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PAX East Preview

The Game Developer’s Conference, going on this week in San Francisco, might be the biggest industry show for the professional side of games, but it is far from the most fun.  The Penny Arcade Expo, on the other hand, is a glorious celebration of gaming and geekery from the fans’ perspective.  Where most laymen wouldn’t have much interest in networking at GDC, PAX is and has always been a consumer’s show.  Many of the industry’s brightest will settle upon Boston from March 11th through the 13th for three days of talks, new games, tournaments, cosplay, and of course the after parties that make this event the feast that it is.  As a little Gamer Reaction preview, here’s what you can expect from the second annual PAX East event.

Jane McGonigal kicks it all off with this year’s keynote, and if it has anything to do with the theses of her new book, Reality is Broken, it’ll mean the celebrating gaming, encouraging more play from everyone, and trumpeting that gamers can change the world.  Love or hate her eccentricity or optimistic idealism, McGonigal remains a modern academic voice within the industry, and certainly somebody to keep tabs on.

While there’s always been a handful of panels on how and where to find jobs in the industry, this year seems especially focused with nearly a dozen or so how-to-land-a-gig-themed panels and events.  In my experience, these are helpful offerings from industry vets and folks in gaming HR.  In chronological order, PAX East 2011 offers the following to industry hopefuls: State of the Industry: What Are Your Career Options (Friday at 10am), Getting the Most Out of Game Education (Friday at 11am), Making it Happen: The Search is On! (Friday at noon), Starting Your Own Game Company (Friday at 2pm), Resumes that Rock (Friday at 3pm), Portfolios and Demos that Rock (Friday at 5pm), Snagging the Marketing or Writing Job of Your Dreams (Saturday at 12:30pm), Mock Job Interviews (Saturday at 1pm), Here Be Danger: Turn Back Now Before the Game Industry Eats You Alive (Saturday at 2:30pm), The Roads to Becoming a Community Manager (Saturday at 4:30pm), Careers in Paper Gaming (Saturday at 5:30pm), and finally, Start Your Own Damned Company (Sunday at 4:30pm).

Other than these panels, there are always others on a host of topics by industry vets, some of which being covered by G4TV, including the live taping of an episode of Feedback.  Live podcasts have been a staple of PAX as well, and this year Joystiq, Nintendo World Report, and Major Nelson will each be recording a show or too in addition to the on-TV familiars of G4.

For what promises to be as entertaining as it is enlightening, Whose Banhammer is it Anyway? will be a panel from a handful of community managers about the trolls (and insanity) they deal with on a  daily basis.  Game Design is Mind Control promises to offer an amusing look at some of the idiosyncratic behaviors gamers regularly and expectedly put themselves through (particularly when one would never do replicate them in the real-world), and the Penny Arcade Make-a-Strip Panel is always a ton of fun.  Expect heckling and bantering back and forth between Mike and Jerry and the audience itself throughout the creation of an actual web comic.

Concerts Friday and Saturday nights riffing the best in chiptunes will stoke everyone up before hitting the bars, while the Videogame Antiques Roadshow and Adventures in Video Game Costuming will keep the hoarders and cosplayers (and gawkers) satiated.

And then of course there’s the games including the show floor with live demo’s of Bastion and some of the best indie gaming has to offer.  Of course the bigger names will be there as well.  Id Software will host a live demonstration of Rage Friday afternoon, retired Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios will have a big reveal with their Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, and finally the folks at Naughty Dog will host a talk pertaining to Uncharted 3.  Good, good stuff, and of course there will be a lot more in terms of card- and table-top gaming as well as a host of other playable demo’s not mentioned here.

You can expect the Gamer Reaction crew to be in attendance reporting the goings on, so if you can’t get a ticket or are otherwise predisposed, fear not, we’ll have you covered.  If you do go, one final word of warning: get there early and get in line early.  Particularly for the more popular game demo’s and live panels, expect a half-hour or hour wait.  Plan what you’d like to see in advance and give yourself plenty of time to line-up between talks if that’s your cup of tea.  And please, don’t be a dickwolf.


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