Category: Event Coverage

A Newbie’s Guide to PAX

What is it with all the fuss about PAX?  I know it takes place up the road from me every summer, it sells out in a matter of hours, and it brings in an amazing variety of people, but until recently I didn’t know why.  What makes this show so hugely successful?  This lack of knowledge recently drew me to Seattle for my first PAX Prime show.

Being a research junkie, the first thing I did was try to prepare for my foray into the unknown by looking up some history of what the show is about. I found out the PAX show started in 2004and quickly became the largest gaming related show in North America.  The show did so well that PAX East started in 2010, PAX Dev started in 2011, PAX Australia will be starting in 2013, and PAX Prime 2013 will add a fourth day to the schedule.  This was interesting, but it didn’t tell me anything about what I was in for.  Just what type of show is PAX?
My research quickly led me to the official PAX Prime website but I didn’t find very much to help me understand why tens of thousands of people buy tickets for the show.  The feeling I got from the website was that folks who buy tickets already know what to expect so why should they hype things early when it isn’t necessary.  I heard the website used to have more information, but was recently redone, so it may be worth another look for 2013.  Next I turned to my coworkers.  Working in a very geek oriented field I know several folks who attend every year, and I thought some eyewitness accounts might prove beneficial.  Ultimately they conveyed emotion about the show but didn’t have much real detail.  Finally I broadened my horizons and did a Bing search for PAX and started to get an inkling of what I was in for.
I quickly learned enough to convince me I should jump through the hoops required to get tickets for the event.  PAX Prime sells out in a matter of hours and believe me, you don’t want to pay the scalper prices for tickets in the final days leading up to the show.  I saw $60 tickets skyrocket to well over $200 as opening day approached.  I am sure the PAX show brings a nice little bump to the Seattle economy, but the “private” ticket sales benefit the wrong people.   Luckily I was able to avoid this expensive and risky (fake tickets are sold) option for getting into the event.

