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PAX probably made for the most amazing weekend of my life. Really feeling something is a sensation I rarely experience but at PAX I enjoyed the extreme of every positive emotion. I’ll give you a quick rundown of what I mean.

First of all, there’s just plain joy.

The concerts were absolutely fantastic without exception. Still, there were headliners and opening artists and I hadn’t really heard anyone but the headliners before so the rest were sort of take it or leave it. When we were planning our Saturday, Sean was actually saying we could probably miss the Video Game Orchestra opening the second night of concerts if a panel we wanted to see ran long. I am infinitely glad that it didn’t.

Medleys of every game I’d ever loved were rendered in complex arrangements by a group of the most talented instrumentalists I have ever seen. There wasn’t a single weak point in their ranks and there were amazing solos, especially from the two clarinet/saxophone players and the lead guitarist. After every song, after every solo, every single time they belted out three chords that brought to mind an entire pixelated world you had forgotten for years the theater erupted. Sean and I were seated in the balcony, a structure held up by steel cable and I-beams about thirty or more feet deep and running along three sides of the room, and when they finished the Final Fantasy medley we felt the entire thing literally shaking underneath us as people clapped, stomped, and roared.

It was the kind of musical tribute that made goosebumps stand up all over every geek in the house. It was a positively glorious experience.

Let’s move on to mirth.

Multiple times during the weekend I actually teared up I would be laughing so hard. There were no people there that billed themselves as something so simple as a comic but nearly every event was hysterical. Once you were off the expo floor, something funny was happening. Of course the panels were a riot, being led by the kind of people that produce periodic comedy content whether it’s comic strips or music or video, whatever. Just walking around the hallway though, you’d run into cross-dressing Princess Peach- who did an amazing job, by the way- or an entire TF2 red team posing for photos. At the concerts, everyone cracked at least a few jokes and most acts practically took the time out for a comedy special in between songs. My stomach ached severely for about an hour after Paul and Storm’s show.

One funny story that’s very worth retelling I had to hear about second-hand, unfortunately. Apparently, someone cosplayed as a witch from Left 4 Dead. They also, apparently, decided that they had to make this not only a costume but an accompanying act worth of inaugurating a new PAX with. Perfectly wrapped in tattered clothes and having even dyed her hair and used stage makeup on her skin, she spent part of a day sitting at one end of a major thoroughfare sobbing and wailing. All she was missing was the accompanying piano as you approached.

Now, that’s all fine and dandy and commendable, especially considering how accurate her look was reported to be. Someone didn’t really get the gist of what was going on, though. Some engineer, I think I heard. So he approached, faltering grin on his face and probably a friend ready with a camera nearby, and he tapped her lightly on the head. At this point, the girl leapt to her feet and let out a screech that rang down the hall and shut everyone the hell up.

The engie fucking ran.

He just tore ass down the hallway, no idea what he’d just done. And this girl, with claws waving in the air and screaming bloody gods-damned murder, chased right after him because- and there is a lesson in here- he startled the witch.

The dramatic retelling of this story caused me to nearly fall out of my seat during one of the Penny Arcade Q&As.

And finally, I’ll give you a story about some of the most beautiful stuff in life.

At every PA panel nine out of ten attendees that got to the mic thanked them for putting on PAX and/or for the Child’s Play charity.

One girl, at one of the last panels, got up and told a bit of a story. She admitted she had been debating whether or not she should even tell them this over the mic because she knew he was going to get a little broken up. She told them about how much Child’s Play meant to her and how good it felt to give to their charity. She had spent a lot of her younger life in a hospital and spoke about how much it meant when the nurses would bring the TV cart room to room with a beat up N64 and let them play for a little while. She said it helped so much just to get her mind off of tomorrow’s surgery and the day after that and the day after that. True to her word, she started crying. Jerry looked at Mike, and I’ve seen the video of Jerry coming down offstage to hug a fan, and this time Mike helped himself down to the floor and jogged over to hold her a minute. The whole theater was first respectfully silent and then began cheering wildly.

Minutes later, a young guy got his turn to talk with them. He asked if they remembered the button culture that had gotten going at PAX in Seattle a few years ago and they said they did. He admitted that he was a member of the community that sort of got that moving originally and explained that they had a new game for PAX East, a trading card collecting game. He had a full set of the cards he had collected over the weekend for them to remember the first Boston PAX by. He headed to the edge of the stage and gave it to them.

But that’s when Jerry said quietly (but still through his microphone), “do you play computer games? Like, do you game on the computer?” And the guy nodded yes. Jerry said, “you wait right there,” and started jogging offstage.

Mike grinned and added, “I know what he’s getting.”

Jerry came back out with a small, black, cardboard box. “Intel gave us this. They didn’t tell us what to do with it but they said we couldn’t keep it.” He held up what I’m fairly sure was a new Core i7 processor, I’d seen them on display in their boxes at the expo hall. “This is worth twelve hundred dollars. I’m giving it to you.” Jerry kneeled down and handed it to the guy.

The amazing conclusion is that Jerry started to stand up but stopped when the guy motioned as if he wanted Jerry’s microphone. Jerry gave it to him and the guy said, “I’m giving this back to you. I want you to auction it off for Child’s Play.” I was literally deafened for a few moments when the entire crowd exploded up from their seats a second later.

It took minutes for the revelry to die down. When it did, Jerry look at mike and added, “we have the greatest fans ever.”

So I’ve ranted and gushed about how funny and moving everything was now. If you’ve read through it all, and I know it’s long, thank you. If you live anywhere nearby or have a big enough travel budget, then either PAX may be tiring but is the perfect way to spend a long weekend if you love dice and cards, if you love glowing screens, or if you’ve just been a social outcast.

And they give lots of free shit too!

- Matt (Once again, ranted and not proofread.)