Since E3 is an industry-only event, one of the best opportunities for gamers to gather in one place each year is the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX). Now in its fourth year, PAX is more than doubling each year, forcing it to move from humble hotel rooms to a larger downtown Seattle venue. This year’s expo will be August 24-26, 2007, at the Washington State Trade and Convention Center.
PAX tries to include every type of multiplayer game, be it video, handheld or table top, setting aside rooms for gamers to gather, compete or just meet and play for fun. Exhibitors already scheduled to demo their games, gear and other goodies in the dedicated showroom include Microsoft, Nintendo, Privateer Press, ArenaNet, Wizards of the Coast and Flying Lab Software.
The highlight event of PAX is the three-day Omegathon, where pre-registered attendees are randomly selected to compete in elimination rounds featuring several game genres. Games in the tourney, and being played in every nook and cranny of the expo, include handheld, video and tabletop games. One year the Omegathon grand prize winner received every NES product ever made (ever!) and last year’s prize included a new car.
PAX is named after Penny Arcade, a popular web comic by Jerry “Tycho” Holkins and Mike “Gabe” Krahulik featuring two video game lovin’ guys. The dynamic duo also created Child’s Play, a gamer-driven charity for sick kids in Children’s Hospitals across the world.
I attended last year and PAX is a quite the gamer’s dream and a fairly family-friendly affair. If you do plan to go, book your room as early as possible since many hotel will fill up and plan to bring your favorite portable gaming device – DSes were huge last year, but PSPS will do nicely as well – and get to concerts very, very early. PAX’s biggest issue has been limited space, causing long lines into gaming areas and the show room so the increased. Lines were long for just about everything and many people were not admitted to the Nerdcore concerts.
If you are flying in for the event, look for rooms just outside of downtown Seattle (Bellevue is pretty good, which is where the expo was held the past few years) and possibly rent a car. Also, the parking can be damn expensive, though there are free parking areas in the city. You’ll need to really hunt for them and will likely have to walk several blocks. Last year they did shuttle people from a couple hotels, where parking was free.