I wanted to go to PAX pretty much as long as I’ve been around this part of the internet. For the past 5 or so years, I looked toward the event with amazement and wonder.
In 2016 I came close to going. While working for Gameranx I was able to get a media pass thanks to Ian Cheong putting in a good word for me. However, PAX had to take it away at the last minute because of what they allege were “Fire Marshall” related reasons making them over capacity.
I wasn’t thrilled.
But over the course of this past year I worked my ass off and scraped together the cash to make it happen. That, along with some help from the internet’s good graces (thank you).
This year I had a reason to be thrilled.
The trip there was fairly smooth. Due to Hurricane Harvey I had to get my flight changed since it had a layover in Houston originally. Now, I was going to go from Denver to San Francisco and then finally into Seattle, Washington. My impressions of Colorado? Browner than I thought it’d be. South Park misled me to believe it was a snowy landscape all year round. Then San Francisco’s airport seemed to reflect the clash of artistic expression with sleek/streamlined modern architecture the city is vying for.
It was my first time using an Uber on this trip. I downloaded the app right before I left and managed to get it working properly. Apparently airports are starting to adjust to this sort of thing, and have designated areas for people to wait for their rides.
$34. For a 15 minute ride. Seemed like a bit price gouge to me, but I suppose that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
My hotel was nice. The lady at the front desk that evening was a bit of a flirt. She let me know that every morning from 6:30 to 8:30 I could stuff myself with free muffins and granola bars.
Hyped as heck. My first day of PAX went off to a great start. I met a guy who worked at Valve as soon as I left my hotel. Like, he was waiting for his Uber ride to show up right outside the entrance. I managed to chat him up. Told him I wasn’t one of those kinds of people who’d screech “WHERE’S HALF-LIFE 3” and all that.
My first Uber ride into Seattle was taxied by this older chap. I was curious to learn about the city and asked him about it, and he managed to have enough history and background knowledge to keep talking and talking for the whole trip. Told me all about the sports teams. About all of the tourist hot spots. Even told me all about his day job and what he did besides Uber. I don’t remember what most of these things were, just that he told me them.
My thoughts throughout the whole 20 minute trip were “I JUST WANNA GO TO PAX NOW DUDE.”
We got there. After what felt like an hour. I got a decent spot in line at the Annex side of the Convention Center building. It gave me a minute to soak in the gaming culture and reality of it all for the first time. Finally. I had made it to PAX after so many years of wanting to go. Surrounded by nerds and geeks and gamers. For the next three days, I wouldn’t be a fish out of water.
The wait in line melted away by the power of my excitement. It got longer and longer behind me and the people I was there with. People passed out free hats and other stuff (a sweatband?). I asked no questions about it. Just got as much as I could.
Then it was 10:00 AM. PAX had opened.
My first day at the show was spent going around and trying to meet as many folks as I could within that timeframe. I saw the IGN guys, Mr. Repzion, NintendoCaprisun, and even got my picture taken with the Achievement Hunter dudes. Even ran into an old friend of mine. Liz Finnegan. We were both at the Escapist Magazine for a while, before I got axed in a round of layoffs. Apparently she’s now with Muse Games and the Guns of Icarus folks. Ran into Josh Jepson later on in the day. Nice to finally meet him.
When it comes to gaming, my first stop was the Indie Mega Booth. I loved getting the chance to play Galaxy of Pen & Paper. A game made in the same vein as Knights of Pen and Paper from Behold Studios, but with much more content and substance to it. The gameplay mechanic that stood out the most is the player having a say in the type of quest-line encounters they’d embark on. As space is infinite, so too is the possibilities in which adventurers can take the direction of the story in. Later on, I got a hold of The Escapists 2 for a while. That was a blast. Stood in line for Far Cry 5, and finally got a chance to try that out.
That’s basically what one does at PAX. Play video games and hang out with people all day. I don’t know what else to exactly say about that. Cosplayers were everywhere too. Some of the better ones I had my pictures taken with.
It wasn’t until Day 2 that I decided to deviate from routine.
The morning of Day 2 I didn’t even go to the convention at the start. Today was the day I was going to find the first Starbucks and get some coffee from there. It was more of a symbolic thing than anything else, just to say that I did it.
I THOUGHT the first Starbucks was on 1124 Pike Street. It is not. The inside of it was HUGE though. Set up like a formal restaurant of sorts with a big pile of coffee in this huge glass display at the center of their dining room. I was totally fooled into thinking it was the legit first one because of that. I asked a waiter to make sure and he told me “Nope!,” who then proceeded to give me directions to the actual first Starbucks in the Public Market. A whole ten minute walk west of where I was.
But it was a good thing. I’m glad I goofed. This was an opportunity for me to hoof it across Seattle on my own.
On my there I met a man with a grey parrot. It was a smart and well-trained bird, and the old guy that owned it was showing his bird off to a couple of locals. Fascinated by the creature, I stepped in and asked if they could take my picture with it. They obliged. But the parrot got so close to my ear that the old guy panicked afterwards. Dude didn’t want me getting bitten.
When I reached Starbucks the First, I was greeted with a bit of a line. Apparently this was common for this establishment. Understandably. After making my way winding down a queue that spanned the length of multiple storefronts, I got to the end. In line, I made friends with someone named Jackie. She wanted a tour of the joint but apparently they don’t do those unless one calls ahead. We bonded over the fact that the Starbucks employees that were guarding the area were hyper vigilant and controlling in their efforts to maintain order.
