PAX East 2016 has now come and gone. Thankfully this year, the weather was not an issue at all, unlike 2015 which was bitterly cold and the city was in the middle of the worst winter on record.
I had a great time at the show this year, and even though lines are still a massive problem, there was plenty to see and do. Thankfully, the Penny Arcade gang continue to improve the show experience by spreading booths out and somehow making more room for people to move. The result of these efforts was a massive improvement in navigation even though there were some high traffic areas. The expo hall floor also changed a little bit as the final chunk which is normally reserved for the Queue Room, was cut in half, with much of the queue getting moved into an empty hallway outside of the expo hall. What’s great about this is that the entire show floor gained lots of room moving everything back and giving off that feeling of not being as crowded as usual.
Also new this year was PAX Arena, a section on the expo hall floor set up for competitive gaming. Multiple stages and sitting areas pitted pro gamers and their teams against one another in games like Street Fighter V, Overwatch, Rainbow Six Siege, and of course, Halo 5: Guardians as part of the Halo Championship Series. eSports continues to grow and after watching numerous matches, it is easy to see why. These players are performing at such high levels, it’s incredible to witness some of the things they pull off, and matches are typically tense and exciting to witness.
I’ll have individual game impressions up as soon as I can, and I also plan to talk a little bit about the Inside Gearbox Studios panel that I attended. For now though, I thought it would be fun to list out some superlatives for the show in general.
So without further adieu, here are some off the wall awards that came to mind during the show this year. Enjoy!
The Where Did You Go Award – Ubisoft
I’ve been attending PAX East since the show began back in 2010 and as far as I can remember, Ubisoft has always had a presence at the show. That wasn’t the case this year as the company opted not to have a booth on the expo hall floor. Perhaps it was the fact that the show was well over a month later than usual or that they didn’t have anything ready to show off. Whatever the case, I have seen them erect a small theater to show convention goers a hands off movie/demo of future games, so it’s somewhat surprising that a game like For Honor wasn’t there.
Wanted To Play But Didn’t Award – Overwatch
Overwatch had a massive presence this year, and while I’ve already played the game on PC, Blizzard had the console version available on the show floor. As with most things, the line was absolutely massive and would have easily eaten up a good chunk of my time, so I opted not to. Thankfully, the open beta kicks off next week so the sting of missing out isn’t nearly as strong as it could have been.
Runner Up: Pyre, We Happy Few
The Now You See It, Now You Don’t Award – Randy Pitchford
I was fortunate enough to catch the Gearbox Panel this year and as tradition states, Studio head Randy Pitchford puts on a small magic show during the event. Now, I knew he was into magic but I didn’t expect to be wowed by him or anything. I figured he was amateurish at best, but as it turns out, he’s really good. He pulled off some simple but really impressive card tricks, called up help from the audience, and was pretty funny to boot. All in all, he knows what he’s doing. More on this event in a different post so stay tuned.
Biggest Dinosaur Award – Ark: Survival Evolved
I don’t think I ultimately grabbed a shot of this…for some reason…but man, this T-Rex was massive and people could actually climb up and pretend to ride it. It’s easily the biggest statue I’ve ever seen in all my years at the show.
Thanks For Showing Up Award – Sony
Sony has always been somewhat of an enigma to me. They’ve never really given PAX East the time of day outside of one year where they brought The Last of Us to the show. Other than that, they’ve had very little to no activity at the show. It’s odd because they’re really active at other events like PAX Prime. Thankfully, that wasn’t the caser this year, as Sony brough with them a treasure trove of games like Ratchet & Clank and the new Plunder mode for Uncharted 4. For most however, the most exciting thing they brought with them was the PlayStation VR experience, letting the public who were willing to wait it out, try the product and a slew of demos.
Most Elaborate Statue Award – Battleborn
Typical Gearbox with their impressively detailed and elaborate statues.
The I Wanted To Play It But Was Afraid Of Looking Like A Jackass In Front Of Other People Award – LawBreakers
LawBreakers, the first game from Cliff Bleszinski’s new studio Boss Key Productions, is a fast paced, competitive multiplayer shooter that features a cast of characters fighting each other using low gravity abilities. It looks freakin’ cool in motion, but the one sticking point for me is that it is a PC only title. This means that you’ll need to be adept with a keyboard and mouse, something which I am unfortunately not accustomed to. These days, I’m primarily a console gamer, opting to have a controller in my hand. Sure, I have a gaming ready PC and have even played PC shooters in the past, but these days, I’d get my ass handed to me by other PC oriented players, something which I wasn’t really looking to do in a very public setting. Maybe someday…
The We’re Making You Into A Spectacle Award – Totino’s Bucking Couch Booth
While standing in line for Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, I overheard people having a conversation which made no sense at all to me. As it turns out, the PIzza Roll company, Totino’s had a booth on the show floor, in which people could grab some pizza rolls for free. That’s great and all but the main attraction was this thing called the Bucking Couch, which is exactly what it sounds like. Basically, one person would try to last two minutes on this couch which was able to spin, buck, and shift you off, all while playing Sonic the Hedgehog to collect as many rings as you could. It really was hilarious watching people try to play well under these conditions. I’m hoping this thing makes a comeback next year.
Best Interpretation of An Old School Disney Cartoon Nightmare – Cuphead
I’ve seen Cuphead before, through the media and trailers but this was the first time I had actually seen the game in person. Honestly, after watching Cuphead in action, the trailers don’t do it justice, it looks way better. Seeing how the game looks and is animated is generally mind blowing, as it looks like a twisted Disney cartoon from back in the day. I cannot wait to see/play more of this game.
With everything that you saw or read about from PAX East this past weekend, what got you excited? Anything you’re more curious about now?