PAX West was a blast! My better half and I flew in on Thursday afternoon and spent each of the following four days at PAX from open to close and beyond. I played so many games and met so many people, some of the days are a bit of a blur, but I’m certainly not complaining. This will be a general experience overview and I have another post coming that will focus purely on all the demos I tried. Spoilers- They were fantastic!
First, let’s talk about Seattle. To me cities each have a bit of a personality to them in their features that you rarely think about: the mood and murmur of the people on the sidewalks, the way the buildings and trees frame the view of the sky when you look straight up, the urban energy carried on the breeze… Seattle is a city of open arms and positivism. Everyone we met was friendly and kind, mirroring the wholesome, broader community living there. Also, their public transit system in particular is on point.
At PAX I learned that I become absolutely horrible at video games when multiple strangers are watching me play in person. Streaming is one thing because I used to stream from the comfort of my home, playing games I was already skilled at, whereas playing demos as an inexperience player with that game, in public, is a different matter. I know it’s probably not a big deal to most, but man did I get flustered with people watching me! I never knew video games could be so difficult. I still enjoyed the games, of course, I just had to try very hard to not feel totally embarrassed most of the time.
The energy of PAX was great! It was awesome being around so many fellow gamers. Connor and I even wandered around town for dinner one of the nights together with some new friends. At the expo we spent a LOT of time in the Indie Megabooth, which true to its name is full to the brim of all the coolest upcoming indie games you can imagine. I got to play: Haven, Creature in the Well (above), Round Guard, Later Daters, Spiritfarer, Calico, Pray for the Gods, Falcon Age, and so many more. I even managed to get into the Borderlands 3 and Link’s Awakening demos without waiting all day thanks to the 30 minute early open for Media. It really does make a difference between a 1 hour wait and a 4 hour wait.
Sidebar: When I was playing Link’s Awakening, I noticed that the guy manning that set of demo stations was hovering near me and kept giving me really obvious hints like “You should go get your sword” and “the forest is that way”. Like, bruh, I know. I’m checking all the little corners and side trails before going to the main areas. Haven’t you ever met an RPG player before? We always check everything else before heading toward where it’s clear we are supposed to go.
I knew he was probably instructed to help people make the most of their 15 minutes, but he was not babysitting any of the other half dozen media people demoing the game at the same station. I couldn’t tell if perhaps he thought I looked like I don’t game or if it was an unintentionally sexist thing maybe…? Anyway!
Boy do developers and publishers go all out with their booth designs! The new Monster Hunter expansion by far had the most impressive display, followed by Borderlands 3, then Nintendo (all pictured in the previous three images).
It’s hard to pick a favorite moment from PAX but if forced I’d say the Tetris 35th anniversary event put on by Red Bull was a surprise hit. They had this awesome lounge set up in an adjacent theater with free drinks and awesome demos for a few games including Sayonara Wild Hearts (which was phenomenal). One of the nights they hosted the composer of the Tetris Effect soundtrack, Hydelic, along with Greentea, one of the best Tetris players in the world, for a live performance and it was insane! Watching pro Tetris is mind blowing. Seriously.
Greentea was clearing block lines in time with the beats of the music and some parts were impressively well choreographed between the two of them. Greentea even spelled out “35th” in the empty spaces in a huge wall of blocks, then proceeded to clear the whole wall to massive applause. I’ve never seen so many people so excited by Tetris in my life, and it went on for nearly two hours. Most stayed for the entire performance.
Crowd management was handled expertly by PAX Enforcers. Lines were kept neatly out of the way of the aisle, directed by sign holders. Each morning the rush of urgent fast-walkers was highly amusing (running is not allowed). I mean, I totally get it! It’s still funny to watch. I took a little video while waiting for Link’s Awakening when the doors opened downstairs and the first rush made it to the Nintendo booth. I did not actually mean to record it in slow motion; must have nudged the screen with my finger on accident. Somehow it’s actually better this way, I think?
People were just so excited for ALL THE THINGS, it was inspiring! I could barely fathom the willingness of some attendees to stand in a line nearly the entire day just for one demo of a game coming out within a few months regardless. I likely would not have attempted making it into any of the AAA demos if I hadn’t been able to take advantage of early entry.
There was also a surprisingly large tabletop gaming presence at PAX, so much so that they had another location a few blocks away dedicated entirely to tabletop games and RPGs. Connor spent much of his time in that building while I explored the 4th and 6th floors of the main convention hall, which is where most of the video games exhibits were.
Oh, and we can’t forget the pins! I told myself I wasn’t going to get into the Pinny Arcade craze, but then I was given one for playing the World of Horror demo and suddenly I felt the need for… more.
I found myself inexplicably stalking the PAX “swag” threads on Reddit and Facebook, searching for the best places for find free loot, asking passer-bys where they got their sick pins, posting and retweeting required things on Twitter to earn that sweet, sweet swag.
By the end of PAX West my lanyard weight an extra pound, and I only paid for one of the pins and donated to charity for two. The rest were earned from playing demos or doing challenge tasks at booths. Oops!
Overall, PAX West was a fabulous time and I’ll definitely be planning to attend PAX East as well.
Thanks for reading!
Stay tuned for: PAX West 2019 Demos Writeup, new Rising Stars post, and Vambrace: Cold Souls Switch review.