Crispy Gamer

PAX Day 1: Doors Open, Revelry Ensues

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Funny thing about PAX. There's press here--I saw Garnett,
Totilo, Fahey, Gerstmann, etc.--but the show isn't really about press. Yes,
there's a grotty little media room here. Yes, there are some off-site events
that are press-only, like Sony's event at the Hyatt across the street.

But for the most part, the press is treated as an
afterthought. We're welcome to come and look around, but this show, more so
than any I've ever attended, is about the fans.

Want to see Left 4 Dead 2? I have to wait in the long,
winding line to do so, just like anyone else. Which is fine. I don't mind. There's
none of the backroom culture that pervades the other shows. There are no secret
doors, and no gratis soft drinks, and no gratis stale danish to gnaw on.

It's games and fans with none of the political horseshit and
public relations posturing that typically comes between the two.

You know, I like it here.

I remember going to some obscure game convention in the
early '90s when I was living in Chicago. I'd read about it in the paper. I cajoled a friend of mine, who was a far more casual gamer than I was, to
go with me. He reluctantly agreed. We bought tickets. We waited in long lines.

It didn't take long for my friend to lapse into full-on eye-roll mode. Me? I was in my
glory. I got the chance to play a minute or two of games I'd been reading about
obsessively in EGM each month (back then it was still known as Electronic
Gaming Monthly, which if you think about it, is kind of a terrible name for a
magazine). I'd spend hours each day staring at screenshots--remember when
screenshots still mattered?--imagining with every nerdy ounce of my being what
those screenshots would look like in motion.

And here I was, in an overlit convention center in Chicago, inhaling boiled hot-dog air, waiting
my turn to spend 30 seconds, maybe a minute if I was lucky, standing at a kiosk
and playing one of those very games.

I wasn't happy a lot at the time. I was drinking a lot. I
was working as waiter. (Quite possibly the worst waiter the city of Chicago has
ever known.) But in this moment, holding a Genesis controller, or a Super
Nintendo controller, in my hand, in these brief moments, I was impossibly happy.

And I have PAX to thank for reminding me of that.

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