I don’t think any of us ever thought when we first started reading those little JPEG’s on the Internet that Penny Arcade would grow to have multiple conventions and be arguably bigger than E3 is at the moment! It really is an absolute wonder as to how successful they are, and as fans themselves of the gaming industry, they sure do know how to throw a convention that all of us can enjoy!
This year’s convention was no exception, and was absolutely filled to the brim with wonderful things and big names. IGN had multiple representatives there, as did some of the biggest names in YouTube, and even the usual main stays from Sony and Microsoft themselves. Nintendo was also in attendance, and pretty much everyone you would want to be there certainly was!
This is the kind of place you want to go if you want to attend a panel were people argue about which games are the best of all time, and what criteria would specifically go into something like that. There was even a large VR presence this year from Sony’s part, trying to push the PlayStation brand to new realms that all of us still feel somewhat uncomfortable getting into. It definitely did not have the same draw as table top gaming, PC gaming, or of course console gaming, which is telling of the state of that technology right now!
We had an absolute blast this year, and enjoy the lovely Boston weather at the time. It is filled with fans just like us, and everywhere you go you see someone else with a large smile on their face. You don’t see that at too many other conventions, making things offered by Penny Arcade very unique in that way!
Summing Up How This Year’s Con Went
This event was absolutely wonderful, and had everything a gaming nerd could ever want in attendance. Some of the biggest names in gaming were there as they always are, and it was like one big giant party that still managed to fill somewhat intimate despite the mega crowds that these conventions are now driving. If you are a fan of gaming culture, and on the East Coast, this one was definitely for you, and you should be there next year too!
What is it?
I think everyone continues to be surprised by how much the Penny Arcade Expo has exploded over the years! It all started off as just a cultural event that was supposed to be for gamers themselves and not be entirely marketing oriented. It was Penny arcades answer to E3, which is the electronic entertainment expo. As many people debate whether or not E3 is still relevant, PAX is on the rise, and that is one way to best understand what’s going on there, and how this convention will differ from those that are traditionally held in the gaming community.
To help give some background, we’ll talk a ;ittle bit about E3, because PAX tends to define itself in relationship to that particular convention. E3 was once only known as the electronic entertainment expo because it was not widely held as a video game only convention. It is still considered a Premier event in that space, but it was largely intended to be a broader cultural thing that concerns electronic technology. This quickly changed, however, as video games took off, and became a cultural phenomenon. Pretty soon, everything about E3 was entirely geared towards video games and computer products related to them, and everything quickly changed into a somewhat marketing oriented events, although it always had that has its origin as well.
This is one of the main difference is that the Penny arcade Expo house with the electronic entertainment expo. Where as the electronic entertainment expo was originally began by companies looking to marketing and selling games, the Penny arcade expo was started by the gamers themselves that wanted things to be a little bit less about trying to get you hyped up for the next big game, and more about connecting other players with each other and those around them.
At the electronic entertainment expo, for example, you will see all of the big companies in the gaming industry, each with their own booths, and that makes up the majority of the floor space itself. The panels that they have are all geared towards the industry leaders, the big ones every year always been from Sony, Microsoft, and of course Nintendo. At the Penny Arcade Expo, however, you will see panels about particular gaming cultural events, such as tabletop gaming, and even comics related to games. Although the big industry players all make an appearance here, it is more in line of a fellow gamer kind of gathering, and a lot less sales oriented to the general public.
The Penny arcade Expo also takes many of its cues from the original E3 intentions. One of the main points was to bring the most innovative the newest happenings of the industry to the general public, or connecting directly with media outlets to cover the event. Back before the Internet completely destroyed newspapers in the general news, events like the electronic entertainment expo were some of the best ways for the industry to get the word out about anything at all. They would have one singular event at the convention center, always at the specific Los Angeles convention center, and things will be crowded out to the gills!
Saying things were crowded is an understatement. Because the event is held once a year, and only in the Los Angeles convention center, things were at a fever pace if you were to try to get to the event, move around within the event, or do pretty much anything at all with the event itself. This made things somewhat hard for everyone to attend, although attendance itself was also somewhat limited because of the requirements.
One of these requirements is having a specific press pass for the events, which is exactly the opposite of what happens at the Penny Arcade expo. At E3, everyone there is technically a reporter, a blogger, or in someway in the industry itself. It is an industry centric event meant to create a lot of marketing buzz produce outlets to cover, most of the big releases and announcements every year of the gaming industry being made on this day. It’s the locus of everything that happens all throughout the game and year, or at least it was at one time. It was the biggest events in the industry, and something that everyone look forward to hearing about every year, although very few people from the general public were actually able to attend, either because of its location, or not having a press pass to see what was going on.
This is another big departure that the Penny arcade Expo makes from everything else. Where as E3 requires a press pass, the Penny arcade Expo merely requires a ticket. Although these tickets can indeed sell out in advance, and you will see you just as long of lines at a penny arcade Expo as he would have something at E3, it is all very much open to the general public, and they are entirely the focus. Everything here is geared towards connecting directly with fans, not towards making some big announcements about anything at all. Big announcements in general are somewhat frowned upon at the event itself, instead companies favoring giving goodwill to the community and showing them that they are fellow gamers too that are only interested in having a good time.
