Another year, another Penny Arcade Expo passed. The panels are over and the exhibitors are packed and gone, but the excitement and energy that is PAX are tough to fully process right away. Still lining Seattle’s famous pike street are PAX banners, featuring various statements of nerd humor, such as “why your IT guy is out sick”. But one banner in particular caught my eye, containing a message that why the 72-odd hours of PAX make up the absolute highlight of many gamers’ year (including mine). “Welcome Home”.
In last year’s PAX, I was fleeting familiar with the sense of community one finds at such an event, but it wasn’t until this year’s convention that I was hit in the face with this fact. As I’ve noted previously, much of my time last year was occupied pursuing swag and spending hours in line for a few minutes playtime of the latest titles. While I certainly spent my fair share of time in the expo hall this year, my experience with PAX 2010 was profoundly different than the last, and one of ultimately more enjoyment.
Well, for one, the panels. Warren Spector’s keynote on the changing community of gamers, and creating a welcoming environment to newcomers really set the theme for the entire con, and helped me reach a deeper understanding about what it means to be a gamer. It may not seem apparent with all the trash talking forum bashing and fanboyisms each of us see on a weekly, if not daily basis, but we gamers are more alike than most realize. It isn’t until events like PAX is that we meet face to face and see this affinity revealed. One of these revelations happened for me while waiting in line to demo Star Wars: The Old Republic. I struck up a conversation with the fellows ahead of me about the game itself, but we eventually began discussing the state of the industry, reminiscing about past games, all the while sucking others from the show floor into our scintillating debate.
One of these eye-opening moments happened while making new friends, but another happened throughout the convention while strengthening relationships with existing friends. This year was a little different for me, as I got to meet someone at PAX that I had been friends with online for nearly 6 years. He, in turn, had friends attending the con as well, and at one point over dinner, the four of us realized that each of us had sprouted friendships completely online, but more specifically, with gaming as the catalyst. “OMG” moments aside, I felt this posed a great example of the reach and effect gaming can have. The interactive and collaborative properties found in the enjoyment of gaming are quite unique in entertainment media. PAX thus provides the perfect venue, and its no wonder that gamers like you and I feel right at home here.
While PAX 2010 for me was about exploring what makes the gaming community so special, I imagine your experience was probably a little different. In fact, I invite and encourage you to share your PAX stories in the comments. Whatever the specifics of your experience, I’m willing to bet it was a positive one :).