Growing up I used to go to Star Trek conventions a lot. Not just because I liked Trek, but because the conventions themselves were a wealth of cool sci fi presentations and expo’s. You could find rare comics or books, out of print board games, and usually get a lot of news on upcoming sci fi movies or shows. As an added bonus I’ve seen most of the major stars ot Original and Next Generation Star Trek speak, like Deforest Kelley, Jimmy Doohan, Patrick Stewart, Leonard Nimoy, George Takei, Jonathon Frakes, Nichelle Nichols, and Michael Dorn.
Then I got a girlfriend and had to throw all my toys away.
I’m of course full of shit, but somewhere along the way I ran out of time to dedicate a weekend to a good fan con. To really enjoy them is an all weekend thing, as there is so much to see and do. But it’s been at least a decade or more since I last went to one.
I’ve been up in Seattle since 2002, and had of course heard about PAX, the Penny Arcade Expo. It was always described to me as a science fiction convention where there was no star headlining it, and no topic it was focused on. A convention where Geekdom itself gives the keynote and Video Games, Cosplay, Comics, Music, Caffeine, Alcohol, and all manner of tech were the primary attendees. Now that I work at Xbox it was a no brainer that I would be there.
I’m literally dehydrated from all the nerdgasms I had this weekend. It’s really really really hard to describe just how jaw dropping this event is. And there were 58,500 people there.
It’s pure unadulterated sensory overload for all things geek. People dress up, bring their consoles and DS’s and PSP’s and Computers. There’s panel discussions on the geekiest things imaginable. Then there’s the expo hall.
OMG the expo hall.
You can see everything there. I geeked out to Starcraft 2, Spore, Left 4 Dead, Resistance 2, Gears of War 2, Endwar, Halo Wars, Project Origin and of course, had hands on time with:
Guitar Hero World Tour didn’t suck at all. The drum kit is surprisingly good and the guitar strum action has been much improved to still provide a tactile click, but be much much quieter. It also supports a Rock Band-like touch strip. They didn’t have many songs to play at all, but I found myself convinced I would pick it up when it comes out, October 26th.
But my main love will always be:
Rock Band 2 was everything I wanted it to be: Subtle improvements to an already awesome game. Not much here has changed except improved UI, slightly easier vocals (expert is more forgiving) and slightly quieter instruments. But I loved every second of singing Pearl Jam’s Alive to the crowd. The line for Rock Band blew GH:WT away. You simply couldn’t get to play the game without an hours trek through the line.
Of course our booth was pretty popular too, here’s the crowd watching Major Nelson demo the new interface for the Xbox 360:
oops sorry that’s the Judy Nails lookalike the Guitar Hero World Tour booth had, who could nail expert guitar without breaking a sweat while being drooled over by a crowd of geeks.
Here’s the crowd at the MS booth:
The reaction to the OS was overall favorable but I think the people most nervous about it really need time to play with it. I kept hearing people bemoaning the fact that a lot of the changes seemed to be in an attempt to make the UI easier for casual gamers. What a lot of people don’t realize is that we took a lot of our cues and advice from the hardcore gamers. I think people will love the new UI when they get a hold of it.
Last but not least: OMFG HEADCRABS!
This was probably the best weekend I have had in a while. But I was completely exhausted by the end of it. Between the booth and so many people to talk to and so much to see I feel like I only got a moment or two to spend with the people I wanted to see the most. I spent most of labor day literally sleeping and resting from the stress of the weekend and the week preceeding it, only to head back to the grind today.
But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It was an amazing time. Never been? Make sure you make PAX09.