Pax 2012: The Darkness Without

by Scott Lydon

I've been to a few conventions, and PAX is by far the hardest one to cover. Maybe that's intentional, because PAX really isn't meant to be for the industry and the hangers-on. It's meant to be for gamers and nerds, and all the new games and free beta tests and swag are really sort of a thank you to the people who form the community. As a game-lover myself, I think that's great. But, at the same time, when I can only get photos like these:

See? You can't tell if that's something funny or something stupid, and any reasonable editor would tell me to throw it away. But we pride ourselves on being unreasonable here at Woot, so this post is going to be about the things I'd like to show you, but can't. After the jump, you'll get to read me whining about all the fun I failed to capture. With a hard sell like that, how can you NOT join me inside?

PAX is always in motion. There's always something happening. To your left is an exciting cosplayer. To your right, someone is throwing free beach balls at your face. In front of you is an amazing demo and behind you is an even better one. The lights are low, the people are in a hurry, and these all combine into a perfect storm of blurry, terrible angles. For example:

This amazing two-part costume is League Of Legends hero Sejuani and her boar. The boar is actually a guy in a costume so elaborate that Ms. Sejuani had to take off the head from time to time, so he didn't die of heat stroke. You can't expect him to stand perfectly still, right? But the wiggling made it really hard to photograph. At least I picked up these "walking out of the club" style shots so you can see the detail.

But the poor guy was soaked in sweat when he finally took off the boar's head.

The League Of Legends tournament itself was super exciting! I watched Team Dynamic fight Team Dignatas, and although I didn't completely understand the subtleties, it was clear TD wanted to chase DIG off the map. Control of the battle changed at least three times, and some attacks grew tremendous applause from the large crowd. The lighting was dramatic and brought a real tension to the event. Unfortunately, it wasn't really camera friendly, and I got a photo that makes it seem like a poorly-attended high school drama club.

Which is why, I think, PAX is best covered by the little guys. Some sixteen year old kid who's never been out of his room will find it much, much easier to put words to the magic and wonder and glory. A guy like me, sent in with a deadline? How can I just wander and experience what the convention has to offer?

I did get to play some games, like Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and Neverwinter Nights. They were fun, really really fun. But Metal Gear had a big sign that read NO PHOTOGRAPHY, so I couldn't bring back a photo of me doing a dramatic ninja run across a collapsing bridge. I was able to get a photo of Neverwinter's booth mascot, though.

As a MMORPG, Neverwinter is designed to be played against other people, so my Man Vs Computer session wasn't really the ideal test. Even still, it was fun to run around chopping up NPCs, and the scenery looked amazing. You can see someone else's video demo here if you don't already know what D&D game is gonna look like. I'd certainly play it again.

I also really enjoyed the new God Of War game, and even went to the panel to listen to the writer and designers talk about their creative process. However, when it came to photos, this was the best I could get:

The actual pony-less game takes place before the first God Of War and is just as violent as you'd expect. But everything is so ramped up and cartoon like that it's impossible to be offended. When you chop someone in half and they explode with more blood than a human body could possibly hold, that's just Tom & Jerry! The game will also be multiplayer so you'll at last be able to chain-whip your friends online.

I'll still be doing a short list of my "Best Of" on Monday because I did take a few passable pictures, but I wanted to make you all aware that PAX carries some dark secrets which are impossible to capture. When you hear a gamer say "Maybe you just had to be there" in answer to your question… they're pretty much right.

We gave out a ton of monkeys! Thanks to all you people who wore Woot shirts! Sorry to all those who didn't get a monkey because we were trapped in a crowd! PAX coverage continues throughout the holiday weekend.