Written By: Marissa Chovan with intro by Erika Haase
Since its birth in 2004 from the minds behind Penny Arcade, PAX (which stands for Penny Arcade Expo) has become a behemoth. Originally just in one location – Bellevue, Washington – with an attendance of only 4,500 people, this event became so massive that in 2010 they finally had to expand to a secondary event in Boston which became known as PAX East. There is now also a PAX South in San Antonio, Texas, and even a PAX Australia as of 2013 to accommodate the amount of people that want to attend. Since the other largest US gaming convention, E3, has historically been industry only, PAX represented the only way that the average human could get a similar convention experience.
Encouragingly this year, as we learned from our interview earlier this week from first time exhibitors, Limited Run Games, the indie games presence was massive. To have smaller titles like Rain World and A Cat’s Manor on the same show floor as Arkane Studios and Bethesda presentations of Prey, with giant models of space-station Talos I, is a great representation of the gaming industry. Furthermore, it lets the people who will actually be putting out hard earned money for the products to get hands on experiences with titles big and small.
With attendees that run the corporate gamut, and who have given increasingly awe-inspiring presentations over the years, it’s gotten to the point where now it’s difficult to get a ticket. Tickets sold out in record time this year, leaving many gamers, myself included, locked out of the PAX East experience. Luckily, /BCG had a guest author who snagged a pass to the show and wanted to share her own experiences (and photos) on the show floor with us. Thank you to Marissa Chovan for joining us!
The PAX Impact: PAX EAST 2017
The blistering cold of Boston, Massachusetts wasn’t enough to keep the gamers and cosplayers away. With so much to see and do at PAX East, it’s hard to turn down a chance to experience the wonders that await inside the doors of the Boston Convention & Exhibition center.
Prepare Yourself For Overload
Thousands of gamers from all around the country waited in anticipation to step onto the show floor. Not only was it jam-packed with people, it was jam-packed with vendors and video game industry representatives. From major companies like Sony, to your up-and-coming indie game developers, PAX had over 300 booths to see.
With so much going on, it’s difficult to take it all in. There’s music playing, cosplay everywhere, crowds roaring, and prizes being thrown into the air. It’s quite the experience. You can hardly be surprised by the crowds, however, with the spectacular games coming out this year on everything from the Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and PC, to the handhelds – 3DS and Vita. PAX East was an explosion of positivity and good games all around.
Too Many Games, So Little Time
Seeing as passes sold out within minutes this year, I was only able to grab a Friday pass. With such a short amount of time to explore, I had my work cut out for me to try all the games that I could.
Upon entering the show floor, several booths stood out immediately. Twitch had one of the most impressive booths in the exhibit hall. They set up a meet & greet where you could meet with well known Twitch streamers, as well as a partner lounge for interviews and live streams.
Next in clear view were the vivid red signs of Nintendo. Out of all the booths at PAX, Nintendo took the prize for being the busiest, with a whopping 3-hour wait to play anything. Can’t be too surprised seeing as the Switch had come out just a few days prior, and fans were eager to test it out. Nintendo had a lot of good games to demo on the show floor, such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Arms, Splatoon 2, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. They also held competitions and handed out prizes for those participating/playing Super Bomberman R. Mario even got his own “diner” for when we needed to re-fuel!
Not wanting to wait 3 hours at Nintendo’s booth (and since I’m already a proud owner of a Switch), I headed over to SquareEnix’s “corner”. I was thoroughly overjoyed with their set-up which provided a great selection of RPGs to demo, and staff members who were very accommodating and polite.
As a special treat, I got to try out the highly-praised NieR: Automata. This being my first exposure to it, I was very impressed with the gameplay and controls. Never doubt Platinum Games to deliver a solid, action-packed game. I enjoyed it immensely, and will definitely be picking it up in the near future.
Next game up to demo at SquareEnix was (of course) Dragon Quest Heroes II. Nothing short of awesome when it comes to these games; if you like hack-and-slash games such as Dynasty Warriors, you’ll be happy to know that Dragon Quest Heroes is just that.
Featuring new characters and a new plot, this game definitely looks like it’ll be just as fun as the first title in the main series spin off. It’ll be here April 25, 2017 on PS4 and out on Nintendo Switch as a combination with the first game at a later date.
Other games that were featured (that I didn’t get to play) such as the Final Fantasy XV: Episode Gladiolus DLC, Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMix, I Am Setsuna (now available on the Nintendo Switch), and a chance to win a Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood t-shirt. We can always count on SquareEnix when it comes to our beloved RPGs.
Cruising on towards the back of the show floor, you could find many vendors selling cool gaming merchandise (Musterbrand, Loot Crate, Sanshee, etc.) as well as lots of love to our indie game developers! I definitely love my indies, but was thoroughly shocked by all the new titles and companies I had never heard of.
One of the most impressive indie booths was Adult Swim Games, which caught my attention thanks to everyone at the booth being dressed up like Rick from Rick and Morty. I swung by for a bit to check out the good number of games they had to offer. The one that appealed to me the most was Katana ZERO, which plays very similar to Hotline Miami. As brutal as it is fun, I’ll be checking that one out for sure. Currently it is due to come out on PC.
As I continued my journey, my eyes landed on a banner with some familiar faces on it. I’d somehow magically ended up in Playtonic Games and Team17’s area! What did this banner feature? Yooka-Laylee! That was all the convincing I needed, and ran in line immediately to wait an hour just to play a 15-minute demo (worth it).
If you were ever a fan of the classic Banjo-Kazooie games, you’ll be happy to know that Yooka-Laylee is a stunning spiritual successor. This collectathon platformer was delightful, and the 15-minute demo went by way too fast. I guarantee it’s going to be an incredible game, and will be well worth the wait. Look out for it on April 11 of this year on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. It’s also coming to the Nintendo Switch, but at a later date.
Next stop was the impressive PlayStation booth. Representatives greeted newcomers with free PS4 lanyards, which was very sweet of them. Fans were swarming around to try out the many games they had to offer: Crash Bandicoot, Cosmic Star Heroine, Nex Machina (from the makers of Resogun), plus many others that I know I completely missed. One of things I wish I would have tried was their VR demo of Psychonauts!
Seeing as time was blasting by, I quickly stopped by Microsoft’s booth to see what they had to offer. They had a ton of cool looking custom Xbox One controllers up to win, as well as other limited edition gear. They also had demos for Mass Effect: Andromeda, Minecraft, and Halo Wars 2. Unfortunately, I had the least amount of time to spend at this booth and didn’t get to take it all in.
As someone who’s attended their fair share of conventions, I can say there’s really nothing quite like PAX. Not only was this the farthest I’ve ever traveled for a con, but it was one of the busiest conventions I’ve attended. It was hard to digest everything at PAX, especially with just a Friday pass.
My advice to those who want to go next year: you definitely need to spend the entire weekend to get the full experience. Nonetheless, I had an absolute blast playing games, meeting up with friends, and talking with company reps and fellow gamers about upcoming games. If you ever get the opportunity, make sure you attend a PAX convention at least once. This was my first chance to attend one, and I can say it is truly a perfect environment for gamers of every kind.
Photo Credit: Marissa Chovan