Thursday, April 01, 2010

Dispatch from #PAX -- part 2

I didn't know then that the guy in the blue sweater was going to be so important to how the rest of my day played out, when he finally let me onto the escalator. I didn't want to be a dick, so I didn't run up the moving stairs, but I did walk briskly and with purpose. The Hynes Center is a bit of a contemporary labyrinth, with angles and arcs all over the place. While we waited at the doors of the main theater, someone another floor up was visible to a bunch of people right behind me. He did something which got people excited--then he did something that made them sad. I had never seen quite so many people get so excited at the same time, and then all say, "aww!" in unison. "Yay! Awww. Yay!! Awww. YAY!!!!!! Awwww." It reminded me of being in Band again.

That's really when I realized: all these people are here to have fun. They do not care about looking stupid. They do not care about what other people may think of them (and that goes double for the few cosplayers I saw).  They do not care about anything but having a fantastic time and learning new things and meeting new people and not getting conSARS. THESE PEOPLE ACTUALLY DID THIS. And you know what? So did I. But I digress.

Walking into the main theater, I was able to take a seat very close to the aisle in the stage right section, very close to the front. I was going to see Wil Wheaton's keynote, by god, and I wasn't going to have to use the jumbotron to do it. That's what I came here for, after be near one of my greatest writing idols while he exuded amazingness. Of course he's not just a writing idol for me--I was obviously the biggest tween ST:TNG fan back in the day, and I was just getting to the point in my life when Wesley was starting to look pretty fiiine (wink-wink, nudge-nudge, know what I mean?) to my little nerd-teen-in-the-making. This won't be any huge admission to the people who actually might read this blog on a regular basis, but I have kind of a crush on Wil Wheaton. But who doesn't? Amirite??

Didn't I say at the beginning of this post that the guy in the blue sweater was going to be important to the story? Well, at about 2:30--half an hour before showtime--I decided that it was necessary for me to go to the bathroom so I wouldn't be all uncomfortable and whatnot throughout the show. After all, I had been waiting in line, and if you'll recall, sitting on concrete for the past 3.5 hours. I had to go. So I put my coat on my chair to save my seat and I ducked out.

When I returned to the door of the main theater, the guy in the blue sweater was very loudly announcing that the doors were closed and that nobody else was going to be allowed into the theater, per the fire marshal's orders. He calmly told someone who protested that he had no qualms about calling the police if things were to get unruly. My heart dropped into the pit of my stomach. I had come all this way to see Wil Wheaton's keynote, and that was it? My lovely winter coat was going to get to see him from my plum seat and I was going to have to watch on YouTube?? I felt my mouth fall open, and my eyes go wide. This was not how I had wanted this to go, at all. But I didn't want to be a dick, so I tried to take a few deep breaths while considering my plan of action. 

With only a little hint of panic in my voice, I said to the guy in the blue sweater, "My coat is inside, on my seat. Can someone get it for me or something?" He looked at me and probably saw the broken dreams all over my face. Then the heavens opened and a ray of unearthly light illuminated him as he said, sotto voce, "Stand to my left. Wait until the crowd is gone." I swear I heard a choir of angels. 

Thanks to the man in the blue sweater, those of us with problem bladders were eventually able to retake our seats in the main theater, just in time for the speech. Thank you, blue sweater guy. I owe you like eleventy Guinnesses.  

This photo, which I took with my phone, doesn't even accurately convey how close my seat was to the dais. I could see the design on Wil Wheaton's ThinkGeek t-shirt and I could see the different looks in his eyes, a mistiness when he choked back tears or the mischievous gleam he'd get right when he was about to be cheeky (that's my favorite, fyi).

I was close enough to wonder what it would have been like if someone had introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons when I was twelve. As it was, I spent most of that time writing stories about bard guilds and knights and boarding school (somewhat unrelated, but true) anyway. Having a reason to do it and people to do it with probably would have made it all the more enjoyable. The more Wil spoke about how gaming taught him to use his imagination, the more I realized that I was lucky enough to have gone about it exactly backward: I used my imagination for fun when I was a kid, and, much later in my life, it brought me to gaming. 

As it stands, I still haven't technically been introduced to serious roleplaying games. It may happen. It may not. But the most important takeaway from Wil's keynote was that even though I technically was there alone, I was not alone. Wil talked about hot lava in the grocery store and finding adventures around every corner. I saw the people nodding around me, and felt myself nodding along. I hadn't played RPGs, but I read so many fantasy books that I had always just naturally made my life into one big RPG. Even though I didn't have a character to call my own, I had characters in my head--hundreds--living and breathing and some even dying like Aeofel...all the time. It was an entire convention center full of people who thought about things the way I did. I was, as he said in the speech, home.

I very quickly met up with my friend Ben and did the Iron Guard with his friend Dave. Then I wandered around for a little bit after the keynote, wondering where I'd have to go to get Wil to sign the books I'd brought. There was a panel I wanted to see on Interactive Fiction, so I went to that with Ben and Dave. I'll probably discuss that a bit more in the next installment. Then I pretty much had to go back to my hotel room, even though I had a wristband for priority seating for the Metroid Metal show. We'd gotten up fairly ridiculously early that morning to drive up to Boston, so I was pretty much ready to have a bath and pass the heck out. I did those things consecutively.

And as I had a Friday pass for PAX, I suspected that I'd just missed my opportunity to meet Wil Wheaton. Oddly, I was okay with that. I'd gone to PAX a Wil Wheaton fangirl and came out of it with a fresh, delicious pile of self-awareness.

I will let you know, however, that there will be another installment of this dispatch from PAX. What happened? How did I get in? Find out next time...

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