PAX East in 67,719 Words

I got to Boston around 3 pm on Thursday. Plenty of time for the pre-PAX meet up and Justin’s birthday. I spent some time at the Copley mall before heading up to the Cambridge Brewing Company.

I got there really early, so early in fact that I sat around doing nothing and that usually leads to worrying thoughts, like: am I at the right place? Do I have the wrong time? How in the hell would I recognized them? How in the hell would they recognize me, given that there is no known picture of me on the internet because I spent a good deal of effort to accomplish that?

After an hour or so and many dashed hopes two people began to walk up, and if they weren’t there for PAX I was in serious trouble.

 

Denis Farr is on the left and Alex Myers is on the right. Soon we were joined by another, though because he went into the Irish pub one door down of where we were meeting up, he was actually there half an hour before me and neither of us had seen the other.

 

Simon Ferrari is in real life exactly like on twitter and I have no idea why I had an almost diametrically opposed image of him in my head. He will argue your head off and do it enthusiastically, but concede graciously if you’re right and he is wrong. He also insulted my spelling and use of grammar…on twitter. But praised my blog as being edited. Still unsure how to take that.

One by one the others from the internet began to materialize from the aether. Before they had just been icons or disembodied heads and now were real people in front of my very eyes.

 

Sparky “Micheal” Clarkson showed up next. It was hard to recognize him without the thoughtful pose and sepia toned skin. He walked by us a few times, so apparently it was mutual.

 

If Roger Travis looks a little stunned in the photo, it might be because when he was walking up Simon leaped out of his chair, ran at him and hugged him in mid-jump. Roger is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. And he sounds exactly like he does on his podcast. I apparently don’t. I blame my cheapo headset mic.

 

This is Thomas Cross. I recognized the name, but couldn’t remember why. This would not be the first or last time this would happen. Justin would later say that he’s the perfect calm balance to the near hyperactive in your face attitude of Simon Ferrari. There really is no better way to say it. Every time I saw him this weekend, he was with Simon and acting as counterpoint.

 

The group as of 6:30. The main attraction from across the pond had not arrived yet. Everyone had forgotten about airport customs.

 

Here is Alex Raymond sporting a head of green locks and matching top. She had quite a trip driving up from New Jersey, walking, almost getting to CBC before turning back to her car to pick up Justin Keverne and Kate from the airport. And no, she does not look that crazed in real life. However, she did bring…

 

…the man of the hour. Happy 28th birthday Justin. His cake hadn’t quite melted yet. I ended up spending most of the weekend with Justin. He’s a fun guy to be around…

 

…if this is any indication. Die tiramisu die. To be fair he only had peanuts for the last 21 hours or so.

And here is the other Brit, Kate S. Thanks to her forward thinking her hair was easy to spot all convention long. Again it was a pleasure to meet her. The best blogger without a blog.

Chatter continued, with Simon doing most of it. And while everyone else bundled up or huddled up Denis continued to proudly display his bare arms and thin tee-shirt to the Boston cold. I guess Chicago is worse?

I was shutter bugging at this point. This pic makes her look a lot less crazy.

I have to apologize to Justin for this one. I was snapping pictures and he had just finished the tiramisu practically by himself. He was swallowing the last piece when I went to take a picture, but I had just turned the camera on, so it was taking its sweet time. All the while Justin being the good subject had frozen in place. So, sorry my camera almost choked you.

It’s been a long day, but the night has just begun.

And here we all are walking off to the Darius’ party. Me being the idiot that I am didn’t sign up for it on the PAX wave when I could have. I waved goodbye once they had gotten their name tags and went in. They I began the hour trek back to the BU campus. So I ended up heading for my friend…

…’s apartment. However, he was working sound at the Shakespeare play Titus Adronicus at the time. So I got to see the second half of it for free.

Then Friday arrived.

This was the scene at registration, where we picked up our lanyards and swag bags. This was room two on the whole line. I asked what was the point of the second room and why they couldn’t just let us into the show. Answer: crowd control.

