Full disclosure, I am an old, jaded Gen-X breed of gamer. Last time I went on the convention circuit, the Zelda game on offer was Twilight Princess. Back then conventions were a whirlwind of appointments and interviews, signing my soul away on NDAs and playing exclusive demo after demo. Yes, it was glorious, but it was also exhausting. So, I traded my aspirations of video game journalism for the ideal of Great American Novel. However, when Ill Popcorn asked me to cover PAX East as part of their media team in 2017, I did it not as the caffeine-charged go-getter of my youth, but rather as the new breed of gamer trying to make it out there. I took on PAX East. . . as a parent.
If you ask any parent, the prospect of going places takes on a whole slew of challenges. There is the inevitable horde of stuff you need to bring with you, especially if the spawn has not yet mastered the fine art of toilet-training. Gone are the days of getting through the express “no-bags” lane as you lug a tote bag full of snacks, wipes, spare clothing, and tissues. Mercifully, my two offspring were past most of this; but I nodded knowingly to several others waiting with their wee little Pokémon-hat clad followers, as security fondled diapers and juice cups.
Still, PAX is a convention primarily for fans, a perfect venue for experiencing video games with the family. However, as I stepped onto the floor and saw crushing waves of people and tantalizing displays of all the games I wanted to see, it took all my willpower not to bolt with my trusty press pass and notebook. I heard about my co-hosts doing interviews and meeting designers and felt an itch that I had not felt in ages. I took it upon myself to find that story, and chase my dream! It was at that moment when I learned the cold truth about running to a con with a child. It’s no longer ever about what you want.
Kids like video games, they like conventions, but they really hate lines. Also, as you are trying to navigate thousands of people, you suddenly find that most of your brainpower is dedicated to a sort of parental tracking system. Everywhere you want to go, you must stop, turn, locate your party and ensure that they did not run off (again) to meet the girls from Undertale. After one hour of chasing and declaring that line after line is too long, you, as a gaming parent, start understanding why there need to be bars around conventions. Finally, you settle on something they want to do, but know in your heart that no controller will ever touch your hands.
Soon the day becomes a blur, and you think you’ll get a break, but then the offspring utter the deadly words – “I’m hungry”, and your next hour is spent in line listening to other hangry people trying to explain to their children why it takes a half hour to get mac and cheese. If you think that I may hate humanity at this point, you may be right. However, after fighting with lines, and food, and keeping track of people, and buying all the things . . . Any parent will inform you that all trips to conventions and their ilk become rather expensive when children are involved . . . Suddenly, my youngest spots those Undertale girls again, and gets a lovely picture with two adorable cosplayers. He then runs back, gives me a huge hug and tells me that this is the best day ever.
As this moment, it hits me. I can barely remember what I did all day, but all the frustration fades and I’m left with something you can’t get with an exclusive interview. I look over and see other smiling faces and the next generation of gamers following their parents around. Indeed, it was the best day ever.
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