It’s Over!

Katamari on break
I’m not sure how they pulled it off, but PAX was loud, crowded, and packed with people trying to sell things, and it still managed to be pretty damn cool. I’m so used to leaving videogame-related trade shows and conventions with my will completely drained, convinced that I’ve made a horrible career choice — it’s odd to leave one excited about what I do for a living.

On the Penny Arcade site, Tycho says that one of the goals of the con is to “create a corporeal Internet.” And you know, it’s his show, he can say whatever he wants, but it strikes me as a disservice. What I saw of the show was free of the worst aspects of the internet: people were friendly and polite, enthusiastic about stuff without being self-conscious, and didn’t let negativity get in the way of everybody’s fun.

I had like ten people stop me on the floor (because they recognized me from the booth or a panel) and tell me that they loved Telltale and/or the Sam & Max games. On the internet, those voices tend to get drowned out by the relatively few complaints. Everyone I talked to really seemed to understand what Telltale’s trying to do, and described why they play games and what they wanted to see more of. There’s a lot of great stuff to think about for future games.

And it’s been said before lots of times, but it’s true: their volunteer staff is fanastic. Super-friendly and helpful.

I didn’t get to see any panels except the two I was on, but they were handled well by the staff, and the crowd asked genuinely interesting and insightful questions. The Make-a-Scene with Strong Bad panel was an hour of barely controlled chaos that turned out to be a hell of a lot more fun than you can tell from just a video. (Best moment was when Mark asked if anyone could do a Homsar impression, and like a dozen people all started the “Daaaaaaahhahhh” at once).

And I’m too self-conscious to remember much about the “Writing in Games” panel except for Ron Gilbert’s talking about the importance of being succinct, and then my answering questions with single sentences that lasted 5 minutes or longer. (Anybody who thinks I ramble on this blog should consider that everything on here gets edited first. Shudder.) Actually, the main thing I remember is that the Harmonix people I met there are some of the friendliest people you’d ever want to meet, which strikes me as unfair. Either you get to work on a really cool game that’s an enormous hit, accomplishes everything it sets out to do, and is changing the entire industry; or you get to be a nice person in real life. Choose one.

The Hothead people I met were really nice as well (but it’s easier for them, since they’re Canadian). And the X-Play crew that came by struck me as completely professional, but still as laid-back and unpretentious as you can be with an entourage and security detail and dozens of people you have to interview in one day.

Actually, almost everyone I met was nice. You really got the sense that people were there to enjoy games, not to sell them. Even from those of us who were selling them. It was a little off-putting seeing so many copies of myself — albeit younger copies — walking around; I don’t like being reminded that “chubby bearded guy with glasses” is a standard out-of-the-box Nerd Class. But this is the first convention I’ve been to in a long time where I was a little disappointed it didn’t last longer, so I could go to the panels and concerts and play the games on display and start random games with strangers.

Edit: I forgot to mention my favorite thing about the whole weekend. I was sitting in the lobby of the hotel, and one of the guys from the hotel staff came up and started changing the TV channel. All the warnings about Gustav and New Orleans were too depressing. He stopped on a channel about some female bodybuilding championship, and the camera lingered on one of the contestants, stripped down to a bikini and flexing and posing. He stared at it for a second, shook his head, and turned to me and said: “You couldn’t melt that and pour it on me.”

Keeping Up Appearances

The Penny Arcade Expo is this weekend, and I’m flying up tomorrow for another three days of being awkward and confused while surrounded by nerdcrowds. I’m actually looking forward to this one, unlike the Comic Con, because I keep hearing how PAX is the right way to do a convention. I’d actually forgotten it was a videogame convention until a friend reminded me — I’ve been to so many comic cons and Macworlds recently that I started to conflate them all. Oh yeah, videogames! I remember liking those!

Plus, I think I like Seattle, at least the three or so hours I saw of it when I went up to the Microsoft campus a few years ago. I distinctly remember being startled at how clean the air was.

I’m going to be on two panels: Writing for Video Games from 6:00PM to 7:00PM on Friday, and then Make a Scene, the Strong Bad Edition from 7:30PM to 8:30PM. I hear that the Make a Scene panel at last year’s was a lot of fun; we get audience members to record lines for the characters and then put them together in our game engine for a cutscene at the end of the panel.

So if you’re going to be in Seattle, check me out! (No seriously, check me out!) And if you’re in San Francisco, please don’t steal my stuff.