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¶ Penny Arcade Expo 2006
Last weekend, we went to the Penny Arcade Expo, and it was a total blast. The premise is that it's a convention for gamers by gamers. According to the website, there were around 20,000 attendees this year, with around 8,000 or so present at any given point.

It's a pretty new event - only started a couple years ago, but the response from the gaming community has been huge, and this year's venue was pretty much bursting at the seams. When we showed up last Friday, there was a huge crowd of at least a thousand people milling around in the atrium waiting for one of the main panels to begin. You'd think that having to wait a couple hours with a thousand other people would get boring, but trust gamers to keep themselves entertained with a single large inflatable rubber ball. The atrium spanned four floors, with people were packed all over the lower floor and the balconies of the upper floors, and this spontaneous game developed where the people on the lower floors would try to bounce the ball up to the higher floors, and the higher the ball went, the louder everyone cheered. Occasionally, the entire crowd would alternate between chants of, "Up! Up! Up!" and "All hail ball! All hail ball!"

Most of the events at the expo were game related, with various tournaments (Quake 2, Smash Bros., Halo 2, etc.). There was a line for almost everything, but nobody really seemed to care because at least a third of the attendees had brought a Nintendo DS and would just start up a game of Mario Kart or something while waiting in line. The DS has this nifty 802.11 networking feature that allows ad-hoc network games to start up, as well as for people to temporarily download entire games from others. We spent a good deal of Saturday afternoon playing New Super Mario Bros. with this 12-year old kid who randomly joined one of our games.

Some highlights of the Saturday night concert:
  • Two guys (Tycho and ??) opening the concert by playing a round of Guitar Hero onstage. Halfway through the song, the PS2 running their game crashed, and everyone was like, "wtf!?"
  • During MC Frontalot's gig, he shouts out to "Get I get a 'Nerd Ho!?'" Crowd roars, "NERD HOOOOO!!!" Yes, I joined in.
  • Most of us have been to or heard of concerts where people hold up lighters during some moving parts of a concert. Recent years have seen people doing this with cell phones. PAX takes it to the next level, with half the crowd holding up and waving the bright screens of the Nintendo DS, interspersed with plastic light sabers.

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