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PAX Round Up 2014

April 14, 2014

Dear Reader,

I’m in a very satisfying position right now, sitting before my computer in my own home, having slept in my own bed, with my buddy playing The Stanley Parable for the first time, so I get to hear him play through and the decisions he made.

PAX was great, but it’s always nice to come home.  I’ll talk a little about it a little each day, talking about something great and something lousy each time.

For our first “Great,” I’ll talk about a couple of the panels.  Every single panel I went to this time was exceptionally good.  I attended a couple each day.  On day 1, I went to the keynote, the Harmonix CEO talking about their early failures and then showing off some of their upcoming games.  Some looked really amazing.  They have a first person music-based squad shooter coming out that works on harmony as a group power-up system.  That’s – amazing.  Ingenious.  Additionally, they’re cooperating with Disney to create a “game” – if it can be called that, but certainly an interactive experience – using Fantasia as its root system.  You play the role of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, “conducting” visual representations of the music.  The creativity behind these ideas, regardless of whether or not they actually turn out to be fun, should be lauded.  It’s something new, if nothing else.

My second panel was “The Couple that Games Together,” a group of three couples who talked about their experiences.  They had a lot of good suggestions on dealing with conflict, parallel play, and co-op games that couples could play.  My wife teased me the whole time that my buddy and I were the actual gaming couple there, but I’m sure she was… mistaken.

I went to a few others that I may cover in a later post, but I wanted to give space to what was by far the best panel, a panel on anxiety and depression in gamers.  The panelists were three people from the gaming community who had each suffered from either anxiety, depression, or both, and had at one time overcome it, even if their remission had slipped and their condition since recurred.

After their disclaimer that they weren’t psychiatrists and could not diagnose anyone, but could only talk about their experiences and what they’d done to help, they talked first about that subject, but then invited people to the mic.

Rather than provide you all the gory details of some of those people’s lives, I want to take a moment to talk about how careful and emotionally intelligent all the panelists were.  They handled many potentially devastating circumstances with the grace and dexterity of a bomb squad.  After the event, they stood out in the hall to talk to people, and one girl who’d been particularly anxious at the mic lined up to speak to one of them, but got more and more nervous until she started to leave.  The lead panelist excused himself from who he was talking to and went after her, just to let her know she could speak to him later if she’d like and that he was really glad she’d spoken out.

I told him later when I saw him that his gaming background aside – he worked for Ubisoft – that I thought he was a hero of the community and that we need more people like him.

It was a great experience.

Less great was the shouting at the cop situation I referenced in a tweet.

Look, I’m not a particularly difficult person.  I don’t really care when people treat me poorly.  I’m a teacher; you have to let it run off you like water off a duck’s back.  But when people in authority are stupidly obsessed with rules that hurt someone I care about, well.  That’s another story all together.

My buddy’s feet are in BAD shape.  He can’t safely walk on them, really, at all, but certainly not for long durations.  To help with this, I rented a wheelchair and wheeled him around all weekend.  It worked really well, except that the shuttles dropped him off at the back of the center, and he was expected to walk all the way around.  Now PAX predicted issues like this and created “medical” badges for people like this.  I got one, and my buddy got one.  The PAX enforcers were great dealing with it, helping move him through crowds and making sure that he could get a seat where he could see, but the convention center security was not so great.

On Saturday morning, after we’d identified this problem on Friday, I went to speak to one of the entrance guards by the bus entrance.  He refused to be reasonable.  I, a little miffed, stalked off, figuring I’d get an enforcer or one of the security guard’s supervisors to deal with it.  I spoke to the enforcers at the information booth, and they confirmed that he should be able to enter from that side.  I saw someone else in uniform and went to speak with them, but as I said, Excuse me, sir,” to the person and he turned, I saw his arm badge was that of the Boston PD, not a security guard.  I figured what the hell and forged ahead though, looking down at my badges a moment to turn it around to show the cop my medical pass.

But I didn’t get a chance.  Before I could continue, the first words out of his mouth, in an extremely condescending tone were, “Hey, look me in the eyes when you talk to me.”

I was momentarily stunned.  I tried to recover by beginning to explain that I had been glancing down to show him my badge, but he cut me off with a dismissive statement along the lines of “Sure, sure, but I want people to look me in the eyes when they talk to me.”

So I lost it.  I said, “Nevermind!” and starting storming off, again.  He called after me, “I guess it wasn’t worth it, then,” and I responded, “You’re right, being treated like that isn’t worth it,” and then yelled, at the top of my lungs – in the middle of the entry hall of the convention center, mind you, “WAY TO SERVE AND PROTECT!”

I walked over to my wife, who was mortified, and moments later the cop chased me down and started over, a lot more polite.  Since he was being nice now, I apologized and explained the situation, explained why I was annoyed and what the problem was.  He listened politely this time, but then completely sided with the security guard, despite the fact that I had told him that the rule the security guard was enforcing had been clarified by the enforcers and that the security guard was wrong.

Then the cop got a taser out of his pocket – I kid you not – and started lecturing me about the importance of safety.  He explained he’d taken the taser off of someone that morning, keeping everyone safe.  He told a story about how he’d found an uzi under someone in a wheelchair once.  I offered to let him search the wheelchair, which of course wasn’t his point, but since he was just defensively rambling about how he was serving and protecting people since apparently I’d hit a nerve, but it was a waste of my time if he wasn’t going to help me.

I finally broke away from the cop and went back, with the wheelchair, to the security guard.  I told him I’d spoken to an enforcer who’d confirmed my point of view, but of course the security guard didn’t believe me.  He continued to explain how no one could come through the doors blah blah blah, but I persisted.

Honestly, I finally wore him down.  He finally said, “Well, I guess if you both have medical passes…” and let it go.

So I did win, but it was a stressful and irritating way to start the day.

However, there were so many great things that the irritation was quickly gone.  More on those next time.


Stubborn (and home)

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