I did a whirlwind trip up to PAX yesterday, leaving at 5:30 for the 3hr drive up to seattle, and arriving home at around 11:30. Six hours in the car wore me out, but well worth it for what I compressed into the remaining time.
I hang my head in shame and say this was my first PAX. When I was living up in Seattle I had schedule conflicts that kept me from attending the past couple of them. Decided I'd make the effort this year and was glad I did.
Some quick thoughts on the event, with a few topics requiring lengthier posts later.
The event itself: Wow. PAX has grown up. I think the E3 Supernova helped them get escape velocity, and now even with E3 making a comeback, PAX remains a big deal. We'll wait to see attendance numbers, but it felt like a 10k+ attendee event.
If you haven't been, I'd describe it as follows: GDC is the nerdy kid you knew in high school. E3 was his Jock older brother who drove a Chevelle and got all the chicks and gave him wedgies. PAX was the middle brother who listened to GWAR, wore combat boots, played D&D and smoked weed while doing it, and who mom and dad didn't really mind skipping out on the family reunion. :-)
There are panels and other sessions at the event but they aren't the point of the event itself, which is really a mix of game/geek culture celebration, fan-fest, and game companies exhibiting their goods to the hardest of hardcore gamer fans. Oh, and there's a pretty big lanfest and some board gaming thrown it for good measure.
- The "Edge" trademark hullaballoo: Tom Buscaglia had to tread lightly around this one because of Langdell's IGDA involvement, etc. The short version of the opinion was that trademarks and copyrights have their place and people have a right to defend them. In this case, both parties have behaved very poorly from the outset and dug themselves into a hole.
- The project Entropia Banking license thing (my question to the panel on this one was what their impressions where, and whether they subscribed to the theory that eventually all MMOs are banks, and regulation is inevitable): At least one panelist agreed with the theory, and two expressed sentiment that the Entropia thing in particular was a good thing, shows games offering more, growing up, etc.
- SW Patents: The usual lawyer-speak about "ya better file 'em!", but Tom B had a good answer to an audience question/comment about SW patents being evil, etc. He made the point that (a) the patent portfolio isn't the problem nearly as much as poor scrutiny of claims at the USPTO, and (b) a patent portfolio is something that can serve as collateral to borrow against with banks, and that Harmonix in particular did so against their patent portfolio and used that cash to survive a tight spot before their big hit. i.e. While there are plenty of examples of patent trolls, this is a counter example of patents saving what otherwise would never have become Guitar Hero.
- First amendment/free speech vs regulating violent games, etc. Good precendents set now with universal defeat of these initiatives across more than a dozen states. Sign of games success and also their growth into a major media. "they join the club of art forms across history that have been feared and attacked in similar ways: movies, rock music, etc"
A mix of exhibitors from the major publishers (EA, Ubi, etc) and HW vendors (Sony, MS, Intel, Alienware) but with a disproportionately high number of indie studios meeting their fans and selling merch. (Twisted Pixel, Dofus, The Behemoth, many others).