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PAX East 2010, Part Three: The Final Countdown

And here’s the conclusion! This one was delayed since I was waiting for namatamiku to get his box of Cool Stuff. He should’ve received it by now, but I haven’t heard from him personally yet. Anyway, I have other posts I want to write and can’t wait any longer, so here’s Part Three in all its glory. Also, nama, if you haven’t done so already, open the box and check out the Cool Stuff before reading this post; not everything I sent you is mentioned here, but I would like to keep it all a surprise 😉

Sunday, March 28

The Queue Room, part four: Even though we stayed out late the previous night, we got to the Convention Center so early that the doors hadn’t opened yet. We bought, and started, breakfast, then headed inside at eight and made for the Queue Room. This put us near the head of the line.

It was quiet, with some classical music playing, and then a couple of Final Fantasy Piano Collections pieces. Following those soft, gentle tunes was a jolt of orchestral techno; late in the piece, I finally recognized it as a Dance Dance Revolution track (I originally believed it to be “A”, but it’s actually “V ~for EXTREME~”). Some more Bemaniesque music followed—none of which I recognized, but I would be surprised if they weren’t other Konami Originals—along with a few comments about DDR machines up on the text message board, and then, the DragonForce tunes kicked in.

Music aside, it was just another morning in the queue, and the general tone was “bushed”. The Weekend of Awesome was starting to take its toll, but although we were tired, it wasn’t a grouchy sort of tired. There were still plenty of things left to do and see, after all. The Mystery Typist and their games came and went, and once the doors opened, away we would go.

Community Managers: More Than Forum Monkeys, 10-11AM, Naga: That morning, Cyrus had a conundrum. We had both decided, even before our arrival in Boston, that we wanted to check out the panel on community management. However, the previous day’s experience at the 2K booth had him wondering if he should sign up to see Civilization V instead. He ended up taking his chances in the Expo Hall while I saved him a seat in the Naga Theater. He arrived not long after the panel started; mission successful!

Anyway, the panel was good; it was interesting to hear about this side of the game business, and it’s certainly one I’d consider as a career change. The subtitle of the panel was apt; though there was a lot of discussion of forum moderating and management, other areas of responsibility, like social networking and special events, were brought up as well.

Civilization V and more Expo Hall noodling: After the panel, we went back to the Expo Hall. Cyrus’ slot to see Civ V was at 11:30, so I was left on my own while he drooled over the next installment in one of his favorite series. During that time, I decided to seek out the Wacom booth (whose very presence seemed odd to me), which was in an area that we had somehow missed.

I did find Wacom and played around with an Intuos4, one of their most recently released products. It was an outstanding tablet, and I came away impressed, though I still won’t buy one until my Intuos3 dies. Also in that row of booths, hidden away behind the bigger ones, was Sega, Red vs. Blue, Fangamer, and others. Sega had Resonance of Fate, Bayonetta, and Infinite Space available to play. I didn’t get to play Resonance of Fate, but it looked interesting, not to mention beautiful. Infinite Space also had pretty graphics, but was complicated and had a simple and sloooow battle system.

Best known as the publishers of the Mother 3 Handbook, Fangamer also had t-shirts, buttons, and other knickknacks available for purchase, as well as a giant whiteboard and a glass case filled with (mostly) Mother 3 clay figures, a few Mr. Saturn plushes, and a handful of Mu plushes. I don’t particularly care for Mother/Earthbound, but the Mus, from Chrono Trigger, were too cute, and I asked a guy at the booth if they were for sale. Unfortunately, they aren’t (yet!), though I did sign up to be notified of when they would be. In the meantime, I picked up some other stuff: a “Millennial Fair” pin set and Lavos Spawn key chain for me, and a Metal Gear pin set and another Spawn keychain for nama. I also got to get a Chrono Trigger sticker as a freebie; on a whim, I went with the Epoch, although my gut told me that the one depicting the lamp and the old man at the End of Time was the coolest of the bunch.

Some other shopping I did: picked up a small Phillips-head screwdriver for $2 at a booth that sold lots of classic games at high-but-not-unreasonably-so prices. I had to fix the d-pad on my DS Lite, but unfortunately, didn’t have said handheld on me at the time to take a second look at the screws. Turns out I needed a triwing screwdriver after all, which I bought off of Amazon once we got back. Finally took apart my DS Lite just this morning, and it turned out that there was a roughly equal mix of triwing and Phillips head screws, so that first one I bought came in handy after all.

And more: the day before, I picked up some zines at Bandland. What I got was the Summer 2009 issue of Fort90, which featured a sprawling article on NYC’s gaming scene, and two copies of .exp, issue #minus one. I don’t know if this was intentional (for whatever reason) or accidental on the seller’s part, but I didn’t notice until afterward that I was overcharged a buck each on the .exp issues (going by the $5 price printed on the back). I also found it odd that these stapled, mostly black-and-white, half letter size, offset-printed zines were as expensive as they were to begin with (Fort90 was $10!), and I say this as a former zine publisher, trader, and collector. Have printing costs really increased that much over the past ten years? Makes me wonder what I’d pay for an issue of Multiball these days if it was still around—said pinball zine would sometimes generously include freebies like records, but also ran ads and was never much more than $4.50-$5.

