Livin in an Indie Paradise: PAX West 2018
written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
Seattle's Penny Arcade Expo has always been a strange beast; from the slew of booths that showcase major releases from the big budget AAA developers to even indie titles having a powerhouse presence on the show floor, there is always something to see at PAX West. This year felt even more so tilted to the indie scene than previous years. While I was jazzed to see some of the big forthcoming titles coming from the big boys in game development... I was more so interested in what indie developers had to offer.
But hey now, before I jump into it let's break down the con from my perspective. With more studios dipping their toes into game development, the show floor was full of indie projects outnumbering the AAA developers. The usual suspects were there, from games releasing in a couple weeks like Spider-Man and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, to games still in development. The AAA showcase felt a bit light this year. I had a blast playing through many of the games, my personal favorite was getting my hands on Devil May Cry 5 and checking out everything at the Nintendo booth.
Unfortunately I was not able to check out what was going on with Resident Evil 2 with the line getting capped early every day, also much of the AAA stuff wasn't really in my wheelhouse. I do enjoy my shooters, but didn't find much of an interest in the Far Cry 5 expansion nor did the next installment of The Division really grab me.
Much of the spectacle felt focused on streaming with Twitch, Facebook Gaming, and Mixer out in full force attempting to promote their individual streaming platforms. Twitch still stands as the top with their partner lounge and full booth brightly lit and settled in a prime central location. Honestly, I was more interested in what Facebook was doing with their streaming platform. Utilizing a service that takes the Facebook Live format but applying it to gaming feel like a strong contender for Twitch. It does give me pause to put so much faith in the house Zuckerberg built. I don't know if we will go full force with running game streams on Facebook, but it will be something we at Lifted Geek plan to explore.
As for the indie titles, the games that originally build PAX, this is where I feel this show continues to shine. Nintendo has been one of the biggest supporters of indie games since the release of the Switch. Many indie titles that have been out on other platforms were promoting Switch ports, some were newly released titles while others are set for release early next year. I game on all platforms, but honestly I'm so jazzed to have so many options to play on my Switch. While indie games have always been on the forefront of gaming, with a powerhouse like Nintendo behind them it feels like there has never been a better time to be a fan of indie games.
My favorite from the show was checking out My Friend Pedro at the Devolver Digital booth, I wrote a full preview piece about it if you are curious. I spent considerable time with Killer Queen Black and The Messenger.
While there were some new titles on display, this year felt very much like last with many of the titles being rehashed from previous years. While some were promoting Switch ports like Transistor and Bastion coming to this Fall, others were games that have felt like they were in Alpha for the last four or five years. As much as I enjoy going to PAX every year, this year lacked the con's freshness. Last year I discovered all manner of new things to check out, games that excited me for the coming year... this year did not give me the same hopeful feelings I had in past cons.
PAX is still not a big cosplay show, but I am always in awe of the talented people who show off their work at the con. Over the last couple years though, I've noticed how the show warmed to cosplayers more. Aisles felt wider and more open spaces means some of the most talented builders can showcase their huge projects at the con.
It felt like a chill show this year, overall not a bad thing... I always enjoy going to PAX... but with this year being the first year in a very long time that I noticed badges were still available during con weekend, perhaps the city is experiencing some fatigue... perhaps PAX West needs to evolve a bit,