Hey guys- long time. Lots going on. Rest assured that I’ve been around, just haven’t been up to writing much on TAY lately other than the odd comment here and there. This post might be a little all over the place. BE WARNED.
All that to say: I’m at PAX East! For the first time. First time in Boston, first time at a convention this big. I’ve been working as an editorial intern for the inimitable Boss Fight Books, helping with audiobook production among other things. Our editor-in-chief is hosting a couple panels at PAX so I was invited, along with a few of our authors. Work trip!
First thing to do with a convention this big is figure out your “must-see” things, and also your “eh, I can skip it” events. For me, I have to be present for the three Boss Fight events today, tomorrow, and Sunday- everything else is up in the air. I spent the first part of yesterday checking out the show floor, playing a few demos and just taking it all in. The latter half of the day I caught up with an old friend from college- Jirard, aka The Completionist. He was on a panel with the Zelda Universe guys talking about Breath of the Wild and its impact a year later, what it might mean for The Legend of Zelda going forward. After that he took me and some other friends backstage before another panel he was on, a live show of The Scary Game Squad. Amazing night.
But I had the entire day before all that! I made sure I was repping my Boss Fight Books shirt and got out on the convention center in downtown Boston. Our editor and I met up at the front desk and got our badges for the weekend- watch out, we’re listed as “special guests”- and we went down to the bottom level to check out the show floor. It was busy; the first day of the convention, so vendors were trying like crazy to get our attention and the crowd was occasionally difficult to move through. It’s amazing seeing so much nerd in one location, and having that definition challenged. There were cosplayers, people hawking gaming chairs, indie devs just trying to get noticed, and huge publishers all in one (admittedly enormous) space.
I tried out the demo for The Banner Saga 3 and received an awesome pin for my time. The people running the booth had even hired a few cosplayers, Juno and Alette. The area was well set up with a ton of gaming PCs ready to go with a short dialogue section followed by a battle that introduced new strategies to the game. Unfortunately the music wasn’t working yet- I asked on of the attendants what was wrong, and she laughed and said there are always bugs to fix before the game ships. It’s a shame because the music for the series is excellent, but the combat more than made up for it.
We saw as much as we could before heading back to the front desk to meet up with Michael P. Williams, author of our Chrono Trigger book. We went back down into the maw and wandered around some more, trying out demos for Brawlout and Guacamelee 2. It was just fun times, us three guys nerding out over new games- there really isn’t anything like local multiplayer, especially in a place filled with thousands of other enthusiasts. The game devs were open and happy to talk about things they were working on with each game; I told one of the lead designers for Severed how much I enjoyed Drinkbox and how representation is so god damn important, especially in tech. I’m a quarter Mexican and seeing a game so inspired by hispanic culture and art styles really hit me right in the feels. He was sincere in saying thank you, and I left feeling positively about indie game development.
One of the more interesting games we encountered was HAUNTED: Halloween ‘86, a brand new NES game in 2018. Sure, you can download it on steam or what have you but wouldn’t you rather have an awesome new cartridge to play on your NES from the 80s? I talked to the artist about what it was like to produce a retro game in the 21st century, the challenges of producing a cartridge, the difficulty of emulating an SNES game vs. an NES one. It was a great conversation, and one of the last things I was expecting in the same space as Detroit: Become Human. Go, retro sensibilities!
I checked out a panel on the importance of improvising as a tabletop GM, how oftentimes saying “yes” can lead to more interesting gameplay experiences than trying to stick to a script. DMing is an insanely hard thing to do in general, and I imagine it can be frustrating to create a world only to have players do the exact opposite of what you anticipate- but the panelists shared stories about how some of their best games and moments came from the unexpected. I love improvisation and it was great hearing about it in relation to gaming. PUT ALL OF MY INTERESTS INTO ONE PLACE PLEASE THANK YOU.
After a while we all split up; we’re staying in different places so it made sense to part ways. I did a little shopping and picked up an amazing Persona 4 shirt, then sat down on the floor for some Super Mario 3D Land before hitting Jirard’s panels. The streetpass game at PAX is no joke, guys. Before the end of the day I had 99 lives in 3D Land, enough to carry me through for... probably the rest of my time with the game. Makes me wish I had more games on that system to take advantage of it, I mainly use it as a portable retro Zelda machine. If anyone has any suggestions, I’ll gladly take them.
Both the Zelda Universe and the Scary Game Squad panels were incredibly entertaining. The Zelda one had a very in depth powerpoint presentation that went into the strengths and weaknesses of Breath of the Wild, and everyone there had salient points to make about the game and what the series has meant to them over the years. I had hoped PAX would have moments like this, just people nerding out over their favorite series, and that’s exactly what this was.
Scary Game Squad was a little more loose, mainly because the panelists were drinking whiskey throughout their playthroughs of three different games- IMSCARED, One Late Night, and Bendy and the Ink Machine. The SGS guys have a great vibe together. The show was funny, they didn’t stay with any one game too long, and they blasted “I’m Han Solo” as everyone was getting seated. It was a great time and always cool to see indie stuff I probably wouldn’t see otherwise get featured like this. I’m glad Jirard was at the convention, and I’m glad he invited me to catch up and see his panels.
Overall, it was a great first day at PAX East. I’m looking forward to the rest of the weekend, and seeing the response to our Boss Fight panels. I think I’ll try and get into some of the more busy booths today, maybe PlayStation and Blizzard. If there’s anything I should try and check out or make a point to see or play, please let me know.