Archive for March, 2011

PAX East 2011 – To Live is to Almost Die

While we’re now about a week past the Penny Arcade Expo East 2011, it feels like it was practically years ago. The events of the weekend came so fast and furious that the days of my average life since then have felt like a slow, extended waste of time until I get to finally purchase the upcoming toys and titles I got to see, play or otherwise experience at PAX. PAX is definitely among the heights of the gamer year. While I’m not glued to gaming news sites during PAX as I am during E3, if you’re one of the lucky few gamers who actually has the opportunity to go to PAX East or PAX Prime, it really feels like where you belong. From the panels, to the show floor, to the concerts to just freeplaying games with your friends and strangers, the atmosphere that surrounds PAX is nothing like anything else to video gamers. While most vacations feel like you’re going away to somewhere foreign and exotic, to gaming enthusiasts like myself, going to PAX feels like really going… home.

Day 0 – Never Gonna Give You Up, Oralgasms.

The drive up to Boston for PAX was fairly lackluster, which isn’t a bad thing at all. Traffic was fine as I flared up the engines on my newly acquired 2008 Toyota Camry and filled my iPod with a 200-song setlist of randomness. I picked up my friends Bob and Katie (my friend Rob’s fiance, who wouldn’t make it up until Friday night) and we hit the road on a damp, rainy Thursday morning. Bob and I discussed random BS on the drive up from the Phillies and Union upcoming seasons to what games we hoped to play at PAX to how much we hopelessly loved Borderlands. We travelled through New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and most surprisingly, New York City, with very little traffic resistance. The familiar sounds of Pantera, Gorillaz and several other of my favorites gently spilled from the speakers of my car, along with a few interesting twists like Captain Dan and the Scurvy Crew and Jon Lajoie.

My first of two oralgasms from the day came along the drive up. I just invented the term “oralgasm” minutes before writing this article, but I’m sure I can’t be the first person to think it up. By my definition, an oralgasm can be described as a taste sensation so very delicious that it almost makes you jizz in your pants. Upon the suggestion of my friend Brendan, who was supposed to go with us but couldn’t make it due to unfortunate circumstances, we stopped at a Jake’s Wayback Burgers, a franchise chain throughout the Northeast, but not in NJ. Now, the burger was just fine, kind of reminded me of Five Guys, not bad but nothing mindblowing. However, the banana milkshake I had with it made me drop to my knees and praise the milkshake gods, having previously doubted their existence. It was like GOB from Arrested Development drove up in his banana costume and just shot me in the mouth… with deliciousness! If you’re ever in New England, you can stop by any burger joint for a decent burger, but you need to go to Jake’s Wayback Burgers to get a smoothest, creamiest, most amazing cool blast in your face.

So once we got past the ambiguous milkshake androgyny, we made it into Boston. After taking a few unplanned twists and turns, we found our hotel, checked in and hit the streets for a night on the town. The most interesting comparison I can make between Boston and my home city Philadelphia is that I can walk around downtown Boston without any hesitation or fear. However, I’m still looking for muggers around every corner when I’m walking from Market to South Street around Center-City Philly. But I digress, we hit the ground running, met up with my friends Matt and Greg and headed over to the Convention Center to get a lay of the land. After finding the convo center, but failing to actually reach it several times over, including the idea of climbing a 20-30 foot high mountain made entirely of plowed snow and bits of dirt and leaping from it onto an overpass, we were able to map out our route. If you haven’t seen the Boston Convention Center before, I’d describe it as an enormous, alien looking structure that seems completely out of place with the design of the rest of the city. Kind of like the World’s Fair towers that were revealed to actually be UFOs in Men in Black, I fully expect rockets to just shoot out of the center and for it to take some poor convention attendees to another world. After successfully reaching the front doors, we decided to go eat dinner at The Barking Crab, as seen on Man vs. Food. Like the Convo Center, the Barking Crab also looks completely out of place, because it’s a stout little shack decked out in tacky Christmas lights behind a rickety chain-link fence sitting right in the middle of Boston’s business district, but the food they serve is phenomenal. Everyone seemed pleased with their meal, and I ordered their Lobster Mac N Cheese, which inflicted the 2nd oralgasm for the day. Worth every penny and every tear I shed during the meal. Those barking crabs make a mean crustacean.