Another huge departure from the electronic entertainment expo is the locations that the Penny arcade Expo operates in. Unlike the electronic entertainment expo, the Penny arcade Expo is held in multiple locations all over the United States. PAX West, and PAX East, are only some examples. They frequently change locations trying to make it easy for people all over the United States to get there, unlike the Los Angeles convention center, which is very much an expensive area to get to that time of year, with hotels booked way far out in advance, sometimes two a year or more!
It’s Ever Growing
The penny arcade Expo continually opens up new locations to make it more accessible to the fans themselves. Rather than forcing fans to come to them, the penny arcade boys work with the very communities that made them rich to find various locations that would be suitable for a wider variety of people. This is all coordinated with the fans themselves on entirely national scale, and the fans themselves evaluate how suitable the convention centers they are held at our to the event, not the marketing or industry organizers.
This is a somewhat similar approach that was adopted by comic con as well. Comic con, much like the electronic entertainment expo, was always continually held in one location in California. In the case of comicon, it was at the San Diego convention center. Every year, everything would be entirely sold out in hotels all across the area, some of them being perpetually booked up forever just for the event! When you add to that housing and how crowded public transit can get that time of year, and just how many people live in that area in general, you have a very hot and sweaty time during the summer. Comicon branched out into New York and other locations to try to alleviate this, as well as having more than one events a year. Unlike the electronic entertainment expo, there are multiple comic cons every year, partly to increase the number of conventions that could be have, and partly to make them more accessible and not cram everyone into one single convention on a yearly basis.
This is the playbook that Penny arcade champions, trying to spread things out and make it easier for everyone involved to do their best work at the convention, while also still making it fun, new, and interesting for the fans themselves. Part of the reason comic con is relevant here to the Penny arcade Expo in order to understand what makes it unique is that, much like comic con, it also involves many community oriented events and people from the industry themselves taking part of them, which the electronica entertainment expo entirely lacks, which was always criticized by fans all throughout the years.
PAX Grow Progressively More Specific
Although the specific tiny arcade Expo we are discussing here is for developers, it has very much the same spirit as everything else. You will find many things concerned with tabletop gaming, comics of all kinds, general entertainment, and pretty much anything that the broader game community is interested in, not stopping at video games at all. Although the Penny arcade comic itself was clearly the origin of the locus of all of this, it has branched out into pretty much every entertainment facet you could imagine, they’re being relatively few stones left unturned that are not touched at these conventions.
The types of people that go to the penny arcade Expo, as opposed to E3, are also very different. If you want an example of people that would normally go to E3, you will see various distributors of the products themselves, newspapers and reporters and bloggers there to talk about the event, resellers of different technology, manufacturers of the different gaming consuls and related devices, people that do research and education in the field on the academic side of things, people that are looking to buy games and sell them at a retail level, pretty much every program or you can imagine in the industry, different software developers themselves, many representatives in the industry from various companies that are highly interested in the expo, people that import and export games and related goods, people that are looking to support new gaming ventures with venture-capital and otherwise finance projects of the industry, many analyst and industry leaders in the financial sector that are interested in the value of the entertainment expo to help predict stock values in the future viability of companies, and generally people that fit a similar description.
There are a lot of people in the general public that would certainly love to go, and some of them do manage to attend the convention. As you can see from the above list, however, they are a very small minority of the people in attendance there, and they are only the audience for the electronic entertainment expo in the sense that they will be hearing about it through various news outlets as it goes on in real time. The panels you will see at the electronic entertainment expo, for example, or all broadcast live, recorded, and covered all around the world. Many more people experience the events at the electronic entertainment expo in ways like this then those attending, which is somewhat the point.
This Expo is About Intimate Connections Between Fans
If you want to understand the Penny Arcade Expo, you will flip all of that on its head. At Penny arcade, and their various entertainment expos, you will see the focus being placed entirely on enjoying the activities at the convention is themselves. There is very rarely any sort of news that goes on at these conventions, other than maybe announcing a well-known game is coming out for yet another platform and available there. They still have industry leaders there with various booths, and we would be hard-pressed to believe that financers and venture capitalist are not there in attendance to try to see how things will go for the companies involved. If they are not willing to play magic cards or sit down with the cameras themselves, however, you are not going to see them getting much traction Avenue event like the Penny arcade Expo. It is simply not what the expo is centered around, and the panels that they have are also not geared towards widespread public consumption in the same way that those at E3 are.
The kind of big holes that you will find at the penny arcade Expo are far more similar to comic con in that way. You will find the room after room and various other nooks and craft is filled with impromptu events were cameras are coming together around various cultural activities. They have an entirely mobile space for people to play games on their mobile Nintendo consoles for things like Pokémon, for example, and you will see in less rooms of people playing table top games of various sorts that you will not see anywhere else. There are certainly quite a bit of tabletop gaming conventions around the world, but all of them pale in comparison to the kind of activity that you will see at a penny arcade expo event. This is aunt Mike anything else, bringing together probably the largest group of people you will see it for an event like this, and having many of them going on all throughout the year.
