On the advice, nay, insistence of capital_l, I went to the Penny Arcade Conference (aka PAX East) this weekend. My experience was mixed. I can see what the hype is about – but I don’t think that I’m a lifelong undying fan. I have new respect for the organizers – they seem like genuinely good people.
On Friday, I was a one man trainwreck. I had woken up at 4am in Newport News, VA in order to get on the 6:20am flight to Boston. I took a three hour meeting in the airport, took the T home, dropped my bag, took the T back to town, and stomped into the convention center filled with disdain for the freaks and the geeks. I proceeded to spend half an hour standing in line to get crappy seats for one of the main sessions – in which the organizers fielded questions from their fans. These were at least 50% of the form: “I love you. Ummm. That’s it. I love you.” The other 50% seemed to mostly be the really, really annoying sort of geek who is like “I have memorized the entire script from the first 5 Star Wars movies! I will now begin to recite it into the microphone!”
I pushed into the expo floor and was touched by too many people – so I left. I was in a wretched mood – and I doubt that anything could have made me happy at that point.
The Yo Yo Ma concert that evening was incredible – and ought to be the subject of a post in its own right. Suffice it to say that if he’s not the greatest living musician – he’s in the top three.
Yesterday, redmed and I went to the convention center – and it was immediately a better experience. I could see the positives. People seem genuinely nice to each other – in a way that geeks who have learned to get along with other types of geeks will understand. Sometimes we need to take time out. Some geeks like tabletop games, others do not. There were totally separate rooms for the card players, for the role players, for the console players. Room upon room of people just – well – just playing the games they like to play.
The turning point for me came in the plenary session with the organizers where we gathered to watch them create Monday’s comic. They’re witty, funny, technically amazing with Photoshop. The writer bantered with the audience for an hour while the artist drew. The high point was when someone in the audience came to the microphone to say that he had really been looking forward to playing some particular game – but that the last copy had been sold just that morning – and so he wondered if the person who bought it would be willing to play with him. A shout from the audience confirmed that – sure he’s got game. At which point the writer – from the stage – said “hey, I’ve wanted to play that – can I get in? How about 5pm in the card game room?” And so a game was formed, with the dude on stage jumping in to fill one of the seats.
That’s cool. If I ever have fans, I hope to be that cool.
There were down-sides, sure, but I found them easy to avoid. There are a lot of fiendishly annoying people – but there’s enough space to let them be themselves over in that other hallway. The organizers have scattered beanbag chairs throughout the expo center – and ad-hoc piles of people are everywhere.
It’s sort of like being back in the engineering dorms in college – except that we have enough money to go out for sushi afterwards. Not so bad.