Like the devastating after-effects of a tornado ripping through a town, I am now left with the stillness and silence left in the wake of PAX. Hours can feel like minutes, the sun has gone down just as soon as it went up, sleep never comes before 2am and by the end of it I feel like a mere husk. My body aches, my head throbs slightly and my eyes droop like tiny tiny crabs are latching on and dragging the lids downward. I want nothing more than to sleep in my bed again instead of the hard floor of a hotel.
At least I had a proper pillow this year.
Yet I would do it all again, and am sure that I will. No where else in my life have I been able to drink a Wild Turkey too many and sit beside a QA Tester for Gearbox, discussing my feelings on games writing, how I felt the ending to the original Bioshock should have gone, some ideas I’ve had for games including one inspired by specific passages in 1984, and things I don’t even remember. No other environment will you find men who put videos online breaking down games and film as art be surrounded by fans, asking them for autographs and photo opportunities as if they were A-List celebrities. Nowhere else will you find gamers being kind and polite to each other and speaking with random strangers instead of hiding in their introverted shells or, at their worst, calling each other faggot on Xbox Live or posting troll faces on Reddit.
Strangely enough, the experience was a torrent of feelings for me this year. On one hand I had a blast playing a lot of games on the Expo floor, seeing panels held by very talented members of the industry certainly pushing the way forward and even meeting with friends new and old. On the other, it has been yet another occasion to call my decisions in life to question, where I’ve failed to step outside of my self-doubts and be the awesome person I know I am, where I simply try too hard to be something I’m not, and to wonder what my community, my place, really is in this world.
Yet my website is not a Livejournal, and I’ve posted intent to light a fire under my own ass enough. I’ve promised so many things on this blog, promises to such a small number of readers, and in the end it has aways proven pointless. I promise nothing, for promises are worthless. I shall endeavor to act instead, and if I fail, then there will be no public record of my failure.
Enough of such introspection. The truth here is that, no matter what doubts cross my mind throughout the weekend, there is only one truth. That I return home tonight surrounded by people that do not understand the passion. People that will tell me that I must stop wearing these gaming t-shirts if I want to attract women. Co-workers at a major shopping network that know as little about my interest as I do about their love of shoes. Friends that shall disregard my passion as a quirk.
This is what some folks on the world wide web have named Post-PAX Depression. For one brief weekend you have found a community that understands you, that gets you. That doesn’t find it silly for a twenty-six year old, or even thirty, forty or fifty year old, to take video games as seriously as everyone else takes professional sports. Instead of scrawling the name of athletes and coaches into my brain I scrawl the name of game studios and developers. Yet even now, even when so many of my peers have grown up with video games as well, there is the snubbing of a nose. It isn’t even always intended, either. It is the simple state of modern society, and it is as deeply ingrained as the idea someone with a British accent makes someone sound smart while someone with a southern accent sounds either foolish or a survivor of the wilderness (and if you don’t believe me, start taking note of what characters have what accents in the films you watch).
This weekend was, perhaps, one of the best places I could have spent Easter. Last year I told a friend of mine that PAX is the closest thing I shall achieve to Heaven on Earth, that it is pure bliss. Everyone is kind to each other, everyone belongs, and everyone is happy to be there, especially with you. To me, this is the power of PAX. It strips away the bad from life and replaces it with good.
Yet it is a necessity that this harsh, misunderstanding outside world exists in order for PAX itself to exist. Were it not for the isolation, the loneliness, and the feeling that there’s something wrong with us, there would be no place to strip it all away and feel good again. To feel like a real person amongst those who understand.
So I ride this train, sighing, dreading the return to normal life, and yet rejoicing it as I know it’ll only make the PAX experience resonate with me more deeply. It will force me to recall those moments and smile a simple smile.
That is the joy of PAX.