What happens when a simple nerd webcomic becomes so popular that they gain more street credit than the former de-facto standard for gaming conferences?
Penny Arcade Expo!
Myself and Einin took the opportunity to go to this up and coming video game and tabletop gaming conference. Unfortunately we had neither the time nor money to do all three days, but we did Saturday afternoon and night.
It seemed very popular, with many thousands of attendees (yes, mostly young caucasian men). However, the Seattle Convention Center is huge, so it didn't feel crowded. The floor was impressive; from the US Army to Rockstar Games, to t-shirt sales, to boardgames; everyone was present. And, as a differentiator from E3, very focused on the games (less than a dozen booth babes through the whole place, and less lewt). Rooms throughout the convention center ran tabletop gaming, video game free-play, and even tournaments. Lounge areas allowed for people to play challenge matches on their Nintendo DS, which practically every attendee had, on beanbag chairs.
From the main floor, the main thing I noticed: everyone is making MMOs! We saw demos of Warhammer Online and Pirates of the Burning Sea, and a sadly rather unimpressive EVE booth (side note, CPP apparently have merged with an Atlanta, GA outfit who are working on a new 'Vampire' MMO of some sort). Lord of the Rings online. A new game, Fury, focused on PvP. The sad thing - they all looked *exactly the same* (except EVE online of course). While they may seem different when you get into it, the basic UI and gameplay is the same across all of them, as if they were just the same game rebranded. A fair number of them were even free, which says something about the level of competition.
And yes, despite his keynote being the day before, Wil Wheaton was still hanging around, socializing with the crowds.
The only really crowded areas were the sessions, and the free-play rooms. I wasn't able to see any of the sessions I really wanted to; which is fine, since the sessions were in fact a bit dull. "Design a game in an hour" became "We actually PROGRAM a game in an hour". Anyone who programs knows it's kinda fun to do, boring to watch.
To end the evening? A concert of nerd music fare. Johnathon Coulton opened, basic comedic fare accompanied by an acoustic guitar. Second was MC Frontalot, a white guy thinking he can rap (he couldn't... and it sucked... hard). But, the headliner for the evening, none other than the Minibosses!! Making complex metal medleys based on classic Nintendo games (and of course, Excitebike a few dozen times ;) ). They were of course, amazing. It was funny to see more Nintendo DS's than lighters during the slow songs.
As a final reward, our badges had a 50-ticket value. I think they really misthought the value of the tickets; 120 tickets for a DS, of which I am now a proud owner. I don't think anyone else noticed, since they had tons of lewt left.