After dinner, it was time to get our drink on. With the power of smartphones and Katie’s willingness to keep looking for a decent place to grab a beer after the rest of us grew far too lazy to keep looking, we found a wonderful little hole in the wall called JJ Foley’s and proceeded to ruin the place for everyone else. While we started out peaceably enough, sitting in a booth in the back corner of the bar enjoying our Blacksmiths (Guinness + Smithwicks, DO IT!). However, it was once we decided to raid the Touchtunes that the night took a turn. Bob went first, filling the jukebox with our standard issue abrasive music like Deftones and Dillinger Escape Plan. However, it was when I went up to choose the night’s tunes that history was altered forever. With a few bucks and suggestions from the others, I assaulted the eardrums of the bar by combining more abrasive music with some of the gayest songs of all time. After a mandatory Rickrolling of the bar, I was taking songs like Huey Lewis’s, “Stuck With You” and following it up with the likes of Slipknot. From Culture Club to Hall and Oates, if dudes were blowing eachother to it in the 1980’s, we were looking for it in the jukebox. The height of the evening had to be when the very British bartender came over to yell at us, citing “Who follows up Slayer with Wham?! I mean, really?!” I just needed a little Mandatory Suicide before I was woken up before I Go-go. The night proceeded into conversations about how much money it would take to rickroll a bar for like 4 days straight. Well, as midnight approached we realized we had a long 3 days in front of us and bid our Boston Irish Pub brethren goodbye and went back to our respective hotels.

Day 1: A Beginner’s Guide to Winning and Losing PAX

Too cheap to pay for a taxi and too impatient and paranoid to wait for the hotel shuttle, we decided to walk to the convo center from our hotel Friday morning. The walk was about 2 miles and wouldn’t have been so bad if we had remembered we would be spending the entire day on our feet, which would not respond favorably across the weekend. Still, we survived, hopped in the merch line, which let folks line up before the show floor opened to buy the most popular t-shirts and oh-so rare PAX scarfs first thing in the morning. By the time we got our merch and got to the Exhibit floor, it was already packed with folks. We didn’t want to get too involved with anything because we wanted to hit up a panel early that morning. We browsed the floor, grabbed some swag and then Bob and I went to the Kotaku and N’Gai Croal “Cannon Fodder” panel. In this panel, they had interviewed game developers since the previous PAX and asked them what should be included in the list of the 10 greatest games of all time by replacing games already on the list. While the panel does make for some neat discussions and the audience reactions are priceless, it kind of feels like a recap of events that had already happened rather than a live panel. While it got people talking and theorizing, the panel itself was a bit of a letdown.

As Bob and I headed back to the floor, Matt and Greg had snuck onto the floor without waitiing in line. They had also since gotten into the debut for Kingdoms of Alamur, a game being produced by baseball legend Curt Shilling’s “38 Studios”. Matt had also won a raffle to actually meet Shilling to talk about video games and was interviewed for local Boston television. So far, Bob and I = 0, Matt and Greg = 2. Since the afternoon panels were pretty lame, Bob and I hopped into line to try out Duke Nukem Forever. The line was about an hour and a half long, but the game had been in and out of development for over a decade, so waiting a little longer wouldn’t be that bad, right? Well, WRONG! Duke Nukem Forever was terrible. After losing so much time of my life and so much time on the floor, I was immensely disappointed. It played like a 12 year old shooter that ignored all of the progress that has been made in first-person shooters since then. You died in like 3 shots, couldn’t tell where you were getting shot from and got bumped back way too far in the level after you died. It was a little funny, but really not fun. Matt and Greg had gone to see the Battlefield 3 demo, which was supposedly phenomenal and among the most visually impressive games of all time. If you’re keeping score at home, Bob and I are now scored at -1, and Matt and Greg are at least at 3. We got to try a short but fun demo of Red Faction: Armageddon but all the other heavy hitters at the show such as Portal 2, LA Noire and the 3DS all had lines that were far too long to tolerate, so we decided to go to a panel about creating living worlds as game characters from the makers of Bioshock. I thought the panel was a bit of a snoozefest as it was mostly looking at concept art from their upcoming Bioshock Infinite and describing it. Not nearly as compelling as the title of the panel suggested.

