Just spent damn near a week up in Boston for PAX East 2015. Since I’m eager to start using my blog for more than chapter announcements, how about we discuss that a bit?
I’m not much of a hardcore gamer, but I follow the industry in a hardcore way. It’s odd; I enjoy reading the news, keeping up with new releases, being in the know… but when it comes to my gaming tastes I prefer not to play anything too intense or complicated. Quickie diversions and simple games, or deeply cerebral games in small doses (like Let’s Quip) are more my speed. So, when I latch onto something at PAX that grabs my interest, it’s because it’s presenting something unique that tickles me just so.
Let’s talk about the negatives first, then the mehs, then the positives. I want to end on a positive note.
TRAVEL SUCKS. Plan and simple, travel sucks. I have a physical disability and this world constantly reminds me that it was not made to suit me; I can’t easily sit or even lie down anywhere I please. Travel in general leaves me anxious and uncomfortable and this was no exception. Even as I was having fun at the event venue itself the perpetual reminder was always there.
NO POINTS FOR EXTRA CREDIT. I love the Extra Credits web series. It’s richly insightful and always a fascinating watch, with adorable cartoons to go with its deep wisdom. But the Extra Credits panel at the show was… the lead writer plus a handful of random indie developers. It became General Game Industry Questions: The Panel, which is OKAY, but not really what I wanted. I had other options for that time slot I wish I’d taken.
IT’S NOT “THE ROOM” BUT IT’S CLOSE. I also love the Angry Video Game Nerd, for many of the same reasons; under the cloak of juvenile humor he produces some very insightful commentary about game design. That said, the “Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie” movie? It’s 120 minutes of incredibly self-indulgent juvenile humor with no insight whatsoever. Even watching it in a room with hundreds of other geeks giggling away didn’t make it funny.
HARMONIX REALLY WHIPS THE LLAMA’S ASS with its god-tier Winamp visualizer style music player, HMX VR. Combines an Oculus Rift with beatmatching to make an amazing roller coaster ride out of any MP3 file, and frankly? I’m sold. I almost want to grab an Oculus right now, since it fit nicely over my glasses and worked really well, but I am concerned about the competing VR standards and Oculus’s inability to get out of beta. Oh! And they announced Rock Band 4, which is awesome, although I have Concerns about them dropping the keytar completely. I still want the option to play guitar parts on it, guys! Physical disability again; this is the only way I can play guitar! Please!
I FOUND THE NEW NUMBER TWO in the form of Compulsion Games’ “We Happy Few,” in which creepy British people straight out of The Prisoner hunt you down and kill you for not being happy enough. I played maybe three minutes total before getting my buttocks handed to me because I didn’t understand how the game works in the slightest, but the atmosphere was just amazing and I want more of it.
OVERWATCH IS LIKE SMASHING ACTION FIGURES TOGETHER AND MAKING ‘POW POW!’ NOISES and it is glorious as a result. As great as the characters of TF2 are, they do sacrifice a lot of style in favor of keeping them team-color-readable, becoming generic army men. Overwatch oozes personality in contrast, with a wide variety of instantly toy-friendly awesome guys and gals to play with. I had an absolute blast playing it and eagerly, eagerly want in on the beta. Also: PROPS to Blizzard for having a wheelchair-accessible demo station right there on the show floor, when most companies didn’t bother. Mad props.
THE FUNNY WAS AVAILABLE IN STEADY SUPPLY thanks to great panels like the Cox ‘n Crendor show (starring professional Internet Idiots(tm) Jesse Cox and Wowcrendor) and the amazing Acquisitions, Inc. live D&D show. CnC have an amazing chemistry together, able to play deadpan stoner humor off frantic frustration for a great mix. But top of the line definitely goes to PAXAMANIA, a bizarre pastiche of wrestling-style sports entertainment, game industry inside jokes, and retro wrestling games. And yes, they destroyed the spanish announcer’s table.
Finally, A WORD IS WORTH A THOUSAND PICTURES in my opinion, and the Writer’s Workshop panel hosted by Tonic Industries, Fire Hose Games, and Bioware agrees with me. I’ve gotten to know Miellyn Barrows and Sean Baptiste well since last year’s writing panel and they came packed with useful info for aspiring writers, with more to come in the future. When it looked like I was gonna get snowed out of a full day of PAX, my number one worry was missing this panel. Thankfully I was there bright and early for it.
OVERALL I love PAX, pure and simple. It’s an utter blast and worth all the discomfort and dollars I have to pour into it each year. For the friends I know and the celebs I dig and the games I have yet to discover, it’s incredibly worth it.