This is one of the handheld lounges. I spent a lot of time here between waiting in line. FYI, those beanbag chairs are comfy. Before I went to the first panel, Interactive Fiction and Storytelling, I wandered around the Expo Hall where they were showing off games.

This was from the EA booth, the most crowded booth at the whole show, thanks in large part to the Red Dead Redemption demo. I had no inclination to get in that line that wrapped around the whole section.

I wasn’t so excited for this game when it was announced, but after seeing in action I feel Ubisoft beginning to earn my trust back.

Okay, this was the shot of the convention as far as I’m concerned. I was following him through the crowd, but I couldn’t get him in front. But then I realized this is the way to take it. It’s damn detailed too.

Met up with Justin after a while and he pointed me to the booth next to the main hall to pick up…

…a copy of Kill Screen. Regardless of it’s a worthwhile magazine or not, I was going to get it. Justin, lucky son of a bitch, got one for free from Chris Dahlen’s private stash the night before.

Yeah, iPhones suck down power. On the other hand, they are a lot more portable than my laptop.

This is Justin doing his best not to fangasm all over another Looking Glass employee. To be fair he did ask this one to apologize for him to the one from last night. If you could give me there names I will edit this part. (Edit: The Man in the photo is Alexx Kay from Irrational Games and the man from the previous night was Rob Waters.)

Another mysterious apparition from a person on twitter to prove they are not an ARG. I was checking out the arcade cabinet museum before getting in line for the IF Storytelling panel. When I was tapped on the shoulder from behind and asked, “are you Eric?” I know there are no pictures of me online and I didn’t recognize him from college. He introduced himself and I quote, “I’m Yu Zun from twitter.” Or at least I hope that’s what he said; it was very loud in there and I had to ask him to repeat his name. But I recognized the name, shook his hand and chatted a bit. I’m still not sure how he recognized me.

Unfortunately, I had lost track of Justin, but I soon found other friends.

This would be a very common scene throughout the weekend. I met up with them and then went to get in line about half an hour before the panel started.

This was the line. I’m actually in line around the corner. This was me reaching beyond the corner to snap the shot. The people along the wall are going towards the door at the very far corner, but then it loops back and laps around the escalators before going to the Wyvren hall. Then behind us it lapped around another room. Roger and Sparky showed up about then and thanks to the confusion we let them slip in with us. (*wink wink*)

These were the panelists. It was very interesting. They spoke a lot about the concepts of how to create a story that can react to player input. It’s wasn’t so much about branching paths, dialogue trees, but simply about how to tell a story ready for input. They didn’t outright say it like this, but it seemed context was very important to the otherwise well worn mechanics. They also rattled off a lot IF games I have to check out later.

I was at the back wall, until I saw Justin waving from near the front. He had gotten in line much earlier and was pointing out an empty seat right behind him. I took it without hesitation. I bring this up, because of the picture quality of the panelists above verses the quality below. I was much further away. (Edit: I apparently got the back of Jonathan Mills head in this pic.)

This was the panel Girls and Gaming. It was done as a Q &A, which I think only hurt it. There was little structure and they ended up answering the same questions over and over. I don’t really have many notes for this one. I really just wrote down a few of the question, because the answers weren’t worth much. Though at the top I have the note: “Apologists?” It’s covered better elsewhere.

Though, about halfway through, this woman, Beth,…

…made these two…

…levitate off their chairs, squeal and clap when she mentioned she wrote for the Border House. They spent several minutes on twitter trying to figure out who Beth was.

I didn’t get her in an action pose like I should have, but this was Friday’s witch. You could hear her from the other side of the convention hall when she was “startled.” She’d be crying in a corner, then someone would take a photo and the flash would startle her and she would chase that person down. Good fun for everyone.

There were a lot of Team Fortress 2 characters at PAX. Spy was by far the most popular character. I even saw two on Saturday that were dressed as spies with Gabe and Tyco masks on and people were going with it, asking for autographs and everything.

I finally got to meet fellow GBConfab lurker, Travis Megill late Friday. He didn’t get to speak long as he headed off and we were waiting for Kate and others to get out of a screening of Get Lamp, a new documentary about Interactive Fiction.

