GeekDad’s PAX East Preview

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Pax East 2011, on the expo hall floor. (Photo: Ethan Gilsdorf)Pax East 2011, on the expo hall floor. (Photo: Ethan Gilsdorf)

PAX East 2011, view of the expo hall floor. (Photo: Ethan Gilsdorf)

PAX began in 2004, in Bellevue, Washington, as a humble 4,000-person gathering of gamers. Now spanning two coasts, west and east, the annual PAX conventions in Seattle (PAX Prime) and in Boston (PAX East) have become the two largest gaming events in North America. With PAX East only in its third year, organizers told me they are predicting the “biggest PAX yet.” More than 70,000 attendees will cram the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center this weekend. (If you’re headed there, let’s hope you already have your tickets: The Friday, Saturday and three-day passes are sold out; only Sunday-only tickets remain.)

While it can be overwhelming to decide how to spend your precious PAX time, we’ve got some recommendations.

GeekDad Events:

Let’s begin with events featuring GeekDad contributors (pat-self-on-back). Please come and introduce yourself if you’re a GeekDad fan.

FRIDAY 1:30PM – 2:30PM, CAT THEATRE
Panel: How to Start Playing D&D

If you’ve always wanted to play D&D but don’t know how. Or: you used to play D&D in the ’80s and forgot how to calculate what you need to roll to hit that goblin with your +2 broad sword. Either way, these experts will show you how to find a group that matches your playstyle and get you back into gaming. With: Greg Tito [Games Editor, The Escapist], Ethan Gilsdorf [Author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, GeekDad blogger], Shelly Mazzanoble [Author of Everything I Need to Know I Learned From Dungeons & Dragons, Wizards of the Coast] and John Stavropoulos [President, NerdNYC.com].

The GeekDad/GeekMom panel from last year's PAX East. (L to R) Michael Harrison (center), Natania Baron and Dave Banks (photo: Ethan Gilsdorf)

SATURDAY 7:00PM – 8:00PM, NAGA THEATRE
Panel: Raising the Next Generation of Geeks

Should you let your toddler play Skyrim? What’s the best way to introduce your child to RPGs? What do you say if your daughter says she likes Twilight more than Buffy? These questions and many more will be discussed by writers for GeekDad.com, GeekMom.com, and geek parents in the audience. With: Matt Blum [Managing Editor, GeekDad.com], Corrina Lawson [Senior Editor, GeekMom.com], Rebecca Angel [Core Contributor, GeekMom.com], Doug Cornelius [Contributor, GeekDad.com], Curtis Silver [Core Contributor, GeekDad.com], Nicole Wakelin [Core Contributor, GeekMom.com]. NOTE: PAX has partnered with twitch.tv to provide live streaming of select panels. This panel, “Raising the Next Generation of Geeks,” won the Saturday evening timeslot. It’ll be streamed live here: http://www.twitch.tv/pax

SUNDAY 4/8 1:00PM – 2:00PM, Merman Theatre
Presentation: How D&D Saved My Life — and How It Could Save Yours!

A self-deprecating, nostalgic and inspirational talk by yours truly. Punctuated by 1970s and 1980s-era slides and movies of maps, dungeons and character sheets, my talk will wax poet about my love affair with D&D and show you how and D&D can make you a better person in real life.

SUNDAY 4/8 1:30PM, Wyvern Theater
Kickstarter: The Future of Independent Games
It’s an exciting time to make independent games, and an even more exciting time to support them! The rising success of game projects on Kickstarter has opened developers, designers, and studios to an entirely new way of raising funds, building communities of new players, and putting more games out into the world. As more people consider alternatives to traditional publishing models, game makers of all stripes are rethinking how games get made.

Other not-to-miss PAX events and activities:

>Wander the expo hall. It’s a massive space crammed with oodles of vendors demoing their latest video and tabletop game eye-candy. Pace yourself.

>Bump into Felicia Day (of The Guild, Supernatural, and her latest project Geek & Sundry). Try not to swoon.

>Check out performances by the Video Game Orchestra, Paul and Storm, Jonathan Coulton, and MC Frontalot.

>Sign up for a tabletop or video game tournaments (and don’t forget three-day elimination tournament between randomly selected attendees called Omegathon; maybe you’ll get picked?).

>Hang out in the gaming freeplay areas and jamspaces. Stop by the collection of vintage video games from the American Classic Arcade Museum and play some Space Invaders or Asteroids — on an original arcade machine.

>Check out these panels and guest speakers (a mere sampling from the dozens of events):

1. FRIDAY, 10:30AM – 11:30AM, MAIN THEATRE
Keynote speech by Jordan Mechner (the man behind the seminal ’80s hit Prince of Persia).

2. FRIDAY 4:30PM – 5:30PM, MANTICORE THEATRE
Come talk (complain?) to BioWare about the controversial ending to Mass Effect 3, the final chapter in the Mass Effect trilogy at this panel with the game’s developers.

3. FRIDAY 6:00PM – 7:00PM, MAIN THEATRE
Learn about The Future of Online Games with Curt Schilling [38 Studios], James Ohlen [BioWare Austin], Matt Higby [Sony Online Entertainment], Craig Morrison [Funcom] and others.

4. FRIDAY 6:00PM – 7:00PM, CAT THEATRE
Why Socially Enabled Games are Important to Gamers With Disabilities. An exploration of the needs of the 33 million gamers with disabilities in the United States, and how they play games, from “Social Games” on Facebook to the power of the MMOs to build meaningful friendships and sense of belonging. Can’t make their panel? Stop by their booth on the expo floor.

The D&D booth from last year's Pax.The D&D booth from last year's Pax.

The D&D booth from last year's PAX. (photo: Ethan Gilsdorf)

5. SATURDAY 1:30PM – 2:30PM, WYVERN THEATRE
Discover the Future of Dungeons & Dragons with D&D Senior Manager Mike Mearls in a Q&A about the next edition of D&D. My sources tell me Mike will be dropping some more hints about where the game’s development is headed.

6. SATURDAY 2:00PM – 3:00PM
I’m excited about this Steampunk Worldbuilding Workshop and Exhibition. I like steampunk.

7. SATURDAY 3:00PM – 4:00PM, WYVERN THEATRE
Healthy Games: Lose Weight, Live Longer, and Level Up. This panel will highlight the work of companies that are making going to the gym as exciting as an adventure in World of Warcraft.

8. SATURDAY 4/7 8:30PM – 9:30PM, NAGA THEATRE
Retrogame Roadshow: Are Your Old Games Actually Buried Treasure?
Bring the rarities from your video game collection, and you’ll have a chance to come up on stage and have your games appraised and evaluated by our handpicked panel of experts. With Chris Kohler [Editor, Games, Wired] and others.

9. SATURDAY 6:00PM – 7:00PM Kickstarter: More Than Meets the Eye. A discussion of all the elements needed to run a successful Kickstarter campaign including preparation, marketing, project coordination, follow up and follow through.

The full schedule is here. Have a great time. And hope to meet some of you.

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