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Monday, March 14, 2011


I just returned from PAX in Boston, and it's sort of hard to describe.
I mean, I know there are gamers out there. Somebody has to keep the video game industry out of the red, right? Somebody has to kill all those Merlocs. Somebody has to set off their sticky det charge right when I walk by in TF2.

But when you actually see all those gamers in one, collected spot, running around and playing games; it's a little hard to digest, like you're encountering some kind of self-realized clone army, and all of them are sitting at these endless rows of tables playing Dungeons and Dragons.

The keynote speech was delivered by Jane McGonigal who spent an hour injecting the crowd with heart-felt praise for the gamer culture, instructions for a poker game played in a cemetery, and lots and lots of optimism.

And then, when everyone was pumped up like crazy, she told the massive crowd that they were going to set a world record, right there in that room. We were all going to thumb wrestle.

Under normal circumstances: weird. With gamers: strange but pretty awesome. With gamers at PAX: there was some understandable hesitation.

Jane was great. She emitted this hypnotizing vibe that I totally fell in love with. The woman practically had Care Bear powers.

But the most interesting part of her speech was definitely the hints she dropped about a Gamer Artifact that I've never heard of.

You know what? I probably shouldn't say anything more on a public blog about Gamer Artifacts. Even amongst her own people Jane only spoke in hushed whispers, and I consider that a wise decision on her part.

But you can keep a secret, right?

Let me give you a small hint as to what a Gamer Artifact is:
Imagine an artifact from Dungeons and Dragons. A singular, unique object imbued with unimaginable powers.
Now imagine that artifact's physical, real-world manifest. A foci of gamer culture. A geek Shroud of Turin, if you will; except the artifacts I'm talking about will probably grant you the ability to fly or turn invisible or something like that.

I doubt you've heard of any of this. It's all crazy hush hush secret stuff, but they do exist.

Have you ever heard of the Lost Sword from Swordquest? Or maybe Gary Gygax's secret, unlabeled Player's Handbook bound in human flesh and filled with rules that will drive you into madness?

I think I've said too much, and these aren't even the artifacts that Jane spoke of. She was more interested in something called the Chain World USB Drive. Forged by Jason Rohrer himself, this is essentially a singular Minecraft world that only one person at a time can ever play; and once that player dies, he will never see nor be able to interact with that world again. The USB drive immediately ejects itself from the PC and shoots off into the air, leaving behind a golden tail, just like a dragonball, before falling into the lap of the next lucky gamer who will have only one chance to interact and explore this secret land.

What's down in the depths of Chain World? We can only wonder, for it is no normal Minecraft world. Of that I'm sure.
Massive cities of gold? An endless abyss that defies logic? The black thrones of elder gods? I'm sure Chain World has all of them.

Anyways, that's how PAX EAST 2011 kicked off. There's a lot more to tell but let me spoil the ending for you: I crawled out of that expo center a disheveled, emaciated wreck wearing a big, stupid grin.

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