Truly, a man cannot serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. One cannot serve both God and mammon.
I was first initiated into the concept of SWAG three years ago when I attended PAX 2009. Hitherto I had never been to a convention with stuff I wanted. Going to the RV convention with Mom and Dad as a kid just didn’t inspire me with a desire for lootz. But when I entered PAX for the first time and experienced the revelation of Stuff We All Get, SWAG, it was life changing. In PAX 2009 I took only what I wanted and thought would be personally useful, almost as though I were aping the first era of human development. I was in the hunter-gatherer stage of my convention evolution and looted at a subsistence level. After all I didn’t have enough room in my hands or back pack for all the food I’d brought and all the cool stuff. As Shown in this penny-arcade comic, space is a jealously guarded premium. At PAX 2010, as I began to walk upright and fashion tools of soft metals I was further enlightened by my buddy PAT with the knowledge of trade. He revealed to me that when I receive a bag of SWAG not all of the stuff in side is of use to me. Rather than disposing of these things I could use them to barter with others. Thus I entered the era of basic commerce, trading items at the convention and even selling some extras on line. I was met with such great success that I made more money than I spent on my ticket. It was this fact that wooed my to the dark side. I began to look forward to PAX 2011 not only as time of entertainment and fun, but as an opportunity for profit.
So this year at PAX I rapaciously pillaged every booth I could manage. Like a lurking vulture I would wait for a shift change in booth attendants to go back for more as though the expo was a buffet of potential gain. Beta keys, t-shirts, promotional codes, and skins all blended into one, fore before my eyes was not the sweat and tears of game developers yearning for popularity and success but a pile of gold, yea a trove of filthy lucre! Thus I moved from the simple mercantile era of human development to some bastardization of usury and the industrial revolution. If I could have employed impoverished waifs at a penny an hour to gather SWAG for me I probably would have done it. But, thanks be to God, I was recalled to my moral roots and pulled into the era of social progressiveism by Pat. A subtle reference to the lawyer in the movie Se7en, was eye-opening and shaming.
I do find it somewhat comforting that my minor foray into SWAG greed is nothing in comparison to Hollywood vultures. In an article by NYDaily News you can read about stars, already rich bastards, making off with over 10 grand in SWAG. That’s right ten thousand dollars or more of completely free stuff. Though in principle these things are the same. And the level of greed displayed by those stars is proportionate to mine when you examine our relative incomes.
My conscience is soothed a little more by the knowledge that I have a part time job that one would never call financially rewarding or lucrative, so I don’t really feel all that bad for hocking this stuff on line to a lot of folks who couldn’t make it to the expo. In fact I’m doing them a favor. The actual practice of selling SWAG isn’t bad in my opinion, only the lustful orgy of booth pillaging many, including myself, are so easily drawn in to. In fact it has become something of a culture, which I don’t use as an excuse so much as a lens through which to see how much I am shaped by society. Maybe next year to be provocative and counter-cultural as a Christian should I will bring SWAG for the venders. Maybe a big bag happy face buttons, cheap bow-ties. I could even give them beta codes to other people’s games, or even my own. Or maybe I’ll spend the whole convention handing out SWAG and kitsch-merch at the GameChurch booth.
Additionally as a side note. I was looking around for funny Penny-Arcade posts on swag, of which there are many but their search function sucks so I couldn’t find them. BUT, I found this bullshit blog that abuses Gabe and Tycho by editing their comics to sound misogynistic and pro-rape. I’m not sure what it has to do with the evils of swag hoarding but it was just to ridiculous to pass up.