PopCap at PAX Prime: Panels, Pinball & Pastries


As you know, last weekend was the glorious display of geekery known as PAX, and PopCap was there in force to hand out hats and show off the magnificent collaboration with Zen Studios, Plants vs. Zombies Pinball, like a passel of proud papas (sometimes it’s so hard to let go of alliteration, please pardon).

Enjoy this super-sharp capture of the game itself, being enjoyed in the comfort of a swanky lounge chair in the PopCap booth. Then go find the game on

But beyond the booth, well away from the Wall-nuts, PopCap people engaged in other pursuits, namely panels! (I’m really going to stop this any moment now, I swear.) I attended any panel featuring any PopCapper, in the interest of bringing this part of PAX to you, dear BlogRiders.

On the first day, Jeff Green and Stephanie Bayer represented PopCap on a panel called “Community vs. PR: The Squabbling Siblings.”  And here I must deeply apologize for my lack of preparation. I failed to check the battery in my camera that morning so I can’t show you the image I wanted to show you for this panel — the title slide of the PowerPoint presentation that called the panel, “Community vs. PR: The Squatting Siblings.”

The panel was pretty entertaining. Jeff is someone you just hand a microphone or a keyboard (typing, not ivories… although to be fair, I don’t know he couldn’t do both!), then sit back and enjoy. Stephanie has been the Community Manager for Bejeweled Blitz for a while now, so she’s got plenty of funny stories to share as well. Right now, I’m kicking myself for one of the notes I took, because obviously I found it so hilarious or memorable that I couldn’t imagine it would require context later: pet velociraptor.

So, um, Jeff, if you remember the bit about the pet velociraptor, I’d love to hear that again; it seems the full PAX experience wiped it from my brain, leaving only that mysterious and enticing fragment of a quote on a page.

The panelists talked at length about how not to be a bad member of a community. Don’t use all caps; don’t use 47 exclamation points in a row; treat people online the same way you’d treat them if they were standing right in front of you. Which leads neatly into the Sunday morning panel that also featured Stephanie Bayer, “Snark, Cynicism, and Anonymity: How Community Managers Deal With Trolls.”

After charging my camera, I was able to capture this far kinder definition than I would ever have come up with.

The panel on trolling was early Sunday morning and competed with the need to stand in line for the Wil Wheaton Awesome Hour, so the savvy panelists advertised free doughnuts for attendees. (On Twitter, the hashtag for the panel was #FreeDoughnuts.) I sat in the audience and watched people rush toward the front of the room to claim their delicious treats, and I was a little bit envious. I could not bring myself to have a doughnut, though, because I was at PAX. Anyone remember the Swine Flu epidemic? There are still folks wandering around PAX with stickers that read “Infected” on their badges. I’m not about to pick something up at PAX and put it in my mouth, no matter how gooey and doughy it may be. Perhaps this lack of sugary goodness led to a brief lapse in goodwill toward men…

When the panelists announced that it was time for the Q&A, they said, “But we have to make it quick, so we’re going straight to the Lightning Round! That means you ask your questions as quickly as possible, and we will answer them the same way.” They also put a helpful graphic up on the screen with the words “Lightning Round” and a bright bolt of lightning.

Then the first person who went to the mic started off with a speech about how happy she was to be there, and why, and the panel’s relevance to her own life, and the reason she was glad to be able to ask the question… and I thought, man, some people have no idea what Lightning Round means.

It occurred to me that this was a troll thought, so I should be ashamed of myself. Then I thought, but no, a troll would have shouted it out loud, so I could relax in the comfort of knowing I was not a troll.

Then I tweeted it. Happy medium?

Friday night’s panel was on PvZ Pinball, and that topic will be covered for you in depth later this week. For now, though, I will leave you with an image from that panel, because I’ve learned a few things over three years of PAX:

  1. Don’t put things in your mouth.
  2. Never underestimate the desire for free stuff.
  3. There is nothing cooler than dancing zombies.

Here we neatly combine two of the above points.


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