A week after the return of Penny Arcade Expo, I am still sorting out my feelings about it. This is not so much a grand return, as it is a careful restart, which happens to get rid of the many clutter accumulated by the show.
Frankly speaking, even with health restrictions, I think I like it better this year.
PAX is usually the logo of the Seattle geek calendar, attracting exhibitors, suppliers, artists and fans from all over the world to celebrate the game as a hobby. Like almost all other events in the country, PAX was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, its organizers transformed it into a week-long virtual format and achieved some success.
This year, PAX returned to the Washington State Convention Center for a physical performance, despite the limited attendance and strict safety precautions. One month after the initial announcement, it confirmed that WSCC needed a vaccination certificate or a negative COVID test to join the convention, thus redoubled its efforts.
It felt like it did some damage to PAX’s overall plan that month. This year’s exhibition feels sparsely populated. Due to the limited capacity, only half of the audience, and perhaps a quarter of the typical exhibitors are scattered in order to maintain social distancing.
The Expo Hall on the 4th floor of WSCC is usually a three-dimensional hype, and there are booths for the most advertised new video games, but most of the common suspects did not appear on PAX West 2021.
Companies such as Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Valve were all absent, making Bandai Namco, a third-party studio in Japan, the largest developer at the show. Even if it only shows one game: The story of the rise, The latest issue in long-term operation story A series of RPG games launched shortly after the end of PAX.
The second largest booth may belong to Afternoon studio, A publisher based in Los Angeles, offers a series of weird games, such as Friends of Ishikawa Hayashi. It’s a demonstration on PAX, a hyper-powered cyberpunk hacker and hack, with completely Unrecognizable signs are called Is no longer a human being, Probably the best thing I played in this year’s performance.
Another surprising exhibitor is the new live streaming platform Trovo Live, which enables First time attending the conference In PAX West. Trovo’s audience share is currently only a statistic, but its parent company Tencent is one of the largest players in the modern game industry. Worthy of attention.
However, this does help illustrate this point. Most of the space in PAX West 2021 is dedicated to independent developers, some of whom are showing single garage projects or demos that barely exceed alpha.
In a more typical year, the Expo hall on the 4th floor was packed with the biggest upcoming games of the year, while the 6th floor was packed with indie games from all over the world. Desktop and VR exhibitors are usually set up in nearby hotel banquet halls just to manage the space. This is purely crazy marketing overcorrection, and frankly, it makes me nervous.
The 2021 show must be a short version of the show, using hand sanitizer and discreet enthusiasm, everyone seems to be happy to participate, but still not sure if this is a good idea.All-volunteer law enforcement officers were on site throughout the weekend, providing additional masks, useful instructions and hand sanitizer to those in need. They followed the hygiene regulations extremely seriously.
Some of the long-term participants I spoke to, who have been playing PAX since the first show in 2004, compared the experience of PAX West 2021 with the shortcomings of the earlier years, especially in 2008.
People on the ground
Relatively few suppliers have appeared this year, whether they are local or foreign, all the suppliers I interviewed reported that they held a very successful meeting.
“PAX has been going well for us,” said Alena Alambeigi, Marketing Director of Limited Run Games, which had a booth in the Expo hall during PAX.
Limited Run is headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina, and specializes in publishing collectible physical electronic games that were originally digital exclusive products or out of print for a long time.
“We don’t know what will happen,” Alambeigi told me, “but it’s as good as our last PAX in 2019. We do want to be safe, but we don’t know how PAX will strengthen health restrictions, but since I came here Since then, they have been great and very strict.”
Whenever I happen to pass by the booth Pink gorillaIt’s a retro/imported game store in Seattle, waiting in a long queue to enter. When it started PAX, all kinds of plush dolls related to games were fastened to the walls of its booth with zippers, and through Monday afternoon, most of the plush toys were gone.
“We have never had such a production line,” said Paublo Smith, one of the former owners of Pink Gorilla. Although he no longer runs Pink Gorilla, he often helps run its booth during conferences in the Seattle area. “We have set up a booth where the Sony booth is usually located, and it has been non-stop.”
“I think people are eager for exhibitors, and there are not enough exhibitors here. People say,’We are glad you are here. We don’t mind waiting.'”
Mike Selinker, president of Seattle-based board game company Lone Shark Games, set up a booth in the Expo lobby to give away dice and demonstrate his game Lord Vegas. “We are satisfied with the sales we have received, but they are not really the focus,” Selinker said. “We are here to make people become gamers again.”
Drama is the point
“I came here thinking it would be a dumpster fire,” Matt Zaremba said, “but it’s not the case.”
Zaremba is the owner of Zulu’s Board Game Cafe in Bothell, Washington, which set up two booths during PAX. 2021 is his 10th year participating in PAX West and also his 4th year participating in the exhibition as an exhibitor.
“Last year was terrible,” Salumba told me during PAX on Saturday morning. “But this PAX has become great, easier than ever. It feels more like [the tabletop-only show] PAX unplugged. People are just playing games. “
It’s hard to miss this on my trip through WSCC. Expo Hall on the 4th floor, where many vendors and game demos are located, tends to be relatively quiet during PAX.
The 6th floor is mainly used for tabletop and card games, but includes a large board game library for visitors to borrow and try, and That Some programs were unexpectedly full.
This may be my biggest gain.Many of the people who seem to be most satisfied with this year’s PAX version seem to be actually those who have spent the weekend Play Compete with each other. If your ideal PAX is a PAX where you collect a large number of pins and buttons while watching all the major new demos, then this year’s show can’t help but disappoint.
On the other hand, if you just want to go for a walk, meet some people you haven’t seen in a while, and play some games, this is your agreement. In the end, even with all health measures taken, to me, this is more like a “game celebration” than the 2019 show. This still doesn’t feel normal, but the low-key approach did ultimately yield some benefits to PAX.