The whole reason I went to PAX, and my favorite thing there, was the community.
PAX was started a few years ago by the guys at Penny Arcade, who basically viewed it as an excuse to throw a 3 day party for thousands of their closest friends. It has become a shining beacon of gaming culture, a place where everyone can just hang out and geek out all weekend. Everyone is extremely helpful and extremely welcoming and extremely open to meeting new people.
Many of the weekend’s events are entirely organized by attendees. I participated in a convention-wide game of Assassins, and bought delicious snacks from the self-appointed ‘cookie brigade’ – all their proceeds went to the Child’s Play charity, and they raised $5000 in those three days! But that’s barely scratching the surface. Something attendee-organized was constantly in the offerings.
The first night I was in Seattle, a bunch of us went out for dinner. We debated things like the merits of different incarnations of Star Trek for a solid hour, completely unselfconsciously and without rebuke. At one point silence fell over the table, we all realized what the conversation was, and someone intoned (without hint of sarcasm) “this is gonna be a great weekend.” And it was. I had originally intended that PAX would be a one time event for me – something to check off my list before moving on to other vacation destinations. But now I can’t wait to return. It really exceeded all my expectations!
Now that the annual E3 gaming trade show is a shadow of its former self, the industry is scrambling and trying to figure out how to replace or rebuild it. I saw a few shades of that influence at PAX this year. There were separate press demo lines for some games, for example. And then there’s posts like Kotaku’s “The Problem with PAX”, which seems to think PAX is trying to become the new E3 but failing at it. But, see, we don’t want PAX to be a trade show. It was never supposed to be one. What the author doesn’t understand is that PAX isn’t for the gaming industry. It is for the players, for the fans, for us.