Bejeweled Blitz and the PAX Playoffs

Today’s post is from our good friend Jason, on the Bejeweled Blitz team.

The Penny Arcade Expo is always a fun and exciting experience for me! But this year, when I walked into PAX… I was a little worried.

Before the doors of the Washington State Convention Center even opened, PAX was promising to be one of the highlight events of the gaming year. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were getting their first public, playable demonstration for American gamers. People were going to get their hands on Titanfall, too! Nintendo brought all their major franchises, and third parties were showing up with amazing titles like The Wolf Among Us and The Elder Scrolls Online.

In the midst of all that… would anyone stop to play Bejeweled Blitz?

Bejeweled Blitz has been around in its current form since 2010, but this was the first time in years that we’ve brought it to a convention for people to play. The entire Bejeweled team was eager to get the game on the show floor and into people’s hands. We even brought t-shirts to celebrate the occasion.

The Bejeweled Blitz PAX exclusive shirts are the flashiest of gamer couture.

But in those minutes leading up to the opening of PAX 2013, I was worried we’d end up lost in the shuffle of the big guys. Would people stop to play Bejeweled Blitz when they could immerse themselves in an Oculus Rift HD headset just a few steps away?

The doors opened… I bit my nails in anticipation…

...and then this happened.

Within 60 seconds of the start of the show (just long enough for a rousing round of Bejeweled Blitz in fact!), our booth had a line of people waiting to play. And it never stopped. For the entire four-day run of PAX, we always had people queued up.

Hardcore gamers came to the booth to try and set the high score for the weekend, hoping to show off their skills and make a name for themselves.

Couples stopped by and went head-to-head with each other. Boyfriend against girlfriend, and the winner would take home bragging rights. (A lot of the men went home in shame as their ladies trounced them.)

I imagine this is how some couples decide who has to wash the dishes.

People would fall just shy of the high score for the day… and then get right back in line to try again.

We ran hourly tournaments that had people scrambling to play! Spectators in line would cheer, people nearby would come over and start yelling their support for the competitors… Bejeweled Blitz became a spectacle.

For the entirety of PAX, people kept coming to our booth to play. Over the course of the weekend, we gave away about a thousand t-shirts. More than 7,000 rounds of Bejeweled Blitz were played at the convention.

As incredible as all of that was, it didn’t compare to the stories people told us. Bejeweled has been around for over a decade, in various forms, and more than half a billion people have played it. People would come up to the booth and regale us with stories about how they were introduced to Bejeweled on their first cell phone, long before iPhones and App Stores. Kids would talk about how they played competitively with their parents. We even had one beautiful story from a player that had been in a terrible car accident, and their doctor had encouraged them to play Bejeweled to improve their motor skills and reflexes.
And every time we heard a story like this, people always had a smile on their face. Bejeweled made them happy.

The happiness came back to us a thousandfold.

When the doors to PAX finally closed and we were taking down our booth, the Bejeweled team was incredibly happy. Not every game can stand the test of time, but Bejeweled does. And to see it stand up against the titans of the industry because of the indelible mark it has left on gamers is a deep and humbling experience.

Here’s to many more PAXs… and many more years for Bejeweled.

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