The entire gaming industry is about to convene at the Los Angeles Convention Center next week for the 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo. E3, as it’s commonly referred to, is the biggest show in the industry, featuring new game reveals and surprises. While it’s admittedly nice to get some hands-on time for the hottest upcoming games before the general public, it’s far from the best gaming show of the year. Truth be told, I’d rather be at Penny Arcade Expo.
That’s not to say I hate going to E3. Though, to be honest, I do hate going to LA and would much rather be in Boston or Seattle. But E3 and PAX have completely different atmospheres. Let’s start by taking a closer look at how it feels to be at E3. To the general, unknowing public, attending the Electronic Entertainment Expo is a dream come true. You’re surrounded by large booths from the biggest publishers featuring their newest games. It’s like you’ve gained access to an exclusive club where everyone is vying for your attention, and, to be honest, they are. But they’re also vying for the attention of everybody else at the show. They do this with large displays, bright lights, and a lot of music. A. Lot. Of. Music.
Despite it being pretty loud in the Los Angeles Convention Center, that’s not my biggest gripe with E3. The stress levels at the convention center, however, are. A large chunk of the attendees for E3 are members of the gaming press running around the halls like chickens without heads. There are a lot of games to cover, meaning there’s a lot of work to be done. This leads to a decent number of attendees not being in the greatest of moods, creating a bit of an off-putting atmosphere within the convention population.
Now let’s compare that to Penny Arcade Expo, a convention that’s meant for the public. Yes, there are still members of the press covering the event, but that’s not PAX’s targeted demographic. PAX East, PAX Australia, and PAX Prime aren’t meant to showcase the latest and greatest, cater to investors, or gain good press. To be honest, if those are the goals of PAX, it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it, because everything about PAX screams, “Welcome friends, you’re home.”
Even if you go to PAX alone, you’ll be sure to find new friends along the way: you’ll be chatting with people in line who are just as excited as you are to play The Last Of Us (and not stressed about how they’ll write it up later that day), learn new board games in the tabletop area, or begin an impromptu tabletop campaign. Plus, let’s not forget the countless panels. Heck, some people attend PAX just for the panels alone, and, to be honest, why shouldn’t they? They’re relaxed, entertaining, educational, and pretty damn fun.
Yet perhaps the biggest difference between both E3 and PAX are the games themselves. E3 has big-budget blockbuster titles pouring out of each booth, while PAX offers so many hidden gems waiting to be discovered. If I had a dime every time someone told me “you gotta go check out such and such game!” during PAX East, I wouldn’t have had to pay for my train fare during my time in Boston. It’s no real secret that the smaller, indie studios have been kicking serious butt recently, but PAX East 2013 only helped further establish this. Games like Tiny Brains, Organ Trail, Electronic Super Joy, Space Team, and countless others got the exposure they so rightfully deserve.
I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with enjoying a high-quality AAA title. When they’re done right (BioShock Infinite, The Last Of Us), they offer some really engaging experiences. But we don’t have to always spend $60 on a game that cost millions of dollars to make. More often than not, there’s a great game waiting for us right under our noses. We just don’t know about them because they don’t necessarily get the exposure they deserve. But you know what? You know where they do get that exposure? PAX.
I enjoy going to both expos for different reasons. No matter how busy I am, being at E3 is being like a kid in a candy store. Sure, it’s incredibly stressful at times, but it’s still fun to try the latest and greatest games. Yet it doesn’t compare to how I feel when I’m at PAX; I feel more relaxed and able to meet new people, and I discover so many great games I didn’t know existed.