And now, the conclusion of PAX 2010.
Morning came to me at 8.30. We had nowhere particular to be. Our major goal for Sunday was a modest one: I had been around Rock Band 3 all weekend and had yet to play my beloved Def Leppard. Once this was done, my PAX weekend would be complete. We figured we’d hit up the HMX booth early, get that done, and then just wander the con floor, play whatever looked cool and was relatively open, and scout out for swag.
From our observations, Sunday is the best bulk swag day. Companies only bring a certain amount of stuff with them of course, and so they tend to play it conservative with the give-aways on Friday and Saturday to make sure they don’t run out. Then, come Sunday, they realize they still have a good bit of stock left and don’t want to pay the shipping fees to send it back home again, so they’ll give it away for practically nothing. For example: We scored shirts for something (I honestly have no idea what the shirt is promoting nor any idea what booth we got it from) for doing whatever the person handing them out thought up. Mike got his for doing a ballerina twirl. (See yesterday, re: no shame.) I got mine for beating her at a game of rock, paper, scissors. Which I lost. And got the shirt anyway. So yeah, Sundays are great bulk swag days.
Not necessarily the BEST swag though, as we’d find out later in the day.
So 8.30 rolled around and we got up, ate yet more peanut butter, guzzled some caffeine, then packed up all our shit; hotel checkout was noon and I didn’t want to have to be worrying about watching the clock while on the floor. Two trips loaded the car, checkout was done within minutes, and we got to the Queue Room at just about 10am.
Music was pumping in and the message board (“Messy Board”) was in full use. They started playing Lonely Island’s “I’m on a Boat“, and a thousand people singing along to that is definitely a thing.
But for me personally, I wasn’t quite as into it as I might’ve thought. I was just tired, I figured. We’d enjoy the hell out of today, I’d get us home, and then I’d get a good night’s sleep in my own bed with my puppy and all would be well.
Our first stop: Rock Band 3.
We were one of the first ones there, so it was only a little bit of wait time before we were up. The decision I was mulling over in my mind was an important one: What position to play?
While I play expert on all the instruments (except keys of course) and consider myself the guitarist by default, I actually opted for vocals. I know, right? Not the decision you’d expect. But as I previously mentioned, I was feeling quite a bit off, and wasn’t sure I’d do so hot on the guitar that morning. Vocals though, I know what Joe’s singing note for note, Mike could join in with harmonies, and with the game sound system blaring, you can’t even really hear yourself, let alone worry about every else hearing and judging.
Vocals it was. And Mike asked Pope to snap some pics of us, which he was only too happy to do.
As Pope so helpfully pointed out after, he even got one of us doing the “F-F-F” part, so we look nice and extra stupid. You will not see that one.
With that, my PAX 2010 was officially settled in my head; everything else gotten and done that day would be bonus.
But first, there was sorta something else I really did want to try if I could.
So what is Comic Jumper? It’s the latest game from Twisted Pixel, who as far as I can tell only make games that are awesome. They’re the ones responsible for Maw and ‘Splosion Man. Comic Jumper is about, well, a guy who jumps into comic books. (I’m not entirely sure why just yet.) And as you might imagine, if you take cool funny people, a game, and comic books and put them all together, you’re going to get Something That Interests Jet Wolf. One of the coolest things to me about the game is how the hero, Captain Smiley, jumps into very specific comic book genres (Silver Age, Fantasy, Manga, modern Super Hero, etc.), each with its own specific look and feel. Interest level: high.
I’m happy to report that while I didn’t play long, I enjoyed what I played. The motion and controls were fluid, and the artistic look of the game is fantastic. What really struck me though was how funny it was. With both Maw and ‘Splosion Man there’s no dialogue at all; it’s almost like Twisted Pixel were saving up their words this whole time just to unload both barrels at Comic Jumper. Very excited for this game.
Marvel Super-Hero Squad. We’d passed this banner by several times, and seen a few demos going on. We were, in fact, participating in their contest – throughout the course of the con they were handing out different hero buttons, and once you’d collected four different heroes you could stop by and get a hat. Our first learning of this contest actually led to Mike and I getting into a heated discussion about which characters should even be on the buttons, as he apparently wasn’t sold on Ms. Marvel being one of those, leading me to start to defend the choice, much to the amusement of the guys working the booth and leading to me excusing myself so that “my husband and I can go argue about comic books over there”.
