Wednesday I told my friends I was heading to Boston for the weekend. My coworkers and family had all sorts of suggestions of where to eat and what to see. My answer to them was that I was heading to PAX East and wouldn't have the time to swing by Cheers or have the chance to walk the Freedom Trail. Not being gamers, these people didn't understand the odyssey I was undertaking. They couldn't understand that PAX had hit the East Coast and I was obligated to attend. A major electronic gaming con within driving distance wasn't to be missed. Sure, the MMORPG.com media pass was added incentive.
I arrived in Boston on Thursday, settled in and prepared for the next few days. Thursday evening, your intrepid MMORPG staff planned their attack on PAX East, where to go, whom to see and such. We got what would prove to be our last full night of sleep. Friday afternoon we watched the legions of gamers line up through the makeshift maze to await the official opening of the convention. Feigning a need to see the media room, we made our way to the other side of the masses just in time to witness the opening of the doors. For those of you have attended conventions and waited on those lines, you know the energy and excitement that builds up. There is a certain joy that comes from being surrounded with so many folks who enjoy the same passion as you do. From the other side of the door it's a little overwhelming; the doors almost seem to shake in anticipation as the opening time draws near. In any number of movies this would be the scene where you check your ammunition, make a wry comment to the camera and the action would begin.
2:00 pm was the official opening and it was time to release the hounds. To the credit of the PAX East volunteers, the red-shirted Enforcers, it was a very organized chaos. Convention goers made their way to the escalators; the Exhibition Hall was on the second Floor of the Hynes Convention center. Managing to stay just ahead of the rush, I was able to hit the convention floor before the masses. I shamelessly abandoned my co-workers in order to scout the Exhibition Hall. This was my first convention of this nature that I have attended and I wasn't sure what to expect. I had been regaled with tales of booth babes from previous gaming conventions, and I was hell bent to be the first to find them. Not for me you understand, but for you the MMORPG.com readers. No need to thank me, mostly since they didn't exist at this venue, although we have done our best to get a gallery for the readers to get an impression of the PAX East experience.
There were a impressive number of companies with some spectacular displays. Some of the most notable were: the NVIDIA, Alienware, Turbine, Gunnar, All Points Bulletin, Red Dead Redemption, and the Dante's Inferno setups. There were demos galore, and it was all a bit overwhelming. There was one specific game that I (and many, many of the convention's other attendees) locked onto: Starcraft II, which was being demoed at the NVIDIA booth. I wasn't alone in my intent of getting some time on this game (more to follow on the experience coming soon).
As computer gamers we sometimes have a tendency to forget the origins of gaming. That's right, the old pen and paper, and desktop gaming. Directly across from the high tech glory of the NVIDIA booth there were the folks from Geek Chic. This company produces exquisite handcrafted gaming tables as well as a brand new impressive comic and gaming shelving system. I recommend any serious gamer, computer or tabletop, explore their site and keep it bookmarked as there promises to be a major site update soon.
In addition to the exhibitors, there were an impressive number of panels being held this year. It seems whatever convention I go to, I always notice the panel I want to see about an hour after it is over. I heard there was a very spirited debate over at "The Devs vs. Journalists" panel. "The Death of Print" was another promising panel I missed; mostly because I was gathering information in order to post online. Henceforth contributing to the death of print. OMG I've become a murderer, I'm sorry print, you will be missed. I did attend the "MMO Behavior" panel. It was interesting, but not quite what I expected. More on that panel in the coming days. Finally there was a panel I just had to attend, "Future of the MMO Scene" moderated by MMORPG.com's own Garrett Fuller. Panelists Included: Bob Ferrari [Sanrio Digital / Typhoon Games], Craig Alexander [Turbine Entertainment], Paul Barnett [EA / Bioware / Mythic], Curt Schilling [38 Studios]. These gentlemen shared their considerable insight with the panel viewers.
The third floor of the convention center was mostly dedicated to electronic tournament play. The sheer volume of people waiting to challenge each other in tournaments stunned me. I was always convinced that was something that you could do from the comfort of your own home. How wrong I was, I was never a huge tournament player, so I had no idea of the sheer fanaticism of some of these players. Many can be seen hauling full computer rigs across the convention floor. I get aggravated plugging in a new monitor, let alone lugging my system around with me. Not to be outdone by their technological brethren there were ample tabletop gaming tournaments as well. Kudos to all those who participated in these events.
PAX East has shown the gaming developers that the East Coast was certainly in need of some attention. The convention was sold out to capacity and with luck may move to a larger venue next year. Overall, PAX East was a great time, if there are readers out there who attended please share your ideas and experiences in the forums. I'm sure there is a bunch of information I've neglected in my impressions, and I know for sure that our readers won't be shy in pointing that out. Maybe there was a panel you made it to or an exhibitor that deserves special mention. Let's hear it from you folks.