When high school friends Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik created their Penny Arcade webcomic in 1998, they probably didn’t expect that twenty years later, around 70,000 people from around the world would gather in Seattle to celebrate gaming in all its forms at Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), the event they created in 2004. 

From Friday, August 31st, through Monday, September 3rd, gamers came together at PAX West 2018 to check out the newest in gaming and celebrate the community. Highlights of the event included a playable demo of Artifact, the digital card game from Richard Garfield and Valve. Gris, a 2-D platformer game by Nomada Studios was also a popular draw. A relaxing journey through watercolor landscapes and accompanied by soft music, it’s a different kind of game that provided a nice break against the fast-paced games surrounding players from all sides. You could also play Marvel’s Spider-Man for the PS4, and a unique highlight was a demo of Dreams, by Media Molecule, the studio behind LittleBigPlanet. Also available for play was SoulCalibur VI, which now features Geralt from The Witcher.

Gris by Nomada Studios

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The event was not without its controversies. Massive spaces in the main convention halls were allotted to Twitch, Mixer, and even Facebook Gaming. In some ways, it felt more like a streaming convention, more than the “big a**… party for gamers” that Krahulik once touted it as in 2004. Con-goers took to Reddit and Twitter to discuss these issues they encountered, and Tim Ellis compiled some of their statements at GeekWire. Some PAX attendees have expressed their frustrations in particular over the emphasis on streaming, as well as line-capping issues.

My experience seems to be fairly typical—though I made it to the entrance queue earlier and earlier each day (after grabbing some awesome Seattle craft coffee), I wasn’t able to get into Kingdom Hearts, even though I arrived only a few minutes after the convention hall opened at 10:00 AM. I immediately made my way to the line for the big-name Nintendo games coming to the Switch, to check out the new Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! Again, even just a few minutes after they opened for the day, the line was capped. Though I was advised to check back later, I was not able to get a spot in line. The others in my group had similar experiences with other big-name titles over the weekend.

We made our peace with the situation and happily spent our time checking out some awesome indie games, attending panels, and meeting some extraordinary people in the gaming community. The sixth floor of the convention was the place to be, with the Diversity Lounge, classic consoles and retro arcade games, and so many cool new games such as Untitled Goose Game by House House—you play a horrible goose, antagonizing your little town.

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Untitled Goose Game by House House

For those looking to do more collaborative storytelling, tabletop gaming also had a presence at PAX, with a floor dedicated to board games and more. Wyrmwood Gaming had a room where they displayed their high quality gaming accessories, including dice trays, towers, and vaults. They even had their legendary Prophecy Gaming Table on display. Beginning at $5,000, these tables are the ultimate in gaming accessories, and an incredible piece to add to your home. Metallic Dice Games showed off their lines of metal dice, as well as beautiful gemstone dice. Level Up Dice and Chessex dice also had a presence, and many more.

Engraved Opalite Dice Set from Metallic Dice Games

There were plenty of tabletop demos, as well as an extensive game library where you could check out games for a while. I also enjoyed playing a scene from Dragonfire, a new Dungeons and Dragons deck-building game, and observing games of Arkham Horror and more. You could also grab a new deck of cards and play a game of Magic: The Gathering.

This year, a lot of tabletop RPG events were held in panels such as Designing Worlds: Experiences Creating Tabletop RPGs; Playing to the (Virtual) Crowd: Streaming Tabletop RPGs; or The Art of the Table: GMing Beyond the Basics. Panelists included Jeremy Crawford of Wizards of the Coast, James Haeck of D&D Beyond, Jessica Ross from Bitch Team Alpha, Tanya DePass of I Need Diverse Games, and so many more inspiring speakers.

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Of course, it wouldn’t be PAX without Acquisitions Incorporated, a live D&D show starring Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade, Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Kingkiller Chronicle and more, and Holly Conrad, an artist that you can also find on Dice, Camera, Action, the official Wizards of the Coast D&D show. DMed by Chris Perkins, a game designer and editor for Wizards of the Coast, it was a madcap attempt at a heist in Waterdeep that went hilariously wrong at every turn. You can find the show and much more from PAX on their Twitch channel.

Acquisitions Incorporated Live D&D Game at PAX West 2018 Left to Right: Holly Conrad, Mike Krahulik, Chris Perkins, Patrick Rothfuss, Jerry Holkins

No convention can be perfect, but any time you gather with like-minded people from around the world in celebration of a creative and meaningful hobby, you’ll leave inspired, with new friends and experiences you’ll treasure. Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik created a unique place for gamers to come together, and we can’t wait til PAX West 2019.

 

 

Lyndsi Anderson