This past weekend, a squad of GeekMoms and GeekDads descended on Boston for PAX East. We played demos, interacted with robots, checked out cool vendors, interviewed celebrities, spied on the people trying out the Oculus Rift demo (people in VR headsets are just fun to watch), and went to panels. In fact, we had our own panel, Raising Generation 2.o, on Friday. (Missed it? No problem; it was filmed. You can watch us talk about gaming with families here.)
While all of us will be writing about the games we played and the things we loved about PAX East, each of us had some highlights from this weekend we wanted to share. Here are the games, vendors, and tech we were most excited about:
Tabletop System Wars: A fast-paced, entertaining, incredibly info-packed panel about table-top RPG systems. Audience members lined up by the microphone, pitched their ideas about a game they wanted to run, and the panelists would help them find the perfect RPG system to make it work. I was so impressed with the breadth of knowledge these panelists had, and the moderator (Brian Liberge) kept the line moving and the everyone laughing.
AppJunkies Live: The Worst Games Ever Made: I never knew how many strange, disgusting, and hilarious games there are out there. The AppJunkies downloaded a few dozen really awful games and then the panelists randomly chose one to play for the first time on a big screen for a packed audience. From throwing a sumo wrestler down a city block, splitting on bricks, thwarting Kim Jong Un, vomiting in hallways, to simulating knee surgery, I laughed, winced, and scratched my head along with everyone else. See my upcoming post for screenshots…
Evolution: My daughter has loved dinosaurs since she was a toddler so of course I checked out this game, playable tabletop or online. Perhaps inspired by the tyrannosaurs that populated the display, I built and played a series of carnivores, and lost soundly, but I enjoyed playing. And the tyrannosaurs!
Project Eve: I got to interview the creators of Eve, a robot game piece that uses Augmented Reality tech (like Pokémon Go) to shoot alien invaders. I was drawn to the display because of their bright purple robot mascot, but the real robot has great potential. I fought off the invisible aliens myself and then ended up on screen and surrounded while filming her fight! The prototype robots were adorable and the designers assured me they will be super-customizable and available in any color. The Eve team will be crowdfunding later this year, I’ll be posting more detail in an upcoming post.
Obduction: I was blindly drawn to this game simply by the name of the developer manning the booth. Rand Miller is one of the co-creators of Myst and Riven, two games that changed my entire perspective on gaming in the ‘90s. As great as it was to speak with Rand, the game itself was the real experience. In a style similar to Myst, this first-person, point-and-click adventure is the perfect title for the HTC Vive VR. Stepping into the world, looking around and using the realistic hand controls to crank gears and solve puzzles was a fully immersive journey. I can’t wait to play more.
D&D: During this year’s PAX East, I was lucky enough to grab a beer with Greg Tito from Wizards of the Coast and sit down for a long chat about the new releases and plans D&D has slated for the rest of 2017. It was great to check out the new Tales From the Yawning Portal book, but even greater to talk at length about the power and possibilities that come with introducing kids to the game and its endless variations. To this day, I have yet to find a more interactive and exciting way to teach my kids about narration, character and reading comprehension than through immersing them in a world of their own creation.
Clicks and Clucks: My favorite PAX panel was …fowl. Dr. Catherine Flick and Dr. Tyr Fothergill’s panel about archeology and the ethics of chickens in games was packed on Saturday. The pair covered chickens’ relationship with humans and the ways we’ve historically used them in games. Go ahead. Google “cock hurling” when you get a chance. Then be embarrassed on behalf of humanity when you make the connection between that “sport” and many of the ways players interact with chickens in games today. It was an eggsellent look at our relationship with animals, filled with chicken puns, and Flick and Fothergill were a delight.
The visual novel reading room: I really didn’t think I was going to be into the visual novel booth; visual novels are not exactly games. They’re more about storytelling than competition. (More on that in a future post.) But I grew up on Choose Your Own Ending books and these are the digital equivalent. As soon as I sat down with Date or Die, I was hopelessly immersed. Having to get out of my chair after the demo, knowing there isn’t a firm release date for the full game, was rough. The suspense is killing me (and literally killing the characters.)
Earth Night: I responded to the PR call on this one because it had a little girl of color protagonist. Since we don’t see that very often, I felt it deserved some shout out. In the end, it was one of my favorite games. There’s running and jumping á la Mario, but this isn’t just another side-scroller. The more I played, the more I wanted to play. The hand painted art is gorgeous. This is one to watch for sure.
Shapeways: When Shapeways reached out on Twitter, I had no idea that I’d be getting to meet a really nifty company. One of the reps described it as “Etsy for 3D printing.” Essentially, Shapeways is a platform that allows people to upload 3D images to be printed in a variety of high-end materials. They do more than just small figurine items or dice. Some of their clients use the company for larger cosplay items, which makes the company a really great resource across the geek board.