PAX is a problematic thing – there’s so much wrong with so many parts of the computer gaming industry and with gaming fandom, and with PA in particular. As I’m writing this, I’m seeing anger on Twitter again over something that apparently happened at the QA on Monday.

And yet, the crowd has made PAX Prime so very awesome every year. It’s one of those events where I just get more and more energy as I’m there. It’s 12-14 hour days spent spiralling up in energy. So many people I know get worn out by all the stimulus and the crowds, and after day three I’m ready to do it again.

I have an assortment of photos on Flickr, and, while I’m mentioning it, is anyone else as confused as I am to be saying “Yahoo! has really done good things with Flickr lately”? Because after ignoring it for years and letting it rot, they’ve gone at it, and I’m genuinely liking the changes so far. But have a few highlights:

That Worked Out Well

Paul Has Pikminions!

The view from Contestants’ Row
(I played Match Game on Gameshow Night)

First thing I wanted to do was play Elder Scrolls Online – a.k.a Skyrim Online 😀 – at the Bethesda booth. That had a two hour queue right out the gate, and it held that most if not all of the expo. It was easy to find:

Oh, That Must Be it

I snuck on to the queue just before they cut it off, and I got A Look from one of the Bethesda people who clearly thought I was cheating, but I was inside the tape, so lol no I’m not leaving. They had 30 instances running on desktops, along with command references sheets, so I photographed one and studied it on my phone.

Cheaty McCheetersdotter gets a sneak preview

Toggled over to first-person view, it plays a lot like Skyrim, which is exactly what I want. In the 20 minutes of playtime, I was mostly seeing Skyrim 2.0 Only Multiplayer, which is also exactly what I want, so I’m happy. A few UI changes were distracting – auras around current targets and interaction characters – but they said they had a lot of feedback from the minority of players who really dislike that, so there is an option to disable it.

I didn’t have enough time playing to evaluate the new skills system, but while the mechanics of it are different, the Bethesda reps present said it boiled down to the same sorts of customisations, and I’ll hold them to that.

Some of the hardware out now… hoo, I want it. Cooler Master’s modular stackable case system (HAF Stacker)? Yes please. I wouldn’t mind Intel’s little AppleTV-sized NUC complete systems either, tho’ I’m in a little less of a hurry for that. Sadly, other people won the raffles and stole my prizes, including the 600GB SSD.


I finally got my hands on Logitech’s G-13 gameboard. It’s a mixed bag. The wrist support is too low, but that’s easy to fix with a pad. The key programming functionality is excellent… but. There has to be a but, doesn’t there? And in this case, it’s that it’s all done in the drivers, not the hardware, and the drivers are OSX and Windows only, so no Linux support. I has a sad.

Some of the hardware shown didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Nvidia’s handheld remote gaming system, the Shield… it’s a nice system, and if you’re into Android platform games, okay, the hardware is very nice. But the stream-your-PC-games functionality, which is what they were mostly selling – I’m just not seeing the usage case. It performed flawlessly, but it works only on your LAN, and it’s a tiny screen compared to a desktop; playing Skyrim on it was just kind of weird. And your PC has to be on and running the game, doing most of the work, so it’s not actually portable.

I’m just not seeing the usage scenario here.

Friday night’s Bit Blasters concert turned out to be one of those things I’m glad to have done once. Essentially, they do a live playthrough of Megaman 2, playing the game music live on rock instruments, mixed in with the game’s actual music, all as loudly as possible. It’s very high concept, and the crowd was into it – but it’s not something I’d be likely to do again.

I didn’t get to see Saturday night’s Doubleclicks show! Since they weren’t the opening act, and I didn’t want to rely on the very last bus home – it’s really safe to do so but I’m paranoid about some damn thing happening and not having a backup plan – I had to leave before they got on stage. Ah, well, next time.

Sunday evening I could stay as late as I wanted, so didn’t go home until after everything shut down. The last few hours, I spent at Rock Band Freeplay, and won like 1100 XBOX points for downloadable content, just being Bassist And Vocalist For Everybody Who Needs One. Then I got together a band to do “Less Talk More Rokk,” which people who haven’t tried to play or sing it tend to think is easy, but oh my god it is not. My drummer (who had just pounded his way through some speed deathmetal)? He knew. “Less Talk More Rokk? Jesus, that one’s hard.” And vocally the opposite of what I’ve done historically, which is, of course, why I wanted to do it.

We nailed it, tho’. The Freeplay crowd went kind of nuts. It was awesome…

…but not as awesome as this:

When Tom Servo Rocks the Mic He Rocks the Mic Right

Then I got into a Cards Against Humanity game with a unicorn to close out the evening. No, really, I wasn’t hallucinating this.

