Sometime back in the early 90′s (I’d hazard a guess and say ’92 or ’93), I was seventeen or so, and I fell in love, and then out of love with a girl, and, indirectly, started reading comics again. I’d stopped, more or less, having given up on the facepalmingly bad writing that seemed inherent in cape comics of the time. And then, idly browsing through the weeklies in The Comicshop, I picked up The Sandman #42, and I came across this scene:
Of course, it spoke to me. It was new, and interesting, and addressed my teenaged angst directly, so I bought the comic. And I kept buying it, week after week, collecting back issues in drips and drabs and eventually the full trade paperbacks, because Neil Gaiman‘s writing was great, and the stories he told were engrossing, full of astounding detail, and weirdness and wildness and an epic sense of scale, married to modern sensibilities and leavened with a kind of mythic pathos.
I still remember the excitement I had when The Comicshop finally got in a copy of Sandman #1, with it’s beautifully illustrated (or perhaps, orchestrated) Dave McKean cover. Until then, I had to infer the origins of this story-of-stories, and finally, I had it in my hand, and I devoured each page, each panel with a sense of joy and wonder. This was mirrored, I recall, by the sadness and elation I felt as I closed the cover on Sandman #75 — The Tempest; the end of the story (or as Gaiman is fond of reminding his readers, the beginning of a new story).
That was in 1996. A few trade paperbacks have come out over the years containing stories from within that universe, but aside from that, there hasn’t been much in the way of new Sandman content. And then this was released yesterday:
So in 2013, seventeen years after it ended, a new Sandman series will start up, still written by Neil Gaiman, and I will return to that world again, and be filled with wonder, and I cannot wait.
Despite the kerfuffle of my usual PAX crew’s confusion over transport methods to the Emerald City, our final choice to take the Amtrak down proved more than suitable, even with the crazy WiFi congestion in the passenger cars. More to the point, this was the first time in seven years of PAX’ing that I hadn’t driven The Major down, and not having to concern myself with traffic or parking this trip resulted (to skip to the end of a long-winded story) in what can arguably considered the most relaxing PAX experience I’ve had in years.
Normally the next few days after PAX are spent in a form of fevered recovery (sometimes literally), but this time, I had enough energy to squire the ebulliently charming Dr. Read about town as she settled her trans-national affairs and still manage to make the Protomen concert at the Biltmore that Monday night. And that’s after three nights of sleeping on a hotel room floor, pounding Expo Hall pavement and queuing up like a well-mannered Canadian lad to see the show exclusives. Thus far, I’m in favor of repeating this “no driving” experiment next year. Though with better preparation, hopefully; one of our number decided to come to the show late, after all the tickets had sold out; he ended up shelling more than two bills for his three day pass (and I’d say, he got more than his money’s worth). At the very least, none of us got scammed with the fake badges that were being hawked by scalpers.
Of PAX itself, what can be said about it that a thousand gaming blogs and media sites haven’t already covered. PAX really is not one monolithic event; it’s better understood as comprised of a number of separate PAXes, the sum of which forms a giant mechanical lion-robot — er wait. But yes, there’s Tabletop PAX (to which I lost two members of our train-ride crew all weekend, and more power to ‘em), Expo Hall PAX, Panel PAX, D&D PAX (which, I suppose, could be considered a supbset of Tabletop), and Event PAX (like the QR Code treasure hunt, or the Omegathon, or the concerts).
Over the years I’ve ended up narrowing my PAX focus down to Expo Hall and a few select panels, with a smattering of tabletop thrown in when my feet start to hurt (shameful geek secret: I’m not terribly fond of board games, though I won’t turn down a well designed card-based game if it comes my way).
My memory of the weekend ends up being a fractured series of vignettes, as the overwhelming nature of the shows-within-shows (yo dawg) manages to defy easy comprehension or recollection, so I’ll go with my impressions of what I saw.
I’m glad I got to get some hands on with Mass Effect 3, as that’s managed to assuage some of my fears (justified, I suppose, by the lackluster nature of Dragon Age 2). It does look very slick, and I do appreciate the increased rpg-ness of it (something sorely missing in ME2).
Quantum Conundrum (from Kim Swift of Portal by way of Airtight Games via Square Enix) looks very good, even if it doesn’t feel like a huge deviation from her previous work; more evolution than revolution, but considering the pedigree, this is hardly a bad thing.
Torchlight II’s multiplayer is, if possible, more fun than I would have thought from my brief hands-on time spent with it at PAX 2010, and the $20 price point and the reassurance that it remains highly mod-able means that I’ll probably be buying 4-packs and gifting it to friends on Steam.
I managed to talk to Notch, briefly, about the direction that Minecraft was taking, and I got to see a nice preview of Scrolls; neither of these things were particularly illuminating, but they still managed to entertain me immensely.
Vanessa Saint-Pierre Delacroix & Her Nightmare sticks out as the indie winner for this PAX; even as a 2D puzzler mapped onto a cubical surface, some element of the action reminds me, inexplicably, of Cave Story, and this can only be a good thing.
SW:TOR was mostly recycled messaging (and footage! it’s the same damn trailers we’ve seen a thousand times before), but I did manage to catch their end-game implementation. As a current WoW raider, I can’t say I was impressed, but then again, I think that’s mostly because I was hoping they’d innovate away from set piece big-boss encounters and come up with…. I don’t know? Something more magical? More dynamic? I may have set my expectations too high, perhaps. Still, Bioware’s forte is in its storytelling ability (and their constant drive to hire more writers does show a certain fervent commitment to creating a lot of out-of-the-gate content), so that will be the thing that will get me playing it, when it ships. Whether it holds is a different matter entirely.
Because I was in the SW:TOR panel, I managed to miss the Gearbox panel (and more’s the pity, as they had pizza! and, uh, a free copy of Borderlands 2 for all attendees), but then again there’s no doubt that I was going to get Borderlands 2 as a Day One release anyway. And in any case, I was more drawn to the D&D Through the Ages panel held thereafter, since Dave “Zeb” Cook was a panelist, and he was largely responsible for all the time I sunk into AD&D 2nd Edition throughout my highschool and early university years. Fascinating discussion, overall, especially when it came to the reasonings behind various system mechanics. And, of course, my favorite quote of the weekend — “If you enjoy hard work in gaming, then you’ll love 4th Edition [D&D] as a player, and 3rd Edition as a GM”.
On the topic of panels, this year’s Acquisitions Inc run was a standout event, rivaling last year’s Prisoners of Slaughterfast. This year, it was “The Last Will and Testament of James Darkmagic I”, and my god, was it ever fun. All I can say is, I totally want my future D&D games to have musical accompaniment. I’ll update this post once I can find an official video link. In the meantime, have this musical intro to the player characters.
On a personal tangent, it shames me to think that it took this long to realize how much more it is about the people I see it with than the event itself. PAX is one of the few times I get to see my scattered crew in one place. These are the people I gamed with, shot the late-night shit with, shed blood sweat and tears with as we slogged over university papers (both academic and extracurricular), and who now live all over the country. So yeah, games and concerts and hoopla notwithstanding, I’m really looking forward to PAX 2012 so I can see these crazy people all in one place again. With that, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite videos from PAX — Tycho, inveigled upon to Just Dance.
Looks like I’ll have to find my old Hori fightstick for this.