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Pax 2011 Day 2

PAX day 2 was largely more of the same. Played a lot more board games, talked to a lot more indie game developers. I even attended a panel on how to make an indie game.

Game Design

Attending the panel made me remember why I rarely goto panels. Essentially every amazing Independent game developer attends PAX, and none of them were present as speakers at this panel.

However, rather than insight into how to successfully make an indie game, the panel selection gave me a different type of insight.

A lot of the panel was talking about how making your own indie game was a labor of love, one that might not be financially successful, and the pitfalls of signing on with a publisher vs self-publishing. It was that comparison that made me look around at the crowd of eager game designers and make me wonder if the dream of "finally writing my dream game" isn't just our generation's longing to "write the great American novel".

When you think about it, a secluded novel writer, betting it all that on nothing but his keyboard and will to finish could just as easily be replaced with a programmer at a keyboard. The allure of willing a creation into the world, one that is essentially useless unless 100% finished. It put a lot of things into stark relief for me.

I bugged the guy who made "Atom Zombie Smasher" again, who was giving away copies of his game for free at his booth, and who also threw his game into the "Humble Bundle 3" for a pittance. I asked him why he was essentially giving out his game, and he told me that he just wanted people to play it.

I think this drive that me and everyone else who attended that panel to "someday" create a game is really the same yearning artists have to create something that people enjoy. To leave something behind that is unique. And just like artists, I have to think that the potential for the great works to also become financially successful severely muddies the waters...

Live Dungeons And Dragons

I think the best image you can have of PAX is that it is a place and time where 2500 people will line up in a street that has been closed to traffic for this purpose, hours in advance, to completely fill up one of Seattle's largest theaters all to watch four grown men play Dungeons and Dragons.

We got there an hour and a half early, and ended up in the highest "nose bleed seat" section.

A strange purpose and image for some of you I imagine. The closest comparison I can make is that of 2500 kindergartners patiently waiting for an amazing story to be told to them. A new story, one that nobody has ever heard before. Told by a teacher who physically cannot stop himself from making dick jokes at each and every opportunity.

The miracle of it all was that even though the four players were on a stage, in front of an astonishingly large audience the entire thing still felt like a casual session in your basement. Which I think is its greatest gift, of silently acknowledging the importance and meaning that can be summoned up with nothing more than imagination, friendship and snack food.

It is a snarky world, culture has advanced to the point where it is difficult to do anything without some flavor of irony attached to it. Games provide an excuse to unironically do that which we all crave constantly, to feel the thrill of the unknown, to engage in cooperation and competition with fellow human beings without anyone being slapped with a glove, to free our minds of the burden of the far more complicated game that modern society requires and play one far closer to the primal one we were built for.

(Edit: Link to pictures)

PAX 2011 Day 1

Had a really great first day of PAX. The greatest of which seemed to my seeming miraculous non-contraction of "hand-foot and mouth" that the rest of my household contracted.

It is a cliche that parenthood changes you, one I don't find particularly interesting, but I think there is a certain alienness to a non-parent of the concept of me being ecstatic that I went a week without accidentally ingesting infected feces.

Here's some stuff I looked at yesterday:

Nintendo 3DS

The 3d effect is cool for a few moments, but quickly game me a headache. Maybe it's my eye prescription. The game lineup for the 3DS on display was compelling: Super Mario 3dland, Mario Kart 7, Kid Icarus. That crap is must have. I could see myself buying a 3DS, gluing the 3d switch to *off* and buying all three of those.

The Indie Ghetto

The rest of the expo hall had some neat stuff, but it was honestly so packed that I quickly fled it up to the "Indie Game Ghetto" expo hall hidden in the upper reaches of the convention center. This is where I really enjoyed myself, I was able to freely walk up to lonely looking Indie game developers, try their wares, talk to them about their development process, their sales strategy, etc. I was able to talk one on one to developers of indie games I own and enjoy such as "Universe Sandbox" and "Atom Zombie Smasher". The excitement in their voice that I had heard of their game, let alone purchased it and played it created a strange mutual exchange of pleasant awe.


The nice thing about PAX is that when you want to go eat, it forces you to go outside and take in downtown Seattle, which really is just a fun place. I had lunch at conveyer belt sushi place with suprisingly reasonable prices, and had fresh prawns for dinner at a bar meters from the wharf.

Cookie Brigade

After lunch I helped my friend Irene hawk her free cookies with the Cookie Brigade. Her smore cookies are just delicious, and I just couldn't stand by watching her walk down the lines meekly asking if anyone wanted a cookie. Whereas my method involved loud barking enumerating the wonders of her cookies, waiting for a nerd in line to make a snide comment, and then directly engaging in close-combat banter until they give in and take a free cookie.

She told me later that her strategy is largely reliant on looking for subtle signs of eye contact and then engaging interested parties. Which given that she essentially has a Phd in the social mechanics of human interaction made me feel a like a stupid stomping idiot, but she assured me that all she really cares about is getting rid of cookies so she doesn't have to take any home.

Board Games

The most fun part of PAX is getting to try out their massive catalog of board games with friends. I spent the bulk of my day doing that, trying out "Ticket to Ride", "War of the Rings", "Dominion Intrigue" and in the waning hours of the night, "Race for the Galaxy".

Those were all great fun, except for "War of the Rings", which can best be described as having all the fun of setting up "Axis and Allies" and then being told it is actually 1938 and there are several repercussions of the Marshall Plan to sort out before any fighting can begin.


Here are some photos if you care. (Edit: Link Fixed)