"So what was the highlight?"
This is the single big question that I always and repeatedly get asked after going home after PAX. What was the big game, the best booth, the best swag that made it all worth it. And it completely misses why I love PAX.
I've been to PAX five times now, and tomorrow I leave for PAX number six. When I reflect back upon all the moments over those trips (and there are a lot of them), I don't think about that time I got to play Dishonoured or Gears Of War 3 or Titanfall or whatever other "before it came out" game I got to play. I think about the time I got to shake Ken Levine's hand and get a poster autographed by him. I think about the moment walking down the street and seeing Jonathon Coulton walking down the street beside me. I think about the time I got to shake Randy Pitchford's hand and tell him I loved Borderlands. Or the moment I got my gameboy flask signed by Alexey Pajitnov, and seeing the puzzled expression on his face as I handed it to him to be signed. I think about the moment I arrived at my first PAX, went outside the convention center to pick up my badge, couldn't find the booth and turned around and asked the guy standing behind me if he knew where the badge pickup was. Upon further reflection I realized that guy was actually Jerry Holkins just having a quiet moment outside. Or this past year, talking with Mike Micha after the Jackbox panel and seeing on his face the sheer joy and passion for his craft as he described some of the crazy ideas they have for #IDARB.
But you know what, even those memories aren't really what make PAX so special to me.
What makes PAX special are the moments with friends. Like the time Ryan and I upon arriving in Seattle one evening wandered the streets looking for food and ended up accidentally walking into a rather sketchy bar of the alternative lifestyle variety, realized where we were, then hurriedly backed out the door. Or the time when I got together with some of my best friends and got up on a stage in front of people outside the Juicy Juice bar and played Bohemian Rhapsody in Rock Band in front of a crowd that cheered us on. Or the time me & two friends scored exhibitor badges and walked around the expo hall before it opened to the public and were just in awe at how surreal it all was to see that place devoid of huge crowds of people.
Last year's PAX was different, yet the same for me. A year later I don't really remember much about playing Lego Dimensions or Mirror's Edge Catalyst, but I'll never in the rest of my years forget sitting down with two good friends in a hotel room and recording a podcast where we shot the shit about the stuff we saw at the show. Or sitting in a bar on a Sunday night with the 0HITPOINTS crew & friends and just having a blast hanging with some really cool, fun, awesome people.
So while yes, the window dressing is all about games, if that was all that PAX was it wouldn't be so special. What makes PAX so special is the human aspect, the people, the great times with friends, old and new.
Though yeah, the swag is pretty sweet too.