The way the Penny arcade expo is all does operate it is also quite differently from both comicon and the electronica entertainment expo. E3 itself is operated by the ESA organization, which stands for the entertainment software Association. This group of people is a United States company that is mostly concerned with marketing and public relations chips of the big companies in the gaming industry, and all related activities and goods. That is a fancy way of saying that it’s run by a group of people that try to do a huge marketing event for the companies themselves, all of that really coming back to advertising at the end. The entire thing is one big ad, meant to be filled and talk about in multiple locations that will also act as ads.
The electronic entertainment expo organizations also give the companies involved a wide range of services to help them and encourage them to attend their event. These include marketing and analytics data, legal analysis and policy advocacy and related things to keep their intellectual property sound, many services involving intellectual property itself, emerging technology advise such as e-commerce and online gaming front stores, giving people ideas on how to protect their hard made content from consumer stealing in parenting it, and other things that have more to do with industry regulations at the governmental level, divided between the federal and the state concerns.
Other Conference are Business Oriented
If you think that sounds like a bunch of stuff the people wearing suits, you would definitely be right! It’s all a bunch of business types coming together to help each other to do better business, with a very advertising oriented approach that leaks over everything you’ll see on the convention floor. They have historically had models and celebrities come to try to make an appearance and promote things, and it’s all one big way of getting people to talk about the latest consumer products that are coming out all throughout the year. Everything is oriented as a giant sales pitch on multiple levels that will be able to last the entire year, and to give big industry jobs to their competitors to try to undercut their stock value.
The Penny arcade Expo, and stark contrast to all of that, is old and operated by the artists and writers associated with Penny arcade itself. Certainly their business manager is in charge of many I think here, but it is all designed around people that are fans of the series themselves, and video game culture in particular. There is absolutely no concern with giving companies analytics data, requiring things like press passes, giving people legal advice on how to navigate the ins and outs of censorship within videocams, and things of that nature. The creators of the Penny arcade Expo have actually been somewhat adamant about how they do not want it to be about any of that, as there are already many industry conventions just like that that go on every single year. There is no reason to subject fans together another one of those, and the relevancy of getting out the word about your particular games for the year at the electronic entertainment expo is also continually falling.
Has publicly stated by the makers of Penny arcade itself, the reason the Penny arcade Expo was originally created was to be their answer to what they hated about all of the conventions that they went to, and also combining what they liked about those conventions to try to be a more fan oriented of them. The Penny arcade creators have been to every single convention you can imagine that concerns video games over the years, as well as comics of course because that is the center of their entire enterprise. Or at least it used to be, as it is getting hard to tell just what they do as their primary focus now!
PAX is a Criticism of Other Conventions
The PAX expo is somewhat like a hipster version of a response to all those various conventions that were taken over as the years went on. The fate of comicon is a good example, and somewhat proving the point of why the Penny arcade Expo itself was creative. Comic con began very differently than it is now. It was originally a fan oriented event, with the individual creators of comics themselves showing up, giving fans a very close and personal way to connect with their favorite artist, as well as other fans of comics. People that love comics also of course love other related nerdy things, which were also prominently featured at any comicon event. Tabletop gaming and the like we’re all very normal things to see going on at comicon, and you would never see an event like that go down with only one focus there.
As time went on, however, comicon changed quite a bit, and grew into something very different. All of the business and marketing forces that are behind events such as the electronic entertainment expo started to come in to play, and gradually, things started to change. You started seeing many celebrities attending the event that was there, people going out of their way to sell you things at every turn. The panels that they have still include many interesting things such as tabletop gaming, but very quickly, they were overrun by TV stars and people trying to promote a movie, all of which began getting more news coverage than anything else.
As this was very profitable for the ones putting on the convention, this trend only began to grow, and pretty soon, the entire convention that once began as an intimate gathering among creators of fans turned into yet another sales pitch for people to talk about on the Internet. It became impossible to go 5 feet on the convention floor without running into a major player in the industry, and looking at the list of panels that they offer, you will see very little at the latest Star Wars news, the latest hit movies that are going to be coming out, and things like that. Even video game started to be featured there, and the convention very quickly lost focus despite returning some of the original community oriented flyer that made it so popular and endearing to begin with.
The PAX Dev conference is the polar opposite of all of this. Everything about it is entirely oriented towards being about connecting directly with fellow gamers, as well as around other nerdy hobbies. You won’t find a single event like that around anywhere else when it comes to Apple. It has stripped away all of the marketing and all of the pretenses, and actively avoid everything like that. You can expect to see panels that are entirely focused on things that you normally wouldn’t care about, or at least most people normally listen. For the people that are into things like that, however, it is absolutely amazing. They can talk on topics but nowhere else he will see that particular subject broached, and it has a very deep and personal impact on all of the attendees. This also extends into the policies that attendees are held to, as at the PAX Dev conference, there are very few rules that are outside of normal and polite conduct.
E3 is a Good Foil for It
To help put this into perspective, let’s consider how E3 is organized and the policies that are placed on anyone that attends. In addition to it being an invited event only as we have discussed, and most people being associated with the general gaming press, they’re also for the requirements that limit the number of people in the types of people that are allowed to be there. For example, you are not allowed to attend E3 if you are a minor. This is classified as being less than 17 years old. If you are under that age, you are not allowed anywhere on the convention floor, nor in the outside perimeter of it, for whatever reason. This may be because E3 came about during a time where everyone was afraid of things like censorship, and actively trying to fight against things like that from holding back the gaming industry. As the subject matter of video games became more mature, and the material covered became more racy, this very quickly changed, and we live in a much different environment today.
