I don’t typically think of myself as a gamer. I think of myself as the wife of a gamer. Someone who bakes Pac Man cupcakes in support of her husband’s 24 hour Extra Life marathon. Who makes a pixel wedding quilt for her Bethesda-employed brother-in-law.

I’m not sure why this is, exactly, this weirdly off-to-the-side perception of myself in the gaming world. I have loved all things Mario Bros. since 1985, and I can outplay Adam in Mario’s universe any day of the week. One of my fondest memories from my 20s is lining up with Adam in the wee hours in Manhattan to buy a Wii on release day. But other than a brief obsession with Viva Piñata and some mid-naughties Xbox Arcade games (has anyone ever actually gotten an Achievement in Bejeweled 2?), that’s really where the scope of my gaming life ends. And since I’m kind of a strict Mariophite, and especially after the backlash against Nintendo for catering to fair weather gamers rather than the die hards, I just never thought the title “gamer” applied to me.

Somehow starting our family changed this. The thing about starting a family is, you simultaneously start a family brand identity. What values you plan to instill, what allegiances and fandoms you plan to pass on (Yankees, Harry Potter over Twilight, Sheffield Wednesday, etc.), and especially what hobbies and activities you plan to do together. This crystallizes when you have a child because even when they are just days old you can’t wait to show them everything. And that inevitably shapes Who You’re Family Is in a way that just isn’t as clear when you’re a couple.

This is why we couldn’t wait to take Hannah to PAX East this year. I have been to PAX Prime and PAX East once each before, and Adam’s been to Seattle at least one additional time without me. And again, I’ve always gone as the wife of a gamer, someone who doesn’t get the references but is up for anything. But this year, with Hannah, I decided that I am a gamer. I’m just a gamer with a particular allegiance. But this is my community, too. And with that, I got so much more out of PAX this time. The panels I went to just backed up my sense of inclusion, and I realized that “gaming” is too small a word to describe this community. There is so much overlap between the world of PAX and that of LeakyCon, or crafting, or kid lit and YA lit. Even BlogHer. These are all just communities of tech-centered, non-mainstream creatives, and I fit right in with that.

Which is all just a very long way of saying that I loved PAX East this year. It was a much different experience for me this time around, and it was so great taking Hannah.

The line for the geek crafting panel was enough to make me feel at home. The people in line were so wonderful, complimenting each other and displaying their handmade costumes, scarves, hats, etc. Again, overlap.

This girl was in the crafting panel, fittingly. She followed Hannah and I out so we could cut a path through the crowd with Hannah’s stroller. I don’t think peripheral vision was ideal in there.

She was very cute, and clearly very crafty.

I brought my own companion cube!

The crowds down on the show floor. We couldn’t take the stroller down there, so on the first day Hannah and I just watched from one of the skybridges while Adam was in another panel.

Hannah loved it!

On Sunday Hannah and I went to the Geek Parenting panel, and she won this stuffed arcade game as a prize. She would not put it down the rest of the trip.

I think it was the Geek Parenting panel that really cemented my comfort in this community. It was hosted by editors and contributors from GeekDad and GeekMom, and topics ranged from when to introduce kids to Star Wars to addressing sexism in gaming when raising daughters. It was so right on, a room full of parents and soon-to-be-parents openly discussing the kind of stuff that would get me eye rolls among my day-to-day peers. But they were so much like Adam and me. Except for the guy who wanted his 9-year-old to get into horror movies with him; I’m 100% with your wife on that one, buddy.

I know this is going to sound so trite, but I really felt like this time PAX was really eye-opening and welcoming for me. I can’t wait to take Hannah to her first Prime.