What to expect from PAX East

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By Alex Kerravala, Staff Writer

For those who may not know, PAX East was in Boston from Thursday, April 5 to Sunday April 8, and I have had the incredible fortune of going this year, as well as the past two years.

The Penny Arcade Expo is a video game convention that happens annually in Boston, featuring panels discussing various topics within the industry.

These panels range from development of various games to what some are looking for in a game to how to make a career in the field. Along with the panels, there is also an Expo Hall, where there are displays for new upcoming games, ranging from the widely popular, big budget games to little indie titles.

This year at PAX felt different than the prior years to me. The panels didn’t seem as enticing and there were not nearly as many big budget games I had been excited for.

Unfortunately, it was not a good first impression from the convention.

Luckily, first impressions aren’t everything.

There may not have been as many big names there, but thankfully, those aren’t the backbone of what makes PAX what it is- the independent games do that. There is something about playing a game that isn’t even out yet with the developers standing right next to you, obviously proud of the hard work and dedication they have poured into the project.

You can really feel the passion whenever you play an indie game.

One such game that caught my eye was called The Shrouded Isle, where you play as a cult leader and you must sacrifice your disciples to keep an old god sated and slumbering.

Another such indie game that impressed me was called 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, a story based game following a photographer in the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

However, nothing impressed me as much as Sleep Tight, an incredibly cute tower defense where you play as a five-year-old setting up Nerf guns and pillow forts to protect himself from the monsters that come out at night.

The game had an adorable artstyle that felt like playing a Pixar movie, and on top of that, the game played extremely well.

While the game showcases are an excellent cornerstone to PAX, what really makes it are the panels.

One such panel was called Gaming Without Gates: Fostering Children’s Social Skills, which discussed how video games can be used to enhance a child’s social skills, rather than hinder them as is commonly assumed.

The panel was pretty informative, and hit close to home, as someone with a brother with closer friends online than in person.

Another fascinating panel was Beyond the Devkit: Non-development Careers in Games.

As the title says, it talks about careers in the gaming industry that are more than just developing games. The panelists were made up of an entrepreneur, a lawyer, a journalist, and a marketing consultant, all involved in video games without an ounce of programming know-how.

Finally, there was my favorite panel, which was called Wisdom Tree! Bad Unlicensed Christian NES Games of the 90s.

The panel followed the development of bootleg, unofficial Christian games for Nintendo’s first home console.

Rather than just poking fun at these obviously terrible games, which they did, and it was hilarious, they also went down the development cycle of these games, saying what the company was, how it got to where it was, and why Bible-themed games were the answer.

Each and every panel was informative and gave insight into the media that I had not seen before.

What makes PAX for me, however, isn’t any of this, at least on its own. While seeing new, unreleased games is exciting, and seeing what is basically a comedy show about bootleg Bible games is fun and all, what makes PAX excellent is spending a weekend in Boston with a group of friends doing exactly what we normally would be doing, but without a worry in sight. Rather than talking with a friend while playing Overwatch, from a different campus, I can do it in person with something neither of us have heard of.

PAX was a chance to bond with some friends in an environment I have yet to see anywhere else.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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