PAX West 2017: The ConBlog

Final Day

Saying goodbyes and looking ahead

The last day of PAX started a bit like the first in that I got lost a few times, I spent a lot of time watching fighting games, and I ended the day exhausted and happy.

Most of my final moments in the Washington State Convention Center were spent at the “PAX Arena” (a cordoned off area of the show floor with a main stage and audience seating) watching the Smash 4 Invitational.  TSM’s Zer0 defeated NRG Nairo in the finals with a hot 3 – 0.

From there I stopped by a few booths including the Hand of the Gods display from Hi-Rez, ASUS, and dawdled near the Monster Hunter area in the hopes that I’d get a chance to play (I didn’t).

I then hustled over to make it to the front row for the Collegiate Esports panel, which was pretty exciting. All of the guests are deeply involved with bringing esports to their schools and to universities around the United States, and like most of esports – they had to start as grassroots efforts. Topics like recruiting players, the need for more support (non-player) roles for college teams, and paving the way for pro players to get their college degrees were all discussed. Even the contentious talk of NCAA wading into esports was part of the chat, and I’ll have an article out about that a little later this week.

The college esports (not “eSports”) panel was a great way to end my weekend at my first PAX West event. I met so many incredibly awesome people and I hope to make it to PAX East in April 2018!

Thanks for hanging out with me all weekend.  We’ll return to regularly scheduled content (TSM won NA LCS again) later this week!

GGs all.

Day Three

“I need to become a 7 year old girl again”

I started the day by visiting the Bungie exhibit at Paramount Theatre. It was… a lot.

I don’t know what I expected but I didn’t expect an ENTIRE THEATRE devoted to Destiny 2. It looked amazing, but the layout of the beautiful old building wasn’t the best to contain the crush of people in the lobby waiting to play and waiting to buy merch.

Bungie’s display of Destiny weaponry.

It was nice to hear from the game testers and developers concerning their reactions to playing with different guns in the game (one elicited a scream of joy/terror/ultimate power).

I strayed away from playing the game at the con because the lines were long and I’d already participated in the PC beta last weekend. I’ll write a proper review for the game when it is officially released, but for now you’ll get: “It’s even better looking than the original, but it looks like multiplayer was created specifically with esports-level players in mind.

Beta testing for all platforms has passed but fans opted to wait in extremely long lines to play the game. I asked one man why he wanted to wait in line to play a game he’s already played before, and he replied,

“Hey, I just gotta get my fix, you know? …they’ve made some tweaks and there’s more to try. I mean- I don’t know, I like saying I played something at PAX too.”

Fair enough.

In fitting form for a gaming convention the organizers also game-ified getting around around the event with something called “PAX XP”. Attendees could scan the QR code on their badges at booths around the convention center and hotels and win prizes and complete quests. The idea is very fun and something that may be great at a smaller convention or a venue with more space. At PAX, it turned into another line generator / crowd issues as people were encouraged to scan their badges every day to try to win.

I actually ended up winning a Skyrim keychain from an XP booth and the man waiting in line behind me screamed in frustration. No one said life was fair.

While walking the show floors again and I realized I’d never seen some of the displays before due to the crush of people on Saturday and the general confusion of Friday. Now looking around with clear eyes, I determined the best looking displays for games and companies were from the following: Monster Hunter, Dauntless, Destiny 2, Nintendo’s entire display, and Xbox’s zone.

I haven’t played any indie games because their area was packed pretty tightly, and I would rather test them properly at home.

Another place I neglected was the extensive VR area. I get severe motion sickness just while playing Minecraft, so the idea of putting on a headset and attempting to do *anything* but not throw up seemed daunting.

Heartbreak of the day: an adorable little girl dressed as Zelda was turned away from the Zelda panel because there wasn’t enough room (understandable). She was in floods of tears and said it was “the worst day in the world”. Girl, I know that feeling.

A couple of Enforcers (bless them) brought her a cup of water, a Mario pin, and Zelda pin (those are like $15 each) and offered her a go at the VR booth to make up for missing the panel. Very cool.

An Enforcer comforts a small, sad (but soon to be happy) child.

To be fair, I too missed entering the line for the Zelda panel, but I’m a grown woman, not in a cute Zelda costume, and my shirt isn’t soaked but with tears but with sweat, so I don’t think anyone will be bringing me pins.

I ended the evening by standing in line for 2 hours to see a live version of a Dungeons and Dragons podcast I’ve been listening to for several years, Acquisitions Incorporated. It was an incredibly good time, but next year I’m going to save my feet and some time and just watch it on Twitch.

Day Two

Trying all the games, scavenging all the swag

Today I am a grizzled veteran. No more wandering open mouthed, semi-terrified across the show floor. I am confident, I am in control, and I know where I am. Right?


I made a decision to concentrate on panels today, and my first was “Choose Your Own Adventure: Women in Games Writing”.  It was an excellent discussion that usually veered toward good advice for all aspiring writers from all fields: journalists, game story creators, dialogue writers, translators, ect.

I plan to write a review of the panel later this week with some advice for new writers from the guests, but the biggest one I can give you right now is “write every day”. Just do it. Don’t worry if you don’t have much an audience. Put your writing out there, put your name out there, and you will get better at your craft. Taking the first step is always the hardest one.

/end pep talk

I also ducked out of a World of Warcraft panel that appeared to be a teaser for a man’s book about his time playing WoW for a decade, and peeked in on a few more panels before slinking back to the convention center to get my gaming fix. I stopped in to check out the happenings at the esports arena in the convention center and watched some of the Injustice 2 action. Pro esports players from all walks of life were at PAX, but many were not there to compete but to fulfill contractual obligations and try out new games, so most of the tournaments were for amateur players or fans.

