UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Penny Arcade Expo Returns to Boston Once Again

PAX East Convention

Penny Arcade Expo East 2015 has come and gone, but don’t worry, it will be back next year, and it’s not too late. A wizard is never late, he arrives precisely when he means to, in the wise words of Gandalf. That’s no longer a misplaced reference, mixing mediums, because yes, even The Lord of the Rings has a new game out. PAX East is the place to be to discover everything about the gaming industry that you never knew you wanted to know. It is where all the gaming studios come together to showcase the culmination of their countless hours of work. This is a magical place where people come wrapped in LEDs, like out of season Christmas trees, and no one bats an eye. It is this kind of magic that brings out Hot Pockets food trucks, which probably only exist for these kinds of events. Most importantly, these various studios come to show their new games to their faithful audiences to remind them why they’re faithful and reach new spectators as well. Buyer beware—the experience at PAX Easy is like being a kid in a very shiny candy store, and your peers are enablers.

Yes, PAX East is everything shiny and new in the gaming industry, but it has a healthy respect for vintage gaming platforms as well. For the traditionalist there are sections for table-top gaming—board games and card games—and even merch tables selling Nintendo 64 games. Nostalgia has a funny way of making its presence known, and welcome, in the gaming industry. One studio in particular, Naughty Dog, has been around for a while and is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary which was evident in the cosplayer respect shown at the convention. This is one of the game designers that respects every generation of game they create by playfully using ‘easter eggs’ from Jak and Daxter to Uncharted and The Last of Us. Naughty Dog is the Quentin Tarantino of references in games. One man’s easter egg challenge is another man’s viral marketing—and it is working.
Not everything about gaming is about the corporate engine at work. Pinky promise. Sure, games are made to be sold and it is a fact of life. Or is it? Alternative options to this traditional model of sales are out there, one of which is Humble-Indie-Bundle where groups of games are offered every month at discount prices and the buyer gets to pick how much money they spend goes to charity and how  much goes to the gaming developers. This method is a way for the indie developers to have a larger platform to get publicity, and for a good cause. PAX East has their own tribute to the indie gaming realm. One of the most relevant and timely indie games that have come out of PAX East this year is a very simple game called “Metro” which is about controlling the train system, which, if you’re from Boston, sounds pretty good right about now.

One of the panels at PAX Easy was hosted by Gamers Outreach, and could arguably warm the heart of the technocentric world. It may even have the potential to balance the karma brought onto the gaming industry by thirteen-year-olds on XBOX Live. Their mission is to create mobile video game stations for hospitals so that children who are themselves immobile have entertainment. Currently the non-profit reaches 26,000 kids every year, providing an escape for children who have a need for an outlet to play and have fun in an otherwise harsh environment.

Remember that warm and fuzzy feeling if you ever find yourself in a line at PAX East, whether waiting to try the new installation in the Fable series or to test the new demos for Oculus Rift. Oculus Rift is the obvious highlight. Next to the free stuff, free is the best. Never take something from a stranger, unless it’s from a cool robot giving you bracelets and other swag.

There will always be new stories and games each year, but it is not every year that the very means of gaming are changed. Oculus Rift is still only showcasing demos, but what they show is progress. It is literally impossible to look away. This platform of complete immersion in a virtual world will be a terrifying horror experience, where you can actually put yourself in the shoes of the victim. Where you walk the shoes of the first person shooter, you can look down on your virtual lap and watch your hands move the lever, turn the wheel, pull the trigger—without lifting a finger. This is entirely a ‘where’ that can never exist ‘here’, in this concrete reality, despite its immediacy in the virtual world being unlike any the gaming world or otherwise has experienced. This is going to be the first step to being able to step into the matrix, just like Keanu Reeves, and who wouldn’t want to be Keanu? His name is actually translates to ‘cool,’, and he is basically immortal, he doesn’t age—everything one could want in a virtual reality.