Checking in from Seattle

I’m in Seattle for a couple more days, but I thought it was about time to check in now that things are quieting down following the Penny Arcade Expo. I should mention, too, that I passed my dissertation proposal defense on the day before I left (hooray), so after I turn in some brief additional material, I’ll finally get to pay some more attention to a couple gaming-related papers I’ve got floating around.

As for PAX itself: Sometimes this event seems like it’s actively gunning for Comic Con as geekiest event in the nation. While people affectionately refer to Comic Con as “Nerd Prom,” “Nerd Vegas,” or just “Dorkfest,” that comes more from the attendees than from the official party line of the con, so to speak. At PAX, however, high-profile people onstage (including the organizers themselves, keynote speaker Wil Wheaton, and musician Jonathan Coulton) frequently refer back to their geeky status, how this is the geekiest event ever, and so on. Plus, while PAX attendees on average may look less bizarre to non-geeks thanks to the relative lack of cosplayers, I think you see a higher percentage people at this con in geeky/nerdy joke shirts. (I took photos of some of these this weekend, including nice shots of a fellow in a “Nerds Unite” tee from Nerd NYC and a fellow in a “Nerdfighters” tee from Brotherhood 2.0.) Perhaps PAX seems more vocally geeky because it’s a higher concentration of narrow interests; Comic Con is much larger (114,000+ vs. 30,000 or so attendees), plus broader in scope and appeal.

Penny Arcade’s creators have been vocal about not really caring if they appeal to the “mainstream,” how they’re happy to cater to hardcore gamers. This stands in contrast to a comic convention that’s not really about comics for many attendees. Other hobbies show up unofficially at PAX, but when one audience member asked in a Q&A with the organizers whether other webcomics would ever be more officially included (because, after all, Penny Arcade is a webcomic), Mike and Jerry (a.k.a. Gabe and Tycho) seemed somewhat unsure of how to respond. (I think the final answer was that some other gaming-specific webcomics creators might already be attending, and they’d love to have more, but I could swear I heard Mike utter something about not being part of “that community.”)

I have plenty more thoughts and notes I’d like to relate, but I should probably get a move on here. If you’re one of the friendly people I chatted with at PAX, thanks for stopping by the blog, and please feel free to comment about PAX, nerd conventions, or whatever else makes you happy.

One thought on “Checking in from Seattle

  1. Hello! I was the fellow in the “NERDFIGHTER” tee. I have to say that, having not been to a con before PAX, that never before had I been somewhere quite like it. Early estimates are putting attendance somewhere between 35k and 45k, which would indeed make it the “largest gaming festival in the nation”, and on point to maybe becoming one of the largest festivals in the nation, period. None of my coworkers really understand why I was so excited about it: indeed, had I known how awesome it was going to be, I would have been MORE excited pre-PAX. Now that I’m gone, I almost feel like I need some decompression time, to let everything I took in over the weekend sink in.

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