PAX 2015

A Review From The Inside

September 1, 2015
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There are many people who work behind-the-scenes at The End who do fun things around Seattle. You may see Janio running endsessions. Below is his tale of PAX 2015! 

As I light railed towards the last day of PAX, eyes down and locked into a heated battle of Pokemon Shuffle, a familiar sound from across the aisle broke my concentration. I looked up from my Pikachu 3DS to find a girl, powering up her Mega Buster and equipping it to her left hand. She was cosplaying as Mega Man, the now charged and blinking arm cannon completing the transformation. 

A decades-long Mega fan, I smirked and nodded in her direction. Noticing my PAX badge she did the same, threw in her headphones and listened to what I can only imagine to be Mega Man 2’s “Dr. Wily: Stage 1” or any song equally and appropriately as cool. 

You see, during PAX weekend, there’s a certain feeling of camaraderie that I don’t get anywhere else. I’m weirdly comfortable opening a dialogue with a complete stranger because they’re rocking an N7 hoodie, or silently acknowledging a cosplayer who shares the same love I have for the Blue Bomber. Once a year, PAX is life. And these are my people.

The biggest public gaming convention on the West Coast, PAX (short for the Penny Arcade Expo) is host to all things video, card and tabletop gaming. With a highly coveted badge, we super-friends can roam the expo hall and play unreleased video games, attend panels with industry heroes, play in tournaments or stalk Magic Pro-Tour champion Joel Larsson and stare at his magnificent hair. But really. Google it. In person, it’s like seeing a unicorn.

For the most part, though, PAX is focused on video games and I played A LOT of them. From Rise of the Tomb Raider to Star Wars: Battlefront. Abzu to Below. Project Morpheus to Oculus Rift. The show floor was a bright, shiny and LOUD vision of the future of my favorite medium.

Out of everything that I experienced, the tactical team-shooter Rainbow Six: Siege shot me right in the feels and ended up being my favorite game of the show. In Siege, unlike most first-person firefights, players only have one life in the round so you have to make it count. I don’t have the reflexes to jump around and shotgun people like those kids online in other shooters, but I do have ‘old man’ patience. I might not sound very exciting, but sometimes throwing up a barricade and finding a line-of-sight through some exposed drywall is how you Rainbow Six. As long as we’re winning, it’s our party we can do what we want.

Another big win was Gang Beasts, a multiplayer fighting game where up to 8 drunk Gummi Bear mascot-things kidney punch each other until they’re weak enough to be thrown off stages that resemble the climaxes of Schwarzenegger movies. Go ahead and re-read that sentence. It’s completely bonkers. The Indie Megabooth sounded like a pro-wrestling arena the entire weekend as onlookers cheered the spectacle of stupidity.

Solidifying the weekend was seeing all of my friend’s beautiful, sweaty faces. Some I haven’t seen in months. Some, years. From all over the map, Penny Arcade brings all the old crews back together to not just co-op some games, but catch up with life. The whizzes and whirls of the expo hall might shake the ground around us, but hearing that an old friend is doing well is much cooler than throwing a Hadouken in their face. 

All in all, it was a another fantastic PAX.

As I left the convention center, I noticed a tear-dropped banner hanging from one of the light poles on 8th and Pike. I stopped in my tracks, having to read it a few times to really soak it in. It was the period that ended my PAX story, a final sentiment that summed up my experience this year and really, every year I attend the expo. The sign read, “Welcome home.”

Until next year, friends.