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PAX 07: The Wil Wheaton keynote, just for geeks

The lights go out, and a phone call voice-over plays.

Two hours ago...

Lazlo's Office
Rockstar Games
New York City

Wil Wheaton is calling his buddy, an audio producer at Rockstar, trying to figure out a way to make a memorable entrance. They settle on something epic, something Lord of the Ringsy. The music bellows and Wheaton takes the stage.

"My name is Wil Wheaton and Jack Thompson can suck my balls." The audience cheers.

"I should note that today's keynote has been rated MA by the ESRB and if you have a problem with that, you can go fuck yourselves." He rattles off his geek cred: he's played NightWatch, he had an original Gameboy, and he carries around every 2600 game on a USB key (a USB key? We had them embedded subdermally years ago). He sure knows how to get the crowd going, citing classic gaming one-liners each one resulting in a chorus of applause. He rattles off popular internet memes like "the internet is a series of tubes" and "we need more cowbell" and "Leeroy Jenkins."

His infectious preaching of "geek power" has a very rapt audience at PAX. He lays out his history as a geek, explains his manipulations, all geared towards giving him more time to play arcade games in between a busy school and audition schedule. One of his most endearing stories was about playing Wizard of War.

"Arcades were to my generation what Xbox Live and World of Warcraft are to this generation." So much of his spiel revolves around how he's older than everyone in the audience ... ignore that baby face. Wikipedia says he's 35 (we need to take better care of ourselves). He shuffles onto home consoles, landing a little nearer and dearer to our hearts. Atari to Colecovision to ... the NES. The memories ooze forth; names like Metroid elicit cheers every time ("Oh my god dude! It's a chick!" Hey, thanks for the spoiler. Jerk.)

He recollects his first experience with the Wii, sent over by Penny Arcade's Robert Khoo when selected to deliver the keynote address. The Wii rekindled his love of video games as a social experience and reminded him that games can be shared with friends, despite what opportunistic political types like Jack Thompson and Hillary Clinton think (oooh, he really nailed the crowd here. They erupt. One fella screams, "TESTIFY!"). "It's none of their fucking business what I choose to play with my kids!" More cheers. He explains how he monitors what games his kids play. He wouldn't let his son play GTA: Vice City until he was 17 (wait ... Wil Wheaton has a kid in college now? We really need to get to a gym or something ... work on our waistlines).

"Just as the multiplayer games are social experiences, so are the single player games narrative works of art." Sounds like someone was in the storytelling in games panel preceding the keynote. He moves onto Guitar Hero, and discusses the time spent playing with his family and addresses the naysayers who say they're better off playing a "real" guitar. Seriously, those folks really burn our chaps too. His speech crecendos into a battle call for geeks; it almost feels like the lot of us, all 30,000 that he cites, are about to raise up our plastic guitars in lieu of pitchforks and storm City Hall. A standing ovation from the crowd and we're off.

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