As the show approached, I kept checking back on the website.  Finally I was rewarded with the list of all seminars and panel discussions.  Over the three days scheduled I counted over 225 individual sessions.  There were a huge variety of topics to be covered including game design, getting into the industry, gaming history, theology, board game tournaments, video game tournaments, arts & crafts, seminars aimed at whatever orientation you subscribe to and some I couldn’t categorize by their titles.  Sessions like “Beyond Wheaton’s Law: Being Excellent to Each Other” had an intent that was pretty easy to figure out, but what should I expect from “Nik & Dylan Crush Your Dreams 2,” or “No, the Monkey Should Have a Chainsaw.”  I planned which ones I was interested in attending and started laying out my schedule.  I embraced my geek approach to life while organizing my schedule, deciding which seminars to attend by putting them on a spreadsheet and adding points for categories such as timing, expected length of line, interest in the topic, level of conflict with other events and recommendations of others.  I believed myself all set for opening day and my excitement was growing.
Friday August 31st, “Show Day” finally arrived.  I got to sleep-in a little before getting up and heading into Seattle and I was able to take the train so I wouldn’t have to worry about parking.  After taking the bus tunnel from the train station into downtown, I turned the corner on Pike Street and was blown away.  Where had all these people come from?  I have attended shows in the past, but this was crazy.  I suppose my natural tendency to avoid lines may have heightened my response, but this was over the top.  There were thousands of people all heading to the convention center for the show.  There were people in costume, vendors from many different companies, people in a hurry, people taking it easy and people who looked lost.  The one common theme was lots and lots of people.  Since I didn’t really have any other options, I navigated my way through the crowds to where I could get in, went through the line and entered the show.
Once I made it into the convention center, I started making my way around the entire venue to get a broader view of what was going on.  The only word I could come up with was “overwhelming.”  In the main rooms there were huge screens (huge as in over 20 feet wide) for different games, massive signs, larger than life statuary, custom motorcycles, pickup trucks, medieval architecture, and even an airplane suspended from the ceiling.  From the main rooms (and there were several of them) I made my way to some of the other areas of interest to me.  I scoped out the location of rooms where I wanted to attend different seminars and panel discussions, found where specific games were being played, and finally found what came to be my favorite part of the show which was the Retro Arcade.
PAX attendees were treated to an amazing selection of beautiful arcade and pinball machines. The Retro Arcade had 35 games and was sponsored by the Seattle Metro Arcade Collectors (SMAC) and Ground Kontrol (an arcade in Portland).  They had everything from old 1970s games to the classic 80s titles to the two newest pinball machines from Stern.  There were folks checking out the games throughout the entire weekend and a few celebrities stopped by to enjoy the games as well.  Wil Wheaton had an excellent time, but that could have just been because he was so comfortable in his utilikilt.  There was a great selection of games but it was only about 10% of the number of games the SMAC and WPC groups bring to the Northwest Pinball and Arcade Show every June (http://www.nwpinballshow.com).  I can’t wait for that event.
 My next goal was to track down some smaller companies with really creative games.  Companies like Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony get a lot of attention at these types of events, but there are many other companies who have some really unique and original games.  I learned about some upcoming board and arcade games that I am really looking forward to playing once they are released.  One of my favorites was Octodaddy where you are a cephalopod but can’t let anyone know, not even your wife and children.  Just moving in a convincing manner is difficult as an invertebrate.  LocoCycle fron TwistedPixel also looks like great fun.  I enjoyed Gunstringer and since I love motorcycles, this one looks like a natural fit for me.
The show also had plenty of displays for the latest and greatest hardware coming out.  My favorite device at PAX was the Wikipad (http://www.wikipad.com/).  I talked with one of the designers and was very impressed.  It is a tablet and gaming computer that finally finds the perfect mix of performance, form factor, and most of all fun.  I have been a longtime proponent of mobile devices being a good medium for entertainment delivery and this looks like the best implementation of that approach ever created.
I am also a big fan of board games and I found that PAX had a wide variety of options on the tabletop front.  There were several great titles from companies like GameSalute, Mayfair and Cryptozoic Entertainment who produce many really creative and unusual games.  GameSalute had the widest variety of games and works through the Springboard KickStart page (http://gamesalute.squarespace.com/springboard/) for all their releases.  It is important to support new games and I encourage folks to go there and become part of the solution for getting new, unusual and wonderfully original games from the drawing board into people’s homes.  Going through the board game areas was an eye opening experience as I was able actually to talk with many of the designers and folks who make the games.  Some of my favorites were:
o   Ruse – A quick, fun and easy murder/mystery card game
o   Star Trek Catan
o   Story Realms
o   Big Bang Theory:  The Party Game
 Now that I have attended my first PAX show, I admit to being very impressed with the overall experience and I was somewhat overwhelmed with the size of the show, number of people, variety of exhibitors and volume of activities.  I started out wondering what the PAX show would be and I discovered it is just about everything: It is a trade show, consumer show, sales show, gaming event, tournament,  social event, great party and overall fun weekend all rolled into one.  Now I have to find a way to get PAX East so I have a point of comparison.  PAX Australia may have to wait a little longer.

Kirby Fans Set a World Record to Celebrate 20 Years

Kirby celebrated 20 years with a unique event at PAX – setting a world record for the most bubble gum bubbles blown simultaneously.  To say it was an interesting even to watch would be an understatement.

 Before PAX, someone alerted me to the fact that there was going to be a world record attempt associated with Kirby’s 20th Anniversary and knowing that I do work for Twin Galaxies International and verifying world records on video games for Guinness, they thought I might be interested in attending.  I definitely was.

Saturday morning I went searching for the Nintendo booth to get more information about the event.  While I knew it was going to be on Saturday between 2 and 3 p.m., I didn’t have an exact location or much other information about it.  The staff at the Nintendo booth were great and gave me a flyer telling me when it was going to be and everything I needed to know.

What I hadn’t calculated is like most popular panels, people started lining up for this event an hour before the check-in time even started.  Unfortunately for me, I decided to get lunch, then head over around 1:30 to hear that the line was more than full.  Apparently, the turnout surprised Nintendo as well, with one of the comments made that they weren’t sure people were even going to show up and were shocked to see a line formed at Noon.

The first few hundred in line received a gift bag with a limited Kirby T-Shirt, poster, stress ball and some other goodies.  Everyone in line (and a lot of people who got the shirts then left) were supposed to put the shirts on while standing in line so there would be a sea of pink Kirby’s blowing bubbles.  Soon enough they ran out of shirts and all they had left was gum, posters and stress balls.

