PAXWelcome to our pre-PAX (Penny Arcade Expo) report. With the recent announcement about E3, it seems like gamers have taken an even bigger interest in PAX. I think that’s a bit premature given that we don’t yet know what the “new E3” really means yet, but there’s no denying that this year’s PAX is going to be even bigger and better than the last.

Given that I still run into gamers who haven’t even heard of, much less read geek and gaming comic and commentary site Penny Arcade, maybe I should explain what PAX is. The Penny Arcade Expo is basically a three day gamer-fest created by the artist and the author of Penny Arcade, Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, along with their colleagues. This is only their third show in as many years. It takes place in Bellevue, Washington August 25-27th. Attendance has increased every year, so for next years show, PAX planners will be moving it a bigger venue, probably in Seattle.

Because of the changes happening to E3, I think some gamers are looking towards PAX to replace it. However, as a “seasoned” attendee of both PAX and E3, I’ve got to say that’s probably a misguided notion. It is true that the show floor of PAX will have many unreleased games for attendees to play, and this year, both Microsoft and Nintendo among others are expected to have some exciting in store for attendees. However, I think E3 will remain as the place (or time period) in which gaming companies make major announcements.

PAX is different from E3. It’s not about publishers securing media coverage and retail orders for their upcoming products. PAX is about a bunch of gamers coming together to do stuff that gamers can get excited about. Part of that is playing unreleased games, many of which were at E3, probably with updated content. However, there are lots of other things that go on at PAX. Of course, with that many gamers together, you have to expect some a lot of multiplayer gaming going on, and it’s there. All platforms are represented and there are several tournaments in addition to free-play areas.

One of my favorite things at PAX is the discussion panels. Gaming industry members discuss certain topics on stage and the audience participates. I’m really glad they do this at PAX. There are lots of different types of geek conventions, but PAX is the only real gamer’s one that has this sort of thing. There are usually other kinds of presentations as well.

Another PAX hallmark is the Omegathon. 20 randomly chosen contestants battle through widely varying gaming challenges until only two are left by the sixth round. In the past, these final rounds are a best 2-out-of-3 in an old school games, and by old school, I mean Pong and that old Atari Combat game. However, the final round event is always a secret until the moment it starts, so this year’s final round could be anything. The past two Omegathon prizes were amazing, and this year’s is no different:

PAXScion1.jpg PAXScion2.jpg

That’s a 2006 Scion with a bunch of extras including an Xbox 360 system.

I didn’t mention everything that goes on at PAX, ’cause well, then I wouldn’t have as much to write about later. If you’re interested, you might want to read the complete rundown (as much as a PAX weary mind allowed) I wrote of the first PAX in 2004: (Day 1, Day 2).

I don’t expect any major gaming news to break at PAX, but if it does, I’ll be sure to report it. Last year, Nintendo did have a significantly updated version of Metroid Prime Hunters playable. So something like is a distinct possibility. If any of the game demos present at PAX have been significantly updated since E3, we’ll be sure to write up a new preview. Both Microsoft and Nintendo are expected to have significant showings at PAX this year. I’m curious if Nintendo will have Wii playable. It wouldn’t surprise me if they did, it’s just that the Wii area was so crowded at E3 and they’ll probably have less space to work with at PAX. Also consider that Wii players need additional space to play as they can’t stand right in front of the TV.

Unfortunately, if you’re just learning about PAX now, it’s probably too late for you to make plans to check it out unless you live in Washington. But I definitely recommend that every dedicated gamer try attending PAX at least once, because their really isn’t another convention out there for gamers that is this much fun.

By Andrew Thivyanathan – 08/21/06

Screenshots for Bellevue to have Geeks Roaming in PAX