Reporting from PAX 2008


PAX, the Penny Arcade Expo, is the largest gaming festival in North America representing tabletop, console and PC gaming. Three days of tournaments, freplay, nerdcore concerts, panel discussions, the latest from top game publishers and developers, the PAX 10 independent games showcase and thousands of attendees who know their stuff when it comes to games.

The keynote speader is Ken Levine, who is the President and Creative director of 2K Boston, who have produced many popular PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 games. Mr. Levine is currently best known for his work on the critically-acclaimed BioShock, developed by 2K Boston (formerly known as Irrational Games). Mr. Levine is currently President and Creative Director of that development studio, and has been a coveted speaker at game industry-related events, discussing storytelling and player engagement in gaming. “Obviously, Ken is pimp supreme,” said Penny Arcade’s Robert Khoo, “We’re super excited to have him open up the show.”

We’ll post video, audio, and a writeup of Ken’s keynote, which starts at 4:00 on Friday.

PAX runs from Friday at 2:00 pm (although awesome journalists like myself get in sooner, so stay tuned from a report from the show floor).  PAX wraps up Sunday afternoon, and from my experience most of the stuff happens on Saturday.

Looking around the floor, we saw several Linksys Wireless Routers just hanging from white racks.  Apparently these are used to provide wireless access for the partiers, which seemed like a very ghetto solution.  One guy even brought a complete Guitar Hero 3 setup, but didn’t have the forethought to have an extension cord.


This year, PAX is held at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center.  Originally, the Penny Arcade Expo was held at the relatively small Maydenbauer Center in Bellevue, Washington, and is now ten times bigger. PAX 08 occupies 300,000 square feet of the trade center and features over 70 exhibitors and acommodates over 50,000 attendees.

2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Attendees 3,300 9,000 19,500 37,400 50,000
Exhibitors 11 20 24 60 70

Wil Wheaton returns to PAX this year, not as the keynote speaker but as a panel speaker.  Wil’s panel is Sunday afternoon, and we hope to bring you more from Mr. Wheaton. You can read about Wil’s awesome keynote from last year.  You can also download the entire hour-long audio.

We have already seen a bunch of costumed gaming patrons, as well as some cute girls… of course we’ll add to our world-famous Booth Babe gallery as we snap more photos.

Don, Patrick, and myself are going around the show floor before it all gets started, and looked at some of the tournaments going on.  PAX staff were setting up for the Super Smash Brothers tournament, which are being played in large 32-inch LCD monitors and brand-new Wii consoles.

Of course, there is also a LAN tournament, run by some of my friends at Lan Party Northwest.  Intel again is supplying the PCs, so we’ll talk with them (and try to get more Intel processors in the OCmodshop labs).

There are many other tournaments, movies, concerts, and other events.  Since we have three staff members this year, we’ll be bringing you more coverage from more events.  I know some of you guys don’t really care about the Pokemon DS tourneys, but maybe we’ll get a one-pager about it.

Another highlight of PAX is the Omegathon, in which twenty randomly-selected PAX pre-registrants compete against each other in tabletop, videogame and computer games each day of the annual gaming festival. Organizers revealed that this year’s “Omeganauts” will battle for the ultimate prize: a trip for two to the Tokyo Game Show, along with $5,000 in spending cash and an incredible, almost supernatural home theater system. The 2008 Tokyo Game Show will be held Oct. 11-12 at the Makuhari Messe convention center near Tokyo.  In Japan.


In addition to the numerous panels and game demonstrations, Omegathon, Exhibition Hall, and The PAX 10 independent games showcase, PAX offers attendees a musical lineup that spans two nights, delivering an uncompromising selection of acts to tantalize the gamer palate.  Returning musical guests include MC Frontalot, mc chris, FreezePop, the MiniBosses, Jonathan Coulton, and The OneUps.  New for 2008 are Vancouver, B.C.-based Horror Rock outfit The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets, as well as New York City’s bitpop heroes, Anamanaguchi.

As if all of this weren’t enough, PAX organizers further confirmed that this year’s Exhibition Hall is officially sold out, leaving any industry professionals waiting until the last minute to request space with only the option of peddling their wares on the sidewalk outside the festival venue.

Alan is a web architect, stand-up comedian, and your friendly neighborhood Grammar Nazi. You can stalk him on the Interwebs via Google+, Facebook and follow his ass on Twitter @ocmodshop.