Wednesday, September 10, 2008


So the Penny Arcade Expo happened last weekend...what can I say?
It was awesome.
I was only there on Saturday, so I didn't spend much time playing games, as I didn't want waiting in line to be the mainstay of my time there. I spent the majority of my day basically walking in circles, taking in new sights with every pass. There were plenty of excellent looking games; Gears of War 2, Legendary, and Rock Band 2 all look like quality business. The drum set for Guitar Hero World Tour looked impressive, but not impressive enough to make me care. Rock Band 2 has Journey, jerks!
I noticed a good deal of cosplayers at the expo. I think it's pretty cool, some people obviously put a good deal of effort into their costumes, but it's definitely something I'll always be only an audience to, outside of Halloween. I did get my picture taken with a guy dressed up as Waldo (of Where's Waldo? fame,) and true to form, I actually had to find him about three times during the day before I could get up and get the picture. He was a good Waldo. If you were there and standing outside, you probably saw a couple dressed up as The Boss and Snake from MGS3, and again true to form, the guy dressed up as Snake spent most his time out front because he was almost constantly smoking a big 'ol cigar.
I got to the convention around 1PM, kind of late. I didn't end up with too much time for exploration before it was time to head over to the Mega 64 "Panel at the Expo!" A live Q & A session with these guys is always a good deal, because essentially improv is what they do for a living. Even the troubles they had with audio sync and lighting during the screening didn't detract from their quality.
In fact, my only complaint with the entire day was that the expo hall closed before I had a chance to fully experience its grandeur. If I'd had the time I would have taken a trip to the Brothers in Arms booth, where they would give you a voucher for a free copy of the upcoming Hell's Highway if you let them shave your head. I figured, a free haircut and a free game?! But it looks like I'll be paying for both haircuts and games, at least until next year's PAX. We'll see what happens.
At the end of the night Boox and I met up to attend the concert, which was an absolute blast. It all began with Tycho, Gabe, his wife Kara, and (I think?) Robert Khoo playing a round of Rock Band 2 with in game avatars that were excellent recreations of their Penny Arcade counterparts, and to top it all off, they played Journey's Any Way You Want It complete with Steve Perry fun fact during the loading screen. After them was the Rock Band round of the Omegathon, the main competition that spanned all three days of the event. I didn't end up paying it much attention, since I was only there for the day and wouldn't see the culmination of the event at the end of Sunday.
The opening band was a group of kids called Anamanaguchi. They played really solid instrumental math rock of a NES modified to play custom chiptunes. They also have a song in some iteration of Guitar Hero, which was played in sync with them during their set, as well as a couple others which were played with Audiosurf, the one game I wish I would have waited in line to try.
Following them was a total nerdgasm in the form of The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets. The Thickets are a group of high-class gents from British Columbia who play rock music based on the tales of H.P. Lovecraft. They're a band I've been listening to and dying to see for nigh-on ten years now, so their set was a god damned dream come true.
Before their set I was waiting up front, stage left, when up walks none other than motherfucking Jerry "Tycho" Holkins, co-creator of the whole event and ambassador to nerds worldwide. I was starstruck at first, but I pulled my balls out of my purse and manned up to talking to the man. I asked him about the Thickets, how he found out about them and got them into the bill. I was surprised not only by how down to Earth he was, but also by how he was even more enthusiastic than I about being moments from seeing the Thickets. Tycho was extremely cool, he even ran backstage so he could take a picture of their setlist and show me just how awesome things were about to get in the Washington State Convention Center. He even stayed and rocked out with us during half their set, shooting delighted glances of approval back to me at the beginning of every song.
The Thickets stole the show for me, hands down. They emerged upon the stage, all in wild costume, feeding upon the energy of the crowd like sweet, sweet nectar. I was impressed by the number of people I saw in the crowd who, just like me, were singing along to all the words of even the Great and Oldest of the Ones the Thickets had to offer.
Headlining the show was MC Frontalot, but honestly, I was completely drained by that point from the other bands and lugging my laptop around all day. I took a seat in an open area in front of one of the big screens and relaxed while I watched Front do what he does best. The man has stage presence, there's no denying that. I wish I'd had the energy left to get up front and dance, but it just wasn't happening. Boox and I ended up laid out just watching the set on the screen and actually left before The Minibosses came on.
Sorry Minibosses!
You are awesome, this is true, but it was already 1 AM at that point and we had to get home to recharge.
In all, my day at the expo was literally the best day I've had this year. I got to meet a number of people whose work I respect and admire, I got to see a great concert, and most of all, I had a shitload of fun. If you couldn't go this year, I'm sorry for you. Go next year. Don't question, just do it. I'll definitely be pre-registering for three days next year. And if you just didn't go?
Fuck you.

You are dumb.

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