Despite being on a plane 35,000 miles up from Sioux City and en route to the Game Developer's Conference with the rest of the GAMBIT lab's US staff, PAX East (the new east coast Penny Arcade Expo) is huge in my mind right now. Taking place in Boston over 3 days at the end of this month (Friday-Sunday, March 26-28), PAX East 2010 will bring over 60,000 gamers of all kinds to the Boston area. GAMBIT is going to have a huge presence at the Expo. We are featuring 6 of our games at our booth, 2 from the Singapore lab, 4 from our Summer 2009 program, more information about which will be posted to our blog after GDC. Being a game lab, we've created a game especially for PAX East, to be played during the convention.
First off, PAX POX is "not a research experiment" (unlike many of our games) but instead a light-hearted GAME about infection vectors and hygiene set in the temporary community that will form around the PAX East 2010 attendees. You might've heard that there was an outbreak of swine flu at PAX 2009 in Seattle. As an attendee of more than a few conventions over the years, it's no surprise to me that these things happen - import a few thousand people from all over the US to a convention hall (it doesn't matter what kind of people or what kind of convention) and you're bound to have some amount of sickness travel from person to person. This is no laughing matter in itself, but it provides opportunity for a very light-hearted barely-serious game that I hope will bring attention to basic sanitary practices that I hope all attendees follow: wash your hands! cover your mouth! You know, those things you learn in Kindergarten but forget sometime between then and adulthood.
It's been really fun trying to figure out how to set a game like this up. Our lab doesn't often have the opportunity to work with the kind of design problems this game has presented to us, in particular, how do you make a live-action game that any number from 10 to 60,000 people can play? Three students and three staff members spent the IAP period in January (Independent Activities Period) coming up with a number of different designs, incorporating influences from Jane MacGonigal's 'Cruel 2 B Kind', LARP-style games designed and played by the MIT Assassin's Guild, and improvisational theater exercises. In the end, we decided on the least intensive game for our students to game master, with plenty of opportunity for any type of player to participate. Our team added a programmer to the team for the Spring semester to create some of the technical requirements for the game, and has been incrementally improving the initial design so that things will run smoothly during PAX East.
If you're in Boston for PAX East 2010, I hope you drop by our booth and play our games! The PAX POX team will be manning the GAMBIT booth in the Expo Hall during the entirety of the show hours (Friday 2p-7p, Saturday and Sunday 10a-6p).