A Love Letter to Gaming: PAX PRIME 2014 Report

written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)

Another PAX PRIME has come and gone, arguably the biggest gamer centric convention in the US. Over the last few years, PRIME has averaged a rising attendance of 70,000+ with tickets increasingly being harder to come by, this local gaming show is reaching San Diego Comic Con levels. We at Lifted Geek have been avid PAX attendees even before we started the website, but this year was a very different year for us. Thanks to one of our new friends, we attended PAX PRIME 2014 as guest bloggers for TheRealStanLee.com and with their support we ramped up our coverage to levels we haven’t done since our first year attending Emerald City Comic Con as press/media.

Like previous years, the show floor has stayed pretty much the same. The high profile booths and AAA developers took up much of the fourth floor with smaller indie companies to heavy hitters like Ubisoft and Square-Enix, this show is the first chance that fans outside of the gaming industry can check out what’s on the horizon post-E3.

The most prominent booth had to be the Evolve booth, with folks lining up for hours just to get a taste of this forthcoming title, the atmosphere was electrifying. Evolve takes the co-op/multiplayer aspect of shooters and gives it a new life. Five players battle it out, with four acting as a co-operative team of hunters with one controlling the game’s primary monster. The monster can attack smaller creatures, eating them to“evolve” its skill-set to better handle taking on the team of hunters. Serving up a unique gameplay that break up the monotony of what multiplayer shooters have become in the wake of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Evolve delivers something new we the gamer has sorely needed.

Evolve's booth was a sight to behold

Evolve's booth was a sight to behold

Their booth was also hands down the most impressive, with a huge statue of the monster featured prominently in the center of the booth. Many a PAX goer couldn’t help but stop and snap a photo of the monster.

While last year was all about the coming new console generation, this was a year for games. Showing off just what this new console generation can do, PS4 and XBOX ONE was featured prominently throughout the show. While I do have both consoles, my interest in the show leaned heavily to lesser-known indie games. I’ll get more into details in a forthcoming Pixel Rated piece, but for now I’ll keep the details lighter.

huge showings from the heavy hitters

huge showings from the heavy hitters

One game I played quite a bit of was Lichdom: Battle Mage from Xavient. They had a super interactive booth with a complimentary photo-booth, a chance to demo the game, and entry in what I believe was the BEST raffle at the convention. The game itself featured all the might and power of a mage without those annoying cool downs. Since the sole character class in the game is a mage, this made for a fast and frantic first-person adventure game that proved to be quite challenging.

I feel I need to mention the raffle, as I said it was the best raffle at this convention hands down. Every day they gave away five awesome prizes; two video cards, two gamer prize packs (featuring a keyboard, mouse, mouse mat, and headphones), and one Razer Blade gaming laptop. The laptop was arguably the most sought after prize of the show. Friday I took my brother to PAX, it was his very first PAX and that lucky little punk won the Razer Blade gaming laptop, so of course I had to come in the next day to try and win one myself. Sunday was the day, after going through that epically long line again, lucked smiled on me and I became the brand new owner of a Razer Blade gaming laptop… my partner Riri even won one of the gamer prize packs. This booth really took care of us, and I’ve been playing the game lately and it’s been a lot of fun!

#winning PRINCE and RIRI winning stuff from the Xavient booth

#winning PRINCE and RIRI winning stuff from the Xavient booth

Another game that stuck out to me was a MOBA from Motiga Games called Gigantic. After attending an event Sunday night, I met with some of their community managers and organized a private play session for their game. Bringing with me every member of LG that was at the show, along with a few of our friends at Undiscovered Photography, we met with Troy Hewitt of Motiga Games to check out their 5v5 MOBA. More in depth thoughts on the game will be included in a forthcoming hands-on article, but from the little time I did spend with it, what impressed me most about it was how it didn't feel like the the typical MOBA.

Oculus Rift showed up with a vastly improved platform for their VR headset. Last year’s PAX PRIME saw damn near endless lines to try out the tech. Having checked it out last year, I was curious to see what has changed. New to the device, is the ability to look down when you look at the world around you. The demo I played was a 3D platformer in the vein of Super Mario 64, and honestly I was very skeptical to how the technology would be utilized. I’ve seen how the tech works in first-person perspective games, but could it really thrive in other genres? While the blurriness was quite jarring and finding that visual “sweet spot” did prove to be difficult at times, the execution for such a game was by large positive. It proved that the Oculus tech has a life beyond FPS and pilot/mech games.

I’m used to cosplay not playing that prominent of a role at PAX; over the years though I have seen the cosplay culture at this convention evolve exponentially. Riot Games, the minds behind the hugely popular MOBA League of Legends, hosted a “cospitality room” where cosplayers can kick back, relax, grab a couple photos, and overall find a safe haven from the madness of PAX PRIME’s show floor. Speaking of LoL, with this hugely popular MOBA literally everywhere… much of the more spectacular cosplayers brought to life their favorite champions. League of Legends was everywhere, these days you can guarantee that you’ll find a LoL cosplayer at any con you attend, it’s almost like the new Deadpool. While PAX doesn’t spotlight cosplayers as heavily as the anime or comic conventions, the cosplay culture at PAX is starting to build itself up to that level.

The weekend came as fast as it was over, exhausted and totally video-game’d out, I wouldn’t trade weekends like this for the world. Much of my youth was spent with video games, almost every important memory I have, I can link back to what I was playing at the time. When I remember starting the 8th grade I fondly remember the hours I spent traversing a cyber-punk/fantasy world in Final Fantasy VII, the very first time I fell in love I remember that I was also playing Final Fantasy X and feeling amazed by the visuals… when I first heard my grandmother passed away, I found solace in powering through a few levels of Super Mario Bros 3. Gaming is a huge part of who I am and what makes me who I am today. Like in life, I’ve had my rough patches with gaming… Virtual Boy, Mortal Kombat on the SNES, Resident Evil 6, and of course the abusive relationship with Square Enix I just can’t quit. PAX PRIME sits as my favorite convention to this date, after all the Comic Cons and Anime Cons and everything in-between, ya never forget your first love… and my first taste of geek culture was gaming, gotta love a party that can celebrate how far it has come and where it will be going.