PAX began in 2004 as the Penny Arcade Expo (a spinoff of the popular web comic of the same name). The annual Seattle convention (now known as PAX Prime, to distinguish it from offshoots held in Boston, Austin, and Australia) is now a massive four-day event that takes up almost the entirety of the Washington Convention Center, drawing thousands from all over the world. (Check out some of our coverage, including awesome cosplay photos, on Instagram.)
Gaymer ribbons make our badges even better.
I had the chance to take a look at some of the games on the show floor, which ran the gamut of nearly every current platform, from tiny indie studios to the biggest of publishers. This is in no way comprehensive – with hundreds of games on the show floor, there's no way I could try more than a tiny portion of them – but here are a few I saw that interested me:
Cuphead (Xbox One/PC; Studio MDHR) – Last year I praised this 2D shooter, featuring a gorgeous visual style based on 1920s and 1930s cartoons. It's only improved since then – I can't wait to play it, even though I'm usually horrible at this sort of game (I'll be lucky to get past the first level).
We Are Chicago (Culture Shock Games, PC) – With gameplay in the vein of such popular Telltale series as The Walking Dead, this game – focusing on an African-American teenager in Chicago – aims to take on issues of race, class, and gang violence. It's an ambitious set of goals, but the fact that it's produced with the support of several Chicago nonprofits makes me hopeful that the storytelling will deliver. At the very least, that such subject matter is being wrestled with here is a positive sign of gaming's growing maturity as a medium.
Kôna (PC/Mac/Linux) – An atmospheric story-driven mystery game (like Gone Home, but with survival elements) set in rural 1970s Quebec during a brutal winter. The demo I tried seemed impressively detailed and atmospheric.
Ray's The Dead (Ragtag Studio; PlayStation 4/PlayStation Vita/PC/Mac/Linux) – An action-adventure/puzzle game where you play as a recently-resurrected zombie, given the ability to control other zombies (there are several different types, each with unique abilities that will make them necessary to get past certain obstacles). It's a little like a more puzzle-heavy version of Nintendo's Pikmin, with a style a little reminiscent of Paper Mario in its usage of beautifully drawn 2D characters in 3D environments.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime (Asteroid Base; Xbox One/PC/Mac/Linux) – Adorable coop 2D insanity, set onboard a colorful spaceship. This game had long lines and a surprising amount of floor space for a smaller title, but it's easy to see why.
For all the changes gaming is undergoing – from microtransactions to free-to-play to mobile – it's clear that the creative spirit remains alive and well in the industry. It's an exciting thing to witness.