When registering for the event, you normally pick up a swag bag along with your badge, but this event was different.  Swag bags were located at Grand Hyatt, and available for pick up every single day.  I couldn’t figure out why this method of distribution was chosen until I arrived to see a pile of discarded bags.  

This year’s swag was mostly paper advertisements for products.  There were three items of good value in the bags: A League of Legends lanyard featuring different champions (a hot item that lead to a lot of bartering outside of the room), a League of Legends skin (usually discarded along with the bag because people didn’t see it amongst all of the paper ads), and cards for the game SuperFight. I saw a woman in her 20’s crouching amongst the discarded bags, emptying each one with surprising quickness and sifting through the contents with similar speed.  She triumphantly told me she’d picked up 20 skin codes so far to give away on her stream, and encouraged me to put away my dignity and plop down on the floor with her to sift through the pile of trash.

I tried to look very cool and not embarrassing at all as I lowered myself down to sift through the bags, but in the end – my inner dumpster diver won out, and I secured all nine of the PAX exclusive Superfight cards (plus many duplicates), an extra League of Legends lanyard for Andrew, and several League of Legends skin codes to give away to you guys.

I dug around in the trash for YOU, dear reader.  It wasn’t because I wanted to do it.  Nope, no siree. Not at all.


After completing my trash panda adventure, I stopped by the Twitch Partner Lounge to say hello to some friends, then hustled over to watch the folks from Waypoint talk about their love for sexy games and making games journalism fun again, and then came back to the hotel sweaty and exhausted yet again.

Day One

“Where am I?”

When going to a convention, a big tournament, or any type of industry show, you typically want to stay in a hotel close to all the action, at least within walking distance.  It just makes sense. You need a place to drop off your swag. You need a midday shower after being pressed against many sweaty adult bodies while waiting in lines for panels. You need a place without crowds. You need to be able to stumble back after having a few too many libations on Saturday and Sunday night.  I know all of this.

I ended up staying almost an hour away from the Washington State Convention Center where PAX West is being held. Oops.

I wanted to stay in a nice place and not pay $400/night for a hotel that is normally $120. I wanted quiet. I wanted a spa. I wanted the Cedarbrook Lodge, which is near the SeaTac Airport and is absolutely gorgeous but a 40 minute train ride away. As I write this from the comfort of the lounge while eating an excellent (free) breakfast, I can’t tell you that I made a bad decision.

So I was refreshed, relaxed and happy at the start of the first full day of my journey when I took the Light Link Rail to the Convention Center.  

That’s when everything changed. When I say I was immediately overwhelmed, I mean my body simply recoiled at the sheer number of people around and the confusion. Lines of people curved up and down escalators. Children toddled around, threatening to be trampled by overly excited game devs. Signs weren’t terribly helpful when trying to find the place to pick up my media badge (I eventually found the area in a darkened parking garage because of course) and I was already a bit fed up by the time I checked the official PAX app to check the time for my first panel, “The Mechanics of Running a Successful YouTube Gaming Channel”.

I couldn’t find the room. The Washington State Convention Center is pretty massive, but only house the game booths and vendors, with a limited number of panels also being held in the building. The majority of the panels were held in hotels around the city, and while all were fairly close by, it was all still a bit much for my already short-circuiting psyche.

According to my friend and Twitch Community Manager Erin “Aureylian” Wayne, the convention has grown a lot over the years and while it was once confined to the convention center, necessity made the organizers branch out to renting hotel space to accommodate all of the gaming action. Nonetheless, I didn’t know where the Westin (where the panel was being held) was located, and I was itching to get my hands on some games, so I made the snap decision to spend the day just checking out the Convention Center and eventually finding my way to the other action later on.

It was a good choice.

There are six levels at the convention center and each one is jam packed with gaming stations, tabletop gaming areas, and vendor booths too choose from. My Day One winner for entertainment value was watching FGC legend Justin Wong play against amateur players on the new Dragonball Fighter Z, a game we got a chance to see at this year’s E3. The fans were hoping to take a game off of Justin to win an exclusive tshirt, and throughout the afternoon Justin didn’t give away a single game or a single shirt. He’s just that good.

There were few AAA games I’d never played before, with Call of Duty: World War II being one of them (I missed the private beta), but the lines were incredibly long for most of those titles so I stuck to indies and simple platformers. I uh, also spent more time than I expected trying to win a Cup Noodles shirt.  So far cornhole for Cup Noodles is my Game of the Show.

The day flew by in an instant, and sweaty and exhausted I went back to the lodge to starfish on the bed and instantly fall asleep.


The Great Gamble and Scramble

I’ll be honest – I didn’t plan to go to PAX West for Esports Source. I applied for a press pass for the more-accessible-to-me PAX East and was denied. A few months later, I took a deep breath, steeled my ego, sent in my application, and I figured myself and my niche site would be politely but firmly turned away again.

Happily, I was wrong. I was accepted, I was delighted, and I was also panicked about finding a way to pay for an impromptu trip from Atlanta to Seattle. I managed to work it out by booking a slew of freelance projects and a loading up a credit card, and soon I was on an Air Alaska flight to the Emerald City.

I’m not a con noob; I’ve been attending gaming and fantasy conventions for over a decade, but I’ve never been to PAX before. The ConBlog is just a daily summary of what I’m getting up to in Seattle, various oddities and interests, and of course – we’re gonna talk about games. Strap in. There’s a long weekend ahead!

You can follow me at @KimNewsome on Twitter for updates!