SEATTLE—From the continuing wreckage of a variant-riddled pandemic comes… a modest, regional, and comparatively enjoyable nerd conference.
My perspective on PAX West, arguably the biggest Northwest expo devoted to gaming tradition, is biased by the traces, crowds, and hype I’ve seen at every incarnation since its first downtown Seattle sellout in 2007. Again then, the present was firmly connected to the webcomic Penny Arcade, which can also be a Seattle creation. However the expo’s repute grew shortly, and it turn into a multiday, multibuilding extravaganza. Ever since, the fest has been more and more divorced from its comedian origins, and the PAX mannequin has been formally duplicated and been liberally borrowed in different areas.
Not too long ago, in fact, a bit worldwide dilemma received in the way in which.
This yr, PAX has overwhelmed most different wildly seen American nerd expos at placing the “public” again into “public expo.” 2021’s PAX was set into movement again when vaccination charges and optimism made an expo on Labor Day weekend look like a good suggestion. However, uh, yeah—about that.
An anecdotal crowd estimate on day one
Prior to now month, I’ve survived three direct delta exposures (main me to a weekly nose-swab testing routine, all detrimental, all good). I additionally don’t have common contact with weak populations like youngsters. So when PAX started yesterday, I made a decision to masks up and dive in. The end result was bizarre. I felt uneasy, however by some means, the expo was additionally cozy, comparatively snug, and enjoyable.
This PAX, like most PAXes, is break up clearly between two components. First, there’s the vendor-filled expo corridor filled with brand-new video games, hands-on demos, and mountains of merch. Elsewhere, yow will discover the DIY play areas buttressed by TVs, consoles, massive tables, and big lending libraries of board and tabletop video games. Each are quite a bit much less crowded this time round.
How a lot much less crowded? It is laborious to say. PAX’s showrunners made clear that they had been lowering most attendance for this yr’s present, so the smaller crowds are, to some extent, intentional. Up till the present’s opening hour, nevertheless, single-day and full-weekend (September 3 through September 6) passes had been nonetheless on sale. My eyeball estimate of the primary expo corridor’s queue, forward of the present’s begin at 10 am Friday, was roughly 3,000 showgoers. That is a good crowd, certain, however not the ten,000-plus I commonly noticed in line on a mean PAX West morning.
100% masks compliance, thank goodness
Sadly, PAX’s organizers at ReedPop elected to dam off some massive areas within the conference middle’s predominant exhibitor corridor as a substitute of utilizing them to unfold cubicles out and higher assure six toes of social distancing. Just a few marked queues contained in the corridor counsel staying six toes away from others, however the occasional mass of our bodies close to, say, a sport demo makes me hope the present’s one hundred pc masks compliance and proof of vaccination or latest COVID checks are doing the trick.
It is at the least refreshing to know full masks compliance can occur in America. Each nostril I noticed through the first morning and afternoon was even correctly tucked in, and I ought to know—I spent hours trying to find violations. Bless PAX’s avid gamers for getting this proper.
Decrease attendance means the area between cubicles can also be far much less crowded than in PAXes previous. A good buffer separates the 2 maskless meals courts from the corridor’s mask-mandated paths, so nobody is spitting particles lower than six toes from a gaming sales space. Nonetheless, a part of me needs these consuming zones had been a part of the expo corridor’s barricaded, blacked out zone—the place I’d have most well-liked folks eat in disgrace (kidding, type of).