By M. Scott Morris
SALTILLO – Russell Powell’s grand April adventure began with disappointment.
He works odd hours and usually gets home at 10 p.m. or so. When most people are asleep, the 24-year-old Saltillo resident can be found on his personal computer playing League of Legends, Counter-Strike or other video games.
He’s made online gaming friends around the country, but he hadn’t met any of them in person. PAX East was his chance to rectify that. It’s a gaming convention in Boston that took place the second weekend in April.
He and his buddies decided to get some face time while also checking out the gaming world’s latest offerings. But there was a problem. He learned of the convention too late.
“They sold out of Saturday tickets,” Powell said. “I went ahead and bought tickets for Friday and Sunday.”
Before he completed his purchase, he was asked it he’d want to take part in Omegathon. Powell clicked “Yes,” setting his adventure in motion. Some 60,000 tickets were sold to PAX East, and Powell was one of 32 people chosen to be an Omeganaut.
“It was definitely something not many people get to do, and with it being my first time going up there, it was kind of rare,” he said. “I heard people have been going to PAX for 10 years without getting into Omegathon.”
Powell and his fellow Omeganauts were paired up to compete in a series of games.
“It’s in front of a big crowd, and there were some people up there on stage just shaking,” Powell said. “I thought, I’m glad I’m not that bad.”
It would be natural to assume they competed at video games, but the first game was Perfection, where players had to position different shapes into place before the timer ran out.
Powell said he hadn’t played Perfection in 20 years, and it showed in his performance. His teammate fared better.
“He did it in 42 seconds, the fastest time anybody had done it,” Powell said.
The next challenge was Starwhal, and it is a video game. The players controlled narwhal-type beings with long tusks growing out of their foreheads and exposed hearts on their bellies.
Powell’s goal was to connect his narwhal’s tusk to his opponents’ hearts. He’d downloaded the game and practiced before Omegathon, but it didn’t help.
“I should’ve played more,” said Powell, who watched the rest of the competition from the crowd.
He took the loss in stride. He got an Omeganaut shirt and two three-day passes, so Saturday’s events were free for him and a gaming friend from Ohio.
For the rest of PAX East, Powell checked out the exhibits and hung out with people he knew but had never seen before. He returned from his adventure wanting to do it all over again.
“It was a great time,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”