PAX East, Day 1: Lines, Gears of War 3, Mortal Kombat, and chiptune DJs

I've been at PAX East, over at the Boston Convention Center, since early this morning. I'd like to tell you my convention experience began with Jane McGonigal's keynote speech about her new book, Reality Is Broken. Unfortunately, I missed her keynote because the line for press passes was far longer than I anticipated. That, combined with the fact that PAX East has moved away from the Hynes Convention Center and the Hynes's plethora of food and coffee options, made me feel crankier about New England's biggest video game convention than I might've been otherwise. There is coffee here, but it's $3, and there's only one (tiny) size cup.

Enough whining. I started enjoying myself once I finally got my pass and walked into the crowded exhibition hall. I went straight to the Gears of War 3 booth, where Cliffy B -- uhh, Cliff Bleszinski, sorry -- was posing for pictures with Gears fans. While waiting in line to play the game, I also ran into Carlos Ferra (voice of Dom in Gears). He was accompanied by an entourage of doting ladies who were as excited to play as Anya Stroud as I was (she's Gears's first playable female character). After about 45 minutes of waiting, I was lucky enough to play on the CoG team instead of Locust, so I did get to play as Anya. All right, brag time: I did come in second in the leaderboards, with a friend of mine coming first. But neither of us had any idea what we were doing, so that was probably luck. We couldn't figure out how to melee, or how to do much of anything else. Also, apparently Lancers can overheat now. I wish I'd had a little more time to figure out the game's controls so I could tell you all more. I may brave that line a second time later on in the con.

Next, I headed over to the Mortal Kombat booth and waited around until a fight stick was available (also about 30-45 minutes -- slightly longer since I wanted a stick instead of a controller). The game seemed more graphic, bloody, and realistic than I remembered, although I admit my prior MK experience is limited to Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, so perhaps these games usually end with both fighters covered in blood. As a fighting games n00b, I can tell you that the controls are not user-friendly; I had trouble figuring out more complicated attacks to perform. I also overheard the dudes behind me in line talking about the game's excellent jiggle physics, and yes, they were referring to the female fighters' boobs. I wasn't aware that conversations like that actually happened outside of films that parody stereotypes of gamers, so I didn't hesitate to laugh really loudly at those guys for about thirty seconds. (I'm pretty sure they didn't know I was laughing at them. Too bad.)

Speaking of jiggle physics, I've seen an awful lot of booth babes this year. Makes me wonder if the Dickwolves Debacle led to Jerry Holkins reconsidering his "no booth babes because we respect women" position. I don't mind booth babes personally, but I sure wish they'd get some male ones out there. Maybe dressed as Nathan Drake. Just a suggestion, PAX exhibitors!

Then, I headed to the jamspace, hoping to snag a keyboard and play a few Zelda tunes, but the room was booked already with Part 1 of the con's series of Chiptune concerts. The songs were fantastic, but no one was dancing. I tried to get some rocking out started, but the most I could get out of my fellow nerds was a bit of head-bobbing. Hopefully people will have loosened up a bit by the time the concerts get going tonight.

For now, I'm sitting on a rug (no bean bags this year, sadly -- or I haven't found any yet), watching people play Dance Central for Kinect on a stage. In the time it's taken me to write this post, the crowd watching has transformed from about ten people to fifty, all just watching as one person dances on a stage. It's exactly as bizarre as it sounds.

More later. Back to the con!

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