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Harmonix at PAX East 2011

Harmonix was at PAX East this year showing off Rock Band 3, the Fender Squier Pro Guitar Controller, and Dance Central. HMXPope put together a video giving you a taste of what it's like to be at PAX.

For even more PAX fun, check out HMXdropslash's photos of all three days (plus a peek at pre-show setup!) on the official Harmonix Flickr page. You can also listen to the official Harmonix Community Team Reverse Q&A panel (be warned - it's not for the faint of heart).

And if that's not enough PAX goodness for you, HMXThrasher lovingly chronicled her last event as a Community Team member. Read on for her PAX East story.


Written by HMXThrasher

Well hello there communitrons. As you may or may not know, I recently moved out of the comfortable confines of the Community Team pit and over to a new position with the Dance Central authoring team. I signed off the forums, took a break from podcasting, and dove headfirst into life on the development side of things at Harmonix. But I couldn’t just leave my community roots behind or take off without saying a proper goodbye. (Darn that charming HMXHenry – there’s just no escaping him). And so it was that PAX East 2011 became my last hurrah as a member of the excellent and frenetic machine that is the Community and Public Relations department at Harmonix.

Not being one to take goodbyes lightly I decided to be as ubiquitous as possible at PAX East (hey, ban hammer memories only last so long). And so I agreed to be on (maybe one too many) panels, help staff our Dance Central and Rock Band setups, and be part of one of our pre-PAX events on Thursday night. By the end of the weekend I was more tired, sore, and outright stoked/giddy/happy than I can remember ever being. I made a ton of new friends, saw a lot of familiar Rock Band Community faces, and (despite recommendations not to), high fived and hugged a boat load of people. PAX East, was, for me, a great reminder of why I love working in this industry and specifically why I appreciate the Harmonix community of Rock Band and Dance Central fans so much.

Here’s a quick rundown of how I spent my last ::sniff, sniff:: official event with HMXHenry, Mr. Pope, HMXJohnD, and HMXDropslash:

Thursday

Harmonix represented like whoa with the Pre-PAX events on Thursday. We knew that a lot of our friends were coming to town for the event but also wanted to host a few things that local folks who couldn’t make it to PAX for one reason or another could participate in as well. The evening featured a rock show organized by The Best Steph as well as a Rock Band night hosted by Mr. Pope and our friends from Giant Bomb. For the early birds, I worked with our friends at Swap on the first annual Pre-PAX video game swap. The early event was a total blast – we had about 40 gamers show up at The Middlesex Lounge with games in hand to trade with each other. People brought brand new, still wrapped, Xbox 360 titles, like Dead Space 2, and Left for Dead, along with older, retro games, handheld titles, PC games, and just about every other videogame kind of thing you can imagine. The whole thing was a riot and I was incredibly stoked to see people being polite, but also exchanging hand shakes, business cards, and other swag as well. If you’re at all interested to learn more about the swap, Nerd Appropriate has a pretty awesome write-up on his site. Our friend Matthew also took some cool video of it. Just be warned, my eyeballs will give you nightmares.

After the swap I snuck up the road to the Brattle Theatre for our Rock Band night. Not going to lie, I hid out on the sides and in the balcony so I could really take in the action as an audience member. Had a blast, laughed a ton, could barely stand by night's end. As usual, Becky Pineo from Improv Boston took awesome photos of the night. You can see them all here.

Friday

Friday was a total blur but I can sum it up pretty easily: dance, dance, dance, dance!! HMXJohnD and I were on hand most of the day to crew our two Dance Central setups in the Microsoft Kinect space. We handed out t-shirts, refereed dance battles, chatted with tons of gamers and fans, and even demonstrated our technical know-how by fixing a broken kiosk. I spent a lot of time really observing how people interact with and tackle learning moves they haven’t encountered before. My favorite moments on Friday involved a young man doing the sickest freestyle I’ve seen yet (triple pirhouette action), and meeting mega-DC fan, Austin, who’d met with an unfortunate trampolining accident just prior to PAX. (Austin you’re awesome – keep your eyes on the mail. The Harmonix team has a “get well” present on the way). A few folks from the swap also stopped by to say “hi,” which was pretty cool. I hung around for the developer’s hour after the show closed, consuming giant crackers and beer, before heading home to rest up for the next day.

