PAXtravaganza 2013! (Introduction)

Ah, a video game conference!? Well, it IS open to the public, but I honestly never had the time nor the inclination to go to one at all.

Shows where life will take you if you let it. From academia to…this!

PAX East 2013 is big

Yep. Pretty nuts.

I enjoyed hanging out with the GameChurch crew as well; I’d never really “met: any of them in “real life” – until you see a person and actually talk to them, they’re simply words on a page. Now I am no longer a solipsist when it comes to GC (well, I guess you can’t totally take the academia out of me after all)! Well, maybe Drew Dixon, Richard Clark, Matthew Duhamel, and Luke Larsen don’t exist, but at least everyone else does. Sorry guys; prove to me that you’re real.

So, my first couple minutes of being completely overwhelmed by both the crowds and the scope having ended, I said to myself “what exactly should I look at? What would do a good deed for both the people of Theology Gaming and myself?” Obviously, waiting in line for two hours to play a digital card game (looking at you, Hearthstone) wasn’t going to help anyone out – they’ve got enough press and enough clout already. I’m amazed people like to wait in lines to play games – perhaps a person who goes to Disney World all the time probably isn’t as susceptible (look, the line for Transistor went over two hours; it couldn’t possibly be worth that long)?

I wandered around the show floor for a bit, just to evaluate my options – that’s quite hard to do with the constant din of conversation, people yelling over microphones about their products, and the one million plus people that, for whatever reason, bumped into my backpack (seriously, I wasn’t even in the aisles and people were doing that to me – must be some hidden compulsion). I watched a few things, saw some Capcom games (which I already owned – seriously?), and figured out quickly that I wasn’t willing to wait in line to play a video game. I’m not sure whether I just retain some modicum of time constraints, but it felt like a waste of time. You don’t even get to talk to the people who make the games, just their corporate mouthpieces. I know this exists as a necessary part of the industry, but I would not write about anything interesting if I took that route other than “Zach’s thoughts about game X” – and you get quite enough of that from this site, anyway. Not like I wanted to waste thirty-five dollars on that.

In an effort for efficiency, then, I sought to go right to the back and look at some indie games. As readers of TG might know, I’m not a big fan of independent games. Scratch that, I’m not a fan of pretentious independent games (see: Journey). Thankfully, PAX East became host to a score of interesting, fun, intuitive, and surprisingly excellent games I had neither heard nor seen from any mainstream outlets. Certainly, it wasn’t from lack of quality – most of these titles look and play great – but from lack of press. I’m not sure why; perhaps people don’t like it when new developers stick to established genres, refine them to a razor-sharp edge, and then release new products with new ideas not yet seen? That doesn’t seem true!

Thank goodness for the MegaIndieBooth, then! I didn’t even know it existed, but for the sake of covering as many new games as possible, they made the process exceedingly efficient. I found about thirty or forty new games that, due to the caprices and marketing budgets of bigger companies, I would not even know existed if not for PAX. That’s incredibly cool that they’re all there. It’s not as if these games are bad in any way; plenty of people were playing them and enjoying them a great deal.

Talking to the developers themselves after playing gives you a new perspective on the experience. I mean, anyone can draw comparisons from one game to another, but it takes some discovery and conversation to find those common threads. All these designers had their own inspirations, from Earthbound to Guilty Gear to River City Ransom, but they all took different elements from their nostalgic loves. Some liked the game design, others the aesthetics, and still others the music. There’s a host of different elements that go into each one, and that’s wonderful to see.

Perhaps my favorite booths contained those with the most knowledge and unbridled passion for their projects. One title in particular (which I will talk about in the future) looks unbelievably ambitious and narratively consistent, as was repeatedly emphasized. There was no game to play, or anything other than conceptual art and a game trailer in the background, but the pitch they gave to me and Josh Cauller ran the gamut. Those people deserve some success, for sure, and I do hope the best for every project I saw.

Like I promised them, I’m going to write about each and every one that I saw. As James 5 says:

12 But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.

And we wouldn’t want that to happen, now, would we? It may take a month or so, but I’m not that intimidated! I think these games deserve and need the exposure, so feel free to share these articles and spread them around. Unfortunately, not all the games exist in purchasable form yet, but keep an eye out for them. I will make sure to make such release dates known in the future, either by Twitter, fB, the podcast, or otherwise, so please pay attention.

Without further ado, lots of game coverage coming up! I’ll be listing them here, and they’ll show up on the main page as well! (maybe not the first day, but certainly after that…)

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.