At some point, when you get more and more involved in the video game industry, it becomes depressing. You see stars born on Youtube and Twitch who make their money based on being edgy, offensive, and even racist. Social media is awash with controversy and filled with the latest comments from the worst people. Despite all the kind and friendly people in the industry, it can often time seem very bleak.
PAX, despite Penny Arcade’s strange history, has thankfully become a force for near constant positivity and inclusiveness. However, it can often feel that PAX West and East are beasts unto themselves. Developers and publishers now know PAX is the place to get media and fan attention all at one show. Lines grow immense, panels feature their own fan groups going wild, and before you know it you’re wandering around a packed show floor just looking for something to do that isn’t swamped. Often times the best moments happen away from the games PAX is supposed to celebrate. Then there’s PAX South.
You hear a lot about PAX South before you go. Since it started, the southern edition of the Penny Arcade Expo has been somewhat of a joke to many. The combination of low attendance and lack of major developer/publisher attention makes PAX South seem like a show everyone just skips. Some of that may be true, but PAX South is the distillation of what makes PAX and the video game community so wonderful.
South is a relaxed show. Out of every major developer only Capcom was there this year, mainly to show off Monster Hunter World. Even the tabletop area, normally a bastion of interesting board games and small shops selling anything you might need, was somewhat sparse. What replaced the big booths was a smattering of indie developers with a variety of titles. Some were there with a slate of titles and others only there with a single television and PC showing off their latest build. It made South feel less like a traditional, organized, and massive show and more like a true independent place for smaller developers. Every game seemingly had potential and was on even ground.
This is especially important as someone from the media. At an event like E3 or a larger PAX, we can quickly fill up our entire schedule with appointments. Before we step onto a plane we’ve decided on what games to see and not see. However at South, our time is less monopolized and we can search out games to fill in the gaps. Sometimes those games are pre-alpha, still looking for publishers, or on the precipice of release. Each title runs the gambit of potential.
I left PAX South feeling more positive about video games and the people who work in the industry. Everyone was filled with passion for what they were doing and even as the show wore on, that passion never waned. It is way too easy to, at a glance, see the culture built around games as a dire one. Filled with plenty of ugliness, it can be overwhelming and discouraging to see it everyday. However, in person, that ugliness rarely surfaces. Instead, we all share a common space, enjoying strikingly diverse experiences, both digital and not, and having a wonderful time while doing so. PAX South isn’t the biggest, best, or most worthwhile convention to attend. There are plenty that will tick more boxes for fans and professionals alike. But for those in need of seeing the stripped away core of games as the push for positivity it really can be, then you need to attend.