I had prepared for my first trip to PAX the way I must prepare for everything else: through rigorous research, planning, and incessant pestering of my friends. What kind of water bottle should I bring? Collapsible. Pain killers? More than one kind, just in case someone you’re with is allergic to one. Hand sanitizer? Apply liberally to everything. Even that child? Especially that child. Sneakers? Don’t forget the gel insoles. Zinc and vitamin C? Begin a rigorous course three weeks prior and bring some with you just in case. And of course, I brought twice as much underwear as any reasonable person would really need because you just never know.
Perhaps the best piece of advice I received came from Ash, though, and it was: exercise. So I hit the gym for the first time in my adult life. I ran 11-minute miles three times a week and lifted tiny weights and bought stretchy pants. I was going to be ready, damn my free time.
Saturday was the day I had been waiting for, because Saturday was the day I would play the long-rumored Dragon Age: Inquisition multi-player, or DAMP (gross). In the past, I had sunk well over 100 hours into Mass Effect 3 multi-player, a game mode I didn’t expect to like and immediately became obsessed with. Once the ME3MP team released the N7 characters, well, my life was over, and video games had won. I had my N7 Demolisher and that was all I needed—until I heard about DAMP, of course.
I entered the convention center Saturday morning and found the building nearly deserted. Filled with the optimism of the truly ignorant, I bounced up the stairs to the expo hall floor, mentally patting myself on the back for how well I had done to arrive as early as I had, around 9AM. My bliss was short-lived, however, because when I reached the floor the truth was laid before me in the form of a thousand dauntless early-risers bent on beating me to the best play-tests. I was herded into a massive theater with an intimidatingly tall woman in Samus cosplay and a young person with a mesmerizing half sleeve of Pokemon tattoos (Gen 1 starters, ‘natch.) We waited for an hour. When the rumblings from the crowd had reached a fever pitch and the stale humidity and rank body odor of the collected masses were fit to overwhelm, the Red Sea parted, the gates were opened, and we were off to the literal races.
People sprinted past me as I power-walked onto the expo hall floor. Suddenly realizing I might very well spend my entire day in a line, I broke into a light jog and hoofed it over to the Microsoft booth where Dragon Age: Inquisition lived for the duration of the show. My fears proved well-founded, for when I arrived I found the line full. “Nevermind,” the line-minder said. “If you go loiter over by the The Order: 1886 booth for half an hour, I’ll let you in.” Skeptical and hopeful, I did, and he did. Then, I waited some more. And waited. And waited. For two and half hours, I waited and watched as the team in line ahead of me finished up their match. The line was tense. The developers were on edge. No team this weekend had ever made it as far into the multi-player playtest as this team had. All of the mobs were down except for the boss, the hulking Red Templar leader. To cheers from the crowd, the team wore down his armor and slammed him with a jar of bees. The jar erupted and the waiting crowd, now dense with the curious passersby, hollered and high-fived as the Templar leader fell. As the winning team assembled for a photograph, it was my turn to choose a character.
I went with the human archer and set about laying waste to Templar goons. I thwang-ed away, trying to take down the enemy archers while the melee characters fought it out with the enemy warriors. In the end we were defeated by our lax teamwork. The game was incredibly difficult, and I’m definitely looking forward to sinking 100 more hours of my life into it. As Saturday night came, so too did coconut margaritas and plates of nachos bigger than my head. As I stumbled over to the bus rapid transit tunnel and rode on a wave of dark and trailing train lights back to my temporary home, I massaged my aching shoulder and sighed. Tomorrow was Sunday, my last day in Seattle, and I wanted desperately for PAX not to end.
Kate Dollarhyde is a writer, editor, and ruthless Mario Kart opponent in Oakland, California.