After that panel, we decided to head away from the convention center, it was getting late in the day and there was going to be a party later that night for one of the biggest games at the show, Brink. Well, in getting dinner, Bob and I struck out again as the burrito place we intended on going to was closed and we ended up going to Subway as Matt and Greg enjoyed a nice dinner at the sushi restaurant in their hotel. It just sucks that I don’t like sushi. I also happened to squeeze a meatball out of my meatball sub, which landed right on the only hoodie I brought with me to Boston. So by now, Our score -2, their score is about a 4. After a long trek, we found the Cruise Ship terminal that the Brink party was taking place in and the massive line to get into it. Panic hit the crowd as word spread that no one else was going to be able to play or that they were turning people away because the crowd was too large, but our patience was slightly rewarded. While it was true that we could not play the game, the party was still neat, we got free Brink swag, free soda and got to watch others play the game. Unfortunately we missed t-shirts in our size and free pizza, which they had just run out of and we were too impatient to wait until they got more.

So we went back to the convo center to close out the first day. The other guys rented an Xbox and played some You Don’t Know Jack in the freeplay lounge while I raided the barricade to see Metroid Metal that night in concert. Metroid Metal is exactly what it sounds like, a band who do metal covers of Metroid music, and they absolutely rocked! In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the original Metroid, they played the score of the game in its entirety, as well as a few selections from Super Metroid and Metroid Prime. As I rocked out up front with the Brink bandana I had just acquired on, the hardships from earlier that day had been washed away. I was reinvigorated with nerd energy while enjoying some video game thrash metal. As the set came to an end on the “Theme of Samus” from Super Metroid, I was ready for a good night’s sleep so I could wake up and set things straight on Saturday.

Quick note, when we got back to the hotel room, Rob had arrived and he and Katie were sound asleep. Bob and I weren’t willing to sleep in the same bed, so we had been alternating nights between the other bed and an air mattress. Somehow, Rob and Katie managed to soundly sleep through us filling the air mattress, in which I would describe the air pump to sounding like the rage of a dozen angry vacuum cleaners.

Day 2 – The Comeback: Jenga, Burgers and Am I Wiping My Ass Correctly?

After suffering through a few stumbles the first day, we decided to do day 2 right. We took a taxi over to the convo center to relieve our feet and got in line  as early as possible to get on the exhibit floor. I decided to bust out my DS and take advantage of some emulation to play Mega Man 5 to kill time while I waited. I theorize that Mega Man 1-10 are the best games to break out in a pinch. You can just start up the game, pick any level and jump into playing. Since you choose your level in Mega Man games, you’re not stuck with the monotony of going through the same motions over and over again like when you start off most other games and have to go through their pre-planned game progress. So after kicking Gravity Man and Star Man’s asses, I hopped over to Mega Man 3 to give Magnet Man a taste of my medicine! Did I mention I love Mega Man? If you don’t, you might as well go join the Nazi party right now. Mega Man doesn’t abide by Nazis like you.

Bob and I hit the LA Noire presentation on the show floor first thing that morning. The line of LA Noire was easily one of the longest all weekend, so hitting it first thing in the morning was a clutch decision to avoid wasting time in line all day. LA Noire was an amazing 30-minute long live gameplay demonstration. The game is set in 1940’s Los Angeles, where you play as a homicide detective trying to crack cases by gathering evidence, interrogating people of interest and trying to tie together how and why a crime is committed. While I’m not convinced the game will be tons of fun to play, the motion capture technology and character facial animations are incredible. Watching someone’s expression and facial twitches change throughout an interrogation is very impressive, I just hope the gameplay can live up to the tech when it comes out this May.

The line to play Brink was over 3 hours long by the time we were done LA Noire, so after some more floor wandering and shopping, we went to the lauded “Pitch Your Own Game” panel. In this panel, attendees can pitch their game ideas to a group of game industry experts, who then either shut them down or allow them to advance to the next round and further elaborate on their ideas. While there were a few good ideas and more than a few funny ones, I have to give a special shout out to my friend Greg for pouring his heart out as he pitched his idea for the motion-controlled Am I Wiping My Ass Correctly? for Wii. Stressing how dietary choices would effect the outcome and how motion controls are essential to learning the proper technique, Greg had the panelists and the entire audience rolling with laughter. I couldn’t even hear most of the second round of his pitch over my own inhuman squeals of joy. There were plenty of other great pitches too, so if you ever end up at PAX, please do yourself a favor and attend the “Pitch Your Own Game” panel. It’s worth its value in entertainment gold.

