PAX Prime 2011

Staff Blog

So it’s been a month since PAX Prime 2011 (Penny Arcade Expo) and yes I am just getting around to writing, well actually finishing this article about my trip to PAX this year. Why has it taken me a month to write an article about 3 days in Seattle Washington attending one of the largest gaming conventions outside of E3? Do you really want to know? I didn’t think so. Here it is:

PAX Prime 2011 started for me around the time they announced the dates that the event would be held. That was when I decided that not only was I going this year, but I was going to make sure all of Green Army had a place to stay. After a few phone calls, a few text messages and then letting my fingers do the walking, I had booked us a set of rooms at a hotel a couple blocks from the convention center. This would prove to be a well thought out move as we ended up making multiple trips back and forth throughout the weekend.

Accommodations all taken care of, I had the rest of the time up until Thursday August 25th to do nothing but think about the fun times that would be had. When Thursday finally hit, my wife and I were up at 4 am to head off to work and get the day’s things done before boarding our flight to Seattle that night. Over the course of the day’s hours, I would get texts from the entire Green Army crew about where they were as they arrived in Seattle, all before me; including Tex naming our hotel Green Army Barracks (also listed as an amusement park) on Foursquare. It turned out that Deedlett (my wife) and I would be the last ones to arrive Thursday night. I’m going to skip ahead a bit here and just say that getting to, and flying out of LAX for us was no problem and we touched down in Seattle sometime around 9 PM that night.

Waiting for us at SEATAC was Nuclear Taco 42, who was down the escalator, passed the baggage claim, up the escalator, down the hall, around the corner (I’m exaggerating)…anyways we found him after a short walk and proceeded to get on the Light Rail to downtown Seattle. Getting off in downtown, we started to head out towards street level when suddenly Taco, who was walking behind us, got assaulted by 2 random, laughing strangers. Deedlett and I both turned around to find Honchopotomas trying to molest Taco while Sp0ny stood by and watched. Honcho then turned and with his shit eating grin, began vigorously shaking my hand. Despite talking to Honcho many many times, and having seen his picture on Facebook and in texts, I stood there stunned because in all honesty, I didn’t recognize the fool that had my hand in a death grip.

After the initial shock was over the 2 of them led us out to the street and to the hotel where Deedlett, Taco and myself went to our room before heading down to the other Green Army room. Let it be known now that the GA family is not a quiet bunch. I got off the elevator and could hear them already. So of course I had to pound on the door and make them think security or something was there to shut them down. Of course after a few minutes of them being really quiet, they opened the door and welcomed us in. If I remember correctly ( I did have a few drinks that night) when I walked in there was Honcho and Sp0ny of course but also The Tiny Zombie, Green Team Tex (pre Texorcist), Dark Knight Janus, Chanpuru Dragon, Banjo1812, TacoPizzaHunter, Paragas, Seanzie (I think) and some random guy whose name I don’t know. I think at some point Goose and Kal showed up but I could be mixing up the days. Anyways we stayed up talking, reminiscing and pretty much watching half of us get very very drunk. Because really that’s what we do, drink, get loud, and thoroughly just enjoy hanging out with each other.

And after a few hours and getting to the point where I was falling asleep I headed back up to our room and crashed until the next morning, which turned out was only a couple hours away.

Friday morning Tex was up early and beat us all to Top Pot Donuts where we ended up walking to and meeting him at. I had heard a lot about Top Pot Donuts, and to be honest, I wasn’t impressed. Maybe I just got an extra dry donut or something or maybe I just like mine from the cheap guy down around the corner, but I have to say, overrated.  So we headed back to the hotel after that to get the rest of our crew and headed on over to HaloFest.

OMG. HaloFest was not a disappointment. When we walked in we made a wrong turn and ended up in some Magic the Gathering tournament or something, so a quick U-turn had us facing down a life size statue of Jorge standing next to the escalator. Up the escalator make a right, up the next escalator and we were there. The entrance to HaloFest. There were two things you saw when you first walked in, one was the life size working Warthog from WETA Workshops, and the other was the giant screen playing the Grifball Highlight Frenzy. There was Pup’s voice booming out of the speakers and it was all kind of surreal. It was like wow, we’re really here. From the statues of all the Noble Team members, to the Halo 3 dioramas on display, the Mega Bloks Halo toys you could build, the history of Halo displays, the artwork, the demo stations, and the commissary set up to buy stuff in, there was just so much to see. It was a lot of go here, go there, did you see this or that; it’s hard to describe the awesomeness of it all.

And then Honcho, Taco, Deedlett and I ended up sitting on the floor building Halo Mega Bloks toys. It was a good thing that station was right next to the panel stage because the Halo Communities panel started while we were still building, and we were going to be damned if we didn’t finish our toys. Rushed as we were, we still made it over to sit down and watch the last 2/3rds of the panel, which (instead of just listening) was really interesting. Goose talked about Grifball, the guy from the 405th talked about all sorts of stuff and made funny faces, the Halo trick jumping guy looked like he wasn’t sure why anyone would want him there, and Louis Wu from HBO just sat calmly and answered any questions that came his way. It was really cool to see the Halo communities acknowledged for all their hard work and effort they put in to keeping this great franchise going.

