It's a good time to be a nerd. PAX Prime is over for now, but we're as invigorated as we are exhausted, and we know some folks who are already prepping their presentations or costumes for next year. We discovered hidden levels, saw a presentation that made us think about things (despite confirming our biases), and wallowed in our element for the last few hours of full-on nerd density. Here's what we learned, plus a poop joke:

  • Skulls of the Shogun is a sweet, visually fun action/strategy game from local* developers Haunted Temple Studios. It features dead samurais fighting it out eternally in the afterlife, and it's coming out in January on XBLA, PC, and Windows Phone 7.
  • We chatted with Jeff Ryan, author of Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America, and he was perfectly charming, if teetering on the verge of tour-exhaustion. We've barely cracked the book yet, but so far it's a fun, smart look at semi-local powerhouse Nintendo of America. We also learned that one of us is a mere one degree of separation removed from the Mario who gave the world's most beloved plumber his name. 1-UP!
  • Friend of Slog Roman took this fine shot of the much-fun-having, super-cute Guitar Hero:

    Star Power!
    • Roman Frillarte
    • Guitar Hero!

  • Canadian psychiatrist Dr. Tyler Black told us all to calm the fuck down about violent games in the limply titled "Kids, Video Games, and Psychiatry II: Electric Boogaloo." He did put on a great show, in a low-key sort of way, and showed that violence (especially in the young people today) is on the decline from its peak about ten years ago, despite ever-more-violent-and-popular games. Better still, he delivered Skepticism 101 for non-scientists, showing how to ask the right questions of science and, more importantly, science journalists.
  • Pico is the future. We geeked out a few weeks ago over the Apple patents for incorporating pico projectors into future iPhones, so we had to visit local pico pros MicroVision. This disruptive tech** is amazing and getting amazing-er, in both tininess and image quality. Sadly, this photo sucks (and it's actually from E3, not PAX), but you can start to imagine the Minority Report possibilities of having screens everywhere (especially as people start to figure out I/O workarounds to make them interactive):

    This is a kid who is also a projection screen. THE FUTURE!
    • This is a kid who is also a projection screen. THE FUTURE!

  • Despite frequent hand-washing and sanitizer dousing all weekend, one of us got a tiny spit fleck in our eye from A FOREIGNER during a product demo. If there's a PAX flu this year (no word yet), we are now a vector.
  • It's strangely fun and compelling to throw a couple Earths into Saturn just to see what happens. Universe Sandbox—from local indie developer Dan Dixon—gives you godly physics power, for just $10 on Steam.
  • If you're a fan of Diablo-y games, Path of Exile is an upcoming free, online-only action RPG that looks, plays, and sounds impressive, with a gritty vibe and a crazy huge skill tree. Plus, the developers are taking the high road and limiting paid content to vanity items. Watch for the beta to open up soon.
  • A dude in a black full-body cloak entered a stall in the men's room. Immediately thereafter, a happy sound effect from Zelda (let's hope it was a cell phone alert) chirped from within. Without missing a beat, he busted out with "I think I discovered something in the toilet!" (Credit would also have been awarded for "I just dropped some loot!")

* As local as can be with little indies, anyway; most of these folks collaborate online over thousands of miles, and HTS is no exception.
** Sorry, sometimes we have to use the language of our oppressors.

The Stranger Testing Department is Rob Lightner and Paul Hughes.