Happy Crowds of Gamers Pack PAX East—Day 1 Report, Plus Photos

3/27/10Follow @wroush

One thing was clear from the moment conference organizers opened the doors for the PAX East gaming expo at the Hynes Convention Center Friday afternoon: they’re going to need a bigger venue next year.

Lines to enter the massive meeting, a three-day festival for fans of console and PC video gaming, online gaming, and even arcade and tabletop games, snaked around the block and twisted through a dungeon-like maze inside the convention center. A standing-room-only crowd filled the center’s main theatre for a surprisingly moving opening keynote speech by Wil Wheaton (the actor and writer whose unapologetic geekiness has probably won him more fans than his portrayal of Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation ever did).

open_console_room CLICK HERE FOR SLIDE SHOW (15 images)

The crowds also stood shoulder to shoulder on the main expo floor, where Rockstar Games, Electronic Arts, and other giant game studios are showing off new and upcoming titles like Red Dead Redemption and Dante’s Inferno. And so many people wanted to attend a panel session on fiction writing for interactive media that the doors to the hall were closed five minutes early—conference staff, who were friendly and unintimidating save for their “Enforcer” T-shirts, barred even this reporter from entering.

Perhaps the crowding should have been expected, given that PAX East sold out in advance, with some 60,000 tickets purchased online. Some enthusiasts drove, flew, or rode to Boston from as far away as Ohio and Washington, D.C., specifically to attend.

They came to see the latest video and PC game technology, yes—Nvidia, for example, used the occasion to unveil its latest graphics processing unit, the GeForce GTX 480, whose 3 billion transistors can power ultra-realistic 3D graphics on multiple screens.

But more importantly, the crowds came for the love of games, gaming, and their fellow gamers. Many in the audience for Wheaton’s keynote nodded and applauded when he confessed that his strongest lifelong friendships have been with the people he played Dungeons & Dragons with as a teenager.

“Gaming is the foundation of the best friendships I’ve ever had,” Wheaton said. “It is the mortar that has held my group of friends together. Some of the happiest days of our lives would not exist without playing games. Games are important. Games matter. PAX is where we come to celebrate that.”

For photos from Day 1 of PAX East, click here.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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  • toresimonsen

    Wish I were at PAX http://bit.ly/8XVHhc

  • Miramon

    It was way too crowded. No conference is fun if you have to stand in line 40 minutes for all the events.