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My First Gamescom/PAX: A Story Of Schnitzel And Swag

Over the course of two weeks, the Harmonix dance troupe (a.k.a. the Community Team) traveled thousands of miles to play Dance Central 2 with hundreds of fans from all over the world at some of the video game industry’s largest fan conventions. We got the party started at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany, the largest gaming convention in the world with a whopping 275,000 attendees. Two days after that we made our way over to Seattle for the Penny Arcade Expo where we not only got our groove on, but also gave away TONS of incredible swag, hosted a panel where we announced six new Dance Central 2 songs and hung out with community members at a popular donut shop where more than 200 round sugary treats were consumed.

Even though I’ve worked in the gaming industry for more than two years, this was my first time experiencing both Gamescom and PAX. After two straight weeks of travel with the rest of the Community Team and Dance Central 2 I can honestly say that A) The Community Team and DC choreographers are the most indefatigable people I’ve ever met (and are amazing to work with); B) Dance Central fans are the absolute BEST; and C) Being Dance Central’s Community Manager is the greatest job in the world. In case you didn’t get a chance to make it out to Gamescom or PAX, here’s a quick recap of my experiences at both of these conventions.


The Crew: HMXamgo, HMXHenry, HMXPope, HMXJohnD, Chanel, Ricardo

Most Popular Tracks: “Rude Boy”, “Sexy Chick”, “Sandstorm”, “Dragostea Din Tei”

After spending a couple days on a Dance Central 2 press tour with HMXJohnD, I only had a weekend to rest right before making a red eye flight to Cologne with HMXHenry and HMXPope (HMXJohnD was already at the scene). After a lengthy flight and a dizzying time navigating Charles de Gaulle airport during our layover in Paris we finally made it to Cologne! We settled into our hotel that had a beautiful view of the Cologne Cathedral (Dom), met up with Dance Central choreographers Chanel Thompson and Ricardo Foster and raced off to the Koelnmesse to check out our Dance Central 2 setup.

At Gamescom we had an incredible booth located along Microsoft’s Kinect setup on the show floor. The lights were bright, the bass was bumpin’, and the two stages within the booth had plenty of room for some serious dance action. We met the local dancers who would help us show off Dance Central 2 and translate when needed for the five-day convention, warmed up with a few tracks to make sure everything was working properly, and then headed out to dinner for the first of what would be many plates of Schnitzel. We loaded up on a huge meal and got to bed early to kick off the first day of Gamescom!

We started off Gamescom with TONS of exciting Dance Central 2 announcements including details on the changes to Dance Battle and Break It Down, the release date for Dance Central 2, and added 13 new songs to the track list! The new tracks were playable on the show floor at the convention. Fans were also able to try out our revamped Dance Battle mode that features new Free-4-All competitive multiplayer sections. We had the chance to help run Dance Central 2 tournaments at the Xbox stage behind our booth where players competed head-to-head in Dance Battle for awesome prizes. The final scores were always super close, which got the crowd hyped every single time!

The rest of Gamescom was spent playing Dance Central 2 with hundreds of fans of all ages from all around the world. Some fans hit the dance floor in traditional garb while others cut a rug in incredible cosplay. We had Yoshi, Kirby, Stormtroopers, Princess Leia, and other special guests hit the stage that drew huge crowds around our booth. European dance star Ethan Jerome Coleman joined us on stage for a performance of Nicki Minaj’s “Massive Attack” on Hard and picked up the choreography in no time flat!

The convention center had little to no air conditioning and vendors refused to serve ice with drinks so naturally after five days of dancing in a warm venue we were a little tired, but the excitement of our fans over Dance Central 2, especially the ones who hung out at the booth for the entire convention for a chance to play through the 20+ songs we brought to the show, helped keep energy levels high across the entire team. We closed out the show with a group performance of Darude’s “Sandstorm”, said our goodbyes to the local dancers and grabbed Doner Kebabs for dinner (delicious!) and shortly after began our descent into madness from exhaustion. Good times!

