Seattle’s electric grid faces the ultimate challenge this weekend as tens of thousands of video game nerds from all corners of the country descend upon downtown, gadgets and games in hand for the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), a three-day nerdtopia at the Washington State Convention Center.
Well over fifty thousand socially awkward, sun-starved nerds and geeks packed the convention center to the gills as the expo got underway Friday. Ultranerd video game writer Ken Levine kicked off the ceremonies as the keynote speaker, inspiring the pasty masses with the tale of his personal transformation from socially awkward child to socially awkward adult.
“Nerds crave information,” said Levine. “We’re information stalkers. We sit outside information’s home with binoculars and leave creepy messages on its answering machine.”
The action-packed event shares the convention center for the weekend with the nearly-as-enthralling Gender Odyssey gender spectrum family conference.
Engrossing panels on such hot-button topics as women in gaming and video games, politics, and policy punctuated the day, as the convention center oozed nerditude Friday.
“There’s just so much great stuff to do,” said convention attendee Karl Aaron. “Even with a non-stop flow of caffeine straight to my veins to keep me going, I don’t know how I can fit it all in.”
Friday’s festivities came to a close with concerts from such well-known bands as “The One-Ups” and “Jonathan Coulton.”
Coulton played the crowd perfectly. “Do you all like mathematics,” he asked. The crowd enthusiastically cheered in response. “Good,” said Coulton, who then proceeded to play a song about the Mandelbrot fractal.
Penny Arcade (an online comic about video games) creators Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik expressed overwhelming pride in the strange beast they created. “Seeing all these nerds in one place brings a tear to my eye even now,” said Holkins. “Wait no, that’s probably just the overwhelming BO.”
“Maybe we should talk to Degree about writing some educational comic strips on the wonders of deodorant,” said Krahulik.
Exhibitors hope the expo will allow them to build even more excitement about their upcoming games. Popular booths on Friday included Fallout 3, a post-apocalyptic murder simulator and Starcraft II, a futuristic alien war tactical command training program.
“We’re really excited that all these nerds were brave enough to venture out of their basements to come give us their money,” shouted a presenter at the Nintendo booth over the roar of the nasally crowd.
The Penny Arcade Expo is now in its fifth year, having grown from a small gathering of a few thousand nerds in Bellevue to a massive, super-intelligent hive mind that swoops down upon Seattle with the force of a hundred thousand sweaty palms. In 2010 the expo will expand its reach to include the east coast, and soon after the nerd takeover of the country will be complete.