Several months ago, my daughter discovered a convention named Sakura-Con, and since that time … she’s been looking forward to its return in April of 2013.
That date is a long way off, however, and once she noticed a sign for the PAX convention a couple of weeks ago, her curiosity was piqued. When she went online to read about the event, and learned that it was focused on gamer culture … she asked me if I could get her a ticket.
“Of course”, I replied, but when I tried to fulfill my promise, I learned that I had spoken too soon.
PAX tickets had gone on sale 5 months ago, and they had sold out within 24 hours.
Not wanting to give up too easily, I began looking on Craigslist and other scalping venues, but I soon realized that the secondary market for these tickets was pretty risky.
One person wanted me to send money via Western Union, at which point he would FedEx the tickets to me (yeah right). Another made a deal with me, then emailed shortly before meeting to tell me that someone else had offered her more money for the tickets, and she asked if I would match it.
She threw a tantrum after I explained that if I couldn’t trust her to follow through on a deal that she herself had already made, I was not comfortable handing her cash in exchange for easily-counterfeited badges.
I was losing confidence that I could come through in time.
Craigslist is 49% flakes, 49% scammers, and 2% ethical human beings trying to sell a fair product at a fair price.
Finally, at the last minute … literally the day before the event, a friend of mine put me in touch with a friend of his … and I was able to procure tickets for both my daughter and I.
We spent all three of those days at the convention, and I enjoyed it. Not nearly as much as my daughter enjoyed it, though.
Vendors from every game maker imaginable was on-hand at PAX, and the crowd was generally pretty cool … if perhaps a bit autistic and immature. It was prolonged adolescence on steroids.
Even though she’s only 11, my daughter was treated as a peer by almost all of the attendees.
At one point, she tried to check out a Nintendo DS Game geared toward a tween audience, and the 20-something game attendant informed her that she needed a picture ID.
“Okay”, replied my daughter as she reached into her bag and fished out her elementary school ID.
“No”, replied the woman behind the counter without even a hint of sarcasm, “it has to be government issued … like a driver’s license!”
Then, the woman turned away.
Only in Seattle does a typical child have a driver’s license … and a beard. (I later learned that the average age of a PAX attendee was 28).
A few other times, my daughter was bumped around by fellow attendees, rushing to a particular game, display, or giveaway. At the World of Warcraft display, a guy in his 30′s stood behind her and whined to nobody in particular “when is she going to be dooooonnnnnne!”
There was literally no concept of “this person is very young, perhaps acquiesce a little.” The crowd was more or less 50,000 six-foot-tall seven year-olds.
Of course, this was not so much a PAX thing as a Seattle thing. Who can forget this scene:
Seattle is a city populated by overgrown children. Throw in a video game convention and the place turns into Romper Room.
The other problem I had was also social in nature.
It was kind of funny, but most of the crowd was completely unaware of the social contract.
For instance, we would often walk behind a group, and that group would stop dead in their tracks to read something or look around, blocking the entire width of the hallway and causing a backup.
“Excuse me”, I would say politely, and one member of the group would look back at me, then turn back around.
“Excuse me”, I would say a second time, and a different member of the group would look at me, then turn back around.
“Excuse me!”, I would finally half-yell, at which point all of them would turn their heads to look at me with a startled expression … still not moving an inch.
On the second day of this, it finally dawned on me: These folks had absolutely no idea what I meant when I said “excuse me”. None at all. They had no idea what I wanted. They probably just assumed that I had farted, and I was really, really ashamed of the smell.
Finally, I remembered this movie I saw where a guy was driving a jeep in the African desert. When he came upon a herd of hippopotamuses blocking the dirt road, he beeped his horn at them. Each time he hit the horn, the hippos all looked back at him for a couple of seconds … then they simply turned back around and continued grazing or whatever it was that they were doing. They had no idea what the horn meant, or why he was beeping it. Finally, he put the Jeep in drive, and slowly rolled through the herd, gently bumping their hind quarters until they parted.
Well, I gave it a try. I realized that if I wanted to make any progress, I would have to forgo the pleasantries, and instead … gently nudge the gamers in the direction that I was trying to go.
Holy shit, it worked!
Upon doing this, my fellow convention-goers typically either moved in the direction I was nudging, or moved aside so that I could pass.
I don’t know if that’s funny or sad, but it is what it is.
Aside from those minor issues, however, PAX was actually a great deal of fun.
My daughter and I both got a fair amount of free swag, we got to play some cool video games, and living where we do … we got to do it all without having to worry about hotel rooms or airfare.