PAX East 2012: Day Three

9:00 AM – Latest start yet. I think I must have been feeling pretty good last night, because when I got home I was self-assured enough to eat blue cheese dressing out of the jar with a fork. I do feel the tiniest bit guilty walking across Boston Common hung over and on my way to a video game convention, while folks in their Sunday best head the other direction for Easter service.

11:31 AM – Hitting the expo floor for reals today. First stop: Assassin’s Creed III. Now I’m normally not one to gush, but the gameplay footage looked absolutely phenomenal. The concept of operating in a wide-open and natural environment like a colonial New England forest is a great innovation for the franchise (which had been getting fairly stale), and it seems that a lot of the movement and combat systems have been rebuilt to accommodate that change. Plus, murdering Redcoats with a tomahawk is always a crowd pleaser, at least provided you’re not British.

No photography or video recording was allowed inside the theater, so here’s a picture of the outside instead. 

12:02 PM – Checked out some more of the indie and XBLA offerings. There’s some good stuff down here, including Guacamelee!, a luchador-themed action-adventure game, and Charlie Murder, a beat-em-up with RPG elements from Ska Studios (makers of Dishwasher: Dead Samurai).

Ska Studios art always looks like you wish the sketches in your high-school notebooks looked, if only you had been an amazing artist and super angsty.

12:46 PM – Had a great chat with the Australian creator of Antichamber, a first-person puzzle game that uses “non-Euclidean” geometry. (Basically, it’s like running around in an M. C. Escher drawing.) He described the painstaking design process of user testing and game refinement as he attempted to make the game as intuitive as possible (yet still mind-bending).

Hey, it’s not like Euclid is the only person who knows how to organize a three-dimensional metric space.

1:15 PM – The shout-out for Dust: An Elysian Tail at the Giant Bomb panel last night must have had an effect, because a lot of folks were interested on the game today. An upcoming XBLA action-adventure title with a beautiful fantasy-themed visual style, Dust was actually designed, illustrated, and coded by a single guy! I actually ended up in line with Ryan Davis and Jeff Gerstmann from the Giant Bomb site, and got a chance to talk with Ryan about his opinion regarding the collection of games this year.

2:16 PM – Took a break to eat a surprisingly tasty food court burrito, as well as count the number of people walking by wearing Utilikilts. Answer: five.

3:51 PM – Attended the panel, “How Young Is Too Young for Games?” Given how much we hear in the media about violence in video games and its effect on children, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of reliable research on the subject, and the little that exists is inconclusive. The panel’s shocking conclusion: there’s no substitute for moderation and good parental judgement.

There was a setup where you could text in which games had been most influential in your own childhood development. I sure hope the guy who said that World of Warcraft affected him the most when he was “0 to 5 years old” was either confused or kidding.

4:50 PM – Round two of the expo floor. Best experience by far was Dyad, which you maybe could call a shooter, but is really more of a psychedelic audiovisual experience. Whatever it is, it’s coming to the PS3 Network this summer.

After playing this game, I actually was so mesmerized that I wordlessly stood up and then lazily wandered in an arbitrary direction for about a minute, before coming back to the booth and apologizing to the designer for my behavior.  

5:36 PM – The expo floor is closing down. I managed to hit a few more games, but nothing was better than what I’ve already mentioned. I think it’s time to call it a day.

11:24 PM – After making my way home and relaxing for a few hours, I’m prepared to render judgement on my first PAX experience. In two words: mission fucking accomplished. Here are a few take-aways:

  1. I was surprised to discover how many panels there were, by the breadth and depth of their topics, and by how informative and entertaining they were. I naively expected that I would spend most of my time on the expo floor, but I ended up much preferring the panels.
  2. On the exhibition side of things, I found checking out the indie games to be the best use of my time. There’s nothing like getting to play some awesome game that a few dudes created in their basement, while they stand next to you and politely answer any idiotic question that pops into your head. Also the lines are short.
  3. Finally, for all those people that think there’s a link between video games and violence: I just watched 70,000 people cram into about a square mile of space for three full days where they played violent games literally non-stop, and remarkably no one was murdered. That should be all the evidence anyone would ever need.

What Do You Think?