Post-PAX Mike is back!

My friend Gary has been waiting for PAX to end, so I will get back to reality and get my head out of the PAX cloudcover. It was worth it… here’s my PAX post… if you’re not a gamer, “move on”…

zomg pax so r0xx0rz!! ITSATRAP!!

OK so we were told not to post “I’m at PAX” but with the amount of sleep-surrogate caffeine I’ve had I can no longer be held accountable for my actions. By the way, I feel great this week – see my cancer battle notes for details. So I’ve been able to pull off the full-blown PAX experience so far, even at twice the median age of the average punkass attendee. :P

The pre-PAX movie was our introduction to PAX, and the movie (The Invasion) sucked enough to make a perfect target. The theater was probably half-full of PAX’ers. It got pretty rowdy before the management came and stepped on our buzz by kicking out a couple random rows of peeps. Next year, solidarity will be required!!

Confession time: I don’t understand the handheld obsession. I am finding the DS extremely boring relative to the PC experience. Wil Wheaton helped me understand a bit better in his keynote speech, which was fantastic – two big scoops of nostalgia with a spicy side of political ranting all smothered in a sweet warm chocolate syrup of pontifications on the joy of gaming. OK, maybe that doesn’t sound too delicious, but it was. :P Nintendo is to the Nintendo generation as the Atari 800 computer is to me – a reminder of a time when we were blown away by an explosion of something new and better. And we immersed ourselves.

Besides, it’s obviously not a fair comparison. The DS is mobile! And very social. (PICTOCHAT! Don’t you get it old man!? :>) But if I’m near a PC, I’ll always opt for that. There were more huge high-speed-hirez frames of 8xaa gaming goodness thann I’ve ever seen in my life. The beautiful ones: Gears of War at m$ games for windows, BioShock at the nvidia booth, Supreme Commander at THQ, and the gear of the current cusp of the obsessed – the what-seemed-like-40-inch-screens of the byoc row of WoW players. Yes I have screenus envy.

But it didn’t matter when it came time to play, Andrea’s graphics-challenged laptop held up well enough with its Core 2 Duo brain. And we played. We were obsesssed pre-pax with getting up to speed on the latest and most popular (yes you need to pay attention to this if you want to frag-and-be-fragged) fun stuff, and we hit well above average, surrounded by poor slobs continuing to play cs because they can’t let go of the little bits of skill they’ve developed (me thinks me doth protest too much, sigh…), and legions of wow crackheads. So we kicked the tires on baboviolent, had a ut2k4 mmo-style fragfest (look ma no lag! Sweet…. And dan won ‘zoo tycoon 2’ by getting the lowest score and having the guts to stand up and show his pride), played through some suweeet oldskool descent3 using dan’s orgasmic gamepads (full six degrees of freedom from the couch), Dan blew holes in me with his shotgun in Call of Juarez, snagged some goodies from all the lan shares, etc. etc. We limped home on Friday night around 1am.

Saturday, the smorgasbord of goodness continued. We were in around opening time, and set up for BYOC gaming. A Flatout2 contest was announced, and my images came in handy to share. In the end, it was too tricky to find a host for the game, so we switched over to a line of Intel machines (wow, they were nice, not a single issue or lost frame of action, and nice fat monitors, too). I was pretty trashed in the first round, but Dan signed up late and got to skip into the second. He tagged along with the “schoolbus clan” and lasted a while, but in the end, the expert flatmobile drivers prevailed. Man that game is fun on those sweet machines…

We hit a couple panels, one on game developers vs. publishers where Dan stepped up to the mic and asked the good questions, like who takes the hit when a game tanks (the publisher, who also takes the spoils when it goes bigtime). The guys said that a success rate of 1 in 10 games is typical. Another one we tried to catch was the “pitch your idea for a game” panel. We barely made it, but still heard the top three ideas: 3) a frying pan that kills the creatures it cooks; 2) something about french fries; and 1) a game that starts out retro and proceeds, as you score well, to gradually evolve into a modern-day extravaganza. Great idea – the judges pointed out that the idea proved itself worthy in that it drove further ideas -once you start thinking about it, new ideas just springboard off the old. She won a Wii, and lots of nerd-stalking – not only did she have a great idea, but she was a cute quiet petite girl with hair dyed purple. I think she was from Eastern Europe. I think this because I heard it second-hand from one of her primary stalkers, Dan. :P He heard one of the guys on the panel offer her a job in London, supposedly close to her home.