After the panel and some more wandering around, we headed out of HaloFest, stopping to grab our swag bags on the way (which included a really cool black, limited edition Mega Bloks Warthog). We decided to run back to the hotel, drop of our new swag and get some lunch. After that we headed back to the main PAX hall for a wander around. We split up and Deedlett and I ended up just walking the main hall and looking at everything there before heading over to the Halo Universe panel to see and hear from the voices of Halo characters. Though the panel was not really what I was expecting, it was still pretty cool to see the people that make the characters we love from Halo all come to life.

After that it was once again back to the hotel to get ready for the Halo VIP party that we were all going to. The VIP party was cool; it was like nighttime HaloFest with a giant cake thrown in. It really was a fun night to remember, and as soon as we were done there, we headed over to the PAXtra Life party and the open bar they had.

PAXtra Life. Imagine a giant bar filled with gamers. Now imagine a single room in that bar filled with Grifballers, and endless free booze. I will say that none of us got shit faced drunk, but at one point Dark Knight Janus did have a beer in each hand. I ended up having a couple of Double Bastard Ales and pints of Guinness, while I really have no idea what everyone else drank. That is until somebody ordered a round of whiskey for everyone, which turned out to be the last thing I drank that night (Man that was some good whiskey). Fair enough then that we headed back to our hotel sometime after midnight with everyone in a really happy good mood. It was off to bed before getting up at 7 am again for Saturday’s festivities.

Saturday morning was filled with Grifball events organized by Grifballhub.com. Seeing as how I’ve been a Grifball league player for the last 2 years and that a lot of my friends are Grifballers, it wasn’t a question of IF we were going, we just were. Anyways we headed back over to HaloFest, met up with some 343 Industries folks, the Grifballhub Hub staff (yes I am one of them) and a whole mess of Grifballers. After donuts, interviews, socializing and a bunch of pictures, it was time to head out and watch another event organized by the Hub, The Taco Challenge. The Taco Challenge was pretty much just 2 guys running around in a local park recreating Grifball skills in real life. Nuclear Taco 42 and TacoPizzaHunter were the 2 guys competing for real life bragging rights of who was better at running around and acting silly. All jokes aside, it was a fun time for everyone involved and it was good to see a community come together like that for a good time.

After that we headed off to lunch at this little pizza joint before heading back to the main PAX hall to check out some Dance Central 2, Forza Motorsport 4, and everything else we could find to look at while we were there.  Saturday night found us grouped together as a bunch and heading off to dinner at a local seafood restaurant. It was a more sober night spent catching up with old friends and making new real life friends with people that some of us had never been face to face with, despite having spent so much time gaming together online. It was a really cool experience that I am really glad I was able to be a part of.

After dinner a few of us headed back over to the PAX main hall to attend Bioware’s Dragon Age panel. There really was only 2 cool things at the Bioware panel, 1 was I saw Duke Nukem, or at least some guy dressed up like the Duke. The other really cool thing? Felicia Day hiding out in the back of the room in disguise until they announced that her Dragon Age miniseries is done and going to be released soon. Without her, the panel sucked, with her, the panel became a bunch of fun. I will say this about Dragon Age fans though, they can be a little scary at times and I will leave it at that.

Sunday morning rolled around and I couldn’t believe how fast it was all going by. We were up early and headed off to the Halo 4 panel to see what was probably the biggest thing in Seattle that weekend. The Halo 4 announcement panel was huge. We arrived to get in line and there was probably already 50 people in line, which wasn’t as bad as it sounds because we were still pretty close to the front of the line. About 10 minutes after we arrived, some of the HBO (Halo.Bungie.org) guys showed up and next thing we know we are all getting escorted inside early, like 2 hours early, as media. Hell yes is all I can say about that. Front row to the Halo 4 panel, why yes please, can I have another. So yeah it was kinda awesome.

How do you follow up Halo 4? With some Dance Central 2 dancing that’s how. We went back to the main hall so my wife could play some more Dance Central 2. This time it was more than worth it because not only did we get filmed (my wife and I), but as we walked up on stage this group of guys and girls from Mega 64 jumps out of nowhere with cameras and microphones and suddenly my wife and I are competing against each other for an Onza Razer controller. The way I go through controllers, I don’t care who was filming, this was a huge win any way you look at it. Of course I let Deedlett win (she would argue otherwise) but who cares, brand new controller for my Xbox was coming home with me.

By this point in our weekend we had seen and done a ton of stuff at PAX and decided to spend the rest of our Sunday just walking around Seattle and doing some sightseeing. Seattle really is a beautiful city and has a bunch of stuff to see. We ended up winding down the weekend with another big group dinner and used the chance to say our goodbyes to friends who would be flying out that night.

All in all it was a great time at PAX and something every gamer, no matter what type of gamer you are, should try and attend. Because really it’s worth it, not just for all the games and swag and that stuff, but for the experience of what everything gaming can be.