Anyway, the game. What we weren’t sure about was just how many games were Squad-oriented. We’d seen a fighting game, a card game … turns out they’re all part of just the one game, just with different modes. Our interest turned into enthusiastic offers for us to sit down and try it out.
Mostly I only heard “sit down”. I was finding concentration a little difficult.
So we each settled in front of a screen and they set it up so we could play together. This then led to way more discussion about who we were going to play than it should have. I was assuming Mike would pick Spider-Man, but he was waiting to see who I’d pick. Unfortunately nobody much leapt out at me. It wasn’t for lack of choice, you see, just that I was feeling a little indecisive and they didn’t have Rogue which would’ve made it a no-brainer. That made it a some-brainer and I found myself slow in this area at the moment.
Then one of the women working the booth came over and decided to “help” me.
“How about Storm? Storm’s cool!”
“No, I don’t like Storm all that much.” Somewhere in my head some distant part of me starts rattling off a long string of reasons. I chose not to repeat them.
“Well there’s the Invisible Woman! She’s cool!”
“I don’t wanna be Sue.”
“How about Ms. Marvel? She’s cool!”
Mike breaks away from the guy helping him to say, “I figured you’d be Ms. Marvel.” It’s a fair cop – usually if there’s no Rogue I’ll default to Ms. Marvel because then I can just pretend it’s Rogue on an off day.
But I didn’t feel like being so predictable apparently. I’d much rather waffle. “Nah.”
The booth-lady was not to be deterred. “Oh, but she can flyyyy and she’s strooong and–”
My eyes narrowed. Oh no. Bitch is NOT about to try to school me on Carol Danvers’ powers. That’s when it hit me what was going on. The lady assumed either that I was only checking it out because my HUSBANDMAN was, or I was only checking it out because it was cute and colourful. I couldn’t know anything about comic books myself. Oh no. That’s why she kept suggesting all the female characters to me, and with no other rationale beyond “She’s cool!”
I was being profiled. By my own gender. At a geek convention.
My eyes settled on the first non-female character that leapt out at me and I double clicked him.
“I’ll be Scott.”
Why did I do that?? I hate Scott!
“Great!” she exclaimed with a level of enthusiasm the character absolutely did not deserve. “I like playing with Cyclops! He shoots lasers from his eyes and he’s–”
“Very cool. Right.”
Now about this point I think it began to dawn on her that I detested her, violently, as a person. I was in the game and already tuned her out, so I’m not sure exactly when she slipped away. It was then that I realized someone else was there too. Just a generic-looking old school classic X-Men outfit. I actually assumed it was Kitty. Then I saw the powers. Then I saw Mike grin at me.
“Hey, it’s Jean! And it’s you!”
“Yup!” said Mike. “I had to pick something that’d go best with you.”
Why the hell they put her in the crap-ass Marvel Girl outfit I do not understand; I can only assume that they’ll charge you later to put her in something that doesn’t suck. And if you like Jean … yeah, you’ll buy it.
Anyway, Mike and I played the game together. Got all the way through to the first boss (Doctor Octopus) and defeated him handily. We didn’t try the card element of the game, although we did see it demoed at some point (when exactly is a bit fuzzy).
My overall impressions were that aside from it being Marvel heroes – which don’t get me wrong, that’s a huge draw – I wouldn’t be that into it. I couldn’t see any way to chose what powers you used or really how you used them. It was just clicking an enemy and then sitting back to watch the same sequence of animations. I felt like a viewer, not a participant. The card game part looked a little more interesting, but for that I could just play the actual card game (gods know they were handing out enough freebie cards all over the place). I believe I saw where the game would be free to play online, and that’s good because I’m not sure they could charge for it. Perhaps the target demographic is younger kids however, in which case I could see it doing very well with them. For me though, not so much.
Right next to the Marvel Superhero Squad booth was the Lego Universe one. I neglected to get any pictures, and blame my increasing head distractions. We didn’t demo the game there, although we did get some cool minifigures and passes to the closed beta.
