PAX East Day 2: or, on being a fan

PAX East is always awesome; from the demos to the panels, and everything else, it’s just awesome to be a fan of gaming surrounded by thousands of other similarly-minded individuals.  Day 2 of this year’s PAX, however, truly drove home how awesome it is to be a fan who is deeply passionate about something.

First off, today was the day of the BioWare costume contest, so Bard and I donned our matching Jowan and Lily (from the mage origin in Dragon Age Origins) cosplays:

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We wanted to head over to see PopCap as well; they’d just released the mobile Solitaire Blitz app, and it was the one year “splashy-versary” of the game, so we wanted to show off our Otis the worm plushie.

I was initially going to go to a panel about showing off your love of gaming in real life.  But… I already do that.  A lot.  So instead I headed down to the show floor to meet up with MLHawke, who was in line with our friend Amanda for Assassin’s Creed 4. I wasn’t too interested in seeing it, but the booth did have a free photo stage.  Chantry sister plus coffee plus pirate gun equals a little crazy!  Next I was going to hit a panel about geeks and crafting, but since I do a lot of that anyway, I decided I’d go to the BioWare panel about The World of Thedas.

It was a good talk, and makes me even more excited to get the book; Dragon Age has such a deep, richly detailed world that something like this was a long time coming.  I’ve done my share of scouring lore and codex entries and writing my own analytical pieces about it, so having a definitive work from the developers themselves will be an excellent resource.  And it’s only volume 1!  When the panel was over I hung out a little talking with some other fans, and got to meet and speak with Sheila of the cosplay duo Aicosu. Her tutorials on makeup and wigs were extremely helpful, particularly with Day 1’s Serana costume.  She was extremely nice, and after viewing and admiring her cosplays it was awesome to stop and say hello.  Plus, her Dishonored cosplays were incredible.

Bard and I had time to kill, so we headed back to the show floor with Otis.  The PopCap carnival booth was in full swing, but we found a marketing person who loved Otis and actually called out the Solitaire Blitz community manager!  Tara came out to see Otis and absolutely LOVED him!  We explained how we loved how cute he is in all his little outfits, and how we were hoping to have a chance to show him off.  And yes, we’d downloaded the app the previous day!  She took pictures of him to show at the office, then handed us Solitaire Blitz card decks and Energy Eel energy shots.  Later on we found out she’d told people it was the highlight of her weekend.  That made me so happy to hear, because I’d really enjoyed making Otis back in the summer, and being able to bring him by the PopCap station was a lot of fun.

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We headed back to the hotel for some light costume repair, then it was over to the BioWare base for the Dragon Age signings and costume contest! We weren’t too far back in line, but as we were waiting, Chris Priestly, a community manager, spied our DA costumes and invited us to jump the line and go in early.  I love how much BioWare understands its fanbase, and appreciates things like cosplays.  We hung out for a bit; I was able to get a signed postcard from Raphael Sbarge, who voiced Kaiden Alenko in Mass Effect.

When the DA developers came back, I got in line to get my DA2 game signed (got DA:O ultimate edition signed last year) and scored a hard copy of “Asunder”, last year’s DA novel.  They commented on my Chantry outfit, and I was able to explain how, because of DA, Bard and I met.  (Long story short, I played DA, got obsessed, joined a Facebook community, met MLHawke, who then introduced me to Bard).  It was nice to be able to share with them what the game meant, not just as a game, but as something that helped as a catalyst for the most important thing in my life.

The costume contest started a short while later.  Let me tell you, there are some VERY talented people out there!  What they are able to accomplish, and how they are able to bring the game to life, is amazing.  I was and still am impressed by how many people make the Shepard N7 armor from Mass Effect; it’s a difficult costume to pull off, requires a lot of material, and is multipart.  And that’s just the armor; never mind if you want to add on weapons, which most do for accuracy.  LOTS of amazing Shepards were there, as were quite a few Asari!  I’m also an admirer of Asari cosplayers, because not only do you have the armor issue (if you’re going that route) but then you have the headpieces and makeup.

There weren’t many Dragon Age cosplayers; maybe only four of us or so.  There was me and Bard of course, but then two Wardens in the blue armor uniform introduced in DA2.  One was my friend Gabby, whose armor is amazing!  The scale work, hand riveting on the shrug, and overall attention to details is great (even down to a leather belt case for her iPhone!) And she even had the rose from Alistair.   She looked like she could have just stepped right out of the game.

When it got to us we got to tell the judges (and a room full of people) that we’d met through a friend I’d only met because of DA, and that we were getting married in four months.  And yes, we’d turn out better than Jowan and Lily did!  We got lots of applause and commentary on our costumes (including a note on the paisley fabric I’d found for Jowan’s sleeves) and then went on our way to see the rest of the cosplay.  We scored N7 jackets from Mass Effect for our participation!  THAT was awesome.  Then came the judging.

In a room full of such excellent, well-crafted costumes made by so many talented people (and I will tell you that most all of them make these things themselves) I didn’t expect to win anything, which was fine.  Being in the contest and having the new jacket was awesome enough.  But BioWare took it a step further.  Before announcing the winners they called up the “Dragon Age couple”.  They gave us the two hardcover comics, a deck of Dragon Age cards, and a Flemeth dragon statue as “an early wedding present from BioWare”!  I was floored!  We went to show our appreciation for their games, and then they turned it around for us.  We got pictures with Chris Priestly at the photobooth, who then tweeted them immediately; when I tweeted a thank you for making our day so special he replied!  They truly know how to treat fans and make us feel appreciated; there are so many things they don’t have to do, but do anyway, so thank you BioWare again for making our day beyond special; Amanda later said that it was “transcendent”.  And to top it all off, there was a four-way tie for the contest, but Gabby’s Warden armor took the grand prize!

