Standing in the middle of the main show floor at PAX West, I’m dizzied by the three hundred and sixty degree panorama of pulsating screens and jet engine loud streams of attract-or-perish audio. Games push in from all sides. The booths of big-hitting AAA publishers and the stool-and-table set-ups of indie hopefuls surround me wherever I stand, and I don’t mean to, but I’m getting a little emotional.
On the one hand, I want to celebrate. Laugh and cheer. I want to share this moment with every developer, marketer, journalist, content creator, event staff member, attendee, cleaner–anyone even remotely related to the expo–and talk wildly about just how much talent, passion, creativity and diversity is on show. How much we’ve grown as an industry. How far indie games have come, and the potential that exists for them to share unique visions with a world full of gamers.
But there’s another side. A sadder side, one I feel. Every one of these games are desperate to be seen–deserve to be seen–to be played, to be remembered. But the truth is, only a number of them will be. I should know, this is my job talking for me. Think about how few indie games you’ve heard about in the last two weeks that were shown at PAX West. Has it been five? Ten? 25? A handful out of hundreds, literally hundreds and hundreds. And if any one of them were Orwell, Blind, Dungeon League, Western Press or Hacknet Labyrinths, then PAX West was an incredible success for us at Surprise Attack Games. At least from my perspective.
But, home now. Over the jet lag and the 26 hours of return travel time, with the memories of a city I fell in love with now surreal, and a different kind of retrospective has set in. Looking back on PAX West, it’s not the games I saw and played that I remember the most, but the people attached to them. The flesh and blood and dreams. Shared moments with people, many of whom I’d never met before.
These are the stories of PAX West for me.
From the giddiness of Blind developer Matteo meeting one of his heroes–Suda 51–at the Sony party to discussing the inspiration for serious game We Are Chicago with founder Michael Block, focusing on the importance of respecting the lives and experiences of those on whom the game is based.
From comparing indie publisher notes over pad thai with Rising Star Games’ Samuel Elphick at Microsoft’s incredible campus in Redmond, to chatting with voice actor Logan Cunningham at SuperGiant’s booth, and listening with admiration at the way they talked about their team like intimate family members. (And, yes, I may have bought way too much Transistor merchandise. And would have done the same with Pyre if they had any.)
This was my PAX West, beyond the hours of working the Surprise Attack Games booth, beyond talking about our games until my throat was hoarse and cracked with every second sentence.
From content creator BlondeNerd bringing the most incredible energy to ID@Xbox–lighting up the demo room like a 12 shot Roman Candle–to watching the mum of an autistic boy choke back tears when I handed her a free Steam code for Dungeon League, the game they were playing (and loving) on our booth.
This is the PAX I remember most.
From finally getting to meet journalists that I’d only known from emails to discussing privacy and security with Twitch host, Man, minutes before being interviewed on the main stage. From an in-depth discussion about altruism and special needs with an indie game investor to staging life or death coffee runs with bleary-eyed developers to Monorail Espresso before the show doors open.
This was my PAX West. My first PAX outside of Australia.
I could list a hundred more people, and dozens more situations. And, to me, they’re all as important as the games they’re connected to.
People make games. People play games. People market games. And people write about them.
People believe in games, have visions for them. People see games become part of their personal identity. People get joy from games. Learn from them. Talk about them. Share them. Live and breathe them.
And me? I’m one of those people. Like I’m guessing you are.
When I think of PAX West 2016, it’s never just about the games–as incredible as they are. It’s also about the people