PAX Story: Part 4

By Hans Wuerflein

Saturday started a bit slower.  A weird mix of leftover depression from losing out of the Omegathon and a mild hangover from the night before made it a bit harder to get going the next morning.

I checked out some more of the show floor (now that I had nothing better to do) while I was waiting for the interesting panels to start for the day.

It was fun to just look around at the different exhibits and see what publishers are pushing (or in the case of Activision, not) this year.

There was the Alienware booth using a flash based game (Plant’s vs. Zombies) that runs fine on most netbooks to show off their multi-thousand dollar top-of-the-line series of laptops.

There was Paul Westwood of Splash Damage promoting Brink.  The game looks great.  It’s trying to put Mirror’s Edge’s free running mechanics into a squad-based, first person shooter.  But someone needs to explain to Paul how microphones work.  Seriously, I watched give pretty much the same presentation at Quakecon about three weeks earlier and both times it sounded like he was trying to yell to the back of the room.

Although it looked fun, I still don’t know how Dante’s Inferno is going to work.  I mean, I know that it looks like it uses some sort of Devil May Cry or God of War style gameplay mechanics, but how are they adapting it?  In the book Dante just kind of walks around and makes social and political commentary on stuff.  Now he’s hitting them with a giant scythe/spear thingy.  Seriously, look at him.

Sadly, at least for me, the Omegathon pass didn’t let me cut in the exhibitor room.

The lines for most of the games that did  have playable demos out were insane, especially the Blizzard stuff.  I didn’t really feel like waiting for any of it though, because really, it’s still Starcraft, Diablo and World of Warcraft.

We checked out the Totally Rad Show Podcast (and Q&A) and had pretty good seats.

And by pretty good, I mean we were about 10 feet away on the front row.  Seriously, I could have totally punched at least one of them before security tackled me.

It was a pretty cool show, but afterward I saw the weirdest, coolest piece of promotional crap I’ve ever seen:

No More Heroes 2 themed toilet paper!  I realize that in the first one the save screen was the main character on the john, but seriously, how did that meeting go?

Did someone really say ‘We want you to wipe your ass with our logo!’ or ‘When people think of sh*t, we want them to think of us!’  Really, I’d be amazed if hey still have a job now.  But then again, I wasn’t even aware of the game itself at the show, so I guess it sort of worked for them.

After lunch we checked out the panel X-play host Adam Sessler and Hal Halpin, Entertainment Consumer Association president, hosted on the gaming industry in general.

Sorry for the crappy picture, but they actually let people in early and getting to cut in line doesn’t do much for you if 250 people are already in the room.

They talked about the legal threats to gaming, like Jack Thompson and the California law approaching the U.S. Supreme Court at the time.  The main problem, they said, was the older generations that didn’t have video games still having a hostile attitude for them.  Their solution?  Wait for them to die.

It sounds a bit mean, but it’s true.  There have been cultural struggles like this before.  As Sessler pointed out, this is very similar to how comic books were treated in the 50s.  Parents were worried about them because they used a language parents didn’t understand, and parents thought they were losing control of their kids.  It’s just a matter of time before they’re accepted by society at large and that day is fast approaching.

During the Q&A section someone asked about the expanded use of movie style 3D in video games in the past year, and Sessler gave it one of the best responses I’ve ever heard.

“When I was in college I had a roommate that was into piercing,” he said. “And he put about a handful of them in his junk.”  He added that sometimes you would hear jingling when the guy walked.

When he asked his roommate why he did it, he explained that it made sex better.

“How bad was it for you before?” Sessler said.

He went on to say that there really wasn’t any game that he could imagine thinking “You know, this would be better if things were standing about three inches closer to me from the screen.”

We heard there was a party going on downtown before the concerts for the launch of Resident Evil 5.  I’m sure you’re thinking ‘But Hans, didn’t that game come out back in March?’  Yeah, but this was a launch for the PC version.  I know, I could hardly contain myself.

And if you’re wondering why I used a picture of the sign instead of the party, I’ll explain it in three words: no open bar.

While walking around downtown we saw the safest looking parking garage on earth.

We walked down by the docks, looking for somewhere to eat, then settled on a Red Robin because we needed to make it back in time for the afore mentioned concert.

We made it back as the fourth round of the Omegathon, the least surprising surprise round ever, Beatles Rock Band.  It was cool to see them playing it before it was released, but it was avaliable for anyone to pick up and play over in the exhibitor area, so it wasn’t that big of a deal.

After they cleared the stage it was time for Freezepop.

Some of you have probably heard of them from the first couple Guitar Hero games of the Rock Band series, but more people should know them and they put on a hell of a show.  If there is such a thing as a kick-ass keytar solo, you will see several at a Freezepop show.

Plus the crowd was huge and really into it, complete with coordinated vault-boy puppet dancing.

Seriously, this crowd was huge.

And Freezepop was great and our seats (or spot on the floor, whatever) didn’t hurt.

Oh, and Freezepop proved in another way that they are some of the coolest people out there.  I guess this guy caught one of them in the hall before the show and got them to help him out.  Thankfully, she said yes.

I’m going to apologize for this next picture up front, but I needed a way to show what’s different about a concert at PAX.  Yes, that is a Macbook someone is holding up instead of a lighter.  I had a few shots of a bunch of DS’s, but the sheer ridiculousness of bringing a laptop in and no one really questioning it (at least at the time) is what sets PAX apart.  For nerds, geeks, or whatever else you want to call us, this is our Woodstock.  You know, except it’s annual and they don’t charge you $200 for tickets then $9 for a bottle of water.

Freezepop finished their show to thunderous applause, and the audience waited impatiently for what was to come.

Wil Wheaton took the stage to deliver the what will surely go down as the greatest introduction in the history of concerts:

I’ll have to admit I hadn’t heard any of Paul and Storm’s stuff before this show, but they made a fan out of me in the few minutes they had as an opening band.  Seriously, they did a great job getting the crowd involved, and I can’t wait to get this show on DVD as soon as it comes out.

Plus we got to move even closer, so we were about 5 feet outside of the VIP section with the Penny Arcade guys and their family and friends (Wil!), so we were doing about as well we could hope for.

A few minutes later, Jonathan Coulton walked out to the surprise of the audience, mainly because of how low key it was, especially after that intro.

Some of you may know Coulton from his “thing a week” days, some from Still Alive being featured in Portal, some may not know him at all.  Whatever the case, the man is amazing.

Plus he had support from Paul and Storm on a lot of his songs, and Molly Lewis even accompanied on ukulele on a few songs, specifically, a special version of My Monkey dedicated Wil Wheaton.

The rest of the show was great, full of fan favorites and even a cover of, for some reason, Destiny’s Child’s Bills, Bills, Bills.

It was the best concert I’ve ever been to and I’ll never forget it.  My feet felt like they were bleeding by about 10:30 and the concert didn’t get out until well after midnight.  I limped back to the hotel to rest up for the last day of PAX.

To be continued…


2 Responses to “PAX Story: Part 4”

  1. I ❤ Jonathan Coulton and Paul & Storm 😀

  2. […] I’m 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 Omeganaut! […]

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