PAX East has always been a high-energy, high-stress convention for me. There are so many people I want to catch up with, especially this year, and never enough time to give people the time I feel they deserve. Especially this year, where I feel like I dropped the ball on catching up with everyone, I’m sorry if I missed you.
This year is the first time I’ve been to PAX Prime (I still prefer to think of it as PAX West), and I wasn’t sure what it would be like going to PAX in a city I live in. It’s very tempting to get a hotel room near the convention center in the future, despite living not far away, because parking is serious business. I pretty much have to show up as the show opens in order to have a hope of parking, and I can’t be as lax about wandering to parties and so forth. My days have to be a lot more planned, especially when I’m there with other folks, because transportation is a thing.
On the other hand, having Kodra and Ashgar at the show was great. I’ve been slowly re-acclimating to games over the last year– I hadn’t realized how stressful video games had become for me, and how thoroughly I’d detached from them. While actively working in the industry, I’d considered it a part of the job to be as caught up as possible on the games that were coming out. I would buy and play through four or five complete games a month, from stuff I really loved to stuff I didn’t care for but I knew was relevant to truly awful games that might have a nugget of a good idea in there somewhere.
It was exhausting, and when I left the industry to focus on my Master’s degree, I gave myself permission to play only the games I REALLY felt like playing, and I found myself barely playing anything. I went from playing games 30-40 hours a week to going entire weeks without booting up a video game, or barely clocking an hour or two of raid time in FFXIV. Years of forcing myself to play everything has made me really good at being patient with entertainment media, but really hurt my enjoyment of video games as a whole. Letting myself play only what I really felt like meant that, for a while, I played nothing and loved it, and I’m slowly getting myself back into games that I like.
I’m trying to avoid feeling obligated to play things, even though I am. I still feel like I don’t log enough time in FFXIV for my guild, and it was a struggle to play through everything surrounding this month’s Aggrochat Game Of The Month, which contributed to putting less FFXIV time in. Still, I’m letting myself only play what I feel like playing for the most part, and as a result I’m enjoying what I do play that much more. I’ve also discovered an upside to my tolerance for forcing my way through things– when faced with a slow-starting game or show, I have the patience to get through the rocky beginnings to get to the better stuff.
Back to PAX, though. I haven’t been to a PAX in two years, and the last one I was at I was working for a big chunk of it– fun, but exhausting. I don’t feel like I belong at PAX anymore– not because the show isn’t welcoming (I’ve had some fantastic ad-hoc conversations with various people throughout the weekend), but because I’m a lot different than I was the last time I was at PAX. I don’t have the boundless font of energy for the show, and I’m a lot pickier and better-informed about the games I want to play. I’ve never been much for playing games at the show, but I was able to make a circuit of the expo hall in about two hours and see everything I was interested in seeing, making a little note of a number of games to keep an eye on.
I remember being energized at previous shows, and being excited to spend a bunch of time at various booths, trying various games, and going to a bunch of parties and events and whatnot. I don’t have that same drive this time. I’m tired of the show fairly quickly, and I don’t have much of anything I particularly want to do there. I feel like I’m doing something wrong, or that something’s wrong with me, particularly since my companions are FAR more excited and driven to be at the show than I am. I worry that I’m bringing down their weekend, because I don’t have the same threshold for it as they do, and even though I’m pushing myself to the limit of what I can manage, I feel like I’m still dragging them away.
I honestly wonder how much has actually changed. Thinking back, I’ve often ducked out and decompressed on my own in the hotel room, or wandered around solo for a time at other shows (something I haven’t done much of this year). In writing this, I’m coming to realize that PAX has always been a show about people for me, about catching up with friends I don’t often get to see. It’s not the games, it’s the friends. I’ve gotten to spend the weekend with two of my closest friends, and that has been fantastic, with or without PAX itself.