After a quick lunch bite, it was time to give the Nintendo 3DS a try. Since Nintendo’s booth was packed with hour-plus long lines all weekend to try out their new hardware, we decided we’d take the much less patient approach and see if we could get our hands on one at Capcom’s booths. Capcom was showing off their own 3DS games, Super Street Fighter 4 3D and Resident Evil: Mercenaries 3D. I was hoping to pick up Super SF4 at 3DS launch, and after about a 10 minute wait, the 3DS was in my hands. I was impressed and dismayed as soon as I held the system. The 3D effect was real. I was looking at a picture with depth and layers. Foreground characters popped and appeared physically in front of what I described as the “shoebox diorama” background. Background characters and objects looked like flat 2D cardboard cutouts layered in front of one another. Still, the game was visually impressive and the 3D was legit, but it wasn’t long before concerns set in. I had the 3D depth slider set to max, thinking it would give me the best idea of how intense the 3D could be. However, it wasn’t more than a few seconds of playing before I could feel the stress on my eyes. They felt immediately tired and dried out, like I was focusing far too hard even though I was just looking at the screen the same way I would view my computer or TV. Also, my hands were not comfortable playing Street Fighter, considering how quickly your fingers need to fly when playing that style of game. Finally, when I was done playing and turned away from the system, I instantly felt disoriented and a little dizzy. While impressed by the system’s horsepower, my concerns for the system quickly surpassed my excitement.

I passed over attending two events I really would have liked to seen, opting instead to go out for a good meal. One was the Video Games Roadshow, where attendees could bring old and rare video game items to be appraised for worth by a panel of experts. The other was a performance by Powerglove, one of the best video game metal cover bands around, who were performing in a small hall at the convention. I was just too worn out and hadn’t had a really good meal in two days at that point (Sorry, Subway!). We traversed the Boston subway system to get to Eagle’s Deli, a deli renowned for their colossal burgers. We had gone there the previous year where I got a chicken sandwich and Matt and Greg proceeded to berate me for being retarded. So this year I was taking the plunge with a hearty ½ lb burger, which tasted phenomenal. I like burgers at McDonalds and Wendy’s, but they always taste like some manufactured, processed cheap imitation of a burger. Well, the Eagle’s Deli burger tastes like the real deal. It’s probably the closest taste I’ve ever savored to a great homemade burger at a restaurant. Now, my ½ lb burger was plenty to leave me satisfied, but I felt like a bit of a bitch when I saw what my other cohorts had ordered. Matt and Bob challenged their 1 ½ lb burger, which is three ½ lb patties stacked high with cheese and bacon. Greg was the real conquistador, however, as he scaled the Nick Lachey challenge, of 98 Degrees fame. Mr. Lachey was famous for conquering a 2 lb burger with a ½ lb of fries. Greg would meet that challenge, adding in the savory x-factor of bacon and overcame the delicious obstacle. Even though he refused to be touched on the ride back to the convo center and almost threw up at the mere proposal of playing Mario Kart DS while on the train.

Back in the warm glow of PAX, we rushed up to the Main Theater where Video Game Orchestra (VGO) would soon be pumping out orchestral renditions of 8-bit classics, but little did we know that we would be walking into the most intense competition of the weekend. The Omegathon was already going strong, which is a weekend-long tournament where randomly chosen participants compete in a series of games and events to win an awesome prize at the end of the weekend, which happened to be an all-expenses paid trip to the Gamescom convention in Germany. As the years have gone by, the Omegathon drifted further away from just testing the contestants’ video game skills to more nerve-wracking events. The event on stage before the VGO concert would see the competitors playing Jenga, in front of 4,000 spectators. Have you ever seen Jenga played before thousands of people? If you haven’t, then you haven’t truly experienced the panic and pressure that Jenga can unleash. With the crowd ooh-ing, ah-ing, gasping and cheering over every move, the nerve of the competitors was quickly waning. You could see the doubt in their eyes, the sweat on their brows and the very real shakes in their hands as they slid out those little Jenga bricks and placed them on top. Every time the tower would shift the least bit, the entire crowd would begin to erupt with anticipation. It didn’t matter who won or who lost, everyone on that stage who performed under that type of extreme pressure was indeed a champion.

