This past weekend I attended my third PAX. I really love PAX. I love that geeky, nerdy gamers take over downtown Seattle. I love seeing cosplayers walk down the street without an ounce of self doubt. Walking into the exhibition hall for the first time and your senses go into overdrive just to try to process a fraction of what is going on. It is an awe-inspiring experience.
However, PAX has always also instilled in me a seed of self consciousness. For you see I am not a stereotypical gamer. It is true that I love board games and card games. I enjoy Magic (but I'm not very good). I love a good puzzle game. However, I can not play a first person shooter to save my life especially on a console. I did make it through half of the original Halo on my computer. I stopped because I only played in the middle of the night when my parents were in bed and well the Flood just scared me to death. Plus I had watched Michael play through Halo AND I had read the book so you know I knew how it all ended. I did almost finish Kingdom Hearts on the PS2, but I refused to spend an hour fighting the final boss (because once again I had watched Michael finish it first).
If you haven't caught on yet, there is a theme here. I enjoy watching video games. I have watched my husband, Michael, play through all of the Halo games, a few GTAs (He actually finished GTA IV without me and I was upset. I was invested in that story.), Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (I helped with the puzzle rooms), Final Fantasy and Borderlands (I actually have willingly watched him play this one several times over) just to name a few. So I appreciate these huge epic games (expect MMOs those are boring to watch in my opinion), but I just do not have the skill to play them or the patience to cultivate such skills.
So I can converse about some many of the hottest games on the market, but I can't saw I have played any of them. I sometimes feel like a pariah. Then it does not help that the games I do enjoy playing are very much in the "casual" game arena. I like games on portable systems. The iPad and 3DS are my gaming systems of choice and I like puzzle games and RPGs. I love checking out the indie game section of PAX where half the games are on iPads. Even though I know there is no shame in this being what I enjoy, I still know someone out there doesn't consider me a "gamer" or probably thinks I'm a poser.
This seed of self-doubt usually doesn't stop me from doing what I want to do during PAX expect in one instance. My husband and I made it into the Gearbox Panel on Sunday. Like I mentioned earlier, Michael loves playing Borderlands and I love watching it. Borderlands 2 looks even more awesome and I actually think I might play around with it. It was near the end of the Panel and the floor was open to questions. Many people were just expressing their love of the game and then I thought "Man I wish I could tell them that their game is so awesome that I have enjoyed watching my husband play through it multiple without ever picking up a controller myself." I however quickly squashed the idea of approaching the mic line. I knew the room was full of hard core gamers and that I would be looked upon as a fraud and even the girl gamers in the audience might judge me harshly (the females might think I'm reinforcing some stereotype). So I stayed in my seat and let my thanks and appreciation go unvoiced.
Reflecting on that moment and the feelings that motivated it makes me feel frustrated and sad. Firstly, I'm frustrated with myself for caring that much about what an audience of strangers think. I shouldn't care. I proudly wear an assortment of odd, geeky shirts in public every day without caring if "normal" people judge me. Why should a room full of gamers intimidate me? Secondly, I'm sad that even at a convention like PAX I still don't feel like I'm in a totally safe, non-judgmental space.
Now I'm not saying PAX is bad or I don't feel welcomed. I do. Otherwise I wouldn't keep coming back. I can come to PAX dressed as Mabel from Gravity Falls and be told I made someone's con and go home that night full of wonderful fuzzy feelings. I guess I am saying PAX is not perfect. Not yet.