The Penny Arcade Expo’s annual Seattle convention has begun. More elegantly dubbed PAX West, this celebration of all things video games works a little bit differently than Gamescom or E3. Instead of spotlighting the biggest publishers and their upcoming projects, PAX West places the focus on indie games and panels on game design itself.
You’ll still find Nintendo, Square Enix, Bungie, Ubisoft, and many more on the showroom floor, but not without running into the famed Indie Megabooth or Devolver Digital first. Regardless of your tastes in genre or developer, you can find games and panels that interest you, and we’ve highlighted some of the best PAX West events happening this weekend that you don’t want to miss.
One of the most exciting aspects of PAX West is how jam-packed it is with events for attendees. From voice actors speaking about what goes into mastering their roles to developer workshops that center around increasing inclusivity in games, there’s plenty of options to choose from. We won’t list every single panel happening at PAX West 2019 here, but you can check out the full schedule on the official website. You can also find our suggestions for the best panels to attend below.
Just like most conventions, you won’t be able to find every PAX West 2019 panel online. However, you can watch a selection of content from the event through the official PAX Twitch channel.
PAX West will feature several upcoming games, and attendees will be able to play demo versions of many of them during the event. Games being shown during the festivities include Untitled Goose Game, Ooblets, Manifold Garden, Monster Prom 2: Death Camp, Elsinore, Praey for the Gods, Spiritfarer, Carrion, Heave Ho, Hotline Miami Collection, Once Upon a Time in Roswell, Black Skylands, Rawmen, Secret Neighbor, Borderlands 3, Gears 5, Cyberpunk 2077, Pokémon Sword and Shield, Luigi’s Mansion 3, Ghost Recon Breakpoint, Final Fantasy VII Remake, Monster Hunter: Iceborne and many, many, more!
Friday, August 30
10:30 a.m. PT/1:30 p.m ET – PAX West Keynote: Storytime with Gary Whitta
PAX West will be kicked off with a keynote speech from Gary Whitta, a game journalist who began a new career as a screenwriter. Whitta has written for films such as The Book of Eli and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and he also contributed to Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead series. He was involved with the development of Halo 5: Guardians, as well. Whitta could take his PAX speech in several different directions, though we’d be most interested in hearing his thoughts on the recent revival of Telltale Games.
12 p.m. PT/3 p.m. ET – Life is Strange: Bringing Relatable Characters & Stories to Life
Dontnod Entertainment’s Life is Strange 2 is currently approaching its finale, and the episodic adventure game series has had several emotional and believable bonds between its protagonists. In this panel, the game’s co-director Michel Koch will sit down with Andrea Rene of What’s Good Games to discuss how the game’s setting, characters, and key story events are created. The panel will include the game’s voice-over cast, as well, which is crucial to its success.
1:30 p.m. PT/4:30 p.m. ET – Gearbox Main Theater Show
Gearbox will host another one of its theater presentations at PAX West, providing news on several of the games it publishes, including Risk of Rain 2 and We Happy Few. Attendees will also be able to get a new look at Borderlands 3, which is set to release in just a few weeks. There will be additional surprise announcements and exclusives revealed during the event, and if we’re lucky, it will not be interrupted by another one of Randy’s magic shows.
4:30 p.m. PT/7:30 p.m. ET – The Kinda Funny Games Showcase: PAX Edition
Large stage presentations are a great place for major AAA publishers to announce their games, but for the smaller, quirkier titles, it might not be the best fit. That’s where the Kinda Funny Games Showcase comes in. During this panel, host Greg Miller will feature eight games while having conversations and gameplay demonstrations with their developers. There will also be some surprises, as well as giveaways, so make sure you tune in.
Saturday, August 31
10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET – Esports in Schools: Academics and Emerging Programs
Sports like football, basketball, and baseball can help get you into college, but an increasing number of universities are now offering esports scholarships as well. Now, even elementary schools are using esports programs in order to improve motivation for students, and industry experts want to help make that happen.
In this panel, esport experts from Boise State, Twitch, and Utah State will come together to discuss how to better integrate esports into the classroom, as well as current programs being offered.
