Booths at PAX range from a mere table to an arena larger than some NYC studios, and typically the bigger booths have the bigger lines. While walking around the convention, I spotted that the booth for Assassin’s Creed 3, a big budget game whose line was normally very long, had experienced a momentary lull in its line. I quickly swooped in while it was relatively short.
Megan: “So what are we doing here?”
Me: “I don’t really know, but it’s probably cool.”
I might not have known the nature of what was being exhibited, but I did know that the booth of Ubisoft’s premier series was bound to be extravagant. As we moved into the booth, we were treated to a sort of museum tapestry along the walls, a series of Assassin’s Creed 3 concept artwork matched up against interesting historical trivia about the setting. Asking some people next to us, I find out that the line is feeding into a small theater where we get to watch exclusive AC3 footage.
We’re practically at the door to the theater when the booth girl stops the line. “The theater is at capacity,” she says, “it’ll be about ten minutes till the next showing.”
I exchange glances with my friends. They don’t care about the game, but they’ll stick around if I wanted to see the video. We’re already at the head of the line, but I don’t care about the game either, and I don’t want to subject them to waiting around for a video about a game that they don’t care about.
And that’s when I spot it. At the booth girl’s feet is a box full of inflatable hatchets, modeled after a weapon in the game. I’d seen them being given out to people that had braved the line. To hell with the video – it was the swag that I was interested in.
“Excuse me, my friends and I need to head out and can’t stick around for the video. Do you think I could get one of those hatchets before I go?”
An odd question. Usually the questions booth girls get are more along the line of:
“Where does the line start?”
“At the other end of the hall. I’ll see you again when you get back here in two hours.”
Or, “Did you help make this game?”
“No, a staffing agency just hired me to stand here because folk psychology dictates that you’ll be favorably inclined toward the game if your experience involves interacting, however so slightly, with an attractive woman.”
Or sometimes, “Can I get an extra hatchet for my friend/brother/bedridden foster child that I adopted while I was doing missionary work in a third-world country oh why am I here instead of caring for him well uhh I mean oh yea it’s his dream to get an inflatable hatchet did I mention I adopted two children so can I get an extra two instead?”
“No, one per person.”
But I wasn’t trying to score extra, just one. And this time, the woman was up for playing ball.
“Sure, you can have a hatchet…if you answer a trivia question about the game.”
Uh oh. Despite all the hype, I’ve only heard of this game maybe once in passing.
“Ready? [In my head: No!!!!] What is the name of the main character?”
Shit! This is a gimme, and yet I totally flunk it. My friends are gearing up to head out.
“Okay, one more chance. When does this game take place?”
With no hesitation, I reply, “Colonial America.”
“That’s right, the American Revolution! Here’s your hatchet.”
Jaws drop to the floor. How the hell do I know that when I don’t even know the main character’s name?
Elementary, my dear Watson. The wallpaper of the booth had displayed trivia about the setting of the game: muskets, the American flag, massed military formations, rudimentary medical treatment involving bonesaws, and other tidbits that all pointed toward colonial America (Civil War might also have been a contender, but massed ranks of musketmen had fallen out of favor by that time).
But perhaps even more surprising was that the booth girl wasn’t finished. She turned to Sophia and asked, “Now I’ve got a question for you. What are you dressed as?”
We all look at Sophia’s dress. Most people think she’s a princess from some game, and she’s become reluctant to properly explain that it is actually lolita fashion, since the word ‘lolita’ has an unrelated stigma in America. Sophia replies, “Well, it’s a kind of extreme Japanese fashion style…”
“Oh, you mean lolita?” Our jaws continue to remain plastered to the floor.
“You look great! You can have a hatchet too.”
We don’t question why she’s giving us a hatchet for answering her own question correctly. We leave the booth moments later, with two inflatable hatchets and a conversation more memorable than anything they would have shown in that gameplay video.