Saturday (The Panel – ing)

Saturday was absolutely nuts. By far one of the most amazing days of my life. Not only did I get to speak on three awesome panels, I also got some of our most serious Rock Band fans to play Pink Flag’s "Nancy Drew" for me on the Rock Band stage! (and they killed it – I hope someone has video somewhere).

The day started with the spectacular Reverse Q&A that HMXHenry organized. I believe RockBandAide has promised us a full video of the panel, while we posted the audio on RockBand.com (Heads’ up for colorful language). What did I learn from our Reverse Q & A? None of you know what my new job entails, but you’re all excited about it (thank you), a surprising number of you own a MUSE album, The Killers are a great thrash metal act, and HMXJohnlok has no trouble getting a date.

In between panels I hung out at the Rock Band booth for a bit, helping to manage the line, swap mix CDs, visit with long time community members in person, and have the fear of G-D put in me by the Protomen.

I did a second panel in the late afternoon about getting into Community Management. It was actually a rehash of a similar panel done at PAX Prime and went over really well. I was very happy to see west coast colleagues James Stevenson, Arne Meyer, Jennifer Kye, Sam Houston, and Collin Moore again. Got a ton of questions afterwards and felt pretty psyched to give out some productive advice and encouragement at my last engagement as a true CM.

At around 6pm on Saturday night I went into full-on panic mode. I snuck back down to the floor (I only had my speakers’ badge and not the exhibitor one), and gathered fellow panelist (and good sport) Mr. Pope and our friends for our panel, “The Other Us.” The aim of the panel was to take Abbie Heppe’s (formerly of G4 and current Community Manager for Respawn Entertainment) review of Metroid: The Other M and use fan responses to her review as the context for a larger question about gender and gaming. I don’t think any of us were really sure about how the panel would be received, or what might happen during our 60 minutes of talk time. I was quite shocked to arrive at the Naga Theater and find a line stretched around the hallway. We set up for the panel and shortly before time realized that we had a full house. Our overall aim with the panel was to inspire discussions beyond the panel itself. Given this aim, it didn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense to us to just talk at the crowd for 45 minutes and then open up for a short Q&A. Rather we invited attendees to participate in the discussion with us throughout the panel. I was pretty floored, impressed, and inspired by the number of folks who got up to speak about community improvement, ask questions about Abbie’s review, and productively offer their own insights about gamer culture and community. I won’t spend too much time going into the panel further – there are some really fantastic write-ups floating around the interwebs* and G4 has video of the entirety of the panel as well. I will say this though, I was really inspired by the interactions I had at and following the panel. I’m aware there’s only so much a group of people can cover in 60 minutes but I’m pretty psyched that we were able to kick open a door for more panels like this one in the future. While we just scratched the surface of issues of gender and equality in the games industry and gamer culture, I’ve been happy to find that the panel inspired conversations and debate beyond the hour it was in session. I know I for one will be spending the next few weeks reflecting on and critiquing some of the conversations the panel had with the larger audience during that session.

Sunday

One last panel and then it was homeward bound to rest. To say that PAX East ended on a high note for me would be an understatement. I can’t even begin to describe how awesome of a weekend it was. As a few close community friends know, I was involved in a car accident a few weeks ago and have sort of been playing the “hide from the world” game since. PAX East was the first time that I was able to really have fun and recognize that things are getting back to normal. I really can’t offer enough high fives, thank yous, and chest bumps to all the awesome Rock Band and Dance Central fans I got to hang out with over the course of the weekend. So major ups to all of you – and thank you all a hundred times over for a pretty awesome two years of Harmonix Music Community Manager duties. I won’t be at as many events in the future, but I’m sure you’ll still see me around.

PS. Go buy a ton of Dance Central DLC so I don’t have to beg HMXJohnD for my old CM job back.

If you attended “The Other Us” or watched the video and have feedback (positive, negative, constructive, etc…) about the panel please feel free to leave a comment below.

*Check out: Your Critic Is In Another Castle’s PAX East Post Mort and NerdAppropriate.com’s review for example.