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PAX Report
Written By:
Tim Mitchell

The first Penny Arcade Exposition (PAX) was held recently, and I was privileged to attend both days. Headquartered at the impressive Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, Washington, this event brought together thousands of gamers from across the world. Despite some logistical problems resulting from the sheer number of attendants, the event was a huge success and an excellent start for what will hopefully become an annual gathering.

The biggest attraction for me had to be the Exposition Room. Like an E3 in miniature, this room was packed with excited patrons all day long. Ubisoft was showing off live demos of Splinter Cell 3, Myst IV: Revelation, Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow, Brothers in Arms and Ghost Recon 2. A very lengthy and impressive demo reel of Prince of Persia 2: Warrior Within was on hand as well. As if that wasn’t enough, Microsoft was on hand with a slew of playable demos, including Fable, Jade Empire, MechAssault 2, Forza, Conker: Live and Reloaded, Kameo and yes, Halo 2. The latter already had too many people in line for it six hours before the demonstration began. If you ever got bored of those two juggernaut showings, Warner Brothers Interactive was letting people get up close and personal to the new Matrix Online, while Vivendi displayed Men of Valor. NC Soft was also talking up Guild Wars, as well as including free game discs and posters in the entrance bag. Nvidia was handing out free T-shirts, and you couldn’t walk away from the Bradygames booth without your free Soul Calibur 2 player’s guide. Like any good gaming show, there was plenty of swag to be found.

For the hardcore gamers present, PAX was more than just seeing sights. There was a console room hooked up with all the games and systems you’d expect, while the PC room was packed with both high-end systems from Lanwerx and BYOC (Bring Your Own Computer) slots. Sadly, for the most part these rooms were occupied by the many tournaments held, and on the rare occasions they were open for free play, there weren’t enough stations to go around. Speaking of tournaments, the much-storied Omegathon was held, with Sean Celeya walking away victorious from a final game of Pong, one Omega Collection richer. Twenty thousand dollars worth of gaming can’t be wrong.

Perhaps the greatest triumph and the saddest tragedy of PAX was the theater. Many of the best events were held here, including some fascinating panels on various subjects featuring industry professionals, Penny Arcade Q&As, a full showing of Red vs. Blue season one as well as gaming classic The Wizard, and of course the much anticipated musical performances by MC Frontalot, the Minibosses, Optimus Rhyme and pianist Conney Lin playing some Final Fantasy arrangements courtesy of Michael Huang. Sadly, the theater could only hold 500 people at a time, and with more than six times that many people in attendance, missing many of these events was commonplace. It didn’t help that they were often scheduled close together, you could walk out of one and find the line already full up for the next. I myself only caught a few of the panels, but I enjoyed them immensely.

All in all, PAX was just too much fun squeezed into too little time and too little space. More people came than could possibly have been expected, a testament to nothing so much as the popularity of Penny Arcade. Luckily, the ones behind it are no fools, and they’re already fixing everything for the next time around. An event not quite like any other, PAX combines every possible attraction a gamer could hope for, and if you have the means I wouldn’t miss next year’s expo.

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Posted: 9-23-04
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