PAX West 2016 Impression
As the premier gaming convention in the Seattle Washington area, Penny Arcade Expo (or PAX) is split into multiple gaming events held in Seattle (West), Boston (East), Melbourne (Aus), and San Antonio (South). We got to experience PAX West for the first time, and I have to say I’m impressed by everyone attending and exhibiting. Everything about the show is all for the passion of gaming. From consoles to PC to tabletop, PAX has it all.
Since it’s creation in 2004, PAX has been known as a celebration of gamer culture. The event started out with an exciting keynote speech delivered by Amy Henning, the former creative director of the Uncharted series and current senior creative director of Visceral games, who shared her vision of creating an authentic story and gameplay for her upcoming Star Wars title. There were guest appearances by Shinji Hashimoto and Hajime Tabata. They showcased a new, 1 hour demo for the much anticipated Final Fantasy XV which made me more excited for the game. An entire street was blocked off for Magic: The Gathering, to premier the upcoming Kaladash set and make some big announcements about new mechanics, cards, champions and more. Other events included game inspired musical performances by Bit Brigade, MC Frontalot, Super Guitar Bros., The Oneups, Triforce Quartet and Video Game Pianist.
On the first day, I explored the exhibitors hall which featured many booths from AAA companies such as Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Square Enix, Bandai Namco, Capcom and many more. Some of the games I played included World of Final Fantasy, ReCore, Rise of Tomb Raider, Pit People and ARK: Scorched Earth. Many of the booths presented some great set pieces ranging from cutesy Pokemon standees to a massive tyrannosaurus rex which you could have your picture taken while riding on top. One booth I enjoyed was at Bethesda where attendees could tour the inside, which was themed after the game Dishonored 2.
Aside from traditional games, there was many computer hardware companies showing-off their latest and greatest gaming technology as well. Nvidia featured many hands-on demos running on their new flagship card, the GeForce 1080. Razer was also in attendance showcasing their latest new gaming laptops and peripherals. Logitech premiered their new prodigy lineup featuring a new water resistant gaming keyboards and mice.
This year, Twitch featured a massive booth; live streaming coverage directly from the show floor with guest appearances by many popular twitch streamers. Over in the back area of the exhibit hall was the Mega Indie Booth featuring some of the latest indie titles. I was able to get some hands on time with Thimbleweed Park, a game that harkens back to the old school point and click adventure genre. As someone who regularly attends many industry events, I found it very easy to get around, and with the way the booths were spaced out, it provided a very comfortable amount of walking space even with the large number of people in attendance.
Throughout most of the event, I attended a handful of industry panels promoting upcoming releases, whether it be hardware or games. Panels were held inside the convention center and at different hotels in the surrounding area. Overall, it wasn’t too bad to traverse between venues as most hotels were within a very short walking distance from the main hub. One highlight for me was the World of Final Fantasy panel delivered by its director, Hiroki Chiba, who shared the latest details on his upcoming game. I also attended a Dishonored 2 party hosted by Bethesda that was opened to the public. The event featured actors dressed up as characters from the series challenging attendees to a murder mystery-like, scavenger hunt collecting clues from the various actors. The game’s creative director, Harvey Smith, was on hand to give a special presentation with live gameplay. Overall, the event was very fun and offered a very Disneyesque experience.
On day three, I visited the 6th floor which had even more indie booths than the main exhibit hall. I checked out the Playism booth and got some time with the game Night Cry, a new horror game from Hifumi Kono, the creator of Clock Tower game series, and Takahashi Shimizu, the director of The Grudge. Another game I enjoyed playing was Super Dungeon Bros, a cross platform, rock themed, co-op dungeon brawler. There was also the Nintendo indie lounge which featured a great lineup of RPGs. Developers were on hand to demonstrate their games, answer questions, and give away free swag.
All in all, I personally enjoyed my first experience at PAX West. I wish I could have played more games and seen some of the fan-centered panels, but there just wasn’t enough time with the sheer number of events going on. Going to PAX was something on my radar, but after only getting a taste, I am really excited to see what PAX West does to shake things up next year.