PAX East, and reconnecting

Mostly I go to industry-focused or some academic conferences.  I love it. I love interacting with colleagues who have long since become friends, with learning more about the strange pursuit of game design, trying to tease out bits of actual game design theory, and always looking for what’s next.

It’s really different — and useful — to be at a consumer-facing/fan-based convention. Whenever I go to one of these (which isn’t often enough), I rediscover how strangely easy it is for me to forget that millions of people (all of whom seem to be in Boston right now) just love games. They really don’t know and don’t care about spreadsheets, production milestones, art styles, gamergate, or even game design! They just want to play games (okay, maybe talk about them a bit, exchange a few cards, meet a famous streamer, or show off their dedicated cosplay work).

It’s an entirely different point of view, and one that’s all-too easy for me — and I suspect, some of my game industry colleagues — to forget.

Ten years ago (oh man), Tycho of Penny Arcade (the same who started PAX) wrote about his experience in going to the Game Developer’s Conference (GDC)– my main conference each year. It’s entirely industry-focused, maybe too much. From his more consumer point of view, it was an uncomfortable experience:

Part of the reason GDC made me uncomfortable is that I could feel its culture pressing on me from all sides,  and I knew it wasn’t mine.  But the other part was that I got a sense of how brutal that life is, how unstable it can be, how maddening, and I just wanted to come home and match gems or some shit.  I didn’t want to see it anymore.  I don’t want to think about a cow’s quiet eyes every time I grip a hamburger.

He’s not wrong. Being in the industry can be maddening and even brutal. It’s always dynamic; some would say volatile, as in a volcano or an unstable explosive. But fortunately for me, the inverse of his experience is a welcome one: I get to reconnect with the people who play the games that devs pour their lives into making. It’s yet another instance of a bit of the Sullivan’s Travels experience — always a good idea.

Okay! Day 3 at PAX East! Saturday, the big day, the day when the lines to get in will be even longer than the half-mile lines of yesterday! My voice isn’t quite gone, and I managed to get some sleep! Let’s do this!

If you happen to be at PAX, come around to Booth #10044 and say hi!

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