The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

August 26, 2007

Highlights from PAX ’07 – The Show

Filed under: Games — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 2:30 am

Back in 2004, the guys from Penny Arcade got the crazy idea to put on a convention for gamers.  They rented part of the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, and thought they might be able to attract about a thousand people or so.  I was able to attend the first PAX because it just happened to be nearby, and because I was able to get in for free by responding to a message at work asking to let them borrow copies of SoulCalibur 2 for their tournament, and the first one was a relatively modest affair.  The exhibit hall was just a medium size room, and the most notable item on display was Forza Motorsport (which was then still several months from release) running on three screens with a racing wheel.  Even so, the attendance at the first PAX more than tripled the estimates.

 Fast forward four years, and PAX has grown into one of the largest gamer conventions in the USA, with attendance this year expected to be somewhere around 30,000 people.  This year to accomodate the growth, they have moved PAX to the much larger Convention Center in dowtown Seattle, and more than doubled the size of the exhibit hall over the previous years.  I’ve been to PAX all four years of its existence now, although for one reason or another, I’ve always had some time constraint that has kept me from being able to stay for more than a few hours.  This time around, it was a wedding reception in the evening, although I did still have enough time to get a good look at the exhibit hall.  After the jump, some of the highlights (and lowlights) from PAX 2007, complete with photos.

First of all, the convention itself.  For both of the past two years, one of the major issues I’ve had with PAX was that the place was just packed.  You had to fight your way through the unwashed masses, some of which might even be armed with swords (well, plastic ones anyway) just to get anywhere.  Thankfully, the new venue alleviates much of the crowding problem, with wider aisles in the exhibit hall and a whole lot more space overall.  This made it a lot easier to get around than it has been, in spite of the ever increasing crowds the event has attracted.  I don’t know how much bigger PAX can get, but it certainly doesn’t look like it’s going to get any smaller anytime soon at this rate. 

The Convention Center

Of course, when a crowd of nerds this big gets together in one place, chances are they’re going to act like nerds.  One of the usual PAX offerings is the BYOC (Bring Your Own Computer) area, where people actually bring in their big desktop gaming rigs from home and set them up there.  Although I’ve attended large LAN parties before and lugged CRT monitors around, it’s not something I’m particularly inclined to do these days (says the guy who brought an Xbox with him to camp out in front of Costco all night for an Xbox 360 -ed.)  Another thing you see a lot of at a place like this is nerdy T-shirts.  It seems that virtually everyone in the place is wearing a video game, Anime or (insert current Internet fad here)-related shirt of some sort.  I do not exclude myself from this (although I prefer to be a bit more subtle about it, although I was surprised at how many people commented on it.)  At the extreme end of the fashion spectrum, you’ve got Cosplayers.  Contrary to what some people might think, you don’t actually see a whole lot of these around, but they are definitely there:


Although I never could really get into Phoenix Wright, I thought this one was rather clever. 

As I was leaving the Convention Center, I ended up following these two down the hallway for a little bit.  Surprisingly, the comments their costumes prompted were fairly innocuous (“Dang, I left my wings at home!”)  In fact, I found that the crowd at PAX  was actually quite well behaved as a whole, and I’m pretty sure I could find a worse crowd to hang out with around here if I tried.  I am somewhat ambivalent about the whole Cosplay thing though.  I have no problem with it, just as long as I don’t ever run into one of  these in a dark alley somewhere.  On the other hand, some of the gamer stereotypes die hard:

I entered this drawing for some reason.  For the next couple of weeks, I shall proceed to fear that the ringing of my phone or the knock on my door is someone telling me that I won this.  If I ever found myself with 50 cases of ramen sitting on my doorstep, I’d probably have to starve myself to death just on general principle.  Apparently I haven’t learned my lesson about not entering contests that you wouldn’t want to win, but that’s another post for another day.

All in all, it was a pretty good show they put on this year, and the venue is a major improvement over previous years.  I look forward to going next year, and wonder what inescapable schedule conflict I’m going to have to deal with next time..  Anyway, since I probably shouldn’t stay up half the night writing this stuff, I will post some impressions of the games I demoed at PAX later on.

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