Last month, the East Coast gaming convention PAX East was held in Boston, MA. Originally held in Bellevue, Washington, the Penny Arcade Expo has grown more and more each year, and events are now held in four different cities across the world.
The show floor featured booths representing gaming companies large and small. One notable trend was that one genre in particular, the MOBA (short for "Multiplayer Online Battle Arena") was heavily represented, with booths for Blizzard's "Heroes of the Storm," Electronic Arts' "Dawngate," and Warner Bros' DC-Universe themed "Infinite Crisis all recieved significant floor space and crowds, and yet all were drawfed by Riot Games and their booth for Leage of Legends, which popularized the genre beginning in 2009. It will be interesting to see if any of these newcomers can knock Riot off of their thrown, or whether the popularity of this young genre is a fad that may end before anyone gets a chance.
Smaller, independent developers were showing off more diverse offerings. One of the most inventive I witnessed was Double Fine’s “Hack ‘n Slash,” a Legend Of Zelda-inspired game in which the player character receives a “USB Sword” that allows her to “hack” into in-game objects and edit variables that have a real effect on the game’s code. Other intriguing indie games that I got to play included the addicting retro game “Whoa, Dave!” from Gaijin Games, and the strange but detailed cat-collecting simulator game “Mew-Genics” from Team Meat.
For me, the highlight of these events is always the concerts. While PAX regulars Jonathan Coulton, Paul & Storm, and The Protomen were absent this year, familiar bands including Metroid Metal and the Video Game Orchestra were there playing elaborate arrangements of classic video game songs, and nercore rapper MC Frontalot again brought his unique style to the stage. Chiptune rock band Anamanaguchi also returned to PAX East for the first time since 2010, and put on a great show. Newcomers The Doubleclicks played some funny and charming nerd-culture folk songs, and a group called The Bit Brigade put on an entertaining show in which one of them played through the entire original Legend of Zelda on the NES, while the rest of the band played the soundtrack live, synced with the gameplay.
All in all, it was another entertaining and enlightening year at PAX East.