Saturday, October 15, 2011

PAX Prime 2011

PAX = Success
I attended this year's PAX Prime not to see any particular game, not to hear any particular speaker or panel, but because it feels great to be in the company of so many like-minded geeks and nerds. PAX's business operations head Robert Khoo confirmed that PAX Prime had approximately 70,000 people this year, making it the largest PAX yet.
Despite the event's size, the founders and organizers remain quite hands-on. I was impressed while waiting in line for the keynote to see Mr. Khoo walking the line, counting attendees so that potential attendees could be told the cutoff for when the venue was going to be full.

Exhibition Halls
The exhibition halls were, as always, impressively large. The place was packed, but the crowds were friendly and people were moving through pretty well, so clogs were rare. The PAX Enforcers are more active every year in managing the lines of people who are waiting to play a demo, have an autograph signed, or get into a panel, and this year was no different.
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Microsoft and Bungie's Halofest was maybe the single most impressive thing I saw at the expo this year. Never have I seen so much Halo gear, games, toys, props and assorted paraphernalia in one place. 2011 was the inaugural year for Halofest, and it did not disappoint. There were life-sized figures from several of the games, but the dioramas of combat scenes were the most impressive.
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I'm willing to bet it will be at forthcoming PAXes for the foreseeable future, and may even be an independent traveling exhibit in select cities around the country. There is that much stuff, and it is that good.

Indie Games
One of the cooler things I experienced this year was the "indie games" area. There was one smaller exhibition hall dedicated solely to independent developers and games. Unfortunately I did not find this treasure trove until the last day of the show, but I will definitely be returning there at future shows. The neat thing was that the crowds were much less dense in this hall and you had a real opportunity to not only play the games on display, but talk to the developer who made the game.

This area also had a zombie makeup booth where you could be "zombified."

The people are what keep bringing me back to PAX. We are all so similar there, no matter what type of gaming or geekery we are each interested in. I happened to run into one of the volunteer PAX Enforcers at the airport when I was heading home, and he summed it up well: "No matter how geeky you are, you're not the geekiest one there." Simply put, one feels at ease and among friends. Who wouldn't want that?

All photos are on flickr here.