My last major purchase of the show (made either Saturday or Sunday, can’t quite remember, but I think it was the former) was a copy of the Digital Press Collector’s Guide, Advance Edition, which I’ll write more about later. As for Cyrus, he balanced out my purchases with a whole mess of older Magic cards from that booth I mentioned in my previous installment, fleshing out his collection some more.

Once he had left the 2K booth, Cyrus gushed about Civ V, and felt he made the right decision in going to see the demo. Of course, now he can’t wait for the game to come out!

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Game Journalism…, 2:30-3:30PM, Manticore: This was the only panel where I was familiar with just about everyone up on stage, having read their work at Joystiq, Wired, the Onion A.V. Club, and the Escapist. (Time magazine writer Lev Grossman was the one whose writing I was least acquainted with, but I was certain that I must’ve read at least one article of his sometime.) After everyone was introduced, the floor was opened up to questions. There were some queries that, irritatingly, turned into miniature life stories, but otherwise, it was a decent panel.

Afterwards, we killed some time, much of it in the Handheld Lounge on adjacent Sumo beanbag chairs which we were fortunate enough to score. Then, we made our way downstairs to prepare for the last event which we would attend.

The Queue Room, part five: Here we were again, waiting in line. We were a bit further back this time, enough so that we didn’t have a decent view of the screens, but as the line tightened up, we came closer until we were right in front of one. There were more games, and a dance-off between a Harley Quinn cosplayer that the Mystery Typist called Lady Gaga and a random guy from the audience prodded on by his friends, to the tunes of “Caramelldansen” and “What is Love?” (The guy won, but they both went home with Cardboard Tube Samurai figures.) However, the highlight of this line came after the games had wrapped up, and someone in the crowd asked for the Mystery Typist to come out. The MT seemed to be taken aback by this request, which then grew louder as more of us joined in, and they complied. At the end, staff members from Get In Line Games introduced themselves, including the two MTs that had entertained us this weekend.

After that, we continued to wait. And wait. We were cutting it awfully close to our departure time by choosing to attend the Closing Ceremony, and as the delay set in, and grew longer, we debated on what to do. Finally, the doors opened, and we were allowed in.

Closing Ceremony 5-6PM 5:45 PM-????, Main: Unlike with the concert, where we opted for balcony seating, we chose first-row seats on the main floor, with the exit doors conveniently within our sights. A couple, the wife of which I had briefly chatted with at the concert, also took seats near us. We didn’t pay them much mind this evening, as preoccupied with other matters as we were, though we did offer them our spots for when we left.

Finally, the show got underway, as “The Final Countdown”, a tune which we heard in line many, many times this weekend, was played for the last time. Tycho and Gabe took the stage, and soon, the final four Omeganauts were introduced. Their challenge? A relay race consisting of four games: the first player in each pair would meet a certain goal in the first game, the second would take on the second, then first would play the third, and together, the team would do the co-op thing on the fourth. Each game would be revealed as the time came to play it. One by one, we saw the covers come off of the TVs to reveal Super Mario Bros. (goal: collect 50 coins), Rad Racer (score 1500 points), Tetris (clear ten lines), and Contra (beat the first boss). Unfortunately, technical difficulties occurred when the first team, then in the lead, began Contra, and both teams had to start all over again (and the Konami Code re-entered).

We kept our eyes glued to the big screens, riveted, as the second attempt got underway. The cheering likewise continued, and this time around, the second team came out on top as the victor. And with that well-earned victory witnessed, Cyrus and I were off to the train station.

Homebound: We managed to get there with time to spare, and the train itself was right on schedule. The platform was filled with other PAX East attendees, ready to head back to New Haven, New York City, Philly, Baltimore, Washington, or wherever else this train may take them. Once on board, we had no trouble finding seats—not surprising, since this was the second stop on the train’s route—and settled in. We ate leftover sandwich halves and snacks from the cafe car; Cyrus wrapped up the second case in Ace Attorney Investigations while I began exploring a mine in Pokemon Platinum. The games were put away after awhile, and we sleepily awaited our arrival back in Manhattan. It was raining steadily when we got back, and it was also a little bit colder than when we had left. Hauling our belongings—including a large paper Rockstar shopping bag full of swag and other stuff—we took one more train ride toward home. Waiting in our mailbox when we arrived was that debut issue of Kill Screen that I had ordered, nicely sealed in a plastic envelope, safe from the rain. It was the perfect coda to this particular weekend.

Monday, March 29

Exhausted, but satisfied: The rain continued the next day, as did our exhaustion. I had a doctor’s appointment and stupidly underdressed for the trip out, and as a result, the cold I was already suffering got worse. I didn’t touch any games that first day back, but later on in the week, I beat WiiWare Cave Story and picked up where I left off in Rune Factory Frontier (later beating that on Easter Sunday). Meanwhile, Cyrus once again got wrapped up in Mass Effect 2; after beating it, he started over again for a more in-depth playthrough. In these and other ways, life settled back into its routine.

We hope to go back to PAX again sometime, though wish it was in NYC next year so we wouldn’t have to travel nearly as far (however, that seems unlikely, though at least they will be looking into a larger venue). Neither of us had been to a show quite like it, and despite the problems and the crowds, we had a helluva time. Will we return next year? Don’t know yet, but doubtless we will be back sometime in the future.