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As PAX closes, gamers await bigger ’11 venue

Thousands filed through the Hynes Convention Center for this weekend’s PAX East gaming event. Thousands filed through the Hynes Convention Center for this weekend’s PAX East gaming event. (Essdras M Suarez/ Globe Staff)
By Hiawatha Bray
Globe Staff / March 29, 2010

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The PAX East gaming conference, which wrapped up yesterday, was the biggest event of its kind ever hosted in Boston, but many of those who crowded into the Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center said the venue wasn’t big enough.

“I don’t think this convention center was designed for a show of this size,’’ a PAX spokesman, Kris Straub, said yesterday. “I’m glad, for one, that it’s moving to a bigger center next year,’’ he said, referring to a plan to hold the conference at the huge Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in 2011, and again in 2012.

Tens of thousands of video game and board game players swarmed through the Hynes over the weekend. They came to play, to party, and to check out new products from about 70 hardware and software companies. Precise attendance numbers were not released yesterday, but a PAX event held in September in Seattle attracted about 60,000 gamers.

“They could definitely use a bigger venue,’’ said Dan Teasdale, senior designer for Harmonix Music Systems Inc. About 400 PAX guests filled a conference room to hear Teasdale and four other Harmonix designers talk about how they created the Cambridge company’s popular Rock Band video games.

“I think the city is a little bit taken aback by how big this is,’’ said Curt Schilling, former Red Sox pitcher and cofounder of the video game design company 38 Studios LLC of Maynard. “I don’t think they were expecting this.’’

Schilling, an avid gamer, said he attended PAX East mainly to have fun, but also to recruit designers for his company, which plans to hire about 350 people over the next few years.

Fans were annoyed by the crowded conditions, but otherwise pleased with the conference.

“You need to wait in line for hours,’’ said bank teller Julianne Gendrano, 24, of Somerville, adding that she welcomed the chance to spend an entire weekend in the company of fellow gamers. “This is the only place we really have in New England to get together.’’

It was also a rare opportunity for little-known companies to show off their latest efforts.

Atomic Games Inc., of Raleigh, N.C., came to town seeking to revive an ill-fated game about the battle of Fallujah during the Iraq War. The game’s distributor pulled out of the project because of its controversial subject after Atomic had spent millions to develop war gaming technology. Atomic has redesigned the game as an apolitical shoot-’em-up called Breach, which it plans to sell via Internet downloads.

Atomic’s president, Peter Tamte, said he is hoping PAX gamers who tried Breach enjoyed it and will tell their friends. “The PAX show brings exactly the kinds of people who are influential,’’ Tamte said. “If they like it, they’ll go out and tell everybody about it.’’

A much smaller company, Dejobaan Games of Watertown, was also trying to spread the word about its oddly named game, AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!!

“It’s a game about falling and not dying,’’ said developer Dan Brainerd. Players plunge down the sides of virtual tall buildings, avoiding obstacles as they fall.

“Thousands of people have played our game in the past three days,’’ Brainerd said. “We’re hoping to get a lot of sales out of this.’’

Adam Mersky, spokesman for Turbine Inc., of Westwood, was happy with the crowds. “Our booth’s been full all weekend,’’ he said. The company makes Lord of the Rings Online and other Web-based role-playing games. Turbine did not introduce products at the show. Instead, developers spent time with fans, to get ideas and build customer loyalty.

“We can’t wait for next year,’’ Mersky said.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at bray@globe.com.

PAX East 2010

PAX East 2010

Videos and photos from video game convention in Boston.