Final day at PAX East was bittersweet. Yes, I had traveled the country with the express intent of seeing as much as I could and networking hard, and yes I was exhausted by four days of nerd, but there was a part of me that didn’t want to leave just yet.
I started the morning off at a panel called “JRPGs Are Bad (but you should play them anyway)”, which was pretty much a series of hot takes about how the JRPG genre as cratered in the last few years (with the obvious exception of Persona 5). No due to lack of interest, but to the difficulty of creating an exceptional JRPG in the current landscape. The panelists discussed the differences between JRPGs and Western RPGs, what each learns and absorbs from the other (how Dark Souls is basically a Japanese Western-style RPG, for instance). Mainly the group was optimistic for the future of the genre. As long as studios make an effort to bring in great talent and are unafraid to delve into great stories, there will always be JRPGs. They all agreed that being willing to modernize certain elements wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
The whole panel got me thinking about how I can bring my fiancée into loving video games. It’s a lot of pressure to be with someone you love and to want them to love a thing as much as you love a thing; they have to come to it on their own terms. Naturally. I’m resistant to when people push something on me, saying “Oh you’ll LOVE this I promise” and then wait for a response. It’s one of the reasons I don’t like watching movie trailers or reading the backs of books. I’d rather come to something on my own and approach it with less expectations. JRPGs were instrumental in helping me develop my love for video games. I’d spend early mornings and many late evenings with my Game Boy Color (berry) and Dragon Warrior, Pokémon and whatever else I could get my hands on. A lot of those games simply haven’t aged well mechanically and I hesitate to have my fiancée’s first exposure to the genre be something punishingly difficult or obtuse. The SNES classic has FFVI on there, so hopefully that will capture her attention and bring her in. But I’m letting her lead the way.
After that panel I met up with the Boss Fight guys for our table signing. We met some great people and rad fans. The press is such a great sliver of the gaming community, those who loves to read and who are also passionate about the undefinable things that make a game great and are willing to talk about them at length. My time with them has expanded my vocabulary in how I talk about games, game development and design in general. It’s opened a lot of doors and made me appreciate how lucky I am. We have a lot of great books coming out in our next batch, and I feel like it’s a bit of a turning point in our exposure. I’m curious and excited to see where it all goes.
From there it was pretty much time to find ways to kill time for the final few hours of the show. The editor-in-chief and I made our way over to the Annapurna booth again to check out Wattam, which was insanely delightful. We even got to meet Keita Takahashi (who asked us when our Katamari book is coming out... we’ve had some setbacks there, but it’s on the way!) which was a treat. The game is bonkers but heartwarming in a way that only certain video games can be. Also, you can play as a golden poop and are visited by giant bowling pins from space. What’s not to love?
After the Wattam demo, I wandered over to the Playstation booth just to see if I could sneak into playing a demo for Detroit: Become Human, but the lines were juuuust a little too long for my level of interest in that game. Gabe and I played a quick couple of rounds of a great multiplayer deathmatch game where the player is hidden in shadow and exposed when they enter light (wish I wrote down the name of it). After that, we headed back upstairs and parted ways.
I’d definitely go to PAX again but I fully realize I had the luxury of a special experience. Being with Boss Fight Books and knowing a couple people in the industry made me really notice what it could have been like to stand in line for hours or to miss out on presentations because they were full up. I’m super grateful for my experience and I’m going to work towards being able to go again another time.