If you were to go to the PAX Dev conference, you would see pretty much everyone from all walks of life and of all ages that were able to attend. They have plenty of people from all over that are interested in developing their own games, or begin meeting up with developers that do the same. You will see them with bright smiles on their faces of related things, hopeful kids looking to connect with other players of similar ages and older. It is very normal to see families attend these events, as well as children on their own go inside. Although travel expenses make it somewhat unlikely that a younger child will be able to get there on their own, kids are very much the courage to go, although kids that are too young probably shouldn’t stay there too long! The Penny arcade guys as well as their fans are known for having mouths as foul as they come in, but at this day and age, it really isn’t anything people don’t hear all of the time.
While you are in attendance, things are also a lot more loose than they would be at a formal industry tied event, the only thing really required of you is to wear your badge to prove that you have a ticket. Even then, once you’re on the convention floor itself, no one is likely to try to give you any trouble because obviously you made it outside! It has ticket purchasing options for ever, however, and you need a photo ID, just to prove who you are and that you have not slept out. This is because how many different corporate entities are all making the event possible, and them trying to tightly regulate everything because of corporations like that, that’s just what you do!
It’s the Biggest Little Conference All Over the States
The Penny arcade expo is much like any other low-key conference, only on a larger scale, and with a lot more fanfare. You will not have to deal with anything like that once you answer into the convention showgrounds. It is all great and fun for everybody, and there is little to get in your way once you are inside. If you have a ticket, you made it past security, and you’re not acting like an asshole, you are probably going to be OK at the Penny arcade expo. They will most likely get people for being harassers and things like that, but that’s true even at the movie theater, and in no way different than any other events or private building you would enter into anywhere else.
There are also many odd and formalized rules for the people in attendance, most of which are to prevent you from giving anyone else access to the convention floor that has not been authorized, or to let anyone in from press outlets but they do not want to attend. These are the usual and complex bureaucratic rules that you will see and organizations run by many people and executives. They feel stuffy, they are worded strangely, and very little about them is going to make you feel like you’re having a good time at a convention. This is the sort of thing that you would see at a big government event, which is somewhat how E3 can feel at times, given how strict they are with the regulations and how complex they are.
You will not find anything like this at the Penny arcade Expo. There probably are some strange rules and some back in place just for legal reasons, but the general rule of the convention is that if you go and have a ticket, don’t be a dick, and everyone is going to treat you well and you’ll have a good time. You have the normal rules of human decency that are on all people at all times, some of which will at times be lifted when you are insulting back-and-forth with your fellow gamers, but that is about it. It is much like hanging out with your friends, all the sudden they have thousands of them all around you, and had a video game amusement park!
There are no BS Politics Here
Other conventions like E3 also have a very strange and complex diversity and discrimination laws, all of which amounts to you potentially being held liable for someone’s feelings being hurt at any moment. This is a very different thing that you will see at many other big government events, although as we said, this is an industry event meant for people involved at the entertainment technology industry. These things make it all feel very corporate, however, having the very same wording and vibe to it all that makes it somewhat feel strange. You all must be afraid of talking to some people at case you accidentally set them off. It really is that weird, and can’t get in the way of the phone sometimes when it comes to the panels.
The panels in particular share of these very same requirements, not being likely to offend or intimidate absolutely anyone at all, and on that same token, be very boring all around. The only panels in events that anyone really cares about at E3 at this point for that reason are the ones put on by the major technology company is Microsoft, so there, at the top though. These are the times for the amounts of the big games, and celebrities come out to get very kosher Tim speeches to the audience. No feathers are ruffled, and no bad words are usually serve, aside from a few F bombs at the trailer or two for a video game. It is the same cookie-cutter stuff that you were usually see in Hollywood, everyone afraid to piss everyone off, in fear of somehow been kicked from the convention or being taken to task for violating one of the conference rules.
Penny arcade and their expo really have no rules of this kind. There really isn’t anything to hold you back at the convention that isn’t in the normal realm of human decency. You’re not allowed to cause physical violence to anyone, and you’re certainly not allowed to do anything stupid, but that’s about it. You can piss off anyone you like with your words, as the creators of a comic off to do themselves. These make for some very fun moments at the convention which the creators of the comic are very much a part of the vibe. They will leave it at times make fun of some of the audience members, and get made fun of and turned.
There are also very strict dress requirements for E3 that are entirely up to the event staff them selves to be determined. They get to set the dress code, which doesn’t mean everyone has to dress up nicely and a suit, but mostly means that if they find your outfit offensive in anyway, or it happens to violate any sort of copyright laws held by any of the companies in attendance at the event, it is their sole discretion to determined that you are no longer fit to be there for as long as you wear that outfit. This is mostly targeted at the cost play crowd, trying not to have anyone be very racy with copyrighted material and make it all over the Internet at the same time.
