Adventures in Gameland: A Non-Gamer Explores PAX East 2014

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Confession: I’m not a video game geek. My geek identity is more Game of Thrones and less Bioware games. Like most “pesky whipper-snappers,” I know some things about video games. But the farthest I got to being considered a gamer is buying — yet not playing — Kingdom Hearts on PS2. Nevertheless, when my friends offered an extra PAX East pass to me, I couldn’t refuse an opportunity to visit Boston, enjoy the company of good friends, and explore the undiscovered territory of video games.

Having firsthand knowledge of geek con culture, I was fairly comfortable with the layout of PAX East — exhibition show floor, panels in meeting rooms, and overpriced food pavilions. Unlike the colorful arrays of NYCC or SDCC attendees, the attendees of PAX East were overwhelmingly white and male.

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ALL the white male gamer nerds! No but seriously there was a lot of them.

That being said, I’ve never seen that kind of diversity of white male gamer nerds all in one location. Name a white male gamer nerd type, and he was there.

Even Joey Fatone is at PAX East!
Even a Joey Fatone lookalike!

And yet, PAX East is more than a hub for the discovery of the Platonic ideal of the white male gamer nerd. Here are the highlights, lowlights, and WTFlights of PAX East 2014.

Highlights:

Pwnmeal: Cards Against Humanity pwned PAX East big time with its Pwnmeal: Extreme Gaming Oatmeal campaign. Raving about the PAX-specific Cards Against Humanity cards, my friends were disappointed to instead receive Pwnmeal packets in their bags of swag. Upon further investigation, the Pwnmeal “flavored” packets actually contained Cards Against Humanity cards and a sprinkling of regular oats.

PWNmeal: Extreme Gaming Oatmeal. from DIGITAL KITCHEN on Vimeo.

Indie Games: Uninterested with the exclusive looks into big name games, I found the indie game displays to be more engaging. From Crypt of the NecroDancer to Robot Roller-Derby Disco Dodgeball, the best of the indie games are the weirdest. I even bought an indie card game — Slash: Romance Without Boundaries. It’s like Card Against Humanity for those who enjoy crack!ships. (I definitely do.)

Crypt of the NecroDancer: Dungeon-crawling DDR? Sure!
Crypt of the NecroDancer: Dungeon-crawling DDR? Sure!

Freeplay: The most unique part of PAX East is the multitude of freeplay options, available during the entire con. We played a kid game, Pack & Stack, an extra geeky variant, Star Trek Catan (my personal favorite), a classic console game, Genesis 6 Pak, a historical console game, Pong, and an Xbox 360 trivia game, You Don’t Know Jack. Plus, I got to watch others play Bioshock: Infinite and Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag as if I was watching movies. I’m a film nerd after all.

I couldn't solve the mystery of how to actually play this game. It was too complex — or too broken — for my non-gamer brain.
I couldn’t solve the mystery of how to actually play this game. It was too complex — or too broken — for my non-gamer brain.

Lowlights:

The Panel: While I’m sure many of the panels were stimulating to those in the know, the one panel I did attend was less than stellar. Actually, it was stunningly boring. Granted, I wanted to attend “The Mythology In and Of Games: Why the Legend of Zelda is just as important as the Legend of Beowulf” panel primarily to make fun of how terribly phrased its title is. I was hoping that it would at least be an amusing insight to the impact of video game narrative to pop culture. What I didn’t expect was a scrappy PowerPoint presentation akin to a nervous grad student presenting a thesis proposal. Yes, I know that Dante’s Inferno the game is not like the Divine Comedy poem. Thanks.

Downton Abbey: The Board Game: What’s a Downton Abbey game without a Turkish diplomat found dead in Lady Mary’s bed, the Dowager Countess sassing Mrs. Crawley, and Mr. Bates creeping in a corner? One that’s not worth playing again.

#Bored
Let’s take all of the boring parts of Downton Abbey and put it on a board game! It certainly puts the bored in board game.

By Sunday, the gamers of PAX East were noticeably ripe. Such smell. So much smell.

WTFlights:

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Concert: The Friday Night Concert was an orgy of awkwardness. As Metroid Metal blasted ear drums with well played albeit repetitive heavy metal, the audience moshed and head banged along to the beat. Just kidding, instead they sat in banquet chairs and Street Passed other attendees with their 3DSes. Those that weren’t sitting were standing and shifting side-to-side not to the beat. Others still were lying down on the ground their heads buried in 3DSes. It was UNBELIEVABLE. I wish everyone in the world could have that kind of WTF-did-I-just-see experience.

All the Kilts: For some reason, I saw more men wearing kilts at PAX East than I did during my summer in Scotland. So many male enforcers (PAX East workers) wore kilts that I began to suspect it was part of the uniform. Ultimately, I enjoyed seeing such a diversity of men’s wear — I just hope such a fashion statement is popularized in the non-geek world.

Final Thoughts:

Although at times I felt like an overwhelmed, clueless parent placating their child at a concert, I had a fun time at PAX East. Cons that allow attendees to fully immerse themselves in what they love and have fun doing it is always a positive experience. Would I attend again? Probably not, unless anyone else cares to offer up an extra (and preferably free) pass.

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One thought on “Adventures in Gameland: A Non-Gamer Explores PAX East 2014

  1. I just pinned this to my board that’s really about the presence of women in gaming.. because its really interesting to see an event like this through the eyes of a non-gamer. I’m kind of surprised (pleasantly) that you didn’t recount any evil gate keepers accusing you of not being nerd enough. 🙂

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