Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Pax Prime 2011

I had an excellent time at PAX Prime this year. Like most conventions, it was a fair amount of work and a huge pile of fun.

I was there to help Mindspan Labs demo ZoxSo. Going into the weekend, I was filled with dread - it'd been a while since I'd played, and I wasn't feeling as sharp as I usually do. And - to be perfectly honest - I'd like the game, but I wasn't a huge fan.  So the prospect of playing a game like that over and over ... well ...

Friday morning, I met with Dave to go over our plan for the weekend.  He re-taught me the game (and managed to show off a few of the strategies in the process). Which helped a lot - suddenly, I wanted to play more.  He wandered off to check on something, and by the time he returned, I had an opponent at the table and was already mid-game.

I'll discuss the game in depth some other time - this post is about PAX, not ZoxSo - but it's fast-playing, fun, and has a surprising amount of strategic depth. Enough that I played it 70+ times this weekend, and I still want to play more.

I've been to GenCon and Origins. I even visited PAX a few years ago. And all three conventions have a very different feel from one another.

Origins is about playing games and teaching games. It's the focus of the con. It's the smallest of the three, but it holds the Fun of the Game above all other considerations.

GenCon is about selling the game. Sure, people are playing games all hours of day and night, and I play a lot of them there, but - at its heart - GenCon is much more mercantile than Origins.

PAX is ... different. For me, PAX is about the people. I had an opportunity to meet dozens of folks while teaching ZoxSo. I also got to teach the game to a number of good friends who I game with regularly.

I met a game store owner from the Midwest. I met a gentleman who works for Best Buy in the cellular phone department. I played with an insurance agent. I played with scientists and doctors and lawyers and game developers. I met the wife and mother of the designers of The Ares Project (coming soon from Z-Man games). I became re-acquainted with a friend I hadn't seen (or heard from) in over a decade.

And I got to keep an eye on the tournaments and board game area. And deal with the Enforcers.

PAX has the best volunteer team in the convention business. No question. They are unobtrusive, but omnipresent. And I saw them heading off problems before they even developed. Stuck in a long line and getting irritable? Odds are good that an Enforcer will be along shortly to entertain you.  Vendor stuck at a table? Enforcers will bring you water, if you ask politely.

At one point, a cookie seller came by - they were selling cookies to raise money for Child's Play. It was all up to us what we donated, but if we hit the $30 level, you could get a "Yo Dawg" cookie. The woman who was selling to us had bacon-wrapped Nutter Butter cookies which were inside an Oreo cookie brownie made me wish I had $30.  It also bears mention: Child's Play is one of two of my charities of choice.

In short: PAX was amazing.

If you have the chance to attend PAX at any point, I heartily recommend that you do so.

Also: If you haven't already entered my ICONS Contest, you still have a few days.

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