People are Encouraged to Cosplay at PAX
PAX is very open to cosplay happening, although at the Dev version of the conference, you will not see a whole lot of that going on there. You can pretty much wear anything you’d like to the conference that doesn’t involve you being naked, which in some ways would involve you not wearing anything at all! Other than that, the conference really has no strict dress code requirements, it often encourages people to dress up but have fun with things. This is very similar to comic con, which isn’t hard work the PAX convention drew some of its roots from. They actively encourage this fan enjoyment of the series like that, would love to see what fans come up with as far as their attire. In particular, they have a really good time when you dress up as their characters themselves, and are always down to take a picture with you if you dress up as one of their favorite characters.
There is also no photography or other recordings allowed on the E3 show floor the entire time you were there. It is only permitted to show things from the main convention goers of providers themselves, keeping the media outlets tightly regulated and what they decide to show. This keeps everything entirely under the control of the marketing terms of the various players in the industry that put on this convention. This makes it all feel somewhat stuff in many ways, and you feel a little bit cramped when you are there. It’s very much unlike every other thing in the world now which is all over social media in an instant!
At the Penny arcade expo for developers, you will see people sharing things that go on on the convention floor at all times. It is actively encouraged, and part of the fun! Everyone wants to see what’s going on at these cool events, and sharing it is certainly part of the fun. It will be a lot less fun to attend these events if you could tell your fellow campers what was going on and what you did while you were there. It is almost strange at this point that the electronic entertainment expo is trying to keep people from doing the same. This may be one of the many reasons that the pain your kid expo has grown exponentially in such a short period of time. They simply encourage people to talk about it and share it, which other conventions discourage of this kind.
One thing that both convention share in common is that, if you attended happened to be filmed, it is on you to be OK with that. Unless someone does something creepy like follow you to the bathroom at the camera, you are permitting everyone to take a look at your face and like this if it makes its way onto a video, and everyone else doing the recording is forced to do the same. Because the entire point is that you will be comfortable being filmed of use to promotional materials, this makes sense for entertainment events like the electronica entertainment expo. The same goes for comic con as well, and similar conventions. Everyone else at the penny arcade place, because of how relaxed it is, operates in the same way. They don’t want to have to deal with someone not wanting to be shared on social media because the entire event is going to be covered. Every inch of the convention floor is going to have some sort of camera there, and they don’t want anyone to have to blow a whistle on anything or get lawyers involved. Simply put, if you go, you are part of the event, which includes Bing films if anyone chooses!
It’s Similarly Centralized in How it’s Run
One thing that the PA X Dev conference shares with all other conferences as that, at the sole discretion of the Penny arcade Expo providers, anyone at all can be kicked from the event at any time. If for whatever reason you happen to piss off the creators of Penny arcade, they can get you out of there without a moments notice. Because of how nice everyone is, this obviously does not happen all that often. It is a great way to try to test their patients, but unless you actively start to commit violence against them, they are probably not going to kick you out. If you steal or something strange like that, then they’re probably likely to kick you out too, but that would only be because you are now violating the law and being taken out by the police! We are willing to wager that being chucked out of a penny arcade for anything is a lot less common than being kicked out from an electronic entertainment expo or comic con style event. Everyone is so relaxed and enjoying the company of one another that it simply does not come up very often at all.
To help understand what makes the Penny arcade so popular, and just how much more popular this approach is to traditional conventions help five industry leaders, it is informative to consider just how quickly it has grown over the years. The first ever convention for the Penny Arcade expo was held in 2004, right next to the Penny arcade headquarters in Washington. At this time, because the whole event was still in its infancy, only a little over 3000 people were in attendance. It was held in that same spot for the next two years, and with that time, it grew to be over three times as large the next year at 9000 people going to the convention center, and in just two short years of 2006, they had 19,000 people there and that convention center! This is absolutely phenomenal, and if anything had this much rapid growth, anyone else would’ve hopped on it immediately to expand upon it and make some money, which in many ways the Penny arcade Expo do, but in a way to give back to fans.
Events like comicon and E3 continue to grow a little bit every year, but there really isn’t all that much room to grow anymore for the conventions. Comicon is always held in San Diego, at the San Diego convention center. There is a finite capacity for the convention, and most years it does manage to sell out. This makes it very hard for it to grow, as there really is no room more room in the literal sense for them to grow into! It is quite a predicament for them to be into, although it is a nice one for sure to have to deal with. The electronic entertainment expo is in a similar predicament, staying in the same Los Angeles convention center the entire time, even though the event outgrew it a long time ago. Because only certain people are invited to attend the event, however, it is still very much packed, and they manage the crowds in that way. By being able to pick and choose who comes, which is unique for a convention of this kind, the capacity there has not matter, and they have not had to expand. Because comicon did not operate in this way, however, they have chosen a long time ago to expand into different areas all across the United States. New York was the first big second one that they had, making for two big conventions for, con that year, which added to how many announcements could be made, and all the fun that could be had. This also spread things out across the continent to make it easier for some people to attend one convention when they were in the area, as it can be quite hard to travel across the East Coast or from abroad.