I had two friends I thought I might meet at Pax, my old friend Zac Hansen, who I loved working with at ABB up until he left for Amazon a few years ago (and who now lives in the Seattle area), and Mark Persaud, who said he was going but I don’t think it came through for him. Neither Zac nor I have been good at keeping in touch – there was one moment where I found him online, and told him I was going, but after that I had no luck hooking up. The only phone number I had was bad. I should have tried harder, I wish I’d caught up with him. Maybe next year. We’ve also got a promise from John Carpenter to go with us to PAX 2008 and schlock his game. :>

There was one person that we DID meet up with – Joe Shultz, who we knew way back in Florida but I hadn’t seen him in years. He’s still playing guitar and working as a pharmacist, playing with radioactive drugs, whee! It was good to see him, he met us for brunch at The Cheesecake Factory but then had to get back to work the night shift starting this week. We did manage to sneak him in to PAX before he left, just so he could get the feel of it. His one-word description: “Big!” :>

Once Dan and I were back in, we fired up the boxes and readied some Empire At War Forces of Corruption. As was typical of our timing, just as we were starting, another BYOC contest began – DEFCON. We dropped out and grabbed the demo – which for the weekend allowed the full game play just for PAX’s sake, groovy. It was great fun, mostly because no one knew what they were doing. 12 or 13 of us lined up to play in the Intel gaming area, and went at it with the game speed maxed out. Before we knew it we were in DEFCON 1, with nukes flying from all the players that knew enough to deploy all their resources before time ran out. Dan maintained his status at the bottom of the rank, with me right above him. Whoop!

When the final round of the Omegathon rolled around, we headed to the main theater to catch it. It was a sweet setup – only two guys left, one huge video screen on each side of the center stage showing their respective views of Halo 3, which would be released the next day. What a perfect setup! The sound was cranked, the game was rock-solid, and full of brand-new levels and weapons. The crowd would swell into a roar whenever one of the guys toasted the other with a new BFG or flamethrower. Zero-range blade attacks were crowd-pleasers as well, bringing groundswells of thunderous noise. When one of them passed a new vehicle, everyone would whoop for him to jump on, and he was a good sport – even though he probably knew it would lead to his death, he gave the masses what they wanted.

What the heck else did we do… it all flies by so fast… oh yeah, we cried like little girls when it was all over. Naturally not wanting it to end, we headed out to Fry’s to find a crossover cable that would allow us to game on at the hotel. Of course, being Fry’s, that’s not all we wanted to get… Dan got a replacement for his bad Tribes Vengeance disk 2… but by the time we finished with that, the store was closed – we had to sneak back in and run to get the crossover cable. I wanted to find some gear to set up a home audio studio for the girls and I to lay down some of their music, but my browse time was up. We slinked back to the hotel, getting some Mexican food on the way there. At the hotel, Dan had had enough, so I was on my own playing some Forces of Corruption for a little while, before crashing myself (even after we ate a whole box of energy mints, Diet Coke, another Starbucks soy latte, iced tea, etc. – curse Dan for proving that he was immune to caffeine!)… whew!

Monday morning, we packed up and tried to eat the rest of our food, leaving a case of water at the hotel front desk. Before heading to the airport, we were desperate to find the ultimate gift for the ladies – a Seattle Hempfest 2007 tee! But although we searched high (ha!) and low through every head shop on the way to the airport, we were denied. The fact that most of the shops were owned by non-English-speaking ladies and gentlemen should have been a clue to their lack of authenticity, but the dirth of t-shirts was the dead giveaway. Sigh… maybe ordering one online will not be considered too much of a cheat. :>

On the plane on the way home now… lots of PAX’ers all around… I shared my powerstrip with one guy who kept cursing the crappiness of the airport wifi, which was denying him the ability to post his story about the Pirates of the Burning Sea demo booth on the gaming blog for which he worked. He is so into BioShock that he’s planning on adding another tattoo to his impressive collection, wrist art that matches the character’s. Now I’m sitting next to a couple of PAX kids that keep dozing off – good to know it’s hard on them too, not just the old guys. Signing off on the journey home…

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