PAX story: Part 2

By Hans Wuerflein

There were six of us making the trip this year.  Four who went last year, me, and one other new guy.  I had Omeganaut status, and three of the four second-timers had press credentials (two of them completely legit), so we were looking forward to abusing that to its full extent to skip past some of PAX’s legendarily long lines.

We made it to the Tulsa airport in plenty of time for our flight, and even a rain delay didn’t keep up from making our connection in Denver.

On the second leg of out flight we met a girl, also on her way to PAX, but her trip was a little more business oriented than ours.  She was hired to be a “booth babe” for Namco.

What surprised me most was how big of a gamer she really was.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with liking Halo or Super Smash Bros., and I’m not suggesting in any way that being female precludes her from being a gamer, but when you start talking about playing an imported copy of Puyo Puyo on your Saturn, color me impressed.


After arriving in Seattle, and making sure the camera belonging to a certain network affiliate wasn’t damaged by the lady who was convinced that if she just shoved harder her bag would fit in that overhead bin, we worked our way through the airport, making note of all the announcements being in both English and Japanese.

We finally found our checked bags and headed for the bus station to catch a ride to our hotel downtown.  While waiting on our bus, we asked the lone girl in the group, a writer for Gamer’s Intuition, why her press stuff still said Grrl Gamer on it.

Apparently, the editorial staff had an argument over some design changes with the owner/founder and she “took her ball and went home.”  Thus, Gamer’s Intuition was born, and due to all of this happening too close to the press filing deadline, she has credentials, but for a site that no longer exists.

Although none of us wanted to sound sexist, no one was really surprised that Grrl Gamer ended in a giant drama bomb.

We finally got to our hotel and checked in.  What followed may very well be one of the coolest moments of my life.  (Which is kind of sad, but I digress.)  We got into our elevator, and before the door closed, heard someone say “Do you have room for me and my giant bags?”

I turned around and there was Wil Wheaton. I didn’t have my camera out, so this picture I found online will have to do:


Oh come on, I can find something better and more recent than that:


There we go!  Now, where was I?  Oh yeah, elevator.

Wil effing Wheaton.  In MY elevator!  I was speechless.

Finally someone in the group spoke.  “So, what panels are you on this year?”  Sure, it was kind of wasted, because the schedule could have told us that, but at least no one did anything completely stupid.  And now we knew which floor he was staying on…

Anyway, still completely geeking out over Wil, we wound our way down the hall to our rooms, which we discovered were in what looked like a closet.  The door from the hall opened to both rooms, but there wasn’t any good marking on the door itself.  Just a key reader at the end of a hall where, by number, our rooms should be.

The view was great:

Downtown Seattle from 23 stories up.

After dropping everything off in the rooms, we headed out to get our passes sorted out.  The press people still had to pick theirs up, and I had no idea what the Omeganauts were supposed to be doing.

The volunteers were quite enthusiastic, mainly because no one else was signing in yet.

After our press crew got their stuff squared away, and I was informed that no one had any idea what I was supposed to be doing, we headed out to find some lunch.

We wanted somewhere good and local, and managed to stay mostly away from chains for the trip.  Well, except for Red Robin before the Saturday night concerts, but that was more out of necessity than anything else.

We decided to check out Von’s before heading over to Gameworks for the afternoon.

It was amazing to see an actual, functioning, up to date arcade again.  The place is owned and run by Sega, but they had a great selection of stuff, old and new, and even some cabinets not otherwise available in the US (to the best of my knowledge anyway).

It was great to see Street Fighter  4 where the franchise started, and not just on a (admittedly impressive) home port.

The rest of the day is a bit of a blur.  We hit up Umi Sake house, a great Sushi restaurant, and between having only gotten about an hour and a half sleep total in the past two day and a large Kirin and the sake, I was a bit out of it at this point.

Due to our press connections, we managed to get into Activision’s press party.  It was pretty cool, not only checking out stuff early, with an open bar to boot, but also because Activision wasn’t showing anything off to the public at PAX this year.  No Modern Warfare 2 I can understand.  The game couldn’t get any more hype if they tried.  But I was surprised that they chose not to promote anything else they’re working on.

The first thing I saw when we walked in was Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2.  As you could expect, it played like the first UA, but prettier, because this time around it isn’t being developed for the PS2 then prettied up.  It was pretty fun, but I manged to get a filing cabinet stuck in a random enemy’s torso, so it’s not the most polished game ever.

Then there was Blur, a new racing game that loves after effects more than fat kids love cake.  It played like Burnout, but with pick-ups like Mario Kart.  I’m still not sure what to think of it, but it looked like it wasn’t quite finished yet.

I noticed N’Gai Croal talking with some journos, probably about what to do when they get canned (or agree to a buyout, whatever).

The only other game, and probably the most important one, was Tony Hawk’s Ride, complete with the ‘skateboard that’s not really a skateboard’ controller.   It actually controlled really well, and the board looked durable, but two things bothered me.

First, it will only be playable with the board, and that bundle costs $120.  Ouch.

Second, the product placement.  There is product placement that ads to a game’s authenticity, like Vans or DC shoes.  Then there’s making the entire menu system from your game a T-Mobile Sidekick.  And no, that is not in any way an exaggeration.  You seriously navigate through the game using a T-Mobile Sidekick.

I’m not sure if I should be mad at the Michael Bay level of whoring out for your sponsors, or just impressed.

A little later we stumbled back to our hotel, and I tried to get some sleep before the start of the Omegathon the next morning.

To be continued


One Response to “PAX story: Part 2”

  1. […] not sure if you remember when I went to PAX back in September as an Omeganaut, but i totally went to PAX in September as an […]

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