VGO followed with a relatively disappointing performance, because the majority of their set consisted of the same tracks they had played a year before, but there were a couple highlights including a metal-induced Street Fighter 2 Medley and a beautiful Legend of Zelda medley. Afterwards we headed to the console freeplay lounge to get in an hour or so of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World for Xbox Live Arcade that I had brought on my memory stick. However, we were cut off when we could only play the trial game because we weren’t connected to Xbox Live. What a bunch of crap that was. Either way, we were losing an hour thanks to daylight savings that night and decided to call it an evening. We went back to our respective hotels, feeling far more satisfied with our second day of PAX and ready to conquer the world on day 3.

Day 3 – Blazing a Path to Glory

With a dozen donuts thanks to Bob, a coffee frappucino from Starbucks and Mega Man 2 while waiting in line, PAX day 3 was destined for greatness. Even though the convention center closed at 7 PM instead of 2 AM on Sunday, I was convinced that Sunday would be our most kickass, earth-shattering day at PAX yet! So after whooping down Flash Man, Metal Man, Quick Man and Bubble Man, Bob and I organized a battle strategy that ended up being a massive success!

Brink was the white whale that had eluded us all weekend. It was one of the games we wanted to try the most, but it was also one of the most difficult games to get your hands on. The demo lasted about a half hour, and only 16 people could play at a time. This meant that of the 70,000 people who attended PAX, only a couple hundred could actually get through to play Brink on each day. So our plan had to be to run to Brink first thing to ensure we would even get the chance to play. Rushing the booth was a gamble that proved to be totally worth it as we were in the 2nd group of people to play Brink that morning. For the uninformed, Brink is a team-based first-person shooter where you pick a character class and depending on your class you are given a series of objectives and tasks to complete during the battle to gain points, in addition to shooting up opponents. So unlike most multiplayer FPS games, you feel like you’re proceeding through a level at the same time you are locked in combat with your online opponents. The demo was extremely cool and I will say it was easily the best game I got to play all weekend. We only had to wait about 30 minutes, but an hour or longer would have been totally worth it, infinitely more than Duke Nukem Forever.

After getting out of Brink with less than an hour gone from the day, we decided to press our luck by jumping in line for the Portal 2 presentation, another game that had been packed all weekend. Now, while the line to get into Portal 2 had wrapped around their entire booth twice, the line moved very quickly. We made our way through the line queue and into their little theater in about a half hour. We were treated to more of the cheeky humor, mindbending physics and clever puzzles that made the original game such a smash hit. Also, the voice of JK Simmons as Aperture Science president Cave Johnson was a stroke of pure genius on the part of developer, Valve. Expect gamers to learn a whole new library of memorable phrases from the next incarnation of Portal. While we waited for Matt and Greg to get done LA Noire, Bob and I took a shot at WWE All Stars. I chose the long-exiled Macho Man Randy Savage against Bob’s Superfly Jimmy Snuka and proceeded to get the smackdown laid on me by the man from the Fiji Islands. The game was a surprisingly fun button masher and I think it would make a great Xbox Live Arcade game, but I don’t know if its simple mechanics and limited modes are worthy a full $60 purchase. Still, it was pretty exciting to be able to yell, “OOOOOOOOHH YEAH!!!” again with pride.

After a quick lunch it was Gears of War 3 time. After another startlingly short line, we got to jump into the multiplayer beta of the 3rd part of mankind’s war with the Locust. No big surprises, the game looked gorgeous and played just like Gears 1 and 2. It’s safe to say if you liked the first 2, you won’t be disappointed here, but if the series was never up your alley, this one won’t change much. We wandered over to the Xbox Live Arcade area where I got to try the uniquely named Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, and while I appreciated its attempt at combining Metroid and R-Type style gameplay, I just didn’t think it was all that good. However, fate would call us away from the show floor to a panel for the ages.

