Exhibition (Expo) Hall
The Expo hall is the most trod, packed and amazing place to visit at this convention. It’s a whirling cacophony of lights and sounds, hawkers peddling their products, spinning in the ether, wringing their hands at the prospect of sending you off with an indelible desire to purchase their upcoming game.
Okay, admittedly, that sounds more like the bizarre bazaar of a nightmare circus. But that is the general goal of this place. Hands-on demos, slide-shows, video presentations, free stuff. Oh… the free stuff…
That’s right, they will try to put their swag into your hands. It’s advertising at it’s finest. “Hey, I forgot I got this awesome t-shirt from that game booth at PAX… I think I’ll check it out!” Stickers, patches, buttons, shirts, bags, hats, mouse pads, posters, posters and more posters,free demo versions of their games. Heck, sometimes even free copies of their games! This place is a dark alley of mercantile delight.
Featured in the exhibition hall will also be the PAX 10. This is a set of ten indie games, selected on the merits they present and setup in a free spot in the Expo Hall. People can demo these games and get a taste of the indie spirit not commonly found these days.
The Expo hall has expanded this year, whereas last year it filled the main exhibition room of the WSCTC, it has expanded, first, across the Sky Bridge into the room before the escalators. Now, it has taken more space for it’s wicked works. Formerly known as the queue room, Hall B is another several thousand square foot room that has been re-purposed to display the succulent meat of PAX, games.
How could one forget to mention the concerts when one is talking (nearly obsessively) about PAX!
Friday and Saturday nights, the musical ecstasy begins. The concerts have been a stalwart part of the PAX persona for many years now. Hours of music, most, if not all, of which is video game or geek-culture themed.
Amamanaguchi, Darkest of the Hillside Thickets, MC Frontalot, Minibosses, The Protomen, Paul and Storm, Freezepop and, the now iconic, Jonathan Coulton. These represent just a few of the acts PAX has welcomed into it’s bosom.
Nercore rap, chiptunes, tribute bands, cover bands, electro, geeks love this stuff and it goes down smooth at PAX.
Keep in mind, there is a limited amount of space in the concert venue, which this year will be offsite at Benaroya Hall. Those who are in line for entry into PAX on Friday, the first 1,000 people will get a wristband that guarantees entrance into the concert. Same goes for Saturday, get in line early enough, and you get a wristband.
Also, just an FYI, the line to get into PAX can get as long as a few thousand people. Upwards of 10,000. So, being in line does not mean you get a wristband.
Feel free to check out the list of performers this year here.
Now here is something for the more competitive in the crowd.
PAX features a bevy of competitive gamed, ranging from fighting game tournaments, tabletop games to FPS competitions.
Announcements have not been made as to what to expect this year in terms of competition, but rest assured, they will come.
Just to make things clear, these are not competitive league tournaments, they don’t offer thousands of dollars in prizes. The prizes are usually pretty small, maxing out at around a few hundred dollars. And they are almost never cash prizes. So don’t think you’re paying for your trip to Europe on PAX tournaments.
Unless of course you are picked to play in…
THE OMEGATHOOOOOOON (dun dun duuuuun [dramatic reverb])
The Omegathon is brutal. Once selected, you are officially one of the people everyone at PAX wants to be.
You get VIP treatment, an all access pass, you get into the Expo hall early, and you get your PAX pass refunded.
The events of the Omegathon are varied. Every year they mix things up to avoid people training off of a previous year’s program. One thing can be for sure. It is stiff competition.
There is usually (I say usually because they is no “always” with this event) a first-person shooter round, a tabletop/casual game round, a rhythm game round and a surprise final round. Okay, maybe I can say always when it comes to the final round. It is always kept secret until it is revealed to the Omeganauts (that is what the participants are called) are told about it, thirty minutes before the round begins.
Previous prizes for the Omegathon have been a complete NES collection, valued at $25,000, a custom car, tricked out to the brim and painted with a PA motif, and a trip for two to the Tokyo Game Show and $5,000 in spending money. So yeah, win the Omegathon and head to Japan, followed by Europe. There ya go!
Let’s not forgot the valiant efforts of the runner-up. This person is guaranteed a spot in next year’s Omegathon. Not bad. The dirty shame of it, the runner-up the last two years has been the same guy. Poor fella, always trying so hard, but never quite grabbing that brass ring. I salute you!
Examining each individual part of PAX brings us right back to the overall picture. PAX is for gamers. It’s a paradise, a homecoming, an oasis of geekiness.
Visits to PAX have been described as feeling truly at home, welcome and without judgment, and having the greatest time of their life.
Never underestimate how wonderful it feels to be surrounded by a mass of people that you know are into much the same things you are. It’s is extremely freeing.
A few protips to wrap this up.
1. Wear anti-perspirant. It gets very warm when there are 20,000 people in the same building. All the electronics running. Just… keep that in mind.
2. Shower! By the many gods of the moon, clean yourself up. Don’t think, “I have to get there now! No time for a shower!” There is always time for a shower.
3. Do not bring in any sort of weapon. Unless it looks like it’s made of foam rubber or cardboard or something, bad idea to have one with you. WSCTC has employees. These employees do not want there to be an incident. You will be ejected.
4. Talk to people! Many of the people there are totally willing to discuss the new Darksiders game with you, or listen to your opinion on Activision’s latest crazy thing they did. It’s cool.
5. Go to the later Omegathon rounds. Seriously. Do it. They’re so ridiculously exciting for no reason. Energy is high, people are screaming, ooo-ing and ahh-ing. It’s amazing.
Seriously. Have fun at PAX! It’s why it’s here. If you don’t have fun, you’re doing it wrong!
[This concludes Part 2 of the PAX series. More to come on more specific entries into the PAX experience.]
[If you missed the other parts of this article, check them out here, here and here.]