PAX East 2013: Day One

8:42 AM – This time last PAX, I was standing in the bowels of the Boston Convention Center waiting in a gigantic line full of bizarre people for no discernible reason. This time around, parental duties required that I drop my two beautiful, screaming children off at day care before I could embark on the pilgrimage to PAX East 2013. Heading out now.

10:54 AM – Two hours, two buses, one delayed subway train, and a brisk walk later, I made it to PAX. The expo floor is in full swing. I’d love to head straight to the indie games, but there’s a game journalism panel I’d like to check out, so I trek the half mile down the BCEC to the Sphinx theater.

12:51 PM – The independent games journalism panel was decent, though largely the message could have been conveyed just as well by the immortal words of Fleetwood Mac: “Go Your Own Way”. HipHopGamer was definitely a highlight of the talk, though. Now I’m finally down on the expo floor checking out the indie games.

PAX East’s expo floor. If it looks overwhelming, that’s because it is.

1:32 PM – Checked out the expo floor. Though I’m no longer a PAX rookie, it’s still as overwhelming as the first time. Major themes for games this year appear to be zombies, steampunk, and pixel art. So… yeah, not much new at first glance. I may have to get my hands dirty and actually play some games. In the plus column, I did almost get run over by Tim Schafer on the expo floor. Unfortunately for him, he seemed to be in too much of a hurry to stop and hear my praise and adulation.

Contrast caught my eye; I’ll have to play it tomorrow. It looks like a 3D/2D game that plays with shadow as a platforming element, and seemed to have a great visual style.

2:55 PM – Attending a panel about story in indie games, featuring Dave Gilbert of Wadjet Eye Games and a bunch of dry-humored Brits. If I’m learning one thing, it’s that people who are great at writing fascinating stories are not necessarily as captivating when they talk about their process.

4:45 PM – Now that I’ve gotten my bearings, time to head back down to the expo floor and actually play some games. The most promising title I checked out was Quadrilateral Cowboy, a retro first-person game where you plan covert heists and missions as an expert hacker/thief. (Circumventing security actually involves typing commands at a Telnet prompt, which turns out to be more fun than it sounds.)

Blendo Games is known for making some off-the-wall stuff, and Quadrilateral Cowboy looks to be no exception.

6:43 PM – Just got out of a panel about gamification and learning that focused primarily on badges as a driver of educational achievement and assessment. Corny Treasure of the Sierra Madre jokes aside, it seemed like the folks at University of Pittsburgh are doing some interesting stuff. Maybe someday my entire CV will look like my Xbox LIVE profile. With about two and a half hours to kill until the Giant Bomb panel, maybe I should go find something to eat. Or more importantly, something with caffeine in it.

7:42 PM – Against all expectations, not only was I able to grab dinner at a food court station with a nearly empty line, but I found a comfortable place to sit and eat facing a sunset city view. Then, a PAX Enforcer comes over and tells me that I should only stay there if I want to be in the Giant Bomb line, which would be forming where I’m sitting. Looks like everything’s coming up Millhouse.

When John Drake of Harmonix hired a mariachi band to show up in the middle of the Giant Bomb panel, I thought it was probably the weirdest thing that was going to happen. Boy, was I wrong.

11:54 PM – The Giant Bomb panel did not disappoint. In following with the Bomb’s usual style of controlled mayhem, the panel featured bagpipes, data concerning the effects of solar radiation on testicles, a mariachi band, divekicking, a New Orleans style marching band, and Jeppson’s Malört. In an event that I really hope was scripted (because otherwise it casts some serious doubts about his judgement), Ryan Davis won a cool $200 from his cohorts for drinking a shot of anonymous breast milk provided by an audience member. As I write it, I realize that all of this sounds a lot less tasteful than it really came across, though I suppose you’ll just have to take my word on that.

12:45 AM – I managed to catch what was probably the last bus out of town, ending a long but fulfilling first day of PAX East 2013. Time to get ready for round two.

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