So what is PAX, anyway? We sent Chris Leggett to investigate.
PAX has always been about bringing the hype, excitement and (to some extent) the scale of a gaming trade show like E3 to the public. Unless you happen to have handy access to Seattle, Washington, or Boston, Massachusetts, however, that probably doesn't mean a lot to you.
But in what's surely exciting news for those of you reading this in New Zealand, Penny Arcade's Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins announced at the event's keynote on Friday, August 31st that they're taking PAX to Australia.
No further details have been announced at the time of writing, but it's good news that a world-class gaming trade show will soon be only a short plane trip away for those in Godzone.
Anyway, I'm here to tell you about Seattle's PAX Prime, the flagship event for Penny Arcade that first opened its doors in 2004. As much as it offers the public a chance to get early hands-on previews with the biggest and best upcoming games, PAX Prime is also arguably the world's premier social event for our beloved subculture.
It’s so much more than just the publisher booths and plugs for upcoming releases. At PAX, there are gaming tournaments, handheld areas, tabletop-gaming areas, cosplay competitions, live music, and more. It seems that every second PAX attendee sports a Nintendo 3DS. And in stark contrast to anything you’ve likely encountered in New Zealand, you’ll earn Spotpass hits just as fast as you can clear them out of your system.
Largely unique to PAX, though, are its panel discussions, where gaming media and development personalities participate in moderated discussions, public Q&As, presentations, and more. Where such presentations are largely in aid of promotion at E3, PAX events are generally all about the fans.
For instance, freelance journalist Dennis Scimeca’s panel discussion of the 100 Best Nintendo Entertainment System games of all time made for amusing spectating. Scimeca accepted an assignment from Complex Magazine to create a “definitive list” of the NES’ top 100 games. In this panel, he was joined by fellow journalists Chris Kohler, Frank Cifaldi, and Kyle Orland. The discussions, with audience input, over the merits of Scimeca’s selections – whether his selection criteria held water or whether Duck Hunt even deserved to be in the top 100 – were hilarious. For the record, the original Legend of Zelda took out the top spot.
Other panels ranged from tips on how to break into the industry (be it the development side or even the PR/marketing side), live podcast recordings (such as the Giant Bombcast), and even a panel on ways the industry can tackle harassment and bullying in online games. The breadth and depth of panels and events at PAX is truly impressive, and there really is something for everyone.
There are a variety of (official and unofficial) parties and other events to keep attendees occupied in the evenings. On the Friday evening, I attended the Press Start art show: a showcase of paintings where industry artists paid tribute to their favourite games: for instance, an artist from Suckerpunch painted his take on Halo, where an artist from Rockstar tried his hand at Shadow of the Colossus.
At PAX, one thing you have to accept early on is that you simply cannot see everything. There are timetable clashes aplenty, and if you’re serious about attending the major events, you’ll likely need to set aside a sizeable chunk of time to wait in the queue. I learned in agonizing fashion that I was apparently the 901st person in line for the Halo Reborn panel – an event with a capacity of 900. The same applies for playing the most anticipated games; because it’s a public event, queues for hands-on sessions with the likes of Borderlands 2 and Resident Evil 6 were daunting and could take hours to negotiate.
But I tried my best anyway, and even managed to make a few appointments! So stay tuned for extended PAX coverage over the coming days.