I installed the game and played it a bit shortly after we got home. So what is it? It’s a LEGO-themed MMO. I know, right? But it actually sorta works. The storyline intro was pretty clever I thought (basically this imagination force has become corrupted and you have to work to purify it), as well as introducing several gameplay mechanics that have become quite familiar if you’ve every played any of the LEGO franchises (LEGO Star Wars, Batman, Harry Potter, etc.) It’s important to note however that Traveller’s Tales, the devs behind those other games, aren’t involved here.
As you might expect it’s extremely kid friendly, but not kid exclusive. I played around with it for a few hours, and had a surprising amount of fun. You do fight monsters and gain different forms of currency, from studs you can use to buy things, to imagination that you use to assemble assorted things in the world, to bricks you can use to build your own personal house. There are lots of quests available, from FedEx style to building items to monster defeating. And while I only played on the “fantasty” style world, it looks like there are plenty of themed worlds available (jungle worlds, space worlds, etc.) It’ll be $10/month on release, and while I wouldn’t pay for the game (nor likely play it all that much if it were free), I can definitely see the appeal for some, especially for kids.
Incidentally, we received two closed beta codes. One I’ve already used, but Mike won’t be needing his. Assuming the interest is out there, the first person to request the code (email, comment, Twitter, whatever) is welcome to have it.
Back to walking the expo floor, making sure to grab whatever is being handed out. I’m reliving this mostly through my photographs; I was by now solidly certain of illness.
This prompted me to seek out actual food, figuring that perhaps eating something besides cheap undercooked ramen and JIF peanut butter would help me feel better. We wanted to cash in the free shirt ticket that was shoved into our hand by the Guild Wars 2 folks and so a trip back into the Convention Center lobby was on the agenda anyway. While there we grabbed a burrito at (I think) the Taco del Mar. Even better, the guy in front of me was working the Epic Mickey booth. He noted all my lanyard bling and offered me one of their buttons, which was apparently one of the few bits of swag they had for the game and were only handing them out after waiting in line for like two hours. I thanked him heartily, then decided to get greedy and ask if I could have another for my Disney-loving best friend. He handed over a second, and thus did I score more loot for Amy.
I don’t remember much else about lunch, except for feeling quite a bit better after eating it.
Time was marching steadily onward, however. It was already 1pm, and there was still swag to try and get.
We didn’t actually try Guild Wars 2, but I sure did appreciate my shirt!
Then we came upon a particular point of interest for Mike:
Dead Rising 2. He loved the first one (it was, in fact, among the first games we got with our 360) and has been very keen for the second. What’s more, the line was actually pretty small for such a big ticket game. And more than THAT, he asked the guy at the front of the booth if they had any shirts or anything. Yes, they did – but you had to play the game and get at least 250 zombie kills in the 15 minute time limit.
Game Mike wants, definitive goal, shirt reward, minimal line.
Things we did not consider:
- The 15-minute time limit meant that each group ahead of us would be, at minimum, 15 minutes. Closer to 20 when factoring in clearing the area, game resets, and moving in the next group.
- The relatively small number of gaming consoles set up for the game (10).
- The 20 to 30 people in front of us in line.
Something I had also failed to consider: how standing in one place on feet that have been taxed and abused for three days while waiting somewhat impatiently is not the best distraction from how very awful I am feeling. The next hour to hour and a half is just a jumbled mess of bad. All I wanted to do was curl into a corner and sleep for a bit. All I could hear was how this world champion Street Fighter guy was taking on all-comers and kicking their butts within seconds. All I could focus on was how I could feel the illness creeping through my body.
Waiting in this line wasn’t exactly the best ever. And it’s one of those things that by the time you realize just how long you’ve spent standing there you don’t want to have wasted the time so thoroughly so there’s nothing left to do but just keep standing there.
Eventually we were set to be in the next group. My brain woke up enough to watch someone’s strategies. (The big thing in Dead Rising 2 is the combination of items into crazy zombie-killing weapons. So, for example, he combined a paddle and a chainsaw to get this buzzing whirring quarterstaff of death.) If we were going to kill enough zombies, these weapon combinations would be key.
