written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
Seattle’s biggest gaming convention gets rebranded this year with PAX effectively dropping the Prime. Newly minted as PAX West, this year’s Penny Arcade Expo once again brought the heavy hitters and indie marvels together for a four day weekend of awesome.
As someone who goes to PAX every year, I knew what to expect. The show floor is split between the skybridge over Pike St with a collection of AAA and Indie booths covering every inch of the show. As per usual, the AAA big guns were all in attendance. From the big three (Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft) to the studios like Square-Enix, Blizzard, Bethesda, and Ubisoft.
One thing I noticed was that the AAA showings have continued to be more of the same, a few large displays but nothing as grandiose as the Battleborn booth last year. Sony was deep in promoting the Playstation VR with Microsoft showcasing a collecting of titles from Xbox One exclusives (like ReCore) to multi-platform shooters like Battlefield 1. Nintendo was being Nintendo, it was all about Pokémon. While I wouldn’t say I was let down by the AAA presence at PAX, I have come to notice how not much has changed over the years and it’s in the indie space that PAX truly shines.
Fitting, because Penny Arcade Expo started out as a showcase for indie devs before transforming into basically a public E3 with some of the best con parties over the weekend.
The indies came out in full force, covering most of the floor with some arguably impressive titles. I dare say, the indie showing felt like one of the best I’ve seen come from the non-AAA space in a while. As I stated in earlier articles, this cover story will be focused JUST on how I enjoyed the show… since I have separate articles already published for the AAA and the indie coverage.
Lots of walking, PAX West draws quite the crowd with lines of people huddled around the Freeway park just chomping at the bit to get in. I still have a few issues with how they utilize the off site panels. While events held at the Hyatt and Sheraton are only a hop/skip/jump away, holding events at Benaroya hall is such an inconvenience when you need to stay near the convention center. I know with isn’t PA’s fault, but with the popularity of Seattle fan conventions continuing to grow each year… the convention center is going to need a bump in space, like a serious bump.
Overall, despite how tired I was, the con was a blast as per usual. I spent a good chunk of time running back and forth between booths. I made it a point to set up appointments ahead of time, thinking it’d allow me to better manage my time at the show… of course this time management never seems to take into account the likelihood of myself getting distracted by all the shiny lights, and of course the amazing cosplay culture.
Speaking of the cosplay scene, while PAX isn’t at the level of the anime cons or Emerald City Comicon, a healthy population of the cosplay community does make their mark at PAX. Most of the attendees I observed were regular non-costume wearing folk just looking to stand in line for a demo. The welcoming atmosphere is still there, but I feel in a more subdued sense. With the prominence of big name gaming celebrities and streamers who seem to have been elevated to rock star status by their fans, it can seem a bit intimidating. But it’s the connections you make with your like minded fan that elevate a “stand in line-demo something 5 minutes” experience to the best weekend of your year.
Meeting friends, new and old, is what makes PAX a magical show. Sure there’s the glitz, the glam, and giant guys with chainsaw guns; but at its core, Penny Arcade Expo is a gathering for the gaming geek… something to shout loud and proud that you are not alone. Though the venue gets more cramped and the show attracts some of the heavy hitters in game development… to me it still holds true to the core, fundamentals that made Penny Arcade Expo such a blast to attend. Our motto here at Lifted Geek feels more so true at shows like PAX West… we are geek for we are many.