After a good night’s rest we got up bright and early to hop on a flight back to Boston. At this point we had only two days to rest before heading out to the Community Team’s favorite event of the year…


The Crew: HMXamgo, HMXHenry, HMXPope, HMXJohnD, HMXJessaBrez, Chanel, Ricardo

Most Popular Tracks: “Technologic”, “Sandstorm”, “Dragostea Din Tei”, “Born This Way”

Even though we were still fighting off jet lag from Gamescom and had lost all sense of time and place, HMXHenry, Chanel, Ricardo, HMXJessaBrez (who recently re-joined the Community Team), and I hopped on an early flight from Boston to Seattle where we would meet up with HMXJohnD and HMXPope to officially kick off PAX (a.k.a. the holy grail of gaming conventions, as I’d been told by countless sources). We were all super pumped about the upcoming weekend so spirits were at an all-time high! Our first order of business was to organize swag designed by our very own Fish McGill, which were hands down the best swag at the show. We had Dance Central-branded soccer scarves, bandanas, sunglasses and slap bracelets in four different colors, each of which represented the different crews in Dance Central 2 (Riptide, Hi-Def, Lu$h and Flash4wrd).

With swag in hand we made our way to the Washington State Convention Center to check out our PAX stage. Our booth had two stages in a similar setup to Gamescom and was located just next to Microsoft’s Kinect showcase with a huge lighted Dance Central 2 sign that was easy to spot from across the show floor. After testing out the stage we went on a bit of a shopping spree downtown for some funky threads, continued the huge dinner tradition by consuming oversized steaks and then called it an early night in preparation for the first day at PAX!

Over the weekend we had the pleasure of meeting (and dancing with) Dance Central fans who came in from all across the country for PAX! We even had cosplayers dressed as DC2’s Bodie and Glitch stop by our booth! Everyone hanging around the Dance Central 2 area was psyched to see these guys take the stage and play as their respective characters. They did an amazing job! Also, big shout out to MightyMeCreative and Holly Green ( editor) for hanging out all weekend and for showing support! You guys rock!

That Saturday night HMXHenry, HMXPope, HMXJohnD and I hosted the “Harmonix Reverse Q&A Panel” where we gave a first look and live demo of our iOS app VidRhythm. We also announced six more songs for Dance Central 2, which got an incredible audience reaction (the amazing Keynote presentation skills of HMXHenry and HMXJohnD definitely contributed) that included “The Humpty Dance”, “What Is Love” and “Baby Got Back”. We closed out the panel by asking the audience some hard-hitting Rock Band questions and shortly after made our way to Top Pot Donuts for a community meet-and-greet (huge thanks to the Top Pot staff for handling 200+ visitors and for providing delicious donuts and coffee). Our entry requirement? A rad (albeit heavy) Dance Central cassette necklace handed out to panel attendees at the beginning of our talk. The community event was tons of fun! We had a great time catching up with our amazing fans over yummy dessert!

On the last day of PAX we had some of our newly announced tracks on the show floor including “The Humpty Dance” and “Baby Got Back” which were a success with the crowds! We closed out the show with a huge group performance of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s smash hit. Spirits among the Community Team were just as high as day one thanks to three days of rocking out with the greatest fans we could ever ask for.

Our plans to return home were interrupted thanks to Hurricane Irene, so our initial Sunday night departure was pushed back until Thursday. As it turns out being, stranded in Seattle with some of the most hilarious people I know isn’t all that bad! I couldn’t be happier to be part of such an incredible team!

I want to give a big thanks to all of the fans who stopped by our booths at Gamescom and PAX to play Dance Central 2! It’s the die-hard support from the fans that motivates our team to keep pushing on through development and create the games we all love. You’re definitely in for a treat when Dance Central 2 releases in October. We can’t wait for you to check it out! In the meantime, be sure to keep your browser locked on, Facebook and Twitter for all of the latest news and behind-the-scenes features on Dance Central 2!

Keep on dancing!
-HMXamgo (Annette Gonzalez)
Community Manager, Dance Central

Check out our photos from Gamescom and PAX on the Official Harmonix Community Flickr!