PAX Prime is a gaming convention that happens every year over Labor Day Weekend in Seattle. It used to be just PAX (which stands for Penny Arcade Expo) but the show has grown so much so fast that they’ve created a second show in Boston in March – PAX East. PAX doesn’t have the national media presence that San Diego Comic Con does, so let me give you a quick run down on what PAX is, why you might want to do and what you could expect to do there.
To take directly from the PAX website FAQs: “PAX is a three-day game festival for tabletop, video game, and PC gamers.” In addition to all of the games, there are also panels, concerts, free play areas, tournaments and the Omegathon which is a competition across all types of gaming, whose twenty contestants are chosen out of all of the people who pre-register for the show. The show was established in 2004 and is meant to be a celebration of all aspects of gamer culture, no matter what sort of games you play. The first year, 1337 people preregistered (no kidding) and about 3300 people attended the two day event. This year, the attendance was closer to 67,000 people and not only took up the entire Washington State Convention Center but was also expanded to Benaroya Hall.
I’ve been going to PAX since 2007 and I’ve had a great time every year, though no two years have been at all alike in the things I saw or did. There is so much to see and do, like SDCC, that you need to be able to let go and acknowledge that you will not be able to see and do everything. That’s okay, though, because there is so much awesome to see and do there. I have said to people in explaining what PAX is that if there is a game you like to play, chances are there are many other people at PAX who like to play that game too and would be more than happy to play it with you. While the focus in the Expo Hall tends to be on video games, there is still a lot of space dedicated to card games, board games and tabletop RPGs.
This year, the keynote speaker was Warren Spector, who has had a hand in a number of titles that were important in my gaming history including Wing Commander and Ultima as well as Deus Ex, Thief and the upcoming Epic Mickey. He’s a bit of a change of pace for keynote speakers and I recommend you take the time to listen to or read his speech. It is long but I think it is worth your time if you at all consider yourself a gamer. I believe he makes some excellent points, especially about gamers and how we perceive ourselves as well as we are perceived.
At a high overview, there were a few things that seemed to make a big splash at PAX, most of which I will go into more in depth in part 2. Popcap Games showed up with a Zombie Makeover booth, for Plants vs Zombies which has just come out with a Game of the Year edition. It seemed the traffic cone hats they were passing out where everywhere. On a similar theme, Zombie Dice by Steve Jackson Games was also visible, being picked up by the Line Entertainment volunteers as a quick and easy game to keep those waiting for panels entertained why they wait. On the Expo Hall proper, there were many games people were eager to see, such as Epic Mickey, Tron: Evolution, Fallout: New Vegas, Dragon Age 2, Civilization 5 and Portal 2.
There was one huge surprise to be seen, however, Duke Nukem Forever. I got a chance to play it and I’ll write up that experience, as well as the other games I was able to play starting tomorrow.