It’s the first Friday of March, so today sees the first entry in the Big Friday project.

Some of you might remember a post from December, 2014, about how I almost went to the 2014 PlayStation Experience, better known as PSX. While it would have been nice, the impracticalities of getting to Las Vegas on short notice led me to decide against attending that year. For the full story, you can read the post here. In 2015, however, one of my goals for the year was to attend a video game conference/convention, and PSX 2015 ended up being the one that I went to. It was the very first time I had ever attended such an event. Before that time I had just read or watched coverage of video game conventions, so being there in person and seeing things as they happened would be an all-new experience.

IMG_7509.JPGPSX 2015 was held in San Francisco, CA. I had a friend who lived across the bay in Oakland, so I stayed with him while I was out there and each day took the BART train to the Moscone Center, inside of which PSX 2015 was happening. The convention took place on the weekend of December 5-6. On Friday, after spending a full day walking around San Francisco, I stopped by the Moscone Center to pick up my convention materials; namely my entry badge, along with a tote bag of freebies that included a t-shirt that was size XL. I’m not sure if the t-shirt size was a mistake, or if at that point in the day they had run out of smaller sizes for non-giant people like me. It was already after dark when I left the Moscone Center, and right about the time that I left to return to Oakland the first few people had already started to line up at the entrance for the following day’s opening. While I could admire the enthusiasm and determination required to show up early and snag the first few spots in line, I personally could never see myself doing something like that, as whatever pride and acclaim I might gather from getting to be one of first people inside would be heavily outweighed by the myriad inconveniences of being in line for that long. No, my plan was to just show up in the morning like a regular person.

IMG_7566.JPGThe next day, Saturday, was the first day of PSX 2015. I arrived at the Moscone Center right at 7:00am, an hour before the building opened, and found a few hundred people were already in line ahead of me. The line itself wrapped around three sides of the building. Though it was long, I wasn’t particularly concerned, because I knew the auditorium where the opening keynote event was being held had around 5,000 seats in it, so there was no danger of me not getting a seat. True, all the front and center seats would likely be taken when I got in, but as long as I got a seat closer to the front than the back, and with a good line of sight on the stage, I would be content. While I was standing around in line, I briefly chatted with two of the other people standing next to me. One guy was from elsewhere in California, while the other, like me, had flown in from another state. We talked about some of the games we were looking forward to seeing, the websites we frequented, and other expectations surrounding the expo. At 8:00am the doors to the Moscone Center opened and the line started moving, though it would still be another twenty or so minutes before I got inside, and then I had to wait awhile longer to get into the auditorium on the third level. The best seats in the center-front had already been snagged by those people who had been in line the longest, but I was still able to grab one a little back and to the right of the stage with a great line of sight. By then it was just before 9:00am, and it would be another hour before the keynote presentation began. For me that was not a problem, as I had a podcast to listen to while passing the time. At 9:00am the lights went dark and the show began. There was a short opening video building the hype around PlayStation and the various games on it, followed by a multitude of speakers who made announcements, showed off games and trailers for games, talked about things PlayStation would be doing in the future, and when it was all over there was a brief closing video. The whole presentation lasted almost two hours and was very well produced. I had always viewed keynotes from home prior to this one, and I can’t deny there’s a certain energy in the room that you don’t really get from watching them on a screen. The content is exactly the same, but when you’re there you can feel the excitement of everyone around you.

IMG_7574.JPGWhen the keynote ended the auditorium doors opened and everyone exited out to go down to the two showroom floors, on the first and second levels. Before checking out the second level showroom, I spent some time observing the crowd. Looking out on the mass of people, I started to notice a few familiar faces. Members of the games media, games-related internet personalities, and some well-known game developers. I had seen these people in news articles and various other things online, but now I was seeing them in person. I didn’t feel star-struck or anything like that, but it was interesting to be nearby them. For the next two hours I checked out the second level showroom, but then I returned to the auditorium and spent most of the afternoon in there. The reason for this is because there were a number of panels that were being held back in the auditorium and I wanted to see most of them. The topics of the panels covered things such as virtual reality, storytelling in games, advances in game AI, and even a live recording of a popular gaming podcast. These panels lasted me until around 6:00pm, after which I had another two hours before the first day of PSX 2015 ended. The time I spent at the panels could have been spent checking out things in the showrooms, but I’m personally just as interested in the art and science behind games as the games themselves, so I didn’t feel like it was a waste of time. Also, I would have more time the next day. The rest of the day until closing I walked around the showroom floors and tried out a few games. At about 8:00pm the first day of PSX 2015 ended, and myself along with everyone else exited the Moscone Center. I got on the BART train back to Oakland and finished my day there.