The Penny arcade expo quickly outgrew many different convention center is that it was in at the time, growing at a much more rapid pace of the electric entertainment expo or comic con ever had. In three years by 2007, they had to move convention centers again, going from the original 3000 attendees to around 40,000! This raise to almost 60,000 the following year, a little more the next year, and tapered off around 70,000 shortly after. It’s really difficult to say how much it grew after that, because they stop telling people how many people we’re going out the time. This was likely because the attendance had stopped growing quite so rapidly, but it is still technically growing by quite a few people every year, numbering in the tens of thousands. The reason that stop having exponential growth is simply mathematical, as there really are so many other people that can go, and once you already have many thousands of attendees, a 10,000 attendance jump isn’t going to seem quite as big whether or already tens of thousands of people there.
To help put it further in perspective to how popular the Penny arcade Expo conference is, in 2013, they had a huge and normal penny arcade Expo conference is a very similar location, and it was met with great fanfare. With the initial first six hours of tickets being available, all tickets were sold out. Even for events like comicon of the electronica entertainment expo, this is unheard of. Part of the reason E3 does not have to deal with this is because they pick and choose who is going to attend. But for comic con, however, it really is whoever wants to go there, which is part of the reason that it really shows just how big the penny arcade Expo became in such a short period of time.
Some say that the Penny arcade expo was actually one of the first big conventions that convinced comicon to start branching out into other cities as well. Penny arcade began doing this as early as 2010, dividing up the Penny arcade expo into two separate conferences at the time. They called the Penny arcade expo in the east the PAX east, which was held another convention center and already rival of the existing one in Washington for attendance numbers on that’s very first year. The original convention was called PAX prime, and still had about the same number of attendees as the eastern event. They have the eastern event in Boston, and made that The official home of the convention center from that point on. No one had to worry about any thing else from then on out, and it was all great and smooth sailing from there. You never had to worry about anything at all or getting out there if you were in the East Coast, as Boston was a very active hub city, and known for a very friendly and hipster environment. It was the perfect venue for a video game or culture conference, which is very much unlike locations like San Diego and Los Angeles.
It’s Growing Internationally
The Penny arcade expos have grown so popular that they were actually the first convention of this kind to begin in America and move onto an international scale within the very first decade of their creation. They have their first international conference in Australia as early as 2013. It wasn’t Melbourne, and was just as crowded as everywhere else, although no official attendance numbers were reported as we said before. Still, the convention is clearly popular out there in Australia, being made the official convention site for the entire span of time since that initial day in 2013. This is one of the only times that a conference like this has ever made that international job, which the electronica entertainment expo and comicon still have not managed to do.
More than just internationally and moving to the East Coast, the Penny arcade Expo also be able to grow in other directions. They have a conference called PAX South that was held in San Antonio Texas. This began as early as 2015, it actually had the highest number of people in attendance there on the opening day for a new convention. Between the Washington convention the PAX prime, PAX South, and PAX East, in addition to the PAX international held in Australia, you have Penny arcade Expo is all over the world, and there is no reason you would not be able to attend if you are anywhere at all! There are rumors that they are going to start yet another penny arcade Expo event somewhere else, although the locations at this time are uncertain. They already have most of the major parts of the US covered, so the rumors are that they are going to have one if you’re up to help fill the gap out there. Penny arcade definitely has a lot of fans out there, as do everyone that’s in the video games, tabletop gaming, and the general dirty culture that surrounds all of this phenomenon.
This brings us to the specifically focus conference here, the PAX Dev conference. The reason that we have taken the time to give the history of these conferences is that, without understanding the rest of this, you really cannot understand the PAX Dev conference. Everything here is built on the foundations of all of the other penny arcade expos that have gone before. The exact same style and flavor of how things go on, the looseness of the rules, and the friendly take on gaming culture it are all present here just as they were absolutely everywhere else. What is not present here, however, or the broader focus on gaming culture, here are being trained to target actual game developers themselves at those interested in making games. This is natural they going to be a much smaller conference that you would see in any of the other ones, but as far as gaming conferences go, it actually does pretty well.
PAX vs GDC and IGF
To give you some context to understand how many people are going here, there are other conferences in the industry, such as the game developers conference, and IGF. These are two of the other big conferences in the industry, and they are highly sought after by people that are interested in making new and different games. The people that come here are usually focused on independent games, with big developers making appearances to make good public relations and find people to work on their latest titles. In these different conferences that are considered quite popular for a tailored industry event, the attendance will be in the thousands. At the very first day of conference by the Penny arcade Expo, they had over 750 people go there in the very first one in 2011, which is quite a huge start for a small conference of this kind! You won’t see things like that happen very often, new conferences typically being awkward and just larger than the lecture hall at a college campus.
This is not the only event that they have branched out into, and they also have other ones that they have been experimenting with. They have another one that they have called PAX unplugged, which focuses entirely on the table top gaming that is present to many of the other Penny arcade expos. At the game developers conference that PAX acts as a criticism of, they also have some of those things going on as well, but you will not see you that big of a focus there because most games and development are naturally digital video games meant for sale to a broader market.
This has shown that Penny arcade expos have sought to branch out and target very specific demographics to try to deal with the challenge of having a convention that appeals to everyone and gets overly crowded. They have continually branched out into a greater number of us of cities all throughout the world, with a strong focus on the roots of the United States. From there, having these mega-conventions as their hub, they have much smaller targeted conventions to a particular branch of the gaming culture. This makes for a more focused convention for the people involved, bringing it right back to the community that everyone cares about and makes these penny arcade Expo is unique.
