Saturday, October 02, 2010

PAX Prime 2010

The Penny Arcade crew continue to do it right. Despite the 67,600 attendees during the course of the weekend, the "con" experience was great: friendly people, effective line management, and the volunteer Enforcers were awesome.

There was an endless variety of panels to attend and topics to learn about. There was simply too much available to do everything one might find interesting, so picking and choosing was a must. I attended the Bungie panel on Halo Reach, a live taping of Major Nelson's podcast and a panel on academic research related to gaming.


The Reach developers shared some insight into the creative process and thought behind the design of this final game in the Halo franchise to be developed by Bungie. Among other things, they showed video of some of the motion capture techniques used which was overlaid on game footage so you could see how it was integrated into the game. The captured facial expressions for the voiceover actors was quite amazing.

Major Nelson
Xbox Live's Major Nelson put on a pretty good show. The usual cast from his podcast was there live, and the resulting podcast was posted that weekend. They took a lot of questions from the audience, and everyone who asked a question was given some extra swag. Plus, they gave away probably ten of the new special edition Xbox 360 controllers and the grand prize giveaway was the very first publicly available Halo Reach edition of the newly redesigned Xbox 360.


Academic Research and Game Studies
I didn't quite know what to expect with this panel, but I probably should have since it was exactly what the title says. This was a panel of researchers, some still graduate students, who were adapting more traditional areas of social science research to the area of gaming. It was a little bit dry, and correspondingly I did not take any pictures. It wasn't too bad, but I wasn't the intended audience of potential grad students or teachers who were interested in formal research about how people interact with and play games. Just goes to show the variety of topics available at PAX.

Exhibit Hall
With the main theatre located off-site at the nearby Benaroya Hall, there was much more space available for exhibitors this year. There were two "wings" of the exhibit hall and more than once I became turned around and had to keep wandering to find something I remembered I had seen before and wanted to revisit.

All manner of gaming-related companies were represented, from game developers and specialty hardware manufacturers to clothing companies and book publishers. Countless videogames were available to look at and play: Rock Band 3, Duke Nukem Forever, Metroid Other M, EVE Online, Halo Reach, Fallout: New Vegas and a lot of smaller indie games from all types of developers. The focus of PAX continues to be on games, but a number of related industries like comics and to some extent movies and T.V. also have enough crossover appeal to warrant a presence.

Characters and costumes
Another cool and fun thing that has become more and more prevalent at PAX over the years is the effort that people put into making costumes of their favorite characters. Taken to its extreme, this is called cosplay and involves live roleplaying or posing in-character. Below are a few great examples from this year.


The last PAX I went to before this one was 2008, when it was really beginning to become a huge event, and the waiting in lines for virtually everything took away a lot of the enjoyment of the show. This year, the Penny Arcade crew appeared to have addressed the line-waiting problems with pre-planning (taped or roped off line queues along with plenty of Enforcers to answer questions, keep people informed and play games involving the line-waiters) and active monitoring (counting of people in line versus room capacity, for the largest events there was a twitter feed specifically for updates on line length and remaining room capacity).

What this convention continues to have that makes it so enjoyable is the community. Everyone is there to have a good time, and there is something for everyone and every type of gamer. The volunteer Enforcers also make a difference - they are not simply temps hired to monitor just another convention floor, they are gamers themselves and have just as much enthusiasm as the regular attendees. As the Penny Arcade crew have said before, they create the opportunity and space for the show, but it is the gamers who create the atmosphere and the community.


Many more pictures are at my flickr page.

1 comment:

deejrandom said...

That was a pretty cool read! I wish I could've been able to attend this year... If only to see Guild wars II in action. (Can't wait for that game...)

Maybe next year. Who knows....

Thanks for posting all the pics :)