PAX East 2014: Going Home Again

Attending PAX East always feels like coming home after a year at college or a long business trip – relaxing and partying with your friends and family who understand you.  This past weekend I, and 70,000 of my closest friends, descended on Boston for PAX East 2014 to celebrate games, gamers, and gaming culture. This was my third PAX East and, with the help of my trusty Guidebook app, I had my weekend planned out fairly well.  I forgot that no plan survives contact with the Con.

Graphic courtesy of Penny Arcade Expo
Graphic courtesy of Penny Arcade Expo

I arrived early in the morning and joined the mass migration to the convention center.   The PAX tradition of beach ball bombardment while waiting in line to enter the expo floor was alive and well until the ropes were lifted and we rushed the expo. I was quickly drawn into the expanded Indie Megabooth and was once again blown away by the quality of the games displayed. Two indie games really stood out to me: Loadout, a Team Fortress 2 type shooter, which allows complete customization of your weapons; and World Zombination, a tower defense and RTS hybrid, in which you can play as either the humans defending a city or the zombies trying to eat the city.

Graphic Credit: Edge of Reality, Ltd.
Graphic Credit: Proletariat, Inc.
Graphic Credit: Proletariat, Inc.

The bigger developers were well represented this year by Microsoft, Blizzard, Square Enix, Ubisoft and 2K Games, among others, despite the absence of Nintendo and Sony. Xaviant had an impressive demo of Lichdom: Battlemage on the exhibit floor that has you take on the role of a battlemage, fighting the forces of evil with customizable spells and a time dilation dodge maneuver culminating in a powerful area attack to help break up waves of baddies.  Bethesda’s booth rarely disappoints and this year was no exception as they showed off both Elder Scrolls Online and a surprisingly fun looking Wolfenstein: The New Order, which has you help the resistance fight against the world dominating Nazis in 1960 using experimental weapons to take on the enemy monstrosities.

I planned to attend several of the great panels but like a dog that sees a squirrel, I was constantly pulled off course by the expo and tabletop games. There was a great variety of panels that spanned an immense number of topics including diversity and gender in games, developer presentations, a Pokemon trainer seminar, the Dungeons and Dragons 40th anniversary, geek parenting, the mythology of games, and gaming journalism.

The tabletop area was dominated by Magic: The Gathering, as it is every year. Sadly, there was little representation from Dungeons and Dragons. MTG was very inviting to new players with open tournaments for those who had not played before or were returning to the game after years away. Tournaments for many games, like My Little Pony CCG, Warhammer 40K, and Star Wars: X-Wing miniatures, were well attended and many more people enjoyed the free play area of tabletop.

The quality of Cosplay at PAX East has been improving year to year and some of the cosplayers who deeply impressed me this year were the “Titanfall pilot,” “The Hound from Game of Thrones,” the “cast of Zelda,” and “Earthworm Jim.” “Starbuck,” portrayed by Jessica Paulding was fantastic and my favorite of the weekend, until I found the red and blue aliens from Sesame Street because when you asked “May I take your picture?” they simply responded “YuuuupYuuupYuupYupYupYuuupYup!”

Photo Credit: Wesley Potter

 

I always enjoy PAX East – meeting new and old friends, playing great games and getting away from the world for a weekend. Having returned to the real world, I’m looking forward to seeing my 70,000 friends again in 2015!