Up until three years ago, I never got sick. I mean like, ever. If I did, it was usually some minor 12 hour sniffles. Now, like clockwork after every PAX some gamerborne virus or bacteria of the underworld, some pestilence of the Kilrathi, some infection of the Dark Savant kicks my immune system right in my immune system’s balls.
I now refer to PAX as the weekend before I take a few sick days.
I’m ensconced this time in Port Townsend, a place I go for spiritual and now physical healing. This is my first full day here and I’ve already had an ear irrigated! Does that sound like a good time? I’ll tell you what it sounds like, it sounds like a tiny guild navigator has taken up residence in my right ear and keeps burping water of life directly on my eardrum. The dizziness that ensues has convinced me the Japan earthquake permanently tilted the earth inwards. [NOTE: In all seriousness the Japan Earthquake is a tragedy on levels that make Katrina look staid. Statistics show that 100% of my readers have a cell phone because they are all geeks. Please text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 as you read this for earthquake relief in Japan.]
I’m trying to say, I’m back, but I’m not whole. Illness is but a part of it. I wrote last year about PAX East and PAX in general that I don’t think I can really top so please go check it out here. The best I can do here is to recap the more surreal moments:
- Nerdforce One: Our flight out of Seattle contained just about everyone from Microsoft, both Gabe and Tycho from Penny Arcade, and a billion other game industry geeks. Bored, but with access to the Internet, we began to spin tales of wonder about our flight.
- Seeing the enormous turn out for our tweetup just before the opening of PAX, and how patient and awesome gamers are. Despite a cold drizzle, people stood in line around the block and we reached venue capacity in just minutes. Sorry folks we’ll pick a bigger venue next year, but Lucky’s definitely stepped up and helped us get people in and through to say hello.
- I met Jane McGonigal very briefly a few years ago when discussing safety online, and she smartly and soundly rapped my knuckles against an assumption I made using a ruler forged from her enormous knowledge of facts. Her keynote was magical, as all PAX keynotes have been. I truly fear for the Earth, this collection of ever increasing 50 minute talks to open the event. It’s creating a library of inspiration and knowledge that must one day collapse in upon itself. Every time I think it has no where to go but down, it goes up.
- I had made it clear before that our presentation at PAX East was for those who had not been able to see us before. Much of the content was repeat. However I did insert a tiny observation that was new into the talk, and the reaction stunned me. I cribbed a line from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and applied it to gaming and got a reaction I was not quite expecting. I will excerpt it:
We’ve had a good time talking humorously about the ins and outs of enforcement, I wanted to finish off talking about something that I talked a little bit about last year. I was playing BulletStorm the other day, any BulletStorm fans here? (Some shouts) How many of you play Anarchy, online? [Fewer Shouts] Ok then one or two. Anarchy is really tough, it’s a multiplayer mode to the game. And what is involved in that is actually working together as a team. It’s very much like Horde mode or Firefight in other games where basically players have to defeat incoming waves of enemies. The thing that makes BulletStorm more interesting is that it requires the team to work together on specific challenges or you don’t pass the level. You can kill all the enemies on the level and you will not progress because you have to work together as a team on the team challenges.
So I started playing the game and I was completely new, and there were other new people but there was one guy who was awesome. I mean, he was killer. And he was teaching us how to actually play as a team. He would help set up the team environment that was required for us to score the additional amount of points that we need. And as I played with this guy, I felt like I was really having a blast not just because I felt that BulletStorm was a fun game, but because here was this person who was taking the time to help all of us to become better so that we could succeed and progress.
I last year about sportsmanship. I spoke about last year about how it is upon us as gamers to spread that word about sportsmanship. And fun. And fair play. And I talked a little bit about obeying Wheaton’s law, which I think we all should do. And I thought, as I was playing this guy, about when I was younger, and played in the world of arcades, and a park near my home. Where you often times had that same camaraderie where someone next to you might be cheering you on to get to the next level of a video game even if they had the next quarter, on top of the arcade machine that showed everyone they were going to have the next game. They were excited about that.
And I wonder if it isn’t time as well, for us as enforcers of course are here to help protect. But, as I think we all got out of the keynote today that we are all contagious vectors of AWESOME (for those of you who might have saw that), I wonder if it’s not time to go a little bit beyond Wil’s suggestion and not just not be a dick or discourage dick behavior, but maybe be excellent to each other.
[LAUGHTER, THEN LOUD APPLAUSE]
That BulletStorm guy? He was being excellent to everyone…
The applause was loud and full throated and really stunned me. But it shouldn’t have. This was PAX. Of course they would agree with being excellent to each other.
- The convention center in Boston is AMAZING. Upgrading from the Hynes last year, now we had a venue that PAX truly shines in. The traffic flow was good, the expo floor and tabletop areas were wide open and amazing. I saw more at this PAX in a shorter amount of time than any previous venue. It was like the entire building was designed for us.
- Doing the Major Nelson Radio show live has become a twice yearly event I so greatly look forward to. The crowd’s excitement is infectious, and it just seems to me we feed off of that so much better than each week when we sit in a room doing it. Not to say we don’t do a good job, but the PAX live recordings? I treasure them. Take a listen.
- Saturday night’s concert row has always been my favorite. I can’t wait for Jonathan’s new album to come out, and Paul and Storm treated the PAX East crowd to a couple of rarities I don’t think they have heard before.
- Sunday morning was probably my favorite, as that is when Sean Baptiste of Harmonix debuted his new show, When I Grow Up. Sean was diagnosed with an inoperable benign brain tumor that nonetheless was situated in a really bad place, causing a buildup of cerebral fluid. After undergoing 12 brain surgeries to properly correct the problem, it left Sean still the same awesome funny person, but with some unique new challenges he has to overcome every day. While waking up from one of his surgeries, he was struck with an epiphany: what ever happened to all the things he dreamt of wanting to do as a kid? What if he tried to do them now? When I Grow Up chronicles the first experiment: Stand Up Comedy. Sean premiered the episode at PAX East on Sunday at noon. I’d been following his travails for a while, since I hold him personally responsible for my addiction to Rock Band and I think he is also an awesome person. So we had him on as a guest on the Major Nelson podcast to help drive attendance to the premiere. The show was fantastic, everyone loved it. And I was deeply moved to be included in the credits for the first episode. Please check it out, its an amazing story, and an amazing journey.
Saturday night I got to meet Randall Munroe, creator of XKCD. Sunday night I got to spend the night drinking and chatting with him, MC Frontalot, Paul and Storm, and a host of other amazing people. The most surreal and awesome thing, is sitting next to Randall as he read “The Petal Falls Twice” to us out loud in the hotel bar. Warning, that’s not just not safe for work, its not safe for the human mind. Now imagine it’s being read to you by Randall fucking Munroe. The strangeness of this life cannot be measured.
I don’t have much more to remember now, as cold medicine begins to work its weird magic and the dolphin at my feet urges me to sing the fencepost in saran wrap.
I’m trying to say I’m fading a little bit.
In closing I would like to thank every single person who came up to me and said hi or asked me to sign my book or a badge or just wanted to talk. You are the reason I love PAX so much and I would trade all of the above gladly to make sure I still got to answer your questions and reminisce about JoCoCruiseCrazy or just hang out and marvel at the event overall. Thank you, thank you, and yet again thank you.
The Dolphin grows inpatient, and I only have so much saran wrap. Why must I toil on vacation?