SATURDAY

A friend and I spend an early morning fruitlessly searching for an open convenience store in the surrounding city, hoping to bypass hotel water/snack prices for the rest of the trip. The one we find is closed, because Boston likes to forget that it's a 21st Century metropolis on the weekends (I will later discover a 7/11 "hidden" across the street from the hotel, because I am a dumbass when it comes to spatial orientation.)

Breakfast? Yeah, right - I've got a 10:00am panel to moderate "Gender and Video Games." I'm still mystified as to how I got tagged to moderate this one, but I've got a good group assembled: Adam Lipkin from Publishers Weekly, game reviewer Maddy Myers, Caroline VanEseltine from Harmonix, and sci fi/fantasy artist Brianna Wu. Discussing gender or race issues at cons can often be a dicey prospect, but this turned out to be one of the better experiences for me this year - smart discourse, great questions/comments from the audience, and lots of diverse ground to cover. Interestingly, for this particular audience it seemed that the gender problems of gamer culture (sexual harassment on Xbox Live, for example) are seen as a much more immediate and bothersome problem than the more widely-publicized issues like hypersexualized character designs or the subtext of Other M. I'm also thrilled that the parallel issues of the transgendered gaming community got an encouraging amount of support.

Next on the docket: Once more taking up the moderator's baton for "Monsters in Motion: Ray Harryhausen at Work" - the panel to attend for fans of oldschool film buffs geeking out over stop-motion monster movies, and the only place you're likely to see a panel of grown men universally agree that while Raquel Welch in a deer-skin bikini was nice, we'd have preferred she get out of the way so we could see more dinosaurs. (Besides, the sequel is much better.)

"If You Liked Part I..." came next, a discussion of sequels that inevitably segued into the evergreen grousefests about remakes of classics and the Star Wars prequels. Indie producer E.F. Morrill - who likes to goose the crowd by introducing himself as "the last Goldwater Republican in fandom" (or other variations thereof) - sends things in an interesting direction, and I end up explaining to an audience member for what will be the first of five or six times that weekend that Warner Bros. still talking about Green Lantern 2 doesn't actually mean there's going to be a Green Lantern 2.

After that, at last, comes a break in my appearance schedule - time to once again peruse the free-range cosplayers (a pair of Sucker Punch gals could've passed for professionals promoting the movie) and meet up with a buddy for some higher-end neighborhood pizza. Oh, yeah - incoming PAX East-attendees take note: Once you've got the lay of the land down, Boston is one of the great "Foodie Cities."

By 10:00pm I've been at this for well over fifteen hours more or less nonstop, but no time for sleeping; "The Death of PC Gaming May Be Greatly Exaggerated" awaits! Bill Levay - executive producer of Civilization III - is steering the ship, with me and Maddy Myers as the supporting players. For obvious reasons, this probably had the largest (relatively) number of fans/viewers of my Escapist shows in attendance - or, at least, the audience that most widely recognized my name. It was a big crowd for a night panel (and even wound up on UStream for a bit) but much more civil than you'd expect such a charged subject to be. It helps, of course, that no one on the panel seemed to actually think the medium was dead, though I maintained that the question is largely moot now that almost every media device was a PC in one form or another.

Sleep came quickly and decisively soon after, two days done and gone.

NEXT WEEK: The stunning (or maybe "agreeable" at least) conclusion - featuring Wonder Woman, Star Wars, Mystery Science Theater and more!

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