Poker Night at the Inventory was a game released exclusively for Steam by Telltale Games, who are infamous for making clever adventure games. As the title would dictate, it was a poker game but the twist is that it’s a poker game where you are playing with some greats from the video game and internet culture world. Your opponents are Max from Sam and Max, Strong Bad from, The Heavy from Team Fortress 2 and Tycho from Penny Arcade, and you just sit back and watch the insane conversations and interactions they have with eachother as you play. What was revealed to us in this panel was the complex bluffing and dialogue systems that had to be created for such a game to exist and the incredible fact that the whole game was developed by just four men across the span of 80 days. They also introduced us to the tear-jerkingly hilarious character who was cut from the game, the cowboy-hat donning kitty, “Paws Hogg”. As great as the panel turned out to be, the real cherry on top was the amazing prints they handed out to all attendees. My words cannot describe the true epicness of these prints, which I hope to get framed and hung soon. You just have to witness it with your own eyes.

Amazing, no?

With two hours left in the convention, it was truly crunch time on the Exhibit floor. Should we risk losing all 2 hours on one more high-profile game or should we utilize the time to hit as many smaller games as possible? Not willing to waste time, I ran off from the group and immediately jumped in the line to try out Mortal Kombat. The line was short and the need for single-players was great so I hopped right through to try out the game. It was nothing impressive, pretty much what I expected. I got my socks rocked by someone who had played the demo before, but I expect Mortal Kombat fans will enjoy it just fine when it comes out. I was always and still am more of a Street Fighter fan.

It was then where we saw true opportunity arise. The Nintendo booth, which had been saddled with a mile-long line all weekend, was dying down and now would be the time to strike to get a deeper experience with the 3DS. After about an only 10 minute or so wait, we were in and free to travel about the booth, waiting for whatever 3DS demos we wanted. I was first directed to try out Face Raiders, an augmented reality game that snaps your picture and then causes you to physically turn around in real space to fire at attackers that swarm all around you bearing your face. The game was a lot of fun, and the augmented reality was even more astounding as the background of the game was the real world you were facing and the enemies were breaking holes and distorting it in real time. After that, it was time to get into the real fanboy stuff. I got to try out Kid Icarus Uprising, and while I found it a bit painful to control (Left hand on the analog thumbstick and left trigger while your right hand directs your aim on the touch pad), it was a visually impressive feat and one of the slickest looking games on a handheld yet. I then got to try the remake of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I slid the 3D all the way down so I could soak in the improved graphics and textures, along with the 60 FPS animation, far visually eclipsing the N64 original. Also, aiming Link’s slingshot by physically facing where you wanted to shoot was a neat little addition. However, I think the best use of the 3D technology came when I tried out Pilotwings Resort. This time, I turned the 3D down to about halfway and found the stress on my eyes and disorientation disappear completely as I enjoyed a 3D game with no additional problems. Also, the 3D depth allowed for a much greater understanding of the distance between your character and the targets you had to reach. For the first time I “got it” and found a situation where 3D gameplay clearly surpasses playing a game on a plain 2D screen. I walked away from the 3DS concerned and dizzy after first trying it, but when i walked away from the Nintendo booth I was highly optimistic of the system’s future as developers have more time to create games where the 3D functionality actually serves a purpose rather than just being advertised as the next cool thing in gaming.

The show floor ended with more of a whimper than a bang as the last two demos we tried were Hunter: The Demons Forge and Battleblock Theater. Hunter was a forced co-op medieval fantasy game where it just wasn’t much fun and Battleblock Theater was the creatively stifled multiplayer platformer from The Behemoth, and it did not live up to their other modern classics like Castle Crashers. After watching the Omegathon conclude with a points-score battle in Ikaruga, one of the most maddeningly difficult games of all time, we bid PAX adieu in hopes of seeing the majestic Boston Convention Center again the next spring.

The weekend concluded with some beers and bars. First, the hotel party of myself, Bob, Rob and Katie had a nice meal and a few microbrews at the Boston Beer Works, and although we ran into some billing controversy later when they appeared to charge Katie’s credit card for the tip even though we left cash. The trip truly concluded with Bob and I visiting the original Cheers, which was a wonderfully nostalgic tourist attraction. Nonetheless, I got to close out the trip over a giant piece of Boston Cream Pie and a cool mug of Sam Adams Boston Brick Red with my buddy as we recounted the packed events of the day and the frantic weekend. Still, it was a very successful PAX and we were ready to head back to New Jersey completely satisfied.