Yes that is my laptop in the lower right corner, the very laptop I’m writing this on.

So the movie let out and a bunch of people from ludodecahedron joined us, like…

Mathew Gallant aka. Gangles. Didn’t get to talk to him much this night, but we chatted more the next day. All is good.

So I was tweeting who I was hanging out with and was writing down everyone’s user handle, but then I got to two people I hadn’t met and didn’t recognize. So I call Justin over and ask him who they were. He tells me they’re Dan Bruno and Chris Dahlen. I excused myself, tossed my laptop aside and went up to them. I introduced myself to Dan, but as soon as I said my name, Chris Dahlen…

…leaped to his feet exclaiming, “oh you’re Eric Swain,” and enthusiastically shook my hand. It’s very flattering to be recognized like this. Though at the time all I could think was, ‘I’m not that famous.’

Also, Dan took the heckling I sent his way about Rock Band content pretty well.

This is about the time my digital camera’s battery ran out. Luckily it was the end of the day. Afterwords a couple of us went to a bar, where we met Johnathan Mills. It’s was an obnoxiously loud place, where we could barely hear  each other talk. And Alex and Kate got hit on by some drunk guy who wanted the rest of us to be in a dance competition.

After we parted ways I walked Thomas Cross and Simon Ferrari back to Brookline. It was…interesting to say the least.

Next day I bought a disposable camera from CVS, so from here on the picture quality is going to go down a little.

Day started off with me running like hell to get in line for the Ten Best Games of All Time panel. Run by…

N’Gai Croal and Stephen Totilo, but I don’t have his picture. You can read about the game they made out of it here. This was definitely the most fun panel at PAX. At the end of the game they asked a few questions about some of the entries. They asked if Pac Man should be on the list. I actually got the mic and loved how they totally blew me off. I thought Space Invaders would be a better entry.

After the panel I got to meet Mitch Krpata.

His response at my introduction was more of what I expected instead of Chris Dahlen’s excitement. He shook my hand, posed for the pic and went back to who he was talking to.

Also met Sean Beanland for a few brief moments before security made us move along, because standing flat against the wall in a wide open hall was breaking some sort of rule. We got hustled out of there fast. Oh and note, Sean isn’t that pale, the flash is that bright.

Another homemade outfit by Alex on display here. A lovely purple ensemble. And off to the side is Grant getting into costume.

Damn straight he’s Sackboy. Very surprised Kotaku didn’t pick it up in their cosplay gallery. However, when walking with him, it took a while to get anywhere. People kept stopping us wanting pictures. One of the first ones who came up to him was a child, maybe 4 years old. His mother following asking can her son please take a picture with him, “you’re the first one he isn’t scared of.” Another dude came up a little later nearly shouting, “If I’m going to have my picture taken with anybody, it’s fucking Sackboy” He even got asked to take a picture side swiping them. Great fun by all, even the guy in the 200 degree burlap oven.

Seriously, how could I not take a picture of something this awesome. The detail is amazing.

There were two Bayonettas running around the show. Or so I’m told. I only ever saw the one. I spent most of the time wondering how on earth she got here hair to stay like that.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but this must be the most evil paring people could come up with. Damn good Sepheroth, again with hair. Gel like that is only supposed to exist in computers or foreign planets.

I took this picture a bit too far away, but you can still see it pretty good. Does he not look exactly like Ewan McGregor or what?

I will admit I made a sort of mistake on Saturday, which was waiting in line for over 3 hours to do a 1 hour demo of Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition. I haven’t had a chance to play it and see what the new rules entail. When it was finally our turn the DM asked each of us in line if we were by ourselves or with someone else. The man next to me had the best response possible, “Well we were individually here, but we’ve sort of bonded over the last three hours.”

Honestly I think the rules are so streamlined and simple. Even I could keep up without having to stall or crunch numbers. I’ll be testing it out with my players to decide if we switch over or not this weekend.

