Deconstructing PAX

Sunday, October 3, 2010
The dice show two brains and a shotgun blast. I've got nine brains now and I'm one away from winning this round. I see the two shotgun blasts I've gotten staring up at me. Before I can really think about my situation, I've grabbed the cup and cast three more dice onto the floor. They topple briefly and finally settle on not one, not two but three more blasts. Game over.

Zombie dice punctuated our visit to PAX more appropriately than I could have anticipated. The ease with which you can introduce someone to the game and invite anyone to play is a perfect reflection of what it is to be at PAX.

The atmosphere of the Convention Center during those three days shouldn't exist. Popular media and pundits paint gamers as violent, anti-socials. Spend one day in the halls of the Washington State Convention Center with the attendees of PAX and you'll see just how wrong they are.

This was my fourth PAX. I've been attending since the hallowed days of Wil Wheaton's first PAX keynote. That first year I sat, enraptured at the words spoken in that enormous hall. I looked out over the sea of people, not knowing that I was part of something incredible.

"I'm not ashamed to be a gamer," he said. "Look around you, we are parents, we are grandparents, we are sons, we are daughters, we are professionals, we are students, we are geeks, we are nerds, we are liberals we are conservatives, we are Christians, we are Jews, we are Muslims, we are atheists, we are trekkies, we are brown-coats," The crowd roared with applause, "Apparently a lot of us are brown-coats. We are nintendo fanboys, we are xbox fanboys, we are sony fanboys, we are wannabe rock-stars, we are wannabe racecar drivers, but this weekend all that matters is that we are gamers. And there are 30,000 of us here, which makes it hard to believe that we are an antisocial group of maladjusted misfits. So, if you happen to come across someone who thinks we are, invite them to play a game with you. Just try not to be a dick when you own them."

With that, Wil closed out his speech with a humble thank you. Those words would echo in my mind countless times in the days that followed. I realized in that moment what PAX was all about.

In my day to day life, my vocal interest in games is treated as naivete. I am greeted with rolling eyes, superior looks and out right hostility when I talk openly about what games mean to me and can mean to other people. I am often caught defending my passion for gaming to friends, family and co-workers. It's tiring and depressing and it's easy to feel ostracized.

But all that is changing. It really started in 2007, with those words from Wil Wheaton. We were united, if only for three days against the voices of self-important pundits and politicians. But something happened after the doors closed and the final round of the Omegathon was complete. That energy followed us home.

Across the country, the continent and the world, blogs and websites, news articles and message boards lit up with talk about PAX and the incredible bond that was formed among the people there. That feeling of unity and camaraderie has built a movement from those three short days.

It seemed like only days after that fateful weekend that the media voices changed. In the weeks, months and years that followed, The Big Bang Theory aired to critical acclaim, The Guild was launched to incredible success, Johnathan Coulton and MC Frontalot exploded onto the music scene. The world had taken notice.

Every year since 2007 I've returned to PAX to commune with my fellow gamers. We are family, and we are growing. We are handing out controllers, rolling up characters, and setting up boards for new people every day. PAX is the beating heart of our movement, but every attendee, exhibitor and media person takes a piece of that heart home year after year. We are many, and more than ever before, we are one.