PAX Epilogue: The Highway to Hell

We checked out, packed the car and were well on our way home on Monday when tragedy struck. For a brief moment all the swag we acquired, merch that we bought, meals that we ate and games that we played seemed meaningless on a fateful strip of I-95 running through New Haven, Connecticut.

There had been brief moments of rain and snow on the drive through New England, but I no risks as we headed home with our heads held high. I was prepared to drop off my friends in my newly purchased 2008 Toyota Camry and head back to work the next day refreshed from a fun, although not really relaxing weekend. We stopped at a Friendly’s in CT for a nice lunch and some sundaes and were prepared to travel the final stretch of road from New Haven to the New Jersey Turnpike.

It was on a nondescript stretch of highway where we were travelling in the right lane with no traffic in front of us. I was probably going about 60 MPH, while the center and left lanes were packed with cars and going a bit slower. The clear road must have enticed someone in a black SUV as they decided to cut right in front of my car, causing me to scream “OH SHIT!!” and cut the wheel to the right.

The best I can remember, I lost control of the car almost immediately and we started to swerve. Panicking, I turned the wheel to the left to try to regain traction, but this just caused the car to drift the other direction and across two lanes of traffic. No one was in our path, but I saw the center barrier between highways approaching and I cut the wheel back to the right, causing the car to fishtail and the back driver’s side struck the barrier. The impact wasn’t terrible and thankfully it slowed us down quite a bit, even though my foot was on the brake the entire time. Upon bouncing off of the barrier, we were sent back onto the highway, where we finally came to a stop upon striking the back of a black Ford Escape, an unfortunate bystander who paid the price for just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The front passenger corner of my car was now all smashed in and the bottom of the car had sustained some heavy damage too. Antifreeze was also leaking from the engine. Miraculously, we all emerged from the car without a scratch. I’m not a religious man, but if there is a higher power, he watched over us that day. Sure, the front and the back of the car were badly damaged, but we didn’t sideswipe anyone and no one T-boned the side of our car, leaving us shaken but unscathed. A police officer arrived on the scene and gave me the rundown, not believing that someone had cut me off even though my car had 3 witnesses supporting my story. AAA arrived shortly after to tow my car away and we were left on the side of the road with our luggage in tow.

At the present, everyone is home safe and sound. My insurance company is handling the damage claim and covering the cost of a rental car. I drove us home the rest of the way cautiously in the rental car. I’ll have to pay a deductible and drive back up to New Haven on a work day to get my car back when the repairs are finished, but that’s a small price to pay considering the damage that could have been done. After those few seconds where my friends’ lives and mine could have been taken at any moment, it feels pretty damn good to be at home in my bed typing up this article. What also sucks is that an awesome weekend was overshadowed by a few instants of terror, but I’m glad I could write this article to report that things were pretty froot (Thank you, Chris Jericho) up until the drive home. It also really puts things into perspective, too. Compared to careening out of control at 60 MPH on a main highway during afternoon rush hour while 170 miles away from home, playing Duke Nukem Forever really wasn’t that bad.


Related Videos! (that I didn’t shoot)

Brink Preview:

LA Noire Preview:

Portal 2 Commercial:

3DS Info Video:

Metroid Metal live (From PAX 2009):

Poker Night at the Inventory:


Complete “Pitch Your Own Game” Panel:

Hey there, internets folk

Super quick update so you don’t think I’m dead, not that anyone reads this. I got laid off recently, and surprisingly to some, honestly have no ill will towards my former employer. Things happen, and they handled it very professionally, in my opinion. Then, my L3 vertebrae shifted, awesome. Then, Apple put out the iOS update 4.31 or whatever that makes your iPhone battery drain like a bottle of rum at a pirate’s funeral. Anyway, I think I’m going to start writing again, I tested the water tonight and I’m mildly happy with how it is going. Before I go, we here at the White Board Mafia would like to congratulate Sunny on being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. It’s too bad we won’t be there, but we’re overjoyed for you. Until next time, stay safe.

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