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PAX Invades Seattle

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The 9th PAX

PAX came and went

Penny Arcade has invaded the city streets for the 9th  time. PAX, the Penny Arcade Expo, was held this last weekend in Seattle, Washington. This year the expo was home to several thousand gamers, geeks, and nerds. Seattle was flooded with gamer culture. It was impossible to walk down a dark alley without bumping into several brony cosplayers.

PAX is the creation of Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, also the creators of the infamous Penny-Arcade webcomic. First held in 2004, this celebration of gaming culture has grown every year since it began. While PAX was first held in Bellevue, Washington, this year it occupied three different buildings in the heart of downtown Seattle.

I have been to PAX since year one, and the world of gamers has grown with one of its greatest events. This was not Revenge of the Nerds. There were no pocket protectors or bespectacled weirdos. There were none of those models-pretending-to-game like on TV. From top to bottom, this was a celebration of the many people, and the many ways to game.

On day one there was the line. Thousands lined up to wait for the doors of the expo hall to open. To be more specific, there was a line that stretched around an courtyard behind the convention center, a line that took a half hour to get through. This was the line to get into line. Gamers mingled, discussed their swag bag contents, played games of magic, and enjoyed a massive network of handheld gaming. It would be hard to this many DSs and PSPs anywhere else. Some companies were already giving away prizes. Nvidia gave goodies to anyone that was wearing their logo. A lucky few won a full OnLive system for free.

The Line

The line to the line

In time the doors opened, and the expo hall was revealed. Major developers and publishers let everyone touch their newest creations. There were games with release dates just around the corner, like Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. There were booths for indie developers, technical colleges, hardware companies, hobby stores, merchandise vendors and even a gaming church.

This was not E3. There was a difference here. The companies who came here were not focusing on getting a good preview to the magazines and media, they were here to please the gamers that purchased the games. The long speeches to shareholders and investors were scrapped for reveals of new game mechanics and promises for exciting gameplay. It was a chance to question developers directly about their games, or to even beat developers at their game.

The expo hall was just the start though. PAX includes many panels and events that the gaming community wants to see. There were panels dedicated to fun and comedy. The creators made a comic on stage while answering questions from fans. Different web shows presented live, like Hey Ash Watcha Playin’. The Paramount theater was reserved for a two hour session of Dungeons and Dragons, played by Mike, Jerry, Scott of PvP.com, and actor Will Wheaton. If a gamer just wanted to laugh and relax, PAX was there for them.

There are those who want a career in games though. PAX was also there for them. There were panels by developers, publishers, and editors, on how to start a career in games. Whether you wanted to be an indie game developer, or a games journalist, the experts were pulled together to give you their advice, to answer your questions directly. There were printed guides to getting a career in games, and schools were there to recruit any artist and programmers they could. The time of gaming careers being elusive and mysterious was dragged into the summer heat and trampled under the feet of a thousand nerds.

Because gaming is no longer hidden. The face of the gamer is out in the world, and it isn’t The Big Bang Theory. Gamers have spread their voice across blogs and social networks. They have magazines and books. Gaming is populated by children and elders alike. The world has changed to reflect our presence.

Another Guitar Game

Another game where I play a guitar, why not.

There were panels dedicated to parenting as a gamer, and raising a kid to be a gamer. Everywhere around me I found parents with their teenagers, toddlers, and newborns. You haven’t seen adorable until you’ve seen a baby and parent in coordinated cosplay. This wasn’t the crazies who ignore their kids to play World of Warcraft, giving us all a bad name. These were the parents who get hugs from their kids after introducing them to Master Chief in person.

Tingle and Momma Link

Tingle and Momma Link

PAX was full of content for mature gamers, and I don’t mean the kind that can play Dead or Alive: Extreme Beach Volleyball with one hand. PAX 2011 saw the return of Geek Chic, who create wooden furniture that is customized to the needs of discerning tabletop gamers. Ads were passed out for Gamer Wine, which is a winery dedicated to raising the charisma of gamers world-round. A games museum dedicated themselves to keeping the chronicle of the medium. The Gamechurch brought together their faith with their idea that Jesus hearts gamers.

The Sultan Returns

Yes, this table can be ordered

When it got late, the concerts began. A world of Nerdcore music was unleashed upon the earholes of Seattle. There was chiptune music, using the same sounds that some remember from the 8-bit days. Jonathan Coulton, and Paul and Storm, brought light guitar with comedy as a kicker. There was plenty of rock from Metroid Metal, and the Minibosses. Nerdcore rap was represented by MC Frontalot. If you are a classics kind of guy, there was a video game orchestra. The music was varied, but it was all gamer music. These were songs from our youth remastered, or nostalgic tones brought back to haunt us, or music that shapes our future games.

The gamer at PAX was not the gamer on TV. It was easy to see the face of gaming as we lined up to enter, and as we shuffled out to leave two days later. These were the gamers that made lifelong friendships online, that raised families without hiding their consoles, that can feng shui a two thousand dollar gaming table, that can band together to create their own indie projects, that can dance for hours to music that speaks to what they live, and that will still smile from ear to ear when they beat their old high score.

Next year, PAX will be around to do it all over again. Whether in Seattle, or in Boston at the relatively new PAX East, the gamers of the world can feel like part of the crowd at this expo. It is a place to show our face, our real face, as varied as that is.

PAX Prime

Gamers are here

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Written by MD Kid

08/30/2011 at 1:33 AM

One Response

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  1. […] ← PAX Invades Seattle 09/18/2011 · 9:32 AM ↓ Jump to […]


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