This last weekend I had the joy of going to the Penny Arcade Expo located in Bellevue, Washington. For those that don't know, the best way to describe this is to just say that it is a gigantic party for the readers of Penny Arcade. Now the readers tend to be geeks of all types (video games, board games, card games, manga, anime, comic books, etc) which leads ot a pretty fun environment for like-minded individuals. This year there was definitely a shortage of space in all parts of the event.
I started the morning racing to the Halo 2 tournament to get a slot. Needless to say, I didn't get to play as I was the odd person out (it was 4 man teams). So after burning 2 hours trying to get into the tournament, I decided to sit in my despondent mood and watch people. I was joined shortly by some friendly fellows (Chris and Matt I believe). I tried to get in the free play area for computer games and console games, but both lines were incredibly long. when I tried last year, I got a grand total of 10 minutes of PC play and 30 minutes of console play for the time I had spent waiting in line.
Next I left the conference center to go stand in line for the expo hall (yes the line was that long). I was very impressed with how quickly the line moved and before I knew it, I was in this loud, vibrant room that played to almost all senses. The Microsoft was good with selections of the newest Age of Empire on PC which was very impressive when I gave it a whirl. Also there was Lego Star Wars 2 and also 5 or 6 xbox 360 games that I didn't get a chance to play but sat and enjoyed the wonderful sounds and graphics. The Ubisoft booth had a few setups to play some of the new and upcoming games, but also had a gigantic projection system to show off trailers of their new games. Nintendo was one that I was really looking forward to as I really wanted to see the Wii in action. I didn't see it there, no anything to do with the Gamecube. Everything was very, very DS oriented and they had about 30 game stations setup. There were a bunch of card game booths (sorry, didn't dig deep into those). NCsoft had a booth setup next to D&D online booth. NVidia had a booth that was so packed that I could get within 15 feet of because there was a layer of 8 deep in people crammed around it, so I skipped it and picked up some Penny-Arcade tee shirts, books, and pictures.
I then headed over to their second facility at one of the local hotels conference areas for the tabletop/card game areas via the shuttlebus that they had setup. And by shuttlebus, I mean a greyhound bus running every 10 minutes or so. I ended up spending about 6 hours at this area soaking the atmosphere and the much more friendly gamers. There was a room setup for folks to do some Star Wars LARPing as well as a very large room with eight 25 foot tables as well as a bunch of smaller tables setup. I was slightly disappointed when 60% of the room was setup just for organized tournaments (the new card game Spoils and also the PA organized tourneys) as there was not enough tables to do pickup games. The room was so crowded the AC couldn't keep up and they had peopling playing games in the hall. Out of pure serendipity, I ended up playing games with the same people I did last year (David and Larsen). We played Chrononauts, Ninja Burger, and Pink Godzilla Dev Kit. In addition to David and Larsen, hooked up with a bunch of other folks to play more of the same. In review of the games, they were fun. I own both Chrononauts (time travel card game where you manipulate the timeline to match your time line) and Ninja Burger (delivery your burger in 30 minutes or less without being seen), but Pink Godzilla was released at PAX and I think I will buying before too much longer. In that one you play a game development company and you are competiting with other companies to make the best games the quickest.
Overall the conference was overwhelming and crowded but I really, really appreciate the time and effort that all the enforcers, planners, and organizers put into the event. It was just a tremendous blast. Thank you Gabe, Tycho and company and I will see you all again next year!