Gaming Away Labor Day: The Top 10 Sessions at PAX 2010

For many Seattleites, Labor Day weekend is a time to take refuge in the outdoors. Some 50,000 people will spend the holiday weekend wandering around the Seattle Center grounds listening to live music, cooling off in the International fountain, and filling up on $5 elephant ears (for those of you who’ve missed the phenomenon, these are essentially slabs of fried dough dipped in cinnamon and sugar) at the city’s largest music festival, Bumbershoot. Those wanting to avoid the crowds, the parking lot that will become of Lower Queen Anne, and the high ticket prices, will spend the weekend elsewhere—hiking, barbequing, boating, or participating in some other summertime activity, most likely—a last sunny hurrah before fall arrives, and the gray skies creep back into the city.

And then there is Seattle’s self-proclaimed ‘geek’ population. The techies of the Pacific Northwest will spend their three-day holiday participating in another local tradition—the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX). Over the years, PAX has become one of the biggest trade shows in North America, if not the biggest, come video and computer games. The conference, which kicked off this morning in downtown Seattle, will draw tens of thousands of techies and video game enthusiasts to the Washington State Convention and Trade Center over the course of the weekend for countless game exhibitions, demos, panel discussions, tournaments, concerts, and parties.

The three-day conference, like last year, was sold out before opening. But for those of you who reserved your badge early, here’s a look at my top 10 most interesting sessions. (These predictions are purely subjective, and based entirely on what piques my particular gaming interests.)

—The Myth of the Gamer Girl: True Demographic or Anthropological Hooha? (Friday, 12:00 pm)

This panel will dissect the myth of the girl gamer, and attempts to answer the question of whether or not there is something unique about women who play video games, or if the distinction is “just a bunch of hogwash” being sold by game marketers.

—Movin’ on Up: How to make It (Or Not) in Videogames Journalism (Friday, 4:30 pm)

In this session experts will “drop knowledge” on videogame website owners and aspiring gaming journalists on how to get game writing noticed by “the right people,” and get started in the world of videogames reporting.

—Of Dice and Men: The Play (Friday, 7:30 pm)

Get ready to laugh until your abdomen hurts, and wind up brought to your knees, with tears streaming out of your eyes at this play about “friendship, what it means to be grown-up, and why gaming matters.”

—Raising Geek Generation 2.0: Roll For Parenting Ability (Saturday, 11 am)

Talk gaming-meets-parenting shop with’s GeekDad blog and other geeky parents, to share stories and give advice on to how to raise your kid to be a geek like you. One of the many questions to be tackled at this geek-tastic panel: “How can I control my disgust if my child tells me he likes Jar Jar?”

—Game Writing & Rabid Badger Combat (Saturday, 1:30 pm)

“Do you want to be a game writer? Do you like single handedly fighting rabid badgers while building a miniature version of the Eiffel Tower in a glass bottle? If you answered yes to either of these questions this is the panel for you!” Enough said.

—Online Gaming Communities and “Real Life” Relationships (Saturday, 3:30 pm)

With the blurring of the lines between traditional gaming and social gaming, online gaming communities are playing a larger role in the gaming world. Join gaming community managers as they discuss how friendships formed in gaming communities impact “real life” relationships for gamers.

—How to Podcast Like a Pirate, Presented by Rebel FM and The Geekbox (Saturday, 6:00 pm)

“After nearly two years of jury-rigged and profitless Interwebs ‘broadcasting,’ Rebel FM and The Geekbox are widely regarded as two of the most beloved gaming podcasts this side of whatever’s beating them on iTunes this week.” Join this motley crew of “podcasting pseudo-somebodies” as they discuss how they got into the independent gaming-podcast scene, what’s good and bad about “going rogue,” and where they see the podcasting trend going.

—In(die)credible! The Best New Games You Haven’t Played (Sunday, 12:00 pm)

Get an inside look into the indie games community, and which upcoming games are truly innovative, fun, and a breath of fresh air—like “Don’t Shit Your Pants!” Here what this panel has to say about recent releases they can’t put down, upcoming projects they can’t wait to play, and more—from “elegant experiences to mind-bending mechanics to hilarious premises.”

—1UP’s Retronauts: Holy Crap, the NES is 25 Years Old (Sunday, 1:30 pm)

This fall Nintendo’s NES console will be 25 years old, marking a major milestone for the aging gaming community. Join this panel as they reminisce about the NES, lead the audience on a guided tour of “classic 8-bit gaming, alleged monopolism, and your own looming sense of mortality,” and talk about their own bunions and back pains.

—Egregiously Unrealized Potential (Sunday, 4:30 pm)

If you’ve ever played a new game and immediately thought of what missing factor would have made that game actually good, or in some cases, 100 times better, then this is the panel for you. Discuss why certain games do and don’t get made, and why.

Thea Chard is a correspondent for Xconomy Seattle. You can e-mail her at or follow her on Twitter at Follow @

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