The videos below (in numerical order) show scenes from the floor where the event took place.

 In the end, the original world record was shattered and out of 600 participants in the event, 536 people blew bubbles simultaneously.  Way to go PAX participants!

Enjoy the videos below, which include a Kirby Trivia session, the Guinness World Record Attempt and general scenes of the crowd.

I leave you with a final tip:  If you want to participate in any event that may even have the inkling it would be popular, show up early.  It’s a valuable lesson I learned the hard way.

Lineage 2 and Aion Community Meet and Greet at the Elephant and Castle Pub

While PAX itself is fun and exciting, the after parties occuring after PAX hours are just as fun.  Saturday night I had the chance to attend the Linage 2 and Aion Meet & Greet.

Saturday, August 27 NCSoft hosted a combined Lineage 2 and Aion Meet and Greet at the Elephant and Castle Pub a few blocks from Seattle.  The event took place between a split level, with some folks upstairs and the rest of us, myself included, downstairs where karaoke was taking place.

Each guest was treated to snacks and drinks as well as music and received a raffle ticket as they entered the building.  The food from the pub was simply amazing and while was designed to be snack food, it was definitely filling    Between 30 and 40 folks attended the event, including a young lady in an Aion cosplay (see image below).

Karaoke was kicked off by Duane, Linage 2’s Brand Manager, and after that things got to hopping.  You could hear various discussions from fans on how they got started playing Lineage 2 or Aion, and some players being interested in the other game if they hadn’t played it yet.

Towards the end of the event, they gave away 10 runner up prizes which included a bag of Lineage 2 and Aion Swag and a single Grand prize of a Lineage 2 statue.

All in all, it was another fun event.  I got to meet new and old Lineage 2 players and had a blast.

Below are a couple pictures from the event.  For a full spread of pictures and video taken at the event, please view this article.

Enjoy!

 

Another Year, Another PAX and More PAX Coverage

 It’s year three at PAX Prime with a total of five PAXs under my belt.  Find out a quick, but vague preview of what we’re going to be doing this year.

Each PAX I have attended, I have learned something new – whether it was how to scheduled interviews, how to travel or what questions not to ask – and it was a valuable learning experience.

This year, I am sure, will be no different, but this year also brings a slightly different approach to PAX as a journalist. While I will still be doing interviews with developers and getting one-on-one demonstrations of new technology and upcoming/recently released games, I also plan to attend a number of panels of interest to myself as well as to our readers. In the past,I attended panels on a whim, not realizing that for popular panels – last year’s Guild Wars 2 panel for exampled – required you to be in queue for hours. By hours, I mean four to six hours prior to the door open for seating time. I suppose I should have realized this from the Kingdoms of Amalur panel at PAX East where I sneaked in with my press pass, but I didn’t. So this year I’m not scheduling interviews close to times where there are panels I want to attend.

Another difference this year is that we have a second reporter as well as an extra photographer joining us for PAX. This is his, Brian Cady’s, first PAX, but it isn’t his first time attending conventions. He even helps run a classic arcade and pinball convention yearly in Seattle. He will be looking at some games, but also looking more at new technology coming out.

There are a lot of interesting new tech being revealed at PAX this year – according to the various press releases I’ve received.

So be looking for more articles to come out of this year’s PAX from both myself and Brian Cady. There will be way more articles this year than in the past. We’ll be sure to attempt to entertain you with our reviews and commentary!

Phoenix Comicon 2012

Cynthia “Lady Blade” Sherwood attended Phoenix Comicon this year and provided us with this article regarding insight into Cosplay at Comicon.

What comes to mind when you hear the word “Cosplay”? Go ahead and take a moment, close your eyes and think about it. Get a firm picture in your mind. Did you create an imaginary world of cartoon characters fighting dragons, casting magic or just simply sword fighting? Did you mind wonder down paths you once traveled as a child? Were you the damsel in distress or the white knight come to rescue the princess from the wicked queen?