I actually considered sitting out. I wasn’t feeling to terribly responsive, and in truth I sucked horribly in the first Dead Rising game. But when we started to go in, I figured what the hell.
Unfortunately, I was at the back of this group, so the only console left was the one right next to everyone waiting. The ones who were clamoring to play. The ones who wanted to watch someone play. The ones who now were watching me.
Me. Sick me. Sick me who sucks at Dead Rising and doesn’t do well at just about anything when a single person is standing over my shoulder, let alone ten people.
So I played. I think voyeur stress sharpened my focus. I remembered what the guy that I was watching had combined. I remembered where he went to get the stuff. I too did these things.
My little entourage? They turned into cheering maniacs. Whooping and hollering at each new weapon and every zombie head that went flying, and calling out encouragement (“You’ve got more kills than anyone!” “Plenty of time, you got this!”). The 250 kills goal was reached easily (and one of the Capcom booth guys congrats me and put something at my station) and then it was just zombie killing for fun.
At the end of my time there were back claps and high fives from complete strangers, and it was a surprisingly great moment. Everyone caught up in the thrill and reveling in your success as though it’s their own – not because they know you, but because you’re all there for the same thing: the love of the game.
Despite the over-long wait and the cotton in my head, more than getting my Dragon Age shirt and my Def Leppard song, that single celebratory moment with people I don’t know and will never see again may have been my single favourite moment of the whole convention, and the one that for me encapsulates the spirit of PAX.
Also somewhat in the spirit of the PAX was the fact that the “thing” put on my station was a bobblehead of the main character in Dead Rising 2, which was the reward they were now giving out for 250 zombie kills. They had run out of shirts on Saturday. D’oh.
It was getting pretty close to when we’d need to start queuing up for the final round of the Omegathon, the “closing ceremonies”, if you will, of PAX. We swept through the floor, loading up on shirts and buttons and posters and taking whatever people were shoving into our eager hands. Our goal was to end the con much as it had started, with Rock Band and Harmonix.
We made our goodbyes and got our hugs and were about to leave when we noticed something seemed to be happening. Something that was quickly drawing a crowd.
Oh yeah. We’ll stay for this.
My favourite part of the routine: how the costume’s drill arm was so heavy, the Big Daddy couldn’t lift it up without using his other arm, and even then could only get to about chest-height.
And, of course, it was up on YouTube within about ten minutes.
Really, I can think of no better way to close out PAX.
We left the Expo Center behind us and made the trek back to Benaroya. I don’t remember a whole lot about the wait to get in, besides some conversations that I vaguely recall being part of, including a couple who were totally into and very enthusiastic about tabletop roleplaying (which I think must’ve rubbed off on Mike and I, as we’re now both preparing to get back into them for the first time in like 15 years). I consequently don’t recall how long we were in line, but the time stamp difference between my last Dancing Big Daddy photo and this one —
— tells me we probably didn’t queue for more than about an hour.
We were again seated as gods, but more centrally-located gods.
This seems like a good time to get to that Omegathon summary I spoke of in Day 2. As I said there, the Omegathon is a contest (involving gaming, of course) with the contestants (the Omeganauts) being randomly selected from PAX pre-registers. There are 20 of them in total, and throughout the course of the convention they compete in assorted games of all types and genres until there are only two Omeganauts remaining. These final two contestants compete in the last game as the final event at PAX. While all the previous games are either specifically stated or broadly hinted, the finale is always a closely-guarded secret. The big reveal and final competition is a can’t-miss highlight of PAX, and always a great note to end the convention.
The grand prize for this year was (I think) an all-expenses paid trip for two to Japan and $5000. The runner-up also gets a monetary reward I believe, as well as automatically returning to PAX as an Omeganuat to try again next year.
They banter for a bit. Tension is high. Everyone wants to know what will be played.
A claw game! But not just any claw game, no.
The Omeganauts are each given enough money to try the claw 15 times total. Once the claw is moved, they have 20 seconds to position it before it descends. The winner is the one who has the most toys (a truism in all areas of life).
This may not sound like much. Maybe it sounds stupid. To this I can only say that you’ve clearly never watched a high stakes claw game with 2500 of your closest friends, each person wanting nothing more than to see that claw emerge from every dive with a soft plushy bounty.
