PAX West 2016 brings thousands of gamers to Seattle for cosplay, VR, and competition
Since 2004, Labor Day weekend has been a special time in Seattle. From all across the nation gamers, geeks and nerds of all persuasions travel — united for the Pacific Northwest’s biggest video game convention. PAX West (formerly known as PAX Prime, until it was eclipsed by the Boston-set PAX East) takes over the Seattle Convention Center and surrounding downtown areas with a horde of video game demos, tournaments, concerts, exhibitions and more. 2016 was no different for the annual event, which saw thousands of attendees over the four-day duration.
Short for the Penny Arcade Expo, PAX is a meeting between the glitz and glamor of an industry trade show and a fan-oriented convention. The halls were dense with attendees decked out in cosplay, representing the greatest gaming fashions of the year. This year, Blizzard’s Overwatch was the most popular title by a country mile — with just about every character from the game’s roster seeing a few fans take up their likeness.
On the show floor itself, two upcoming titles dominated the mind-space of seemingly every attendee at the show. Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy XV and Capcom’s Resident Evil VII saw incredible levels of demand for their respective demo sessions. Reserve slots for these demos filled up as soon as they were available, breeding unprecedented mystery around what they may hold. For fans of Resident Evil, the wait may have been a serious letdown. The only content on display were two previously released segments of gameplay (the VR-focused Kitchen scene, and the Beginning Hour demo currently available on PSN). But Final Fantasy delivered on the hype, with a monstrous hour-long demo that gave players free reign over the game’s opening chapter. With huge narrative beats, splendid combat, and loads of personality — it’s one of the cleanest vertical slices of a game ever presented at the show.
Virtual Reality also continued a slow domination over the gaming world, with more developers than ever before showing off VR projects. Sony was booked around the clock for various Playstation VR demos including the mind-bending Rez Infinite and immersive shooter Farpoint. On the show’s more indie-focused upper floor, smaller devs used the tech for personal projects — like the inner-city story of We Are Chicago, or Samurai Punk’s political satire The American Dream (which portrays a perfect world where players never have to put down their pistols, even while driving or eating).
Of course, what happens in the convention center is only a small part of PAX. Parties stretched deep into the night, including large-scale events that took over some big Seattle landmarks. Bethesda turned a local ship dock into the town of Karnaka from Dishonored 2 for a massive seaside party, while roaming bands of Pokemon GO players took to the city’s bar scene for an epic pub crawl. It’s not often that you’ll see people playing Magic the Gathering at a bar, but nights of PAX make it seem perfectly natural. The sense of community is one-of-a-kind, and even if the show has faded into history — the memories will last a lifetime.
Follow Chris Berg on Twitter, @ChrisBerg25
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