I eventually got into the ominous and all-powerful first Starbucks coffee shop. It doesn’t look at all like the usual bajillion outlet stores they have across the U.S., which is actually a point in their favor. Felt like an actual mom-and-pop place rather than the cold and synthetic java empire that the franchise is, at times.
I got some of this Pike Place Special Reserve stuff for my mum and a few of my close friends. They had birthdays coming up, and they’re huge coffee fans.
When I got back to the Convention Center, I had ended up meeting Mr. Repzion and Mundane Matt for lunch. We settled on this Cheesecake Factory that was close by. Although I had met Rep the day before, it was nice to sit down with the both of them and formally shoot the shit in person.
I spent a few more hours wandering around the convention floor some more after parting ways with them, and getting that coffee I bought my friends shipped off. There was a FedEx right inside the convention hall, and this guy with one arm was able to (surprisingly swiftly) set me up with a delivery properly.
I bought some souvenirs and a game key for Orwell. Which I really enjoyed playing when I got the chance to at PAX.
I finished off the day by going to the Seattle Space Needle. Repzion warned me it’s nothing more than a tourist trap, but the truth is I didn’t care one way or the other. I wanted that experience.
I had to wait for nearly an hour at the base of the structure, because my ticket I bought at 5:30 was for a 6:30 – 7:00 tour. I found a nice spot of grass next to a nearby group of tourists in town for a music festival, and just relaxed. Didn’t talk to them much at first until some political activist guy came around wanting us to sign something for a local petition or whatever. I told him I was from out of state, and the group of tourists nearby told him they came from Canada. That’s what struck up the conversation between us. They were a nice group of folks. Even let me use their battery pack to charge my phone. I had been limping through a single full-charge since the start of that day, so by the time I arrived at the Needle I was cutting it pretty close on power.
By 6:20 I had slid into line and my way to the top of the Seattle Space Needle. It was a bit of a trek through the base of the structure. They turned the queue into a sort of museum that gives you a history of the construction of the thing. Which is a nice distraction in of itself.
When I hit the top of the tower? The view was beautiful. Worth the $29 price of admission.
This was so good I made it my Twitter banner. Don’t judge me. For the rest of my life I will be enamored with this beautiful view.
I got so absorbed into what I was doing on Day 2, it took until the morning of Day 3 for me to realize I HAD LOST MY STUFF.
It was a morning of backtracking. I had started at the FedEx inside the Convention Center, and the lady there that day said my bag wasn’t in their lost and found. Same thing happened when I asked the official PAX lost and found booth. Nada. Nothing. I was going to need to rethink my approach. Replacing instead of finding. Luckily, the booths I went to recognized my face already and gave me a 50% discount for replacement merchandise. I’ll keep my souvenirs and where I got them from anonymous, so people don’t take advantage of that.
Some chick named @turretmob invited me to see Richard Lewis do a talk. It was at one of those swanky hotels and not in the convention center, so it took a moment or two to find my way there along the Seattle streets nearby.
I arrived early. Managed to find @turretmob and her buddy @Verliswolf (some sort of Pokemon YouTuber), hanging out with Lewis right outside the entrance into the conference hall.
Finally got the chance to introduce myself.
Richard Lewis is a taller guy. Solid handshake. Looked me straight in the eye. Good and honest man based on that alone. He was hugely enthusiastic about my own work, and seemed to be well read on what I’ve done this past year. As I came to understand it, @turretmob and @Verliswolf were V.I.P.s here. They were on the Richard Lewis discord or something like that. And as a @turretmob’s guest and +1, I enjoyed all the privileges they had. Which amounted to cutting to the front of the line, getting front row seats, and getting drinks afterward.
From what I call of the Richard Lewis State of eSports Journalism talk, it was fairly enlightening into the nuances in that particular field of work. The system of power takes control away from the media when it comes to talking to the tournament players for post-game interviews on the losing team. Lewis himself was blacklisted from particular teams (by the owners/companies themselves) on multiple occasions. He says that’s the reality of his line of work, and doesn’t sweat it. Richard holds firm to the belief that he does a good enough job that these companies that try and boycott him end up coming back around when they end up in dire straights themselves. Need someone with a solid and sensible head on their shoulders. Despite being backed by a big-name media company with Turner Sports, Lewis is still allowed to pretty much carry himself in his reporting as he sees fit. Responding to someone’s question in that regard, Richard acknowledged the need for an air of professionalism no matter what. Reason being so the rest of the world sees this emerging and now thriving industry as a serious thing.
Then came the afterparty.
Richard Lewis had to deal with a ton of fan girls on our way out, so it gave @turretmob and @Verliswolf time to prep the bar location we were going to. Verlis had to get to a Pokemon tournament of some kind later on, so he was more pressed for time. We managed to find a nice bar right inside the hotel’s restaurant.
So we as the posse of Lewis, made our way inside this quiet steakhouse restaurant, and got permission for our group to set up camp at the bar.
This is where my memory starts to get a little fuzzy. I remember drinking three rounds of beer and having a chat with Lewis and his other mates that showed up. Everything stayed in good spirits, of course. Didn’t drink that much. Good guy Lewis even put it on his own tab. My first impression of him was certainly proven right in that regard.
I managed to get that curry I wanted so desperately this whole time. My intoxicated self was able to stumble 9 or so blocks east of the hotel bar and into some sort of dingy backwoods Indian food restaurant. I was craving it so bad I got a double order of it. I don’t know how long I sat there waiting inside their small, rectangular shop. But at some point my patience was rewarded with a delicious meal.
And that was that.
My trip home was a nightmare on the last leg. Had a layover from Chicago to Cleveland that was hellish.