The Penny Arcade Expo has become a huge success amongst the video game community, letting thousands attend panels, hands-on sessions, and other gaming related events — stuff that truly celebrates not only the stuff they love, but them as well. It’s gotten so big that the team behind the show has had to spread it across two events — PAX Prime, which still takes place every August in Seattle, Washington; and PAX East, which is holding court every April in Boston. The latter is coming up rather quickly, with plenty of highlights in store and great games to check out.
With that, you’d probably like a guide in terms of what you should be checking out at the event. Well, you’re in luck, because we’ve got ten highlights that you should consider “must-dos." Sure, some things might be tougher than others (like the ridiculously packed panels), but all of them are guaranteed to be a good time. With that, take heed in our suggestions, and get ready for a party.
Boston Indie Showcase
Every year, PAX becomes a primary spot for independent game developers to show off their wares and create buzz for an upcoming project that could become a darling for a big third-party publisher. This year is no different, bringing six awesome favorites that everyone can try out at the show. These include Bean’s Quest, Girls Like Robots, Lawnmower Challenge (it’s more fun than it sounds), Not Without You, Spelltower and Super Crate Box. What’s more, they’re all accessible through iOS and/or Android, so they won’t set you back an arm and a leg on cost when they do come out.
Borderlands 2 Hands-On
PAX has always been a big deal when it comes to certain games, like Duke Nukem Forever being hands on back in 2010 and Borderlands 2 being shown for the first time at last year’s Prime event. This year’s East will bring a playable version of Borderlands 2 for the first time, allowing people to try out new classes and features, as well as the new outdoor environments and co-op opportunities. Other games will be along for the ride as well, including the new X-COM and the upcoming Spec Ops: The Line. And that’s just from 2K Games.
Every year, some of the best gamers out there (well, on the “hardcore” level, that is) compete in the Omegathon, a tournament consisting of familiar and surprise titles that truly test how good players are, with prizes on the line and notoriety amongst hardcore fans. This year’s should be no different, with plenty of competitors and surprises to keep things interesting. And if that’s not your speed, you could always do the next best thing…
Not only does Penny Arcade Expo bring the best in tabletop gaming, but it also features a console free-play room, where players not only take each other on through current favorites, but also classic releases, thanks to old-school systems and software that are available for rental. Sure, you might not be thinking of flying all the way out to Boston just to play a round of StarFox on the SNES, but hey, if you find yourself needing something to do, the opportunity is definitely there.
Jordan Mechner Keynote
Every year, the PAX events always bring someone worthwhile to handle the keynote, such as, say, Wil Wheaton. This year will bring Jordan Mechner, the creator of Prince of Persia and Karateka. He’ll no doubt have a lot to say when he opens the show, and who knows, he might even drop a few hints regarding the Karateka revival he’s working on. (We hear it involves plenty of kicking.)
When we went to PAX Prime last year, one of the bigger surprises was having the Megas show up to rock a quick set in a small but packed room. This year’s PAX East will bring the Minibosses to the scene, complete with their dedicated video game soundtrack covers. Other bands will also join the fun, including Supercommuter, Metroid Metal, and Protomen. The show starts Friday at 8:30 PM in the main theater, so head on over and rock out.
One of the biggest draws at the yearly PAX events are the panels, which feature everyone you can possibly think of. Game developers, podcast hosts, X-Play staffers, classic gamers…there’s something here for every type of gamer. Some even throw in a few surprises, like contests for special prizes, reveals of upcoming projects, and, in the case of Gearbox Software, free food. They fill up quick, so make your plans accordingly. (Especially for Gearbox — we want a free copy of Borderlands 2!)
Make New Friends
What can we say? Anyone who’s anyone in the video game community attends PAX East, giving you ample opportunity to spread your name around and make new friends in the process. Between the casual gaming sessions, the planned tournaments, and the special events, you’re bound to find a connection or two. Who knows, you might even find your future spouse. Or ex-wife.
Meet Gabe and Tycho, Among Other Folks
Penny Arcade Expo won’t have any shortage of gaming folk hanging about, but obviously it’s a huge opportunity to meet the creative minds behind the show, as well as the comic strip. Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, their real names, will be out and about, providing opportunities to sign stuff (like limited edition Penny Arcade books and posters) and chat about the history of the show (which is more interesting than you might think). Who knows, you just might meet another gaming legend or two while you’re there…such as the GameZone staff.
PAX East will feature no shortage of events happening during the evening, including special movie screenings, Rock Band get-togethers and even a Destructoid-hosted chicken and waffle dinner (hurry, you might be able to get into that still). Probably the biggest one is Digital Noob’s Gamers Gone Wild ’12, an event that features not only Carlos “Dom” Ferro mixing on the DJ table with DJ Xyanyde, but also a special performance by the Hip Hop Gamer and plenty of giveaways. Oh yeah, and drinks. Can’t miss out on drinks, right?