This year, from September 4-6, I attended my very first Penny Arcade Expo up in Seattle. I didn’t really know what to expect, so I did my research, looked up videos, read articles about the past years’ conventions, but I still was like, “oh my god, there are gonna be 60,000 other nerds there, this is going to be a MADHOUSE.” Of course, because I’m prescient (superpowers, yo), I was right, and it was a madhouse, but it was also AWESOME.
Basically, for those of you who have never been or don’t care about PAX but are still reading this, the Penny Arcade Expo is a ridiculous video game convention, where companies bring their sweet new stuff to show it off, and gamers get super psyched about it and get free t-shirts and posters and buttons and various other swag. It’s a great opportunity for game developers and their fans to actually interact with each other.
PAX was a blast and I had the chance to see some awesome games that will be coming out, some sooner than others – any word on a release date yet, Star Wars: The Old Republic? :) But everything at PAX succeeded in different ways, and it’s the right thing to do to recognize that our differences make us special. So I have decided, on this occasion of my recovering from PAX Pox (Swine Flu), and in the spirit of the VMAs being tonight, to present the awesome companies who made such great showings at the Penny Arcade Expo with some awards that I have so cleverly come up with. (I don’t think I need to remind everything that this is my opinion, and therefore no one can argue with it. Obviously.)
Best at having an insanely long line that takes forever to get through
Tie – Left 4 Dead 2 and Dragon Age. I got in the Dragon Age line pretty much first thing on Friday, and it took me an hour and a half to get through. It was 12 360s and everyone got to play for half an hour. Game was awesome, line was brutal. It got worse Sunday – I’d say two or three times as long as the line I waited through. I also really wanted to try out Left 4 Dead 2, but the line was always nuts for not many available consoles, and I was never patient enough to wait through it.
Best swag for beating your roommates about the head without permanently disfiguring them
Inflatable swords. My roommates and I have had far more swordfights than girls our age probably should, but it’s been awesome, so thanks, Dragon Age and Divinity II! There have been some epic battles in our apartment and it is awesome.
Best way to entertain the long lines in the main Queue Room
Beach balls. Before one Main Theater event that I was in line for (and I’m sure before others as well), the entire crowd started counting each time someone hit the beach ball back up in the air. I believe we got up to 30ish several times before it fell, to many “boooooo!”s and disappointed “ohhhhh!”s.
Best at having ridiculous gratuitous booth babes
Grats, City of Heroes. Your booth babe was gorgeous, and her superhero costume was awesome, but it would’ve been nice if it covered her butt a little better. I don’t know how she sits down in that costume. Sure, the “hot chicks” will draw the lonely nerd contingent to your booth and maybe to your game, but you know what else will? Making a good game that people want to play.
Best free shirt that makes you look like a huge dork but also like a badass
Star Wars: The Old Republic armor shirts. The TOR/BioWare people either didn’t bring enough of these shirts or their booth was insanely popular, or both!, because I think they were gone the first day of PAX. Not only did they come in girl-cut, not just unisex, props to TOR for remembering that girls like having shirts that fit right, but they also look super cool. The image on the shirt makes it look like whoever is wearing it has on the armor of two classes that have been announced for TOR – I believe the boy shirts were Jedi armor, and girls’ were bounty hunters.
Best surprisingly awesome trailer we all thought was going to be super lame
Fairy Tale Fights. While waiting in the Main Queue Room before the Expo hall opened Friday morning, whoever was in charge of the big screen typed that they were going to show a trailer for an upcoming game. The trailer started out cartoony, cute, happy, puppies flowers rainbows, you know the deal. Everyone rolls their eyes. Then these sweet little characters get out swords and start lopping each other’s heads off and blood is spurting and going everywhere, and the crowd cracks up. So congrats on your sneakily badass trailer, Fairy Tale Fights!
Best shirt that makes me laugh way harder than it should
A piece of cake saying “I am nutritious.” with text underneath, “The cake is a liar.” Why do I laugh so hard? Why?
Best way to distract the entire audience listening at the Saturday night concert
Playing Minesweeper on your mac and holding it up so the cameras can show it to everyone else. One thing I learned at PAX is that, during slow songs, we don’t hold up cell phones to replace lighters – we hold up Nintendo DSes to replace cell phones to replace lighters. One person near the front even took it a step further, booting up his Mac laptop (I’ll refrain from judging) and holding that up instead. He then started playing Minesweeper. One of the many moving cameras focused on it, and the entire crowd was enraptured.
Best introduction for a special guest
Wil Wheaton, in his “official capacity as the Secretary of Geek Affairs,” presented Jonathan Coulton with the Presidential d20 of Geekdom and listed off his many accomplishments and contributions to geek culture by using lines from his songs. Among my personal favorites: “whereas Jonathan Coulton is not unreasonable and will not eat our eyes,” “whereas Jonathan Coulton is so into us, though he’s way too smart for us,” and “whereas Jonathan Coulton makes the first of May extra special.” You can watch the entire video here:
Best game at all of PAX, don’t doubt me, not even joking
Skee Ball. The Omegathon, a six-round elimination tournament with twenty gamers all competing to win a trip to the Tokyo Game Festival and $5,000, I am told always culminates in a surprise game that they don’t think anyone will have practiced in advance. This year, the game of choice was Skee Ball, and even if the machine itself was a little old, and had to be reset after every game, and they actually had to insert quarters to play it, Skee Ball is the best.