And just like that, PAX Prime 2015 was done.
This year, it was so huge, it spilled over into downtown hotels, and even into Benaroya Hall. The scalpers outside were ruthless, openly arguing amongst themselves for territory. Badges were bought/sold/swapped almost constantly, and downtown restaurants struggled to keep up with demand every lunch hour.
It was my first time. Total PAX virgin prior to last weekend. I game, but honestly never feel like I fit in with “real” gamers (a term most of my friends would like to see eradicated), even though many people in my circles are. It’s always been casual…casual since the first Atari, Commodore 64, and Nintendo. As luck would have it, I scored a badge for all four days.
Expectations were high, coming from the likes of Emerald City Comic Con, GeekGirlCon, and many smaller conventions in the area. Cosplay was rampant, though not nearly as prevalent as nerdy crossover tees. Blatantly wandering through the fourth floor with my eyes bulging out of my skull, it was clear that this was not a convention to go it alone. If you didn’t have a friend with you, you would’ve at least needed a translator for gamerspeak. Because there’s always someone out there nerdier than you.
What separates PAX from other cons is that it’s not “panel, panel, CELEBRITY, panel, music, photo ops, meetups, and MERCHMERCHMERCH”. PAX *IS* the merch. Game codes, dice, cards, board games, pieces, miniatures, software, hardware, pins, lanyards, flash drives, comics, toys, tees, art, bags, cardigans, belts, suspenders…were you lucky enough to attend, you probably left with some merch not mentioned here.
Some personal highlights:
- The people were awesome. Which is saying something for eleventy billion attendees (actual number not yet found). Everyone seemed to respect the cosplayers, no fights broke out as far as could be told, and it looked like people geniunely looked out for each other. At one point, I was in the restroom, and heard someone loudly crying. Another woman heard the crying too, and said, “I’m sorry if you’re hurt, but if you come out, I promise to hug you!” The girl exited, and the empathetic woman hugged her, asked what was wrong, and took her to a lounge area to talk. Sometimes there are really great folks out there.
- Hilarious and addicting games! Among the new favorites are Tumblestone, Dark Echo, Ladykiller in a Bind, Ultimate Chicken Horse, and Butt Sniffin’ Pugs! These, and the likes of them, could be found in the Indie Booth and at the PAX10 booth. The afterparty I attended involved competitive Chicken Horsing and ridiculous amounts of Tumblestoning. Dark Echo is perfect for honing your auditory skills and creeping you out, while the Pugs…well, sniff. Ladykiller was the best queer-themed game I saw, and I can’t wait to play it! In fact, many of the gamers with whom I spoke seemed to enjoy the indie booths much more than the fourth floor, which was home to all of the big names and didn’t have much newness to offer.
- Press XY’s panel, “Trans Against Insanity.” Fun! Audience members were allowed to contribute either question or answer cards, and the panelists played with writers of the cards. Each topic led to a discussion among the speakers, and everyone left laughing and informed. This was a far cry from the rumored not-so-diverse PAX of a few years ago.
- The Take This AFK room. Take This is a really cool organization set up to build awareness for those who need psychological assistance. When the convention got to be too crowded, too packed, too much, and the escalators too annoying, I allowed myself a small break. There was a water cooler, and people sitting at tables coloring. There were comfortable chairs too, and plenty of volunteers to ask people if they were doing ok. Many people just needed a place to rest and be away from the masses. One was a child who had started to have anxiety in the crowds, and took a break with some colored pencils. Qualified staff made sure everyone felt rested, comfortable, and given a safe space to talk.
- Along the same lines, the Reaper Room was another great place to unwind. People could walk in either alone or with small groups, and use given supplies to paint miniatures! So much fun! Great experience, especially for first-timers.
- KITTENS. THAT EXPLODE! Exploding Kittens! Drawn by local favorite Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal, it’s an extremely funny card game for parties. It was sold and available for autographs right up next to Cards Against Humanity. And in another room…Actual, non-exploding kittens available for adoption. I mean, KITTENS.
- Mad Max Uber cars! Cosplayers/drivers performed a bit out in front of the Convention Center, and drove around like they were traversing the desert in perpetual need of resources and fix-its. So cool!
- Re-living my video gaming glory days, such as they were. I got to, finally, on Monday, check out the “classic” console free play room (one of two or three). Of course the original Nintendo I tried worked only half the time, just like I remember from 1988. Among the possibilities were Game Cube, Sega Genesis, XBox, the original Playstation, SuperNES, and a Pokemon thing that was after my time. It was funny to see which people gravitated toward which machines, and encountered some of the same frustrations we used to have upon first owning them way back when. (Shut up, 1992 is still, like, five years ago for me.)
- Not to be outdone in the “classic” department, another room on the same floor held REAL LIFE ARCADE GAMES. You know, the ones Gameworks can’t/won’t keep around? Yeah. Ms. Pac-man always holds a special place in my heart. I ended up playing this weird fighting game that wasn’t Street Fighter, and some random dude joined me. It was tons of fun to recall my youth of going to ACTUAL arcades that used to be so ubiquitous in malls. Remember when your mom dropped you off there with $10 in quarters while she went shopping? Thankfully these games were free to play.
- MAGIC: THE GATHERING. ‘Nuff said.
- The escalators kept breaking. There were that many people. After a while, it just got to be funny.
All in all, it was nice to meet up with my gaming friends and engage with such a cool community. I re-learned the joy of tabletop RPGs, played some fun new games, spoke with indie developers, networked with people in the industry, and had a blast! There was first-hand experience of seeing the euphoria on people’s faces when they won fantastic, brand-new hardware fit for their gaming needs. “PC Master Race” was a term thrown around a lot; I was left wondering if that’s the case across the country, or just in Seattle because of the companies we house? Many folks seemed genuinely concerned for their fellow nerds, and were responsive and sensitive to those in need of a good time or a little help. It was also pleasing to hear some star-struck stories from those who’d met or bumped into Felicia Day.
Yet another Nerd Christmas completed. But hold on to your hats, folks, because up next is Steamposium and GeekGirlCon! See you there!