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Then it was back to the hotel to get changed; after two days in costume it felt good to kick back in jeans and a t-shirt, and my new jacket of course! Bard was in the Tetris Attack tournament, defending his gold medal from last year.  It was a smaller group, and missing some of the guys from last year, but Ted was there attacking away.  The first few rounds went as expected, but toward the end things got intense.  Ted wound up losing to someone, and Bard lost two matches because his opponent psyched him out.  He got back on track though, and won his match, then went up against Ted’s defeater.  It was intensive, but in the end Bard pulled off another victory and got another gold medal to clank against the one he got last year.

When all was said and done, it was almost a dreamlike day at PAX East.  If a day could be perfect, day 2 may have been it.  It was extremely validating as a crafter, cosplayer, and all around fan.  PopCap and BioWare made my weekend, and I was glad I got to share it with Bard, MLHawke, and Amanda (for whom it was a first PAX experience).  Up next, Day 3, or how everything I know about doing my job is about to change!

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PAX East 2013, Part 1

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This was my third time at PAX East.  Each year it’s different for me: in 2011 I drove down each day, I was singlemost , and went alone because hey, PAX East, why not!  I loved it and it was amazing, and I was excited to go the following year.  In 2012 it fell on Easter weekend, so I only went Friday and Saturday; I had a boyfriend, we had a hotel, and it was across Boston from the convention center so we had to pay double in parking because we had to drive.  It was also my first year cosplaying, and I learned a lot about the process of costume making and the aftermath of it all.

This year I have a fiance, we went for three days, and we scored a hotel across the street from the convention center, making things extremely convenient.  I had people I met last year and got to meet up with and share our love of gaming.  And I did two costumes for myself.  All in all this year’s PAX may have been the best yet, as this and the next couple posts will likely show.

I came to the decision that I need PAX East.  I look forward to it like most people look forward to a Disney vacation.  There is something exhilarating about being surrounded by 20,000 other gamers; not to mention the bright colors, bright lights, swag, costumes, demos… the list goes on.  And this year I was able to, unlike in past years, truly experience the joy of being a fan.  But more on that later.

So first off: Friday.  Bard and I left the house a little after 7:30am, in costume and me in costume and full makeup for my first cosplay of the weekend, Serana from the Dawnguard DLC for Skyrim:

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(Funny enough, I got a Facebook message later that day from a friend whose wife was pretty sure she’d seen me stopping for coffee, but the black wig confused her!)

We were making good time in light traffic until about Winchester, which is only a few miles outside Boston, when we hit the crawling traffic.  From Winchester to the top of the exit 23 ramp, it took us a full hour of stop and go, inching along traffic.  Good thing we weren’t planning on attending much of anything at 10am!  I’d thought of trying out the Con Cosplay Survival panel, but I’d read a lot on good preparation and such for costuming, and felt fine missing it.  Bard and I found the parking garage for our hotel, and a friend who was,  staying with us met up to stow his gear in my car.  I finished up putting on my costume, we clipped on our badges, and we were off to the BCEC!

When we got inside we met up with MLHawke, checked our mutual schedules (MLHawke, Bard and myself all used the Guidebook App–VERY handy for scheduling, mapping, and figuring things out!) and decided to meet back up later in the afternoon to check out the Elder Scrolls Online food truck.  Hey, free lunch provided by #ESO?  Yes please!

My first panel was about education and gaming.  The speaker, Steve Swink, is a gamer, game designer, and educator who really knew his stuff, and was very passionate about where we have things wrong as far as education in this country goes.  We treat our students like flashdrives.  They sit down (plug in), we load them with knowledge that sometimes seems randomized and is often impersonal, then expect we can just get that info back later on in the form of a test.  The issue is that they’re not flashdrives.  Flashdrives process information the same way whether they’re 4GB or 64GB; students are people who process differently.  Swink’s presentation dealt with how we can use games to reach students, and now they don’t have to just be supplementary to the curriculum, but could even be the curriculum itself!  It’s a great idea, though I’m not sure that the district I work in will ever embrace it (or at least get the technology for it) during my time there.  We’ll see.  At least it gave me some ideas to go off of.

Then we all met up and hit the #ESOFoodtruck for lunch.  It was located on Congress Street.  We started walking, all happily discussing our mornings.  It was a bit farther away than I’d thought or expected, and MLHawke and Bard were FREEZING by the time we arrived!  Luckily Serana is a multi-part costume with a lot of layers, so I didn’t do too badly in that regard.  Lunch was good, and they had a photo station with a green screen, where I got the greatest picture of my cosplay:

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We headed back to the hotel after that, and Bard changed out of his costume because he was super cold in it.  Silly wind.  I fixed my makeup and my wig, then it was back to the BCEC.  I went to a panel on parents as characters in video games, on which Mike Laidlaw of Dragon Age sat.  It was interesting, and it has made me more aware of the changing role of parents in games, and given me stuff to work with in class with the books we read.  Bard and I met up again and I saw our friend Ted, a Tetris Attack beast, and caught up on life since last year.  My final panel of the night was on curing chemicals and special effects cosplay, which was interesting.  While I know that some of that will improve my cosplays immensely in the future, it’s a little daunting.  There’s a lot of prep work and measuring involved, but anything worth doing comes with some difficulties, so who knows.  Maybe I will attempt it at some point, just out of curiosity!

Then it was back to the hotel for the evening to make myself human again (sort of literally, since Serana is a vampire after all!).  The night was spent debriefing about our day’s experiences, and plans for the next.

Tomorrow’s recap will cover Saturday, with cosplay number two, and the awesomeness that is BioWare!