I decided it wasn’t really worth trying for. Instead, I walked over to the Sheraton, picked up my Speaker badge (surprisingly quickly) and then headed to the convention center, where I met up with fellow GeekDads Dave Banks and Michael Harrison.

Since the halls weren’t open yet, we kicked off PAX the right way: with a game of San Juan, on a little cafe table that was much too small. We finished up right at 10:00, and headed upstairs to explore the main hall. After finding a helpful Enforcer (the volunteers at PAX) who got us maps and schedules, we entered the Exhibit Hall and commenced gawking.

My first impression was that it was loud. The entrance we’d chosen was facing a Rock Band 3 stage, where somebody was belting out an off-tune rendition of some song I’ve since blocked out of my head. My second impression was: hey, look at all this room to walk! (I’ve been told that Saturday will be much more crowded, but it’s hard to imagine it beating the Comic-Con crowds.)

I walked around and admired a lot of the video games being demoed throughout the hall, but my main destination was the tabletop gaming sections, which were mostly around the edges. I got my first glimpse of Flying Frog Production’s upcoming Invasion From Outer Space game (which looks awesome) as well as Mayfair’s Settlers of America (which looks daunting). There was also a game of Settlers of Catan being played on a Microsoft Surface table, which was pretty impressive. And then I boggled over Geek Chic‘s custom-made gaming tables, which look like nice dining tables until you pull off the leaves to uncover the gorgeous gaming surface underneath.

I’d love to tell you all about the rest of the day, but I really need to get going so I can catch my bus downtown again. We met up with Ken Denmead when he arrived and got to see the Dungeons & Dragons party bus, and then tried out the D&D Essentials Red Box. It was in fact my first ever experience with D&D, and it was pretty fun. I can see why it could become a lifestyle. I played a bunch of games from the Tabletop Gaming Headquarters, where you could check out a board game from their library and take it to any of the many many tables around the convention center. And then, as I was making my last sweep through the convention center on my way out to catch my bus … I saw an empty seat at a Microsoft Surface table, where they were playing some sort of space-aliens cooperative tower defense game. I stayed for about an hour, missing the midnight bus home by about five minutes, and ended up waiting an extra 25 minutes for the next bus.

It was a long, full day, and I can’t wait to do it again.

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