Unicorns Against Humanity


I crawled the expo floor for serious this year. Here’s what made an impression (other than Elder Scrolls Online, above):

  • Guns of Icarus is airship warfare from the indie booth. It’s multiplayer crew play, so you can be a pilot, an engineer, or one of two gunners, and you’re in a fleet combatting airships from another fleet. Good stylistic shooty fun.
  • Dwarven Delve held my interest longest in the dungeon crawler category. It’s a lightweight game, runs on iOS and Android and eventually Steam. Unlike most of its sort, it’s partly a puzzle game, in that each dungeon is made of large hexes which you can rotate. Sometimes these are direct puzzles, sometimes it’s just configuring exits to your advantage. Combat is automated, so really, it’s mostly about the puzzle side.
  • Super Space Blank is a free download for Windows from DigiPen students. It’s in the Asteroid family, but an exciting and initially confusing but entertaining – and distant – relative. 1-4 ships, all tied together via a platform, no thrusters – you manoeuvre using recoil from your weapons. It really wants controllers and three to four people, but if you have those, it is the kind of game that makes parties and destroys friendships. Highly recommended.
  • I really want to like Wildstar. I really do. I think it’s pretty, I think it’s silly, I like the fight mechanics, and the fact that the female characters literally prance like a bad parody of drag around when walking – no, seriously, bouncy-ass-up arms akimber wrist-flappy prancing is unbelievably awful. I told the rep – after he gave me a T-shirt for my play – that I thought the game was great but this was so unbelievably annoying and horrible that I’d never play it. I even did an apparently-too-accurate rendition of the prance; he didn’t seem to like that, but, well, sucks to be him.
  • I didn’t get to play inFAMOUS: Second Son, because nobody did; they just had a theatre trailer and sample (pre-shot) gameplay. However, their recreation of Pacific Science Centre for their demonstration level is creepy, freaky accurate. Honestly, it was kind of disturbing.
  • Wolfinstein: The New Order looks surprisingly interesting and does well in atmospherics; I guess shooting Nazis never gets old. I’ll give that another look when it comes out.
  • World of Tanks has an XBOX 360 version in closed beta; it played solidly, and I got a Beta code – actually, due to a flurry of confusion and hilarity, I got three Beta codes – and now that it’s a console game I’m thinking of actually playing it.
  • Finally, Zombie! Zombie! Zombie! is a Shit Keeps Falling game with a reasonably clever mechanic: match three zombies to form a triangle, all the zombies within that triangle get annihilated, but there are Always More Zombies. So if you like Shit Keeps Falling or casual zombie games, look that up.

So now that I’m seeing more of Gabe Being A Total Shithead On Stage Again, and some clear crowd support for it at the Monday Q&A, we’re back to where we were: trying to figure out this mess. Because honestly: yeah. It’s a mess. In particular, I expected better of Robert Khoo. Mike, I expect to be a jackass. Khoo? Well, too bad.

But I keep looking at everything else and thinking, ‘okay, gaming fandom has a big chunk of horrible here… but where do I go that doesn’t?‘ And yeah, I mean this kind of rape-culture horrible in particular. I feel like there’s kind of this idea out there that because gaming culture isn’t better, that it’s therefore worse, and must be shunned, when I see judges giving 30 days and apologies to convicted child rapists and entire communities rallying together – over and over again, these aren’t one-offs – to protect gang rapists, and hounding their victims to suicide.

So I look at all that, and all I can think is that if the right thing to do is GTFO – and, not incidentally, cede the territory to those people, which means even in their eyes that they win – then ‘where do I go’ ends up being a lesbian separatist commune out in the middle of nowhere, hoping we don’t face armed invasion from off-property. Because that’s pretty much the option.

And there are reasons I don’t live on a farm. I have lived on farms. I’ve worked on farms. I respect and in the non-factory case actively admire it and think it deserves support. But fuck if I’m doing it again myself.

As a solution, it doesn’t strike me as better.

So there you are. Everything has to kind of suck, even the awesome things, because people are horrible. It’s Cards, Unicorns, Elves, Supervillains, and Anybody Else We Can Find Against Humanity.

Or, I can be there, and go, ‘No, fuck you‘ when that shit comes up. Maybe guys can be there and actually do something, like, oh, withhold approval, and frown, if nothing else. Because women leaving, and boycotting? That isn’t going to do a goddamn thing. The misogynist sector is for that; it thinks we shouldn’t be there to start.

It’s a bit like not wanting to live on this planet anymore, I guess. That’s all well and good until you realise there isn’t somewhere better to go.

there’s no place like home
there’s no place like home
there’s no place like home to return to

eta: Shoshanna Kessock has a lot of the same feelings I do, and comes down to a different conclusion. You should read her post. I’ve also made a followup post here, on organised political boycotts, and here, on what people – and guys in particular – can do to help.


Our new single is a free download for Jaegercon: