PAX After Hours: Behold The Screen-Fields Of Freeplayvainia

During the day, PAX is a chaotic bustle of fans, enforcers, media and game reps, thousands upon thousands of people flocking through the Seattle Convention Center, bright lights offset by dark expo floors, and a constant hum of excitement, cheers and laughter.

But I like it here at night. After hours, the rooms dedicated to PC gaming and console freeplay fill up, and the quiet hum and mellow socialising of the freeplayers offers a welcome break from the chatter and bustle of the day. There are two kinds of freeplay rooms: in PC Freeplay, attendees can check out a PC station to have an impromptu LAN party, and in the much more lively Console Freeplay room, they can check out consoles from the PS3 Slim to the Dreamcast.

Perhaps coolest of all is the BYOC room, where the truly hardcore can bring their own machines to play all weekend, should they so choose. As I toured the room alongside my friendly enforcer escort (interlopers are not allowed, since many of the machines are quite expensive), he waxed rhapsodic about how great it was that so many people came together like this every year just to play games.

He's right, it really is something; a calm, mellow place where hundreds of digital worlds exist alongside of one another; light flickering through a cavernous room as man and machine find common purpose: to connect.


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