Why PAX East is the best convention in the world

Gabe and Tycho held their second Q&A session this afternoon. I got in line to use the microphone, and I was going to first try to get a laugh about being able to use a microphone this time, make some comments about feeling like being at Disneyworld, and then work into my question about what Gabe and Tycho would do at PAX East if they could do nothing else.

I was hoping to get some laughs from the audience and maybe have one more story to tell for my blog. I got a story alright, just not the one I thought I’d be telling. What I got was actually much, much better.

Child’s Play is a charity founded by Gabe and Tycho that provides toys and games to children in hospitals. I had seven operations on my ears when I was a kid, but only one of those was an overnight stay. Still, I remember the absolute terror the night before an operation, not being able to eat or drink anything, lying there awake staring at the ceiling and playing through the whole experience in my head, which I was able to do with a very vivid imagination…and memory.

A young woman stepped up to the microphone. She thanked Gabe and Tycho for Child’s Play because she had spent most of her childhood in the hospital. The nurses would sometimes wheel in a Nintendo 64 and a broken PlayStation, and then this girl and the other kids would be able to play games and forget about the pain they were in for a little while. She tried really hard not to start crying as she thanked Gabe and Tycho for helping all those kids, and all those parents who didn’t have to worry about “the mental stability of their children for a little while.”

I had been feeling a little frustrated that I wasn’t going to get a chance at the mic before the hour long Q&A session was over. As she told her story, I stopped caring. I felt blessed just to have been in the room to share in that moment while she fought back her tears and I fought back mine, remembering all the times I’d been to the hospital. Though my experience was infinitely less bad than this young woman’s was, I could relate to what she was saying.

Gabe put down his mic, stepped down from the stage, walked over to this young woman and held her. That’s the Penny Arcade community which is so central to gamer culture, that’s gamers, and that’s PAX.

Her story put something that took place a few questions earlier into sharp focus. Someone used their mic time to tell Gabe and Tycho about a full collection of trading cards the fans had put together for them, encasing them in a binder. Gabe and Tycho accepted, impressed and grateful. Tycho said that he had something for this kid and put down his microphone. He walked over to the side of the stage and came back with a black and green box. “I was given this, I don’t know why,” he said, “but I can’t keep it. So here – this is an Intel processor worth about twelve hundred dollars.”

The cameraman caught the familiar Intel logo on the side of the box as Tycho handed it down to the kid, and the crowd let out an appreciative “Oooooooo!” The kid motioned for Tycho’s to hand him the microphone and said “Because this is a community event, I want to donate this right back to Child’s Play.”

That’s the Penny Arcade community. That’s gamers. That’s PAX.

I am grateful for the chance to have attended. I had a lot of fun, learned a lot about the industry, got to play some new games, and met a lot of very cool, like-minded people. Boston should be grateful for the opportunity to host this event again in 2011 and 2012…and my wife and I are already laying plans to attend PAX Prime in Seattle this summer.

Now, I’m going to boot up my XBox 360, put in the code on the card I received in line for the closing ceremonies today which will give my XBL avatar a PAX East hoodie, and play some video games.

1 Comment

  1. Sean says:

    I shot a pretty poor video of this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6mTrBxTB3A

    Is there a better one you know of?

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