To help further know what a conference like PAX Dev is about, it is instructive to compare it to the other big game developer conference around, which is fed and they called the game developers conference, or GDC. This conference goes back quite further than the Penny arcade Expo‘s version of a developers conference, this one beginning in 1988. It’s been over 31 years since then, originally the convention haven’t been called the computer game developers conference. This is a convention that goes back longer than some game developers have now been alive, and with it, has a long-standing tradition of rules and practices. This is somewhat similar to the electronic entertainment expo, with everything here being tied back strongly to past routes that everyone has to uphold overtime. This can be trying the longer a convention has been going on, as it keeps everything moving at a snails pace and always looking to the past. This is something that the PAX conference in their original creation did not have to deal with, and something that the Penny arcade Expo developers conference is trying to make yourself as well.
The point here is that like the penny arcade Expo, the developers conference is meant to meet fellow developers and talk shop. Everything here is more geared towards being an industry networking event with relationships you can make that will last a lifetime. Although this does to a certain extent happen in other conferences like the penny arcade Expo‘s that are all around the world, nowhere does it happen to hear of them the one targeted specifically at industry players themselves. Your connections here actually matter, and can make or break your next project that you’re working on.
It’s a Workshop
There is also a strong focus of these events on how to learn better techniques of making games, discuss back‘s practices of the games being made, critically evaluate any of the games that are actively out there or coming down the pipeline, and similar things. This is a much more analytical side to a convention that none of the other penny arcade expos have at all present. This is part of what makes them a developers conference and not a general conference, and also likely part of the reason that their attendance numbers are relatively lower compared to all of the other conventions.
And all of the other game conferences, you will find many panels going on to teach people how to make games, discuss best practices, how specific games were made, and have various lectures going on that everyone involved in the industry will be getting for. They also have industry leaders that surround themselves with others and have live conversations with large audiences. Calling the audiences large is somewhat of a stretch at a game developers conference considering they are some of the smaller conferences, but they can still have a huge impact on following that makes them hefty enough on their own.
This covers everything that has to do with game development, with everything from the art department to the programmers to the marketing folks and everything in between. If you are involved in making games at all, you are welcome to encouraged to attend an event like this, which is for industry people on there. This convention is unique among all of the Penny Arcade conventions and that they do not allow outside press at all whatsoever. This is different from either of the electronic entertainment expo, which encourages press to come, only being picking with the ones they choose.
The goals of the Penny arcade expo are also much more humble and down-to-earth than any other gaming convention. While gaming convention such as GDC have the lofty goal and ham of trying to shape the future of game development through criticism and exchange, the Penny arcade expo for developers is much more in line with a small friendly gathering of like-minded people talking shop and having little workshops. It has a very nice tone to it compared to some of the pretentious things that can happen at one of the more traditional game conferences like GTD or IGF. It makes for a more relaxed atmosphere of the many game developers have come to prefer, both for entertainment and practical purposes.
More Dev, Less Business Here
The game developers at the conference like Penny arcades on expo are also more along the lives of the actual game makers themselves and less of the marketing folks. This is not to say that there are no marketing folks there, but that there are far fewer than you would expect at another event, and they are clearly not the focus of what is going on. You will not see many of the really big players in the industry showing up here, either, for that reason. This is more about fun little independent games and developers looking to meet new people in that realm, not about big lofty ambitions or anything like that when it comes to being a millionaire. Although the art house crowd is clearly still somewhat in attendance here, they are also far fewer in number is at the penny arcade conference that they would be elsewhere. This may be because different graduate programs have special sponsoring that will find them going to a conference like the game developers conference, or any number of reasons, but that seems to be the just and the general pattern and trend of things.
The game developers conference also has a strong focus on the latest technology is used to make games. They have different development kids present, showcase new offerings that would be in the hands of developer soon, and promote the development tool kits in that way. It is somewhat a promotion for these development kits, while at the same time allowing the programmers to get real-time feedback from an actual audience that is looking to develop games. The Penny arcade expert for developers, in contrast to that, is very different. There is not a strong focus on specific software development packs, and the focus tends to be a little bit more on the design and art and general version of the games themselves the people are trying to make. No one here is being sold on anything, and none of the big companies are pushing anything on anybody at all. This is frowned upon at the convention, and they do not allow press either, so there is really no reason to turn everything into a marketing stunt.
For that reason, the people attending the Penny arcade Expo for developers are of a different sort and the kinds you would see at a normal game development conferences. Although you will still see people from graphics cards manufacturers and things like that, you will not see you as strong of a focus on Nvidia, Intel, Sony, Google, Epix, or things like that. You will not see the focus on the actual app stores and storefronts that digital games are sold out, either. It is more like an intimate workshop among like-minded individuals that are having fun and sharing each other‘s secrets with one another in a lighthearted way.
