The following article is created thanks to the collaboration of D20 Girls, Katarina, Alexandra and friend to D20 Girls, Kent B. Many thanks to those who contributed stories and we look forward to hearing your great experiences in the future.
This is my third time attending the Penny Arcade Expo or “PAX Prime” when referring to the event in Seattle (there’s a PAX East in Boston and PAX Aus in Melbourne, Australia). The convention’s bread, butter, and jam are the following: Gaming, panels and parties. Sometimes, if you’re fortunate, the three bleed over into one another and you get all kinds of fun.
PAX is about games: video games, tabletop games, and the people who make and play them. Dozens of studios and developers highlight their past and current game projects with the hope of selling their product to the attendees who, in turn, hype their product across the social media spectrum. The convention also gives these developers a chance to connect with their fans face-to-face.
When exploring the exhibition hall, the most popular games/merchandise on the floor are quickly defined by the number of attendees swarming a given booth. For example, this year, The Elder Scrolls Online demo booth usually had a full line that, from the back, was a two and half hour wait. Sounds crazy, right? The waiting is an accepted “evil” that fans endure in order to play somewhere between five to twenty-five minutes of a demo. It can be hard on the feet by the third or fourth day, but then that’s what the beanbag lounge is for. Beyond the exhibition hall, there are entire sections of the convention center dedicated to non-digital or tabletop games for those who enjoy the traditional “pen and paper” scene.
If jumping from game booth to game booth gets tiring, there’s also a long list of panels throughout the four days. Game devs, game journalists, and gamers host these panels not only to meet their fans, but also to educate. Whether it’s something as common as discussing a game currently in development or giving advice on how to start a career in the game industry, there’s a lot of opportunities to made by going to a variety of panels.
My advice to future attendees would be to give the schedule a look over before the convention starts and loosely plan what you want to see. I say “loosely” for two reasons. One, lines. Yes, even panels have waiting lines and in my experience, it’s best to arrive between half-an-hour to an hour ahead of time. Two, if you’re meeting up with a group of friends and you try to coordinate your plans, everyone is going to have a different schedule. In moments like that, you have to be ready to either toss your itinerary in your backpack and roll with the punches, or plan any get-togethers before the convention starts.
Beyond the convention center, another PAX highlight is the parties held around downtown. Various game studios and prominent game media groups usually host the parties. These events are another great way to meet other fans, have a few drinks, network with game developers, and just have a good time.
This year was my very first opportunity to attend PAX Prime and saying I was excited would have been an understatement. I was ready to play some games, get some awesome swag, and show off some cosplay. However I was doing it all on my own, I rarely attend conventions without my normal group of people around me as a sort of security blanket, however I was the only one of us able to obtain a pass, and I wasn’t about to pass up this opportunity. Walking into the expo hall for the first time was overwhelming to say the least. So many people and lights and colors and sounds. It took me almost a full hour just to stumble my way into one of the many endless lines to demo a game.
PAX, I imagine, could easily be compared to Disney World in this aspect. Stand in line for about and hour or so, get 6 minutes of game play, and then off to another line. Saturday I hit the floor in cosplay and I managed to get in to play Killzone 2 on the Playstation 4. While I was definitely impressed by the pure awesomeness of the Playstation 4, Killzone lived up to be exactly what I expected. Yet another first-person-shooter game that people take way to seriously. You can easily assume that it probably won’t find it’s way into my game library. However the demo videos for both Infamous: Second Son and the new Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag got me even more excited for both game’s release, I can’t wait to play! A new WB game Dying Light offered a pleasant surprise for me. I’ve never been much for horror or zombies, (I’m paranoid enough, and I don’t need any help not sleeping at night) but Dying Light, at least the levels I played offered a bright new experience on zombie killing. While I’m sure it will have it’s dark moments, the gentleman working the booth bragged about the story line on the game. I’ll put my money down that it’s going to be a fun one. Now, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but there’s this little game called League of Legends. Ok, fine you know all about League, and while I can only call myself a dabbler in the summoner field, I was excited about the North America League of Legends Regionals being held at PAX.
I managed to be one of the last people to squeeze into ballroom 6A to catch the final championship showdown between Cloud 9 and T
SM. One of the many people I managed to make friends with over the weekend was a HUGE TSM fan to put it lightly. He had be rooting for their triumphs and sighing when things weren’t going their way. Which frankly was most of the match. Cloud 9 came out with a HUGE 3-0 victory over TSM, who after a rough start in the first match just couldn’t regain any momentum to try to take the game back. I have to say I found myself getting swept up in a football-esque crowding chanting and screaming over a 10 dudes sitting behind monitors. It was an exhilarating feeling I hadn’t felt since I stopped attending college athletic events.
PAX is fun. There is no doubt in my head that I want nothing more than to return next year. The location in downtown Seattle walking distance from the Pike Place Market and lots of good food, make it an almost unbeatable convention to attend. If you’re a gamer and you haven’t been to PAX make it a priority because no matter what you spend to get there this is your con.
Friday was certainly the busiest and most over-whelming day with figuring out the layout of the convention, seeing the costumes and collecting “all of the swag”. There was also a wonderful panel that was no camera-no video/audio recording for The Last Of Us that showed exclusive PAX Prime only content. The panel was an hour long, filled with laughs and great sources of information about the development of how The Last of Us came to be, as well as followed by a Q&A between fans and the creators for about five minutes. The panel was packed, and line up had started an hour and a half in advance for it, certainly making it a spotlight for the show. The concert happened to seem very lacking and wasn’t full, there was no one managing the booth for The Protomen Friday Night which was frustrating for the folks who were interested in purchasing items.
Saturday was still very busy, League championships and League cosplays were in abundance, as well as a Transitor Panel put on by Supergiant games, and some wonderful Supergiant cosplays. There was the League of Legends championships, some costume contests put on by League, random booths, and all sorts of parties or panels to see and do.
If you had some time, there were multiple quests you could take, the Mountain Dew QR Code hunt, the WindWaker Quest to get a free shirt, and some others that were around for the entire weekend. All of which involved free swag, party invites, or some other sort of reward for doing certain tasks around the convention. The line to re-play WindWaker HD was quite long and ridiculous every single day of PAX, which was disappointing. However, testing out A Link Between Worlds validated how well of a game it is, and how much fun it is. I personally will be picking it up when it Debuts November 2, 2013.
Sunday I finally found the indie developer Grimm Bro’s booth on the sixth floor where they showed off their new game Dragon Fin Soup, which you could sign up for the Beta for at their booth. It’s an RPG that meshes story tales with adult plot lines: Red Robin being a character who is “trailer trash, and uses a shotgun”. The game looks like a lot of fun and the creators were very kind.
I found that the indie area of the convention to be relaxed, and a much easier way to try out some games with short lines, and a chance to really connect with people.
Wolfenstien seemed like a fun game as well’ however I was not able to test it or learn much about it, which is being put out by Bethseda, and Assassins’ Creed IX: Black Flag looks excellent and progresses the story line, the worlds, and overall the game play looks wonderful.
PAX Prime 2013 was very long, busy, bustling, and overall a pleasant experience and I can’t wait to go back next year.