aaaaaa so many things to talk about

Okay, a rundown of PAX 2012! Which is to say PAX Prime 2012. The Seattle one. I’ll do the last tour post later this week or early next.

I want to say first that I had a lot of fun at this event, particularly Sunday. I ran into a bunch of people again – HI JOSH! HI AHNA! HI PAUL AND JENNY AND ANNA AND JACK AND AUBREY AND ANGELA AND WOW I KNOW A LOT OF PEOPLE WITH NAMES STARTING WITH A AND I’M SORRY IF I FORGOT ANYBODY! – and continued my tradition of almost running into Wil Wheaton every year, by which I mean headlong, by which I mean collision avoidance.

HEY WIL WHAT IS IT WITH YOU AND DOORS ANYWAY? I don’t think he’s ever actually noticed. But I digress.

Panel programming included a surprising number of trans-inclusive queers-in-gaming events – including panels on transgendered people in the games industry and TG characters in games – and I saw a bit of a focus shift towards trying to deal with the harassment problem in online gaming. That’s good, because that’s a huge overdue deal.

PAX hosted a Match Game panel game as well, and while it had nothing on Kevin Standlee’s version at SF conventions – Kevin, your job is secure ^_^ – it still brought laughs. The two chiptunes panels I attended were really focused and informative – a rare positive moment from the DIY standpoint – and the game soundtrack composer’s panel gave me some insights into that process. Nothing I can use directly in the book soundtrack I’m working on, but good things to know nonetheless. So, good fun there. The Doubleclicks had an on-site show Sunday afternoon, courtesy WoTC! Yay! And lots of gaming fun, which I’ll talk about below.


All that said, PAX has changed. It couldn’t not change, of course; everything does, over time. But there are a few key shifts this year that I want to talk about.

First: it’s too large for what it once was. Until a couple of years ago, it was possible for there to be some attendee-driven thing that caught on and everybody knew about. All Hail Ball, the Bad Horse Chorus of 2010 – member-driven events like those.

That kind of can’t happen now. It’s just too big, and in too many places at once. Once a certain size is reached, the ability to have that kind of common spontaneity goes away, and I think it reached that point this year.

Cosplay is still good, tho’; yes, that’s motion blur, the beast walked

Secondly, and I think this is directly related, the attendee-driven nature has given way to an exhibitor-driven nature. While that shift started last year, this year really drove it home, at least for me. It’s trade show more than convention now; a really good one, but a trade show.

Now, a good trade show is a lot of fun. And PAX does crowd control fantastically well. I never felt herded, and convention-run queues were fewer, shorter, and quicker this year – which, ironically, may be part of the problem. Those long queues used to host queue games! People would game with each other in queue, and I didn’t see that so much this year. Maybe I just missed it.

The Horde

And, of course, the old Pictochat scene is gone, as is the Mario Cart scene. All that was interactive, but the new DSes don’t support Pictochat, and, well.

Finally, and relatedly, a lot of the DIYness seemed to be missing. Some of that is reflected in the lack of queuecon, some of that is reflected in the lack of ability to find out about it, and some of it is programming decisions. The Jamspace, of particular relevance to my interests, was gone. The Secret Level for tabletop from last year was dedicated to way-more-organised D&D and Magic, run by WOTC. There was still a good amount of unstructured tabletop space over in the main convention centre, but… yeah.

It’s a shift. Maybe it was inevitable, maybe it’s all a factor of size, I don’t know. But it’s different now. I had fun, but a different kind of fun.



Sadly, no must-have large-event games this year! Not for me, anyway. BUT that doesn’t mean games sucked! The combined indie wing had a lot of interesting things going on, particularly Johann Sebastian Joust, a game which is difficult to describe without making it sound stupid – jostle opponent controllers, don’t let your own move too quickly, music tempo dictates allowable movement – but which is in fact hugely fun. It’s also the first good argument for having the PS3’s little weird lightstick controllers ever, at least as far as I’m concerned. I played that all three days, and if I had a PS3, I’d be on the waitlist.

Also, Bastion – written by an indie studio, now distributed by a larger group – is now on the iPad! I didn’t know! This is awesome. Of course I’m playing it now, what a silly question. 😀

I finally managed to get some tabletop in at one of these things! Yay! HEY, PAX GUYS, WE NEED SOME OTHER #TTLFG SOLUTION! With all the network fail, the twitter-tag system just isn’t viable. But again, I digress: Siberia is kinda-sorta RISK-but-economics, with the according changes in rules. Definitely interesting. Cards Against Humanity is exactly as horrible and exactly as hilarious as you may have heard. I will be buying that.

Mechwarrior isn’t even vaguely new, but the free-to-play Mechwarrior Online is, and while I used to play a lot of mech games, I haven’t lately. At least on their setup at show, the new Online was pretty damn smooth. But I think I liked Hawken‘s control behaviour a little better.

Similar but different: Shootmania: Storm. It’s an FPS that’s played in powered armour with mecha-like controls. And you guys it is SO MUCH STUPID FUN. It’s in Beta now, PC gamers sign the fuck up!

All three default to mouse control for targeting/view alignment, though; a couple of hours of that and my mouse hand was all HEY REMEMBER WHEN WE HAD THAT LONG CONVERSATION ABOUT NEVER FUCKING DO THIS AGAIN? THAT ONE? YEAH, THAT ONE. HAVE SOME REMINDERS.

At least you can remap to keyboard.

Assassin’s Creed 3 looked really good, but all you got to do was look at it. No hands-on. And: no sign of Bioshock: Infinite. Seriously, it was like it didn’t even exist. I know a bunch of people left Irrational in August; that’s an interesting combination of events.

Those were the highlights. SEGA was there still giving it the old college try, but honestly? I didn’t even hit the booth. Atari was playing the nostalgia market with 2600 game “remixes,” which is to say, “same gameplay, new graphics, what the fuck is wrong with you?” Honestly, that was sad.

Intel was giving away some pretty goddamn srs bsns hardware, of which I of course won none. Goddammit! But I did get a cape. It’s tear-away with velcro, so no chance of that whole unfortunate jet-engine messiness. In other words, thanks to velcro:

Capes are cool.

If you were there, what’d you think of the atmosphere shift? I know it wasn’t just me, but I’m curious who picked up on it.

it’s worked so far but we’re not out yet