They Brought The Gamers To Boston

Not everything the men behind the massive PAX East convention here in Boston told me this weekend is true. But most of it was funny and/or illuminating.

Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, better known to the millions of fans of their Penny Arcade comic strip as Gabe and Tycho, have brought their giant Penny Arcade Expo — and a giant flower — to the east coast for the Penny Arcade Expo. Tens of thousands of gamers have paid to storm the Hynes Convention centre here in Boston for a chance to play new games from big companies and indie developers, to attend concerts of Metroid heavy metal and other great genres, to attend panels, play Dungeons & Dragons and celebrate all things gaming.

Before PAX East kicked off yesterday, I sat in a room, far away from Jerry and Mike to discuss PAX East.

We don't do traditional interviews.

This time, we included lies... all real quotes, not all of them earnestly meant.

Lies: The theme for PAX East is "under the sea," the Penny Arcade guys told me.

"We have to have a lot ot turquoise balloons, seashell decorations, a lot of blue and white streamers," Krahulik said.

"There's got to be a lot of kelp," Holkins added.

"We have a bubble machine," Krahulik said.

I told the guys I assumed this was infuenced by BioShock a game that was born in Boston at Irrational Games. "No," Holkins said matter of factly. "What's that?"

*** Lies and Truth: Holkins and Krahulik were dressed in black. "Are you sad?" I asked them.

"We're in mourning," Holkins said, "for other conventions."

"For which ones?"

"All of them," they both say, including E3. "It's dead," they say.

"It was dead a few years ago," I replied. "It's back!"

Krahulik corrected me: "It's a re-animated corpse, it's a shambling ghoul."

That makes it a "zombie E3," I told the guys. And zombies are pretty big.


Truth: PAX East was supposed to alleviate the challenges of running the increasingly massive "PAX Prime," the original Seattle-based PAX. "A big part of it is we thought having a show on the East Coast would take some of the pressure off the West Coast," Krahulik said.

"That has not been the case," Holkins said. (Pictured, some of the room-filing crowd for PAX East's Friday Wil Wheaton keynote.

*** More Truth: Boston has been good to Jerry and Mike. "When a city wants your business they take you to very nice restaurants," Krahulik said.

Boston officials gave the guys a tour. Jerry and Mike needed to make one of their comic strips and were going to do it in a hotel lobby. No. The city people put them in a three room suite. And told them they could order room service. Krahulik ordered chicken strips and ice cream.

The show, in its first year, is already so big that it is moving to a larger, new convention centre for Boston's next PAX East.

"We thought we'd be growing in threee years, not next year," Krahulik said. But the reception for PAX East has been immense. Gamers wanted this show... badly.

The fire marshals who have had to repeatedly block off filled rooms at this year's convention centre can attest to that.


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