Once again we’re coming up on the end of the Summer and the inevitable slow descent into Fall, Winter, and the time of the year where Seattleites tend to just steadfastly try to pretend the weather isn’t bothering them. And with this past weekend came PAX, and the vast array of unusually uninteresting sights and sounds that come along with it. To be perfectly honest, after last year’s PAX I actually found myself on the fence ab out whether or not I would go this year. Part of this was the fact that tickets have become increasingly more difficult to get over the years, and part of it was the fact that there just didn’t seem to be all that much I was really interested in last year. Ultimately I decided that I would get myself tickets if I could get a hold of them, but wasn’t going to go out of my way for them, and if I was not able to get tickets it wouldn’t be a big deal.
And when tickets did finally go on sale I was in a meeting at work. By the time I was even aware that tickets had gone on sale they were already sold out in the space of less than an hour. Even so, I wasn’t quite ready to give up on it. Last year I was able to get through the long queue for tickets and buy Friday and Saturday passes, and then managed to end up with a Monday pass through a friend (which, to be honest, I wasn’t really expecting.) And there were a couple of years before that where I had managed to miss out on ticket sales, but managed to find tickets later on. Either way, if I missed out this year I wouldn’t be all that worried about it. But sometimes things have a strange way of happening, and it happened that a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend had some extra tickets he was no longer using, so I was able to pick up tickets for Saturday, Sunday and Monday (I sold the Sunday ticket to someone else since I don’t go on Sundays.) Of course, I didn’t even know I was going to be able to go until pretty close to the last minute, so I found myself having to do a bit of scrambling to figure out what I wanted to do there.
The tricky part is that even though PAX has become so massive that even with an increasingly difficult to acquire 4-day pass you wouldn’t have enough time to actually see and do everything. Show floor exhibits have massive lines, there are panels and presentations going constantly in seven different locations, there’s about half a zillion different tournaments for games you don’t play (and a couple of games you do play but are shockingly terrible at) and just about half a zillion different things going on all at once at any given time. Basically, you just have to pick and choose how to use the limited time you have available. This is all part of the experience, and is nothing new. The problem with that is that even with all that’s going on at PAX, for some reason this year there just didn’t seem to be nearly as much to be interested in as usual.
Now part of this may just be me getting cranky in my old age (OK, I don’t think I’m quite that old just yet, but let’s just say that if someone made a game that realistically simulated chasing punk kids off your lawn I’d probably pick it up if it was 50% off on Steam) but for some reason, I just couldn’t get all that excited about PAX this year. I think part of this was that with all three of the current-generation consoles now on the market, a lot of the major publishers are still trying to figure out what to do with them beyond their initial launch titles. There were a few things being shown that looked interesting, but I think that I could probably count the major upcoming AAA titles from the major publishers that I’m interested in on my fingers (and if you took Nintendo stuff out of the equation you could probably knock that down to one hand.) As a result of this, I think there just weren’t a lot of games to be interested in yet, at least on the console side. At the same time, even the indies (where most of the interesting stuff seems to be coming from these days) seemed a bit lacking, probably because most of the stuff I’d be interested in on that side is stuff that’s already showed up in Steam Early Access, and if I really wanted to try a lot of them out I could pretty much do it without having to wait in any lines.
Even with all of that taken into account I still think PAX is worth the trip, especially if you’ve never been before. After all, it’s the type of experience you just aren’t going to find anywhere else, and even if you can’t find things you want to play, there’s always plenty of people watching that you can do. Nonetheless, I don’t think I need to spend three days there next year. Just one will probably be sufficient, assuming I can actually manage to get the tickets.