Wednesday, September 5, 2007

PAX 07: Gamers set-up shop and launch a raid on downtown Seattle

At least the worst traffic jam I saw all weekend in Seattle was on Interstate 5 heading into the city Thursday evening. That was due mostly to construction choking the city’s main artery down to just two lanes for traffic; however, after my experiences with the previous Penny Arcade Expo location in Bellevue, traffic concerns were legitimate.

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Welcome to nerd nirvana - home for more than 37,000 gamers over the weekend of PAX

Thankfully, the wide-open corridors at the Washington State Convention Center on Pike street in downtown Seattle reflected the rest of the weekend: Great fun with tons of video gamers, and just enough space to be comfortable, enough choice to rarely be bored, and a great community of gamers, volunteers, artists and panelists to help continue lifting the expo toward becoming the top gaming destination in the United States.

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Yes, this was the line to get in Friday afternoon

PAX has quickly become Mecca for those who love video games and live in the United States. It’s everything E3 was – access to new games on a huge show floor, a great sense of community – without the unnecessary booth babes, the booming exhibits, and the glam excess that plagued the show up until its euthanasia last year. What the show is packed full of is enthusiasm and a love of games – from the gamers all the way to the exhibitors, the press covering the event, and, of course, Jerry and Mike, the creators of Penny Arcade.

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Freezepop rocked the fucking house on Friday night

This is my second time attending PAX; I went two years ago in 2005 (unfortunately not the Year of the Ball, but instead the year of mc chris. Sigh). The move to the downtown convention center was needed, in my estimation; even before the influx of fans for PAX 06, the Maydenbauer Center in Bellevue felt a bit cramped due to its design. Plus, the move symbolizes a move into the true big-time, from a suburb of Seattle right into the heart of downtown. Moving on up, as it were.

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Rock Band, my precious and favorite game at the show

The wide-open exhibit hall was home to many wonderful things – personal favorites included Virtua Fighter 5 at the Sega booth, drooling at the rarities inside the locked glass case at the Pink Godzilla booth, the free t-shirts after the gameplay demos of Mass Effect, and of course Rock Band. Oh, Rock Band. Myself and three of my friends (including Nick and Dan) went around the line four times on Friday afternoon like it was some sort of carnival ride and we were 10 all over again. Having actually played it (and seen how badass the song list is, including new additions), I can say: believe the hype. It will drop, and we will all be blessed by the sheer power of rock.

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Nick loves Rock Band and Parappa, can't you tell?

Highlights from the weekend not involving playing games include: the 1up Yours live taping (and meeting a few of the 1up staffers afterward); buying a DS Lite when I already had a ‘regular’ DS in my bag (worth it); sitting in a console freeplay room as Gabe from Penny Arcade was preparing to play a couple fourteen year-olds at Pokemon and they had no clue who he was; Freezepop and The OneUps playing live on Friday night and, specifically, hearing Freezepop end their set with “The Final Countdown”; the Phoenix Wright cosplayers:

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Phoenix Wright cosplayers: SERIOUS BUSINESS

If I’m still in the country next August, I’m going to PAX – period. It has become a must-attend event, especially because I’m a scant day’s drive away. Thanks again to Nick for putting up with me on the drive up and back and Tyler for hosting us – the weekend was far too much fun.

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Chilling out in one of the hallways of the Center

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1up Yours live taping

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