Truly, it’s an experience.
At the end, kwollf won with his 5 toys to a mere 1. The claw giveth and the claw taketh. Then it was Gabe vs. Tycho, with Gabe once more emerging the victor.
And with that, PAX Prime 2010 came to a roaring close.
But our adventure wasn’t quite done yet.
We still had to get home, of course. I was somewhat looking forward to the drive. I enjoy driving, and the trip up hadn’t quite been what I’d hoped it’d be; I figured a leisurely drive back would be a nice relaxing cap to a fun but exhausting weekend.
Then something began to worm its way into the fog of my brain. Something about deadlines.
Jett. Boarding. Oh crap.
It was nearing 7pm. The vet closes at 10pm. The drive from Seattle to Portland? Just over 3 hours.
I thrust my phone at Mike. Time to start making some calls.
The vet was first. Could they possibly give us enough time to get there? We’d be, at most, half an hour late. No, this wasn’t possible. Oh, and PS: Since tomorrow’s Labor Day, if you don’t get here to get her tonight, you won’t be able to get her until Tuesday. Can’t we make arrangements to get her tomorrow? Any time at all, we just want her home as soon as possible. No, can’t do that.
(This comes on the heels of some other stuff about my vet that’s been ticking me off lately; why is so damned hard to find a good veterinarian?)
Okay, so getting any cooperation whatsoever from the vet was completely out. Phase too: can we get someone else to pick her up? Mike called Scott and confirmed that he and Amy were still visiting Steve and Steph in Spokane. I don’t trust anyone else local with my dog, so no outside help coming.
We’re on our own. It’s all down to me driving. Our options are to either get there or don’t. The prize: My puppy.
Honestly, I don’t remember a whole lot more than that. Every ounce of my concentration was spent on balancing traffic with speed and cop awareness. I was feeling absolutely awful – my head was pounding and I could barely breathe. Unfortunately, no matter how much I wanted to sleep, driving at max speed was my only choice. (If you weren’t aware, Mike can’t drive, so being a passenger wasn’t an option.)
We made it to the vet with 12 minutes to spare.
Home soon. Yay.
Then I started to notice something. Something unpleasant. Something smelly.
Well sure, you may be thinking. She’s a dog. Dogs smell.
Not my dog. Not like this. I don’t know what the hell was going on – maybe she laid in something, maybe … no, you know, I don’t have answers. It was just a dreadful strench with no determinate origin, and we’ll leave it at that.
It was rounding the corner on 10:30pm, and Mike was about ready to eat his own arm, so we swung by a 24-hour burger place. I volunteered to go in for the food, since he was sitting in the back with Jett. When I returned to the car I knew that I couldn’t leave her smelling like this. I had hoped that it would hold until the morning. All I wanted to do was sleep and try to feel better.
But it wouldn’t hold until the morning. Not at all.
We got home and I checked for her shampoo. Nope. She was out. Of course.
At this point I have approximately 20 minutes before the store closes. I leave my food on the counter and run to Fred Meyer. All of their dog shampoos are crap. Overpriced crap, to make it even worse. But Johnson & Johnson’s baby shampoo is there and on sale. Perfect.
Home again and already I can tell that I’ve made the right decision; Jett’s been in the house for less than half an hour and it already reeks the moment I step inside.
At this point Mike volunteers to bathe Jett, but she’s a funny thing. Not the easiest dog to bathe ever, and can be a real handful if you’re not used to her. He’s never given her a bath before. Me, I have 10 years of experience. However I may feel, the choice is clear.
So there I am at gone 11pm. My head is throbbing with every heartbeat and my eyes are aching and wincing in the light. I’m kneeling in the bathroom and lording over a wet, shivering, very unhappy puppy who did not for a second expect this to be her homecoming. I’ve not slept a full night since Thursday, I’ve been on my feet almost non-stop for four days, and I’ve just driven nearly 200 miles in the pitch black of night in two and a half hours.
But at the end of it all I have a clean baby-smelling puppy, a warm freshly-made bed, another whole week where I can be sick and Mike can take care of me, and a hell of a finish to my weekend of stories.
Until 2011, PAX.