Who's Afraid of the Big Bad PAX
Late last week I posted about some of my concerns coming into PAX Prime. I assumed that upon returning from the land of Starbucks, drizzle and exactly one legendary musician, namely Jimi Hendrix, I would be backtracking on my uncertainties and actively singing the praises of the Expo. The reality is, it turns out, more complicated. As I go back and look at what I wrote last Thursday, I actually don't feel like my reticence was unfounded.
Last week PAX was an unknown quantity that seemed somewhat lost in the middle-ground between major media expo and community driven fan event. This week, my feeling on the matter has changed not one iota. In fact, I would dare say that PAX doesn't exactly know what it is right now. There is the PAX of the console freeplay rooms, the PAX of star-driven panels, the PAX of a giant LAN party, the PAX of endless board games, the PAX of meet and greets away from the show, and of course the PAX of the convention floor. Each one has a totally different vibe, and they all seem loosely connected by the veins and arteries of twisting hallways without ever quite resolving into a unified organism.
I loved the community driven events, and meeting new GWJers around what seemed like every corner is a joy I genuinely treasure. If you think we have a cool community here online, just wait until you put a bunch of us in a room together and start playing board games and Rock Band. I'll just say, if you ever have the chance, put it on your calendar.
That said, some of the other elements of the show -- the actual convention hall and the long lines for panels, for example -- didn't really resolve in the same way for me. I was constantly surprised to find myself going from feeling perfectly at home to suddenly quite out of place. Focus on the people of PAX, from Enforcers to the vast majority of very cool gamers, and it is one thing. Focus on the event itself, however, and it suddenly seems indistinct.
I realize I am being cryptic, and that's why this will be a short piece. I'm not sure I can come to a complete thought on PAX so close to it. I find myself wishing I had attended when it was much smaller, because I think the more something like this grows, the greater the risk that it loses its soul. Ultimately, I have no regrets for going and I walk away with treasured memories. Despite what other reservations I may still hold about the event, that's more than enough for me. For now.