Celebrating it’s sixth anniversary this year, the Penny Arcade Expo, or PAX, as it’s better known, is the annual convention of gamers, thrown by the boys over at the webcomic, Penny Arcade. The show is a wacky conglomeration of equal parts E3 and Comic-con — E3 because it’s primarily about games and gamers and Comic-con because it’s for fans, not industry insiders.
As someone who works in the industry, I’ve attended and served on panel discussions the last 6 shows, with my wife, daughter and my parents attending the last two years. It helps them understand a little better what I do for a living (produce and design games) and it gives my parents appreciation of the size of the industry so I can put off getting a “real” job for a while longer.
But if you’ve never made your way out west for PAX, here are a few tips and things you should know to get the most out of your visit:
When: PAX takes place this year from September 4-6. (Next spring, March 26-28, PAX will head to the east coast for the first time.)
Where: Seattle Convention Center. The site is a quick walk from many Seattle attractions like the Pike Place Market, Seattle Art Museum, and more.
Cost: A 3 day pass will set you back $50, and a single day pass is $30. If you have young children, one day should be more than enough. I would strongly recommend pre-registering. Like Comic-Con, the show may sell out early this year, with more than 75,000 people attending.
Who Should Attend: Kids age 10 and up will enjoy the show the most, and are easier to keep track of. The show floor is big and crowded.
Parental Heads-Up: There will be a good deal of M-rated games being shown on the show floor, but with all the commotion it is easy to distract the younger viewers and walk on by quickly. But remember, there are also lots of E and T rated games you can try out months before they go on sale for the big Holiday season in November. Mascots are typically at the show as well, PAC MAN, Rabbids, etc.
What’s There To Do Besides Walking (and Walking): The talks and panel discussions cover a wide range of topics designed to appeal to the fans: How to get a job in the games biz. Gaming with Kids, Publishers vs. Developers, How Games are Pitched, Why Licensed Games Suck, and Why They Don’t Have To, etc. Children interested in how games are made, or possibly careers or education opportunities in gaming will find talks to attend.
Games: While console games dominate, there will be no shortage of table top and card games. Most retailers will have units for sale, SWAG to give away and tables for you to try their wares.
What if I Get Tired of Walking Around: Did I mention there’s a lot of walking? A big selection of geek-friendly recording artists will have concerts throughout the show. Expect to see MC Frontalot, Jonathan Coulton and others.
Community: Sometimes it is nice to see that you aren’t the only one who is that passionate about Mega Man. Plenty of people hop on the cosplay bandwagon. Feel free to dress up. Or not.
Those are the highlights. PAX is a great show and a lot of fun. If you’re into games – tabletop, console or PC – you owe it to yourself to attend at least once. I hope to see you there!