Crispy Gamer

PAX 2009: It's over, and Jones has some complaining to do.

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So my first PAX is in the books. Been to a lot of NerdCons over the years, and honestly, I have to say, this one was not one of my favorites.

Hear me out before you clog my inbox with hate mail, people.

Maybe I was in one of my moods, or maybe I was coming at PAX from the wrong angle. I honestly have been traveling a lot lately, and I'm prone to crabbiness. It's entirely possible that it was me, not PAX.

Overall, I felt like there was a weird selfish vibe in the air. Most PAX goers--again, not all--seemed to be in full-on smash and grab mode, stuffing their swag bags with anything that wasn't nailed down. Few people seemed to be aware of their surroundings; their attendee badges seemed to give them an overblown sense of entitlement. I actually got pushed out of the way a few times by attendees who were either 1. overly excited, 2. manners-free, 3. oblivious to the fact that other people were around, 4. all of the above. I also experienced, on multiple occasions, people who decided to simply cease moving in the middle of a congested area, causing dozens and dozens of people to grind to a standstill.

That's just plain bad con behavior.

For years, the M.O. of PAX has been how it's all heart, how it's for the fans, how it's a great place to meet people, how wonderful the people are there, etc. etc.

I didn't see that, or feel much of that.

All the people in bean-bag chairs? They weren't talking with one another. Almost every single person was staring at his DS screen, even though they were surrounded by hundreds of potentially like-minded people.

We were together, yes. But we were alone.

I did see real conversations taking place. I did get glimpses of that famous PAX comraderie. Unfortunately, the place where I saw this the most was among the board-game groups. (Board games are the less famous side of PAX.) I saw people sitting around tables, eating and drinking together, having excited conversations. I saw moms holding sleeping babies. I saw life here. Which felt like the opposite of the screen life that gamers are accustomed to living these days.

One moment that really summed things up for me: I saw a mom and dad and their two young kids on the show floor. I thought, Man, that's awesome, bringing your kids here, having a nerd family day out together. Then, as I watched this Norman Rockwell moment, they began to have an argument. The mom and dad, both laden with swag and covered in buttons, began yelling at each. The kids looked on. The argument got so bad that I considered stepping in, on the kids behalf. (Trust me, I know how painful it is to watch your parents argue.) I felt sick to my stomach. I decided not to interfere. I drifted away from them, into the crowd, letting the sound of shotgun blasts coming from the Left 4 Dead 2 booth drown out their voices.