Monday, September 12, 2016

Working PAX West 2016

Spareboard XA. That's what I am this year! The line-managing, person-directing, go-getter that works 40 hours over 4 days. Normally, the Exhibition Hall Assistant (XA) is usually assigned to a booth, like Capcom, and handles one or several of the tasks mentioned above for a dainty 5-hour shift. What I'm doing is hanging around, shootin' the breeze for a half hour, and then being dispatched out for crowd control. Day one's tasks were telling people not to run when we opened doors, escorting e-sports celebrities and finally managing the line -- NO CUTS--for Destiny's latest episode. The hardest part about everything is being on your feet so long...There was also a 1000 piece dragon puzzle that was put together by the end of the day. I'm lucky enough to have avoided any crises. Trying to catch a bus out of Downtown Seattle was the most nerve-fraying experience of the day, but what else is new?

Day Two was mostly managing the line for a very thankful Bungie as they did a Destiny tournament. The booth had a 3' x 3' ghost made of MegaBlocks, as well as a Warlock cosplay that caused some foot traffic management on my part to minimize congestion. The day was interrupted by a massive headache that aspirin just wasn't a match for. When I went back to the e-sports players, I actually watched them play my current PC favorite: Heroes of the Storm. I run the game on my 6-year-old laptop, and it was bonkers to see the best players in the region play on dedicated gaming PCs. Very smoothness. Pretty graphic. Wow.

I had him in my sights

Capped off Day Two meeting Darth Maul and Capt. Picard, and playing Street Fighter V. Ohh yeah, and there was a new puzzle!

Humans created the holodeck before the Enterprise...

Day Three I hit my stride. Most of the day I was assigned to Nvidia, with their 3 VR stations. The big draw was a 30-minute 4-player Star Trek mission where the players entered the bridge of the Enterprise. This means that a line of 18 people is a 3.5 hour wait with prep and rotation times. The issues were that people were trying to make a line to get into the official line, which we couldn't do, but all the issues of, "I got here first," were solved quickly and quietly. The last day of the show, a woman came with her family, and was almost in tears when I turned her away. It turns out she had followed them around for the first 3 days of the show, and wasn't into video games. She was a huge Star Trek fan, and when I discretely made an exception, she burst into tears and even hugged me before sitting down the 5 hours to get her chance on the bridge. I started tearing up, too and I really didn't know my best memory of PAX 2016 would be letting someone in line. 

I also ended up taking over for one of the zone leaders during their lunch break. It was the perfect opportunity for something to go wrong: turns out AMD had picket signs and was staging a protest in front of Nvidia's booth. I waved off what I thought was the problem, but apparently I missed it. This leads me to one of my largest misunderstandings about my role at PAX. During training, they referred to us as problem-solvers and used the word 'problem,' all over the place. I picked up my definition of problem from 10 years of teaching and would equate it to fighting students, repeated issues with turning in homework, or a natural disaster. This fake protest and annoyance registered as a problem, and people asked me if I had reported it to our supervisors. Eventually it was properly escalated and the two rival companies made up.

Ensign Mawz saw an opening on da bridge

This time, I met Capt. Picard again, and we played the first Halo on the original Xbox, with the largest controllers ever.

The picture is brighter because a Flash was used

Day four's morning meeting was met with some disappointing news about the show that I can't share with you. I can tell you that my Spareboard XA shift means that I only have my lunch break to see interesting booths, but should be resting during that time. This means that I'm working during most of the swag opportunities, and have almost no chance to get free stuff from the show. I'm still glad I did PAX 2016, will get paid for it, and even made a friend on the last day!

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