A return to normal for some, a way forward for conventions

Thanks in part to attendees’ vigilance to keep masks in place and time spent congregating in queues kept to a minimum, the city of Seattle hosted one of the first in-person events since the entry into force of restrictions and blockages related to Covid-19. In fact, it was both PAX East 2020 in Boston, MA, and now PAX West 2021 in Seattle, WA, which ended the current chain of events that I have been present to cover on behalf of Wccftech. With fans around the world seeing PAX West as a testing ground for what conventions could be in 2021, it’s important to view this weekend as a success, albeit on a much smaller scale than the usual convention circuit.

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The event opened on Friday with the usual fanfare: Fans found themselves in massive queues and gathered and mingled as the doors open at ten o’clock sharp, nine for those who hold a yellow Media or Content Creator badge. Ignoring the number of attendees for a moment, the most notable change was the willingness and support of each attendee to wear a face mask for the duration of the convention. To even collect a participant badge and line up to enter, each participant had to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test result from the past two weeks. The numbers came out after the show closed definitively, which around 93% of attendees, in general, chose to come fully immunized to see PAX West 2021 in person.

As I opened the doors to PAX West 2021 and first entered through the Seattle Convention Center, I walked through clusters of booths that seemed familiar to someone who had only attended one PAX convention before. . Game developers have all been fighting to grab attendees’ attention with a recently released version of their games, some newly released while others could be as far away as 2022 or 2023. These booths with hands-on demos were often flanked from vendors of a wide variety of game merch and equipment, from tent pole vendors like Limited Run Games and Fangamer to the odd retro game vendor or tabletop vendor. What stood out the most about those stalls lining the show was that for every place you could sit and have a controller in your hands for a few moments, there would be at least two or three stores in number. .

If digital games aren’t your goal, PAX West 2021 has brought the usual diversity to events, no matter how geeky you are. The top floor of the Seattle Convention Center housed the majority of tabletop games, including a library of titles to play with friends or perhaps recruit a bunch of new adventurers to go out and seek glory. Scattered throughout the rest of the exhibit halls were event rooms, signs, even a Pokemon Gym League or two. With few games to play on the main lounge, these panels were perhaps the main draw of the show, unless you just came to cosplay and socialize with friends offline. Even the litany of Pinny Arcade traders tucked into a neat little nook near the PAX West merch booth to show off their collections and swap spare parts for those missing in their collection (if only I won and had the full collection of Killer Instinct pins to swap one way).

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For fans who haven’t had a convention in months to splurge on a new bag of dice or a scantily clad swordsman adorning your desk mat, PAX West 2021 seemed like a huge boon for sellers who felt brave enough to bring their wares to the general public. By the end of day four of PAX, it was not uncommon to see huge swathes of booth space emptied of inventory that had been stored as high as the eye can see on day one. For my own loot, it was modest compared to some I’d seen walking around the living room: a few small decks of deck-building cards, a shirt or two, a River City Girls cover variant for PlayStation 4 from the pop Limited Run Games. shop, and a bulk Vita cart only a copy of Tales of Innocence R from Pink Gorilla Games’ main store in the University District. A suitcase that might otherwise be filled with booth loot from previous conventions was instead filled with business cards from enthusiastic indie developers and an odd pin or sticker earned in exchange for the promise to list their next title on Steam. .

While many editors have opted out of PAX West 2021, some at the last minute after the Delta variant was announced, those who made the trip to Seattle have been rewarded with hundreds of eyes on their unreleased (or newly released) titles. in the case of Lake and Rivals of Aether). Last year’s PAX East had massive booths from Square Enix and NCSoft, among others, in stark contrast to the editors attending PAX West 2021 on a much smaller scale than I might have expected. Some of the biggest booths at the show were reserved for PM Studios and Apogee’s first public presence since their announced return to the industry in a hall, while Bandai Namco dominated the other half of the show with a massive booth. dedicated only to Tales of Arise. The spur of the publisher’s withdrawal was most evident in this second half of the exhibition hall where large expanses of space were cordoned off under the guise of social distancing and to channel attendees into the smallest number of booths present.

For those looking for big video game announcements, PAX West 2021 didn’t offer what many were looking for in terms of news, but maybe it’s best to think of Reedpop’s latest convention as an experiment to see how things go. could take place in the future. Whether you are a creative type looking for an outlet to market your art, a game developer testing your ideas with the general public (shout out to the Klak chat app that I downloaded on a whim to from a QR code recorded on a light pole in the city center), or someone who narrowly missed being able to run a face-to-face campaign, PAX West has shown that it is possible to organize this kind of larger scale event if everyone involved is responsible for both their own safety and that of the society around them. As a journalist who is always on the hunt for the latest and greatest headlines, it can be a good reminder to take advantage of these “quieter” events rather than the nine-hour days rushing from room to room to see all the news. new titles presented at E3. All-digital events may have changed the landscape for game reveals and previews, but nothing compares to having a controller in your hands and talking seriously with the developers putting their passion into their craft.

With the success of PAX West 2021 to maintain vigilance and mitigation throughout the four-day weekend, the plans presented last week could prove a way forward for similar conventions. There may be more focus on digital events in the future, but for now I’d like to see another event like PAX in the near future with more publisher support like before.

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