But back to PAX, the line took so long that I had missed the Choice in Video Games panel run by a bunch of developers from Obsidian. I got out about 10 minutes before it ended. So at least I knew where to find everyone else. I headed over there and saw two people I never thought I’d see again. Such is the world in geek culture that they were in line for the stage play of Dice and Men.

If you don’t recognize them I don’t blame you. They’re friends from college. This picture also has another meaning. This is the fist picture on the internet where I am the subject. Yes that is me in the red shirt and your hair would look bad too after 12 hours in a convention hall.

Apparently Greg knew I was at PAX without having ever seen me. I forgot he follows me on twitter. A word about twitter. Forget calling people, the single most effective way of finding people and meeting up was twitter. I thought my feed would ease up with so many of those I follow at PAX. No, I think the amount went up as people were excitingly microblogging about what was going and what they were doing. The night previously, Justin just sent out a tweet of where he and I were hanging out. No less than a dozen people found us throughout the evening. I had most people’s numbers in my cell phone, I used them maybe 3 times and each time was a pointless endeavor.

I got to get a better picture of me up.

After their panel let out – I didn’t miss much, apparently the panelists got drunk instead – I went out to dinner at a Mexican place close by with Justin, Alex, Grant, Gangles, Kate and others. Gangles, Justin, myself and another whose name escapes me at the moment, got to enthusiastically talking about games and critiquing them during the meal. I had dabbled in short conversations like this all weekend, but this was the first extended one I was apart of. This is why I came to PAX. To meet people and talk intelligently with them.

After dinner we went to a hotel room for a time then went our separate ways. I had some time to kill so I went back to the convention hall to wonder around. On the third floor this was the scene:

There was a rave going on to techno music produced by a gameboy plugged into a synthesizer and a laptop. Pity the picture wasn’t clearer.

Next day I got to the convention late, about noon actually. On my way to the hall to get to the Gay Gamer panel I saw these guys and paused to snap a pic.

I made it to the panel without trouble. I was near the end of the line and I still found empty seats in the second row right behind the others. The place was half empty. I could only think it was because of the schedule change from Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon.  That definitely hurt attendance. It was much better run than the Girls and Games panel. In fact they outright contradicted that panel and god bless them for it.

Once again the panel is covered better elsewhere.

After the panel we kind of hung around outside in the hall…

… when Hellen McWilliams of Harmonix and on the panel we just saw came by.

I went wandering around and ran into Alex Myers.

It was that time however, people had to go to catch their flights or start the long arduous drive home. Said my goodbyes to Justin and Kate as they made for the airport. Also said goodbye to Alex and Grant as I was going to one last panel and probably wouldn’t see them afterwords. Though before that, I sat with them for a while.

The man standing is carrying three poke walkers. This was an all too common scene at PAX. Some people would be riding the escalators with their walkers out to try and touch with anyone going the opposite way. People would approach lines just to see if anyone there had one. And as soon as someone whipped it out a crowd would amass and congregate around that person. It was a phenomenon. Releasing it right before a convention was probably the best advertising Nintendo could have done.

Just a guy nonchalantly carrying a very big sword around. Nothing else to see here.

I went to the Snake-oil and Sequalitis panel at the end of Sunday’s festivities. Sparky Clarkson, you remember him…

… was good enough to be line with me. It was a little dry, but full of discussion. At the end they gave out 5 Andrew Ryan figurines. Clapping was enthusiastic for 1-3, then died down at 4 and was dead silent when the last one was given away. I said goodbye to Sparky and went to the front.

Damn right I was going to get a picture of Ken Levine.

After I got out of there, I was effectively the last one at PAX. I wasn’t leaving until Monday, so I had no one to meet and there was little else to do. I hung out at the handheld lounge sucking down the wi-fi until they called the first ever PAX East to a close. I am out of pictures from the event, but I have one left.

This Ladies and Gentlemen is me. Now there wont be any confusion about what I look like anymore.

PAX East was a blast. Thank you to all the friends I met at this “reunion” and hope to see you again next year. I’m already making plans for it. I wish I had more time with people, especially Joe Tortuga and Johnathan Mills, both of whom I forgot to snap a picture of and only got a few words with each besides.

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