11 a.m. PT/2 p.m. ET – The 40 Games You Must Play
If you have an interest in designing your own video games one day, you’re going to need to play a lot of them – and not all of them will be good. In this panel from GeekNights’ Rym DeCoster and Scott Rubin, 40 must-play video games that demonstrate important elements of design will be discussed. Not all of them will be the best games, and we’re crossing our fingers for a stinker like Bubsy 3D to show how not to design a video game.
1 p.m. PT/4 p.m. ET – Major Nelson Radio Live
Long-running Xbox figurehead Larry Hryb, otherwise known as Major Nelson, will host a special live episode his Xbox podcast Major Nelson Radio during PAX West. This podcast will be recorded in front of a studio audience and Hryb and co-host Jeff Rubenstein will sit down with The Coalition’s Rod Fergusson to talk about Gears 5. The latest entry in the shooter series will release days later.
3 p.m. PT/6 p.m. ET – GamesIndustry.biz Presents: Game Developers vs. Crunch
“Crunch” – the act of working much longer hours than normal in order to meet a deadline, often without adequate compensation – has been a huge issue for game developers recently. In this panel, Reb Valentine of GamesIndustry.biz will discuss strategies that can be taken to combat crunch with directors and studio heads at companies like Outerloop Games, Short for a Knight, Finji, and Gambrinous.
Sunday, September 1
12:30 p.m PT/3:30 p.m. ET – Azeroth Reborn: WoW Classic and the Journey Home
Blizzard recently launched World of Warcraft Classic, a version of the game that transports players back to a time when there weren’t dozens of potential raids to complete or exponentially more dungeons to explore. In this panel, Chicago Review Press historian Anthony Palumbi will examine why players are interested in playing the down-dated game, and if it’s possible for them to truly get the same experience available in 2004.
4:30 p.m. PT/7:30 p.m. ET – Eurogamer Presents: The Best- and Worst-Dressed Video Game Characters of All Time
Video game characters — many are cool, and even badass, but it’s inarguable that a lot of them are complete dorks. Much of this comes down to their outfits, which can turn even the most ferocious warrior into a laughingstock as soon as their sword is dropped. This panel, which includes Greg Kasavin from Supergiant Games and Vampire: Masquerade – Bloodlines 2, will discuss this phenomenon, as well as examples of characters who already look fly.
5 p.m. PT/6 p.m. ET – The Oeuvre of Hidetaka Miyazaki
Dark Souls creator Hidetaka Miyazaki has become one of the industry’s biggest rock stars over the last decade, influencing the design of countless action games and even spawning a genre, the “Souls-like.” In this panel, Aaron Suduiko and Dan Hughes of With a Terrible Fate will discuss his story and the development of his games like Bloodborne and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, so we can better learn why they were designed so uniquely. The upcoming Elden Ring will also be discussed.
Monday, September 2
11:30 a.m. PT/2:30 p.m. ET – System Design, on Fire, All the Time: Controlling Chaos
More and more, games are not designed as linear, mission-to-mission stories, but as systematically- and procedurally-driven playgrounds. It can be difficult to control such a behemoth, and this panel will discuss just how it can be managed without your game crumbling to the ground. Panelists include Bungie senior game designer Lisa Brown and Dwarf Fortress programmer Tarn Adams.
12:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. ET – So, You Want to be an Interactive Fiction Writer?
Have an interest in developing narrative-driven interactive fiction but don’t know where to start? In this panel, writers from companies like Beautiful Glitch and Talespinners will discuss not only how you can begin writing for interactive fiction, but also how you can start on your own games and get paid to do it.
4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET – Creating a New Reality: Tales from VR Development
Virtual reality brings huge opportunities for video game development, with more immersive and emotional stories. The technology also brings its own challenges, and in this panel, developers from Hidden Path, Polyarc, Against Gravity, Outerloop, and Drift Entertainment will share their best and funniest stories from VR game development. You’ll learn about the process for hit VR titles including Moss and Robo Recall Unplugged.
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