IMG_3668.jpgOn the next day, Sunday, I showed up at the Moscone Center about a half hour after opening. There were no keynotes or panels scheduled for Sunday, so I felt no real urgency to get there early. There was the Capcom Cup, a tournament being held in the auditorium that I stopped by a few times during that day, but otherwise I spent nearly the whole day in the showrooms. I got my chance to try out quite a few games, though there was one group that I wasn’t able to get hands-on with: the virtual reality games. Because of popular demand and the limited number of stations on the showroom floor, you had to have a reservation to try them out. I didn’t realize this until the preceding Friday, and when I looked online to see if there were any available times, I found they were all booked up. Out of luck, I contented myself to observing others interact with the various virtual reality games. The technology has certainly come a long way, though it will likely be a few more years before it becomes mainstream, assuming that it’s affordable to the general public. Elsewhere in the two showrooms I did get to experience a wide variety of games – some of which had already come out and some that were scheduled for release in 2016. One of those games was Dark Souls 3–the third edition of the brutally difficult Dark Souls games. I successfully completed my timed demo without dying a single time, though in all honesty I spent much of it running around and breaking furniture. On the larger multiplayer side of things, I played a match of Star Wars Battlefront as well as a race in Destiny’s new Sparrow League Racing mode. In addition to the big-name games, there were also lots of indie games and a few of the ones I tried included Brawlhala, Abzu, Skytorn, Monsters & Monocles, and Viking Squad. There were plenty of other things I tried out besides the games already mentioned, and even though I didn’t get to everything I was interested in, I felt like I saw most of them. It was a long day of going to various booths, waiting in line, checking out the Capcom Cup every few hours, and a lot of just walking around and taking it all in. My second day at PSX 2015 ended a little earlier than the first, and when I walked out of the Moscone Center I had an odd sense of both satisfaction and sadness –satisfaction from getting to see and try out lots of games, and sadness from it coming to an end. I lingered outside the Moscone Center for a minute, just staring back inside to where PSX 2015 had been held, and then slowly walked back to the BART station to catch the next train across the bay back to Oakland. There was to be no gaming-related events the next day–just a day of rest and recovery before returning to Colorado.

IMG_7579.JPGBefore ending this post on PSX 2015, I’m guessing a few of you want to know if there was one game that stood out in my mind above the others. Well, there was, though I never would have guessed beforehand that it would enthrall me so much. Towards the back of one of the showroom floors (I don’t remember if it was on the first or the second level) was a small area with several stations set up for a game called Bound. The game caught my eye as I walked passed, and I stopped and got in the short line to try it out. What followed, when a station opened up and I got to play the demo, was the most surreal experience I had at PSX 2015. Bound is a difficult game to describe, so bear with me on this one. It takes place in a dreamscape where the polygonal world around you is continually forming and falling apart as your character moves through it. Your character is the daughter of the queen who rules over this strange land, and you nimbly traverse the world with the graceful and stylized moves of a professional ballet dancer. She runs, jumps, flips, pirouettes, and dances from one area to the next, and somehow it feels right. With every other game I played at PSX 2015, when I got to the end of the demo I felt like I had a strong grasp on the sort of game it was and what to expect from the full version. With Bound, however, when I got to the end of the demo I wasn’t really sure what I had just played and desperately wanted more. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something about Bound had me utterly captivated, like nothing else I played that weekend. It was my game of the show, and I look forward to whenever the full version of the game finally comes out. (UPDATE: I finally played Bound in 2018. You can read my thoughts on it here.)

So, will I being going to PSX 2016, or any other gaming conventions in the future? Maybe. I enjoyed my time at PSX 2015 and wouldn’t be opposed to attending another convention like it, but I don’t think I would feel particularly bad for not going either. PSX 2015 was an interesting time, and attending it fulfilled a major goal for the year of 2015. Regardless of whether or not I go to another gaming convention, I can at least say I did this one.

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