 

Phoenix Comicon transforms the area of Downtown Phoenix into a paradox of mythical worlds where zombies meet Thor and Cylons take prisoners. No longer are you in a boring convention center but instead you are running along with the Furries and jumping from square to square avoiding the lava in MindCraft. Phoenix Comicon takes your imagination, fires up the engines and sends you hurtling forward at Warp speed.

Now that your imagination is fired up and ready to play, you may be interested to know that the word Cosplay is short for costume play. Did you know this already? Awesome! If you didn’t, let me take a moment to explain. Participants choose to dress up in a costume as a character or an idea, often with accessories. Who didn’t like to play dress up a child? We all have, at one time or another, dreamed we were some character from one of the favored cartoons, comic books or novels. Would you pretend to be He-Man, the Master of the Universe or Wonder Woman on her invisible jet and truth inducing lasso?

This performance based art generally revolves around role play in its many forms – manga, anime, comics, video games, and films. You can choose real or imaginary worlds, inanimate objects, or choose the opposite gender, as well as costumes that focus on sex appeal with attractive or revealing costume. Costume can vary in detail and style ranging from a very simple, hand made outfit to an elaborate costume with all the bells and whistles. Anyway you wear it, as long as you represent a character, you are performing in Cosplay.

So, you may be asking yourself what distinguishes Cosply from Halloween or Mardi Gras. Well, when you don a costume for Cosplay, you not only look like the character, you become the character. You take on the persona of Xena or Electra, Spiderman or Thor. Have you ever recited lines from you favorite movie, just like the character who said them? Have you ever quoted a book or comic the way you think the character would speak? If you have, then you have already started on the path becoming a Cosplayer.

So, what is the purpose of Cosplay? Well, the answer is threefold – 1) to express appreciation or admiration for a certain character, 2) to garner the attention that wearing a costume generally brings, and 3) the love of the creative process.

Now, let’s go back to the image you had in your mind at the beginning. Did your image change or did it stay the same with the new information? OK, let’s go a step further. When you hear the word “Cosplay”, what is the first descriptive word that comes to mind? Did you come up with more than one or maybe a perception about the kind of person who would choose to don a costume of a favorite character?

Phoenix Comicon is the transformation of a common convention center and hotel into a fantasy world where all is possible. Cosplayers have a chance to show off their favorite characters, see other costumes, and be seen. It’s a world of fantasy and magna, science fiction and magic, romance and horror. This all comes together in seamless harmony as the participants portray a tolerance like never seen anywhere else. Where else can you see all genres and ideas together in one place?

As I wondered around the convention center, I was struck by the vast number of people who had a costume on related to their favorite show, character, book, or TV/movie. Cosplay and the Phoenix Comicon are the perfect stages for many photo ops. A great many people were stopped and asked for a picture, either posing with the character or of the character alone. During the three days that I attended, not one of the Cosplayer refused. That speaks volumes about the kind of people that choose to participate in Cosplay.

Whether you are a voyeur or an exhibitionist, Cosplay opens the doors to either possibility. There is a chance for people to dress up and play or for those more shy, to come and live vicariously though others with more external tendencies. Many of the Cosplayers in attendance indicated this was their first time at a convention in a costume. One man, dressed as the Joker, began his Cosplay career at the ripe old age of 50.

Phoenix Comicon has its own flavor as compared to other conventions in the country. While San Diego is the biggest around, as noted by some, Phoenix has a certain vibe that lends itself to a casual and comfortable experience. It is really laid back, relaxing, and generally fun. Phoenix Comicon runs like a well oiled machine – smoother and easier to manage. From the crowd control to security to the volunteers helping out, Phoenix seems to know what they are doing when it comes to hosting a convention.

All in all, the convention offers something for everyone. You get to choose your level of participation when you are Cosplaying. My fiancé and I chose to go to the Geek Prom, which is an event to raise money for a charity while letting Cosplayers dress up and dance the night away. For the first time in my life, I participated in Cosplay. I was Princess Leia (buns and all) while my fiancé was Tatooine Luke (complete with accessories). We rented costumes from a local costume shop. At first I was very nervous about the idea of dressing up. When not one but several people asked us for a picture, I knew that the worry was for nothing. Everyone is accepted for whatever character they choose to present.

Cosplay is not for everyone but everyone can Cosplay!


What to Play

Networked Blogs Member