PAX West – A Post-Pandemic New Attendee Experience

PAX West – A Post-Pandemic New Attendee Experience

by Candice Branum

Labor Day weekend 2022 I was given an opportunity of a lifetime! I was given the chance to attend PAX West as a photographer for Skewed and Reviewed. This wasn’t just my first time working with them, this was my very first time going to an event like this. I can say that, without a doubt, it was one of the most fun and memorable experiences I’ve ever had! Lucky for me, my cohort for the day was fellow Skewed and Reviewed contributor, Joseph Saulnier.

Joseph and I started the day by finding a decent parking spot across from the Washington State Convention Center, where the event is held every year, and making our way to the hotel that housed our badges. This appeared more chaotic than it actually was, though the large crowds and deafening sounds of hundreds of people lining up to get their vaccine status checked\ would certainly have caused panic for an introvert. The lines moved quickly and people were generally respectful. Still, the overwhelming excitement to see what PAX had to offer was almost too much to bear! Badges secured around our necks, we hurried back through the streets of downtown Seattle and into the Convention Center at last!

I will tell you, this was a day of firsts for me. For anyone who hasn’t been inside, the Washington State Convention Center is a beautiful building filled with 6 stories of businesses and rooms to service thousands of visitors a day. I’ve lived in the Seattle area for nearly 2 years and I have never had the opportunity to check it out. 10/10 would recommend visiting at least once. With the grand trip up the escalators we stopped to get our gear ready, and made our way up another floor to the main event!

Let me just say, I wasn’t fully prepared for how grand and exciting it all was! The cosplay was on point, the vendors were well prepared and equipped with products and staff, and the different events that were scheduled to take place throughout the day were gearing up for their different shows. I could barely take it all in. Part of me just wanted to stand in one place and admire everything and the rest of me, like the 12 year old I am (inside), wanted to run through the isles touching and playing with everything!

Of course, like the adult I’m required to be, I chose to walk through and admire and touch at a reasonable pace. I was shocked to see so many familiar brands. Many of the vendors were well-known big names in the gaming industry. Nintendo was promoting Splatoon 3 big time with lines for time to play the game being capped often; Pokemon had a Play Lab filled with players; Pac-Man World Re-Pac was set up and ready to play. There was everything you could think of, from VR and group PC game demos, to tabletop games and arcade classics, PAX West had it all!

With all of that being said, I wasn’t just there for pleasure, I had a job to do. I will say, it was hard to stop and focus on taking pictures, when the constant overstimulation and “SQUIRREL!” moments kept drawing me in. We were so distracted that we lost track of time. Joseph reminded me we had a very important meeting coming up to play a demo of a new game and interview someone notable and we needed to get going. Only trouble was the interview was in 15 minutes and we were a 10 minute walk away.

We rushed down from the 6th floor of the convention center, realizing that just getting out of the building was eating up time, we picked up the pace. From the convention center we rushed

(mostly uphill) to the W Hotel. We arrived just in the knick of time. Waiting in the lobby there was another member of the media waiting for his interview as well. Just as we were starting to wonder where to go next, a comfortably dressed man arrived to greet us. He guided us to an elevator and explained how the game play and interview process would work. The next thing we know, we are standing in a good sized hotel room, surrounded by a group of men all wearing Squanch Games t-shirts, of varying designs. As was discussed on the way up, Joseph and I would have first crack at playing their newest game, High on LIfe, while the other gentleman would interview, none other than the creator of the game as well as (and more notably) the Emmy-award winning show Rick and Morty: Justin Roiland!

We were comfortably situated at a desk that held the computer we would play on. High on Life already preloaded and ready to be played. I’m more of a console gamer and was more than happy to let my much more PC gaming experienced companion have the full 30 minutes allotted for gameplay. As suspected, Joseph was a natural.

High on Life turned out to be wonderfully terrible in the most exquisite way! The colors were vibrant, the dialogue shocking and hilarious, and the gameplay appeared seamless. The beautiful and vivid art was quite a refreshing contrast to the dark and depressing story. The familiar voice actors spouting out hilarious and morbid quips really enhanced the experience just that much more, though perhaps still not overshadowing the incredible attention to detail in every frame. You can tell this game was made with a lot of love and care. The dialog also tells me the dialogue and story was written by seasoned millennials who have seen a thing or two, and we are here for it!

After Joseph made it to, and wrecked, the first boss the demo was over. Which was good because it was just in time for Justin Roiland and his Mikey Spano (CCO, Squanch Games) to arrive for our interview. Mimosa in hand and nursing a rarely felt hangover, Justin graciously sat with us for half an hour. We talked about High on Life, behind the scenes of his first game Trover, and what inspired his creativity. Between Justin, Mikey, Joseph, and myself the conversation felt much less like an interview and more like a conversation between friends. It went by quicker than I would have liked but it was an incredible experience (if I didn’t have a picture I wouldn’t believe it happened) that I will remember for the rest of my life!

Joseph and I made our way back, albeit in less of a hurry, to the convention center. We had the chance to participate in a demo for a new online multiplayer game called Deceive Inc, coming soon from developer Sweet Bandits Studios and publisher Tripwire Presents. Joseph alos got to play a VR game from Tripwire presents called Espire 2. We roamed the floor for a few more hours, coming across more game dice than I’ve ever seen in my life, beautifully handcrafted gameplay merchandise, and the coolest cosplay I’ve ever seen in person!

Given more time, I could have explored for hours more, but alas the floor was closing and it was clear that we didn’t have to go home, but we couldn’t stay there. The low lighting of the floor seemed to get darker and the massive crowds had all coalesced at the down escalator, waiting to escape the very same crowd they were creating. This left the main floor kind of ominous. Strangely enough, despite sometimes feeling overwhelmed trying to get through if you’re in a

hurry, one of the true charms of events like this seems to be the infectious joy the large crowds bring. Without the mass of people sharing excitement, we could all just stay home and order merch online.

I never really understood why people went to things like Comic Con, E3, or PAX events. It all seemed a bit overwhelming and pointless with today’s technology. From virtual meetings to online shopping, it all seemed like a massive waste of time and effort. However, after attending this year, I can attest to the allure of events like this. A meeting of people from all over. Different cultures, interests, belief systems… all coming together to enjoy their passions collectively. It fills a need we have as a species to come together and share our commonalities while being so different. Respecting one another, sharing our joy, and meeting new people. From console to tabletop, PC to roleplay, PAX West had something for everyone. Including a new respect and understanding for the need for conventions for a newb like me. Can’t wait for the next one!