PAX (Penny Arcade Expo) is, without a doubt, the most supportive, friendliest and hospitable convention we have the good fortune to attend every year. Top to bottom, from the folks running the show to the fans walking the floor, every person we run into is high five worthy. PAX this year was absolutely no exception.
If you’ve been following our travel videos this summer, you’ll know that we’ve been on the road almost non-stop for the last three months. With so many other events on our calendar we didn’t really have a chance to blow out our PAX presence like we have in years past, but we weren’t going to miss it for the world, so we started considering alternatives to a giant stage with two hour long lines.
What started as a tongue in cheek suggestion that we enlist fans to build the booth for us led to an absolutely hair-brained scheme to build an awesome PAX booth and energize the community at the same time. We cooked up a list of fifty items that we wanted to have in our booth, and we invited the Penny Arcade forums to volunteer to bring these things to us in exchange for some swag. We broke the items down by tiers: Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert. Easy stuff was mostly functional and included paper towels, hand sanitizer, batteries, and guitar picks. Medium items were more decorative and ranged from Christmas tree lights to a VHS copy of Road House, glossy headshots of Eddie Vedder and a dozen Top Pot dounts, our favorite snacking place in Seattle. Hard got a bit trickier and started to incorporate actual booth fixtures like an area rug, a “punk rock end table” and a framed portrait of President William Howard Taft.
President Taft says, "Would you like a hand towel?"
Expert was completely nuts, and featured the most inconvenient items we could think of: a kiddie pool, Jonathan Coulton’s beard, Felicia Day, a life size replica of Han Solo in carbonite and a full suit of armor.
Ladies and gentlemen...Miss Felicia Day
Granted, the swag was pretty awesome (Rock Band software, track packs, shirts, shout outs in the Message of the Day, keyboards, reserved copies of Rock Band 3 and Dance Central, etc), but we figured we’d be lucky to have all fifty of the items claimed in the two weeks before PAX.
Every item on the list was spoken for in an hour and a half.
Rock Band is all about the metal
As a concept, the BYOBooth registry was a complete success, but we had no idea what it would be like in practice. Sure enough, as soon as we hit the convention center floor we were swarmed by people dropping stuff off, making introductions and taking photos of the building madness. Within a matter of hours we had transformed our 20X20 section of the floor into a scene that looked more like a Rock Band 3 / Dance Central party at the Harmonix offices than anything you’d normally find at a convention hall. The kiddie pool was full of balloons and a five foot long inflatable shark. The suit of armor guarded our merch desk while wearing a utilikilt, aviator sunglasses and a Lady Gaga style hairbow. Taft and Frodo gave out hand towels to everyone that tried Dance Central. All in all it was pretty nuts.
Meet HMXHenry's new deskmate
We seriously couldn’t have pulled off a stunt like this at any other show. Huge amounts of thanks are due to the Gabe, Tycho, Khoo and the team at Penny Arcade, the Enforcers (the volunteer show runners than had to deal with all the wacky stuff that was carted in) and all the fine folks that brought things to our booth. In addition to the initial fifty that registered on the Penny Arcade forums, there were a ton of folks that stopped by with presents (laser etched Rock Band 3 signs, exotic donuts, beverages) and kind words about our booth and our games. It was a huge pick me up at the end of an exhausting summer of travel and crunch to prep for the launch of two huge games this fall. Our community never fails to amaze me. Thanks for another amazing PAX, and we’ll see you next year at PAX East!
For more PAX Prime goodness, check out the entire Flickr set at the HMXCommunity Flickr page.