Wednesday, March 11, 2015

PAX!

I'm always struggling to think of good stories to put on here. Adult life is usually pretty boring, especially when all you do is work or go to school. But this week I actually did something unique and I thought it was worth writing about.

This weekend I got in a car with Amanda, and our friends Jason and Victoria and we drove the ten or so hours to Boston Massachusetts so Jason and I could attend PAX East. PAX is a gaming convention run by the guys at Penny Arcade and it is essentially a three day festival of tabletop and video games. They have panels where people talk about their games or about issues in games. They have free play areas where you can just hang out with people and play games. They also have an expo hall where game makers come and show off new games. It's one of the only places where companies show new stuff to the general public and so it's a unique experience.

I have some photos from the event on Instagram. The thing I was most amazed about was the lines. There were so many people that you spent a lot of time waiting in lines for panels and events. There is apparently a culture around waiting in lines. That is where half of the fun is. You play games and talk to people and hang out.

The whole experience was overwhelming and I'd like to go back and try it again sometime now that I have a better feel for what the experience is like, but I did have a favourite moment from Saturday.

In the expo hall, I knew there was a game called Videoball which I have known about for a few years now and have been dying to play. I told Jason of this and so we searched the expo hall for it (no easy feat when you are surfing a sea of bodies everywhere you go). I eventually used a photo from the developer's Twitter page to figure out where the booth was. Using our detective skills we found it at last and discovered that only one group of people was playing the game in front of us. We watched their game and tried to deduce what their strategy was.

We cheered for the blue team as we watched. They were ahead when we arrived. We are bandwagon jumpers. We watched as they managed to get ahead and score the requisite ten goals in order to win the game. When they claimed their victory, we clapped.We clapped for a couple of strangers who had just won a demo game. Being at a convention does funny things. It creates this instant camaraderie with everyone around you. The mere fact that we were at a booth together meant it was ok to cheer and interact.

Then it was our turn. Jason took one controller, I took another, and two other people became our opponents. The developer standing next to the game explained the controls to us. The game feels really good to play. It's easy to control and you're immediately thinking about how to use all of its elements instead of fiddling with making the controls do what you want to. It's obvious that the developers have thought a lot about making the game feel right.

Our opponents took an early lead. "I'll play up, you play back" I said to Jason. He agreed. Then our opponents scored again. Some people behind us cheered. Here we had recreated the situation from earlier except now we had our own spectators. I felt the pressure come on. People were commenting on our play. Things like "come on blue!" I played back for a while but our opponents were relentless. I could not stop their assault. They scored. They scored again. Our spectators encouraged us but it just wasn't enough. We were playing some mighty foes.

Eventually they scored their tenth point and the game was over. The spectators clapped politely. Jason and I both smiled. We shook the hands of our opponents. "Good game" I said. They agreed. We hadn't looked at each other in the face yet but I already felt like they were good people, our people, for playing this game with us. I smiled. This kind of thing would only happen while playing a video game. Only a game such as this could create a storied rivalry with spectators and disperse them again all in the span of five minutes.

I hope to visit PAX again some day and create more moments like this. I also hope to play Videoball again soon.