"Sext." Jihee Kim

My first PAX (PAX Prime 2010) was magical in every way. It was my first gaming convention, my first time playing D&D, my first "PAX plague" (too much hand-to-mouth/eye contact). My first time submerging my hands into a vat of 20-sided dice. Portal 2 blew everyone’s minds. Acquisitions, Inc. with Wil Wheaton cemented my fascination with Dungeons & Dragons. Thousands of giddy strangers, united by joy. I was one of them. I felt like I had finally found my people. I went back year after year, to taste that excitement again. However, it was not the same. It's never the same.

All photos by Jihee Kim.

This year, the lines to play a one-minute preview of a game, months before the release, were an endurance test.The Cards Against Humanity panel felt like going to church on Christmas with my parents. But there were bright spots, too, mainly to be found outside the main expo hall: The number of cosplayers seems to grow each year by the hundreds, glittering the convention with so much wonderful color, skill, and skin. It was strangers painting Reaper minis together. It was friends playing Magic: The Gathering on the steps of the Paramount. It was finding proper reception. It was the Saturn Bomberman tournament. It was finding Patrick Rothfuss sitting quietly by himself, looking a little tired. It was watching Batman text. It was watching Link eat a Subway sandwich. It was watching people watch internet celebrities play Gears of War and cheering.

I spent the majority of my time at PAX this year watching, not waiting in line for three hours to watch adult men play D&D for three hours, and I am totally okay with that. Sigh. Will I go next year? I'm not sure. But even if I don’t, I’ll always be fond of it.