Little in the Way of Rewards
There also is not quite as strong of a focus on giving widespread pretentious awards to developers, which is a huge centerpiece of the game developers conference. At GDC, they are already on their 19th annual game developers choice awards. These have been going on since the convention begin doing them pair of the year 2000, each of them chosen by their fellow peers that are at the convention itself at the time. This is a huge event in the gaming industry that has a large impact on the sales of some major titles. This is why people tend to be a little bit on edge when they are presenting their games at these conferences, as it really will have real world impact on their sales numbers. No one sits Idlelea bye when these award shows happen. They are active movers and players in the gaming space, acting as an advertisement for anyone that wins. As an analogy, this is very similar to the things that go on in the film industry, such as the Emmys, and the Sundance Film Festival. You will not see much of this going on at the Penny arcade Expo, however, because of the more tightly wound and intimate focus on things. This is not to say they don’t give out any awards, but nothing on the scale, magnitude, or with quite as high of stakes as you will see at other game developers and their conferences.
The types of speakers that you will see you at the Penny Arcade expo for developers are also of a very different sort them those he would usually see at the more major game developers conferences. These are usually people that are from much smaller companies, acting together with others to try to give people a more realistic set of advice is that they would be able to use from their fellow peers. It isn’t someone reaching down from the top of a giant company that was already successful before they got there telling people what to do and how to do it. These are fellow people that have the same exact kinds of jobs that people idea event have, giving them real world advice to be charged on its own merit.
You will see you see Product officer‘s, directors of design, various attorneys from companies representing game developers, marketing managers from companies like discord that tend to make the rounds quite a bit, and people of a similar status. Discord actually has a very prominent place at these conventions, as it is about connecting players together at a ground level. This makes things more appropriate to speak directly to the developers, as that is very much a part of their platform. That is about as close as you will get from a company trying to promote itself, however, and discord is after all a very useful tool as a chat service for any game.
It All Leads into PAX
As an additional way to understand what makes packs day of special, and how it differs from other conventions, it would be informative to tell you that, regarding the PAX prime convention that we mentioned, it actually leads right into it. Where as game developers conference is usually are about five days long, have people focusing exclusively on that, if that and after that, the PAX dev conference is a lead up to the larger and more traditional penny arcade Expo for gamers and gaming culture. This makes it somewhat of an adjunct there, and you would be hard-pressed to find anybody attending the developers conference before the main event not attending the conference itself.
It is sort of like a special before party that is had by the game developers themselves, giving them a chance to talk shop and have some fun before going to the Disneyland that is the Penny arcade Expo proper that happens immediately after. It is only two days long, and more oriented towards education and sharing than anything else. It is also banned from being featured anywhere by the process, giving people no reason to hold anything back and allowing people to speak more frequently.
Wrapping Things Up About the Expo
To wrap all of this up and cover many of the topics we have discussed here, the Penny arcade Expo is a very different sort of convention that was brought about to address the criticisms the Penny arcade and it’s fans had about the general convention circuit that had been overtaken by marketing have a business interest. Once this was started off, it grew very rapidly from only around 1000 to being one of the most popular conventions of the United States. It’s spread all around the United States, to Australia, and shows no signs of stopping.
It is about as close to a counter culture gaming convention that you can possibly get. From its inception, that was the entire point of it. To make something that used to be the best of both the electronica entertainment expo at comicon, and re-create it all throughout the United States to correctly address everyone’s concerns with how their culture had been hijacked by advertising. After it took off from there, everyone latched on and it just kept growing out of control.
It is characterized by a strong community focus that focuses on connecting the players with one another and making things very much about intimate connections among people. The kind of panels and talks you will see are the sort that people that are your fellows will be giving. They are not talks given by famous people necessarily, although sometimes that can happen. It is more designed to give you a chance to speak with your peers, which is a much more intimate setting them a traditional convention.
This giant counterculture convention for gamers and the general gaming community is what a response to developers conference to be an adjunct added to the beginning of it. The penny arcade Expo has since begun to branch off into many other smaller and more focused conventions, such as one targeted specifically to tabletop gaming. PAX Dev is exactly like this. It is targeted that game developers, it gives them a chance to come together without any press or advertising going on to share ideas, and ask as one of the best and most fun networking events before the regular conventional proper.
If you are looking for a very low-key way to meet fellow people that are in your industry, are willing to share ideas with others that you could potentially collaborate with in the future, and generally want to have a very good time on the plane ticket you already bought to attend the main penny arcade Expo, then the PAX Dev conferences for you. You have to be engaged in development of course, or interested in that, but that would seemingly be the only requirement. After you are all done with everything there, you can all continue on to the normal convention and expo that is happening immediately after this one ends.
In the same way that the normal penny arcade expos were the answer to what was wrong with comicon in the electronic entertainment industry, the PAX Dev conference is an attempt to start addressing what Penny arcade and it’s found saw as wrong with bigger game development conferences like GDC. It is very unpretentious, appeals to people directly without any pretension of being better than one another, and doesn’t feature many of the big names that tend to take over the show. It is one of the most beloved developers conference is in the nation, and is growing pretty well considering just how limited this audience actually is.
If you were to imagine the best of the electronic entertainment expo, the larger cultural packing of the original comic con convention’s, and then you add insert that the game developers conference community, you have a pretty good idea of what makes the PAX Dev conference what it is. It’s around the state, loved by many, and a force to be reckoned with in the industry, just like all of the other penny arcade Expo conferences that came before it.