PAX vs GenCon

A few days ago, on Twitter, I mentioned that GenCon is a convention where we maintain an existing fanbase while PAX is a place to find new fans. The discussion that followed was brief, but I thought it was worth taking a little time to compare the two shows and why I feel that of the two PAX is a more exciting, more energetic experience.

GenCon - Anyone reading this should be familiar with GenCon. After over 40 years this is basically the place to go if you’re a hardcore roleplayer or roleplaying game publisher. A large, dedicated group of gamers hit the show each year and while there are board games, card games, and even some video games at the show it is the roleplaying crowd that stands out the most in my eyes.

GenCon attendees seem to be in their thirties and forties, though I do see a small number of teens and children at the show each year. It’s a fun show, and a great place to say hi to friends and peers, but in general I often find that those who attend GenCon have pre-existing hatreds, loves, dislikes, and opinions of games, types of games, companies, and even people in the industry. It’s not at all surprising to run across someone who is at the show to play only one game — D&D, for example — and has no interest in anything new.

GenCon is fun, but it’s exhausting work and by the end of the show I need a break from games and thinking about games. It’s painful to run into someone who immediately dismisses me because I do not work on their favorite game.

PAX - The Penny Arcade Expo is a much newer convention that’s mostly about video games with a huge dash of geek culture tossed in. The concerts are a main part of the show, as is the exhibit hall where video game publishers show off new and upcoming games, but over the last three years I’ve seen the “Tabletop” section of the show grow.

PAX goers are generally younger than GenCon attendees; it’s not at all uncommon to find teenagers at PAX either chatting about or playing video games. And, in what makes the show so important in my eyes, most PAX attendees are more interested and open to new things. Many of them know almost nothing about the tabletop industry; and a lot of them are eager to try games and learn.

And it’s that openess and age that creates the wave of energy at PAX that I do not see at GenCon. It’s rewarding to watch someone go from a casual interest in rolling dice to seriously getting into the game and dragging their friends over to try it. I’d say at PAX, in my experience, about half of the people standing at the table are unfamiliar with our games — Munchkin and Zombie Dice attract the most attention — and of those finish the demo asking “where can I buy this?” 

Am I saying GenCon is a lesser show than PAX? Not at all! GenCon is still fun — I love when the BattleTech Pods make an appearance — but PAX reenergizes my desire to make games more than GenCon ever does. It’s that energy of the younger crowd, and their excitement and cries of fun, that reminds me why I work in this industry.

So thank you, PAX, for giving me a place to meet new people, a place to teach games, and a time to get excited about games and game design all over again. 

I’m ready to play again and, more importantly, I’m feeling that desire to complete a new game design.

NOTE: Written while on a flight home. Not the cleanest text, but when I went to rewrite this I decided to keep what I had because it was raw and honest.

PAX vs GenCon

A few days ago, on Twitter, I mentioned that GenCon is a convention where we maintain an existing fanbase while PAX is a place to find new fans. The discussion that followed was brief, but I thought it was worth taking a little time to compare the two shows and why I feel that of the two PAX is a more exciting, more energetic experience.

GenCon - Anyone reading this should be familiar with GenCon. After over 40 years this is basically the place to go if you’re a hardcore roleplayer or roleplaying game publisher. A large, dedicated group of gamers hit the show each year and while there are board games, card games, and even some video games at the show it is the roleplaying crowd that stands out the most in my eyes.

GenCon attendees seem to be in their thirties and forties, though I do see a small number of teens and children at the show each year. It’s a fun show, and a great place to say hi to friends and peers, but in general I often find that those who attend GenCon have pre-existing hatreds, loves, dislikes, and opinions of games, types of games, companies, and even people in the industry. It’s not at all surprising to run across someone who is at the show to play only one game — D&D, for example — and has no interest in anything new.

GenCon is fun, but it’s exhausting work and by the end of the show I need a break from games and thinking about games. It’s painful to run into someone who immediately dismisses me because I do not work on their favorite game.

PAX - The Penny Arcade Expo is a much newer convention that’s mostly about video games with a huge dash of geek culture tossed in. The concerts are a main part of the show, as is the exhibit hall where video game publishers show off new and upcoming games, but over the last three years I’ve seen the “Tabletop” section of the show grow.

PAX goers are generally younger than GenCon attendees; it’s not at all uncommon to find teenagers at PAX either chatting about or playing video games. And, in what makes the show so important in my eyes, most PAX attendees are more interested and open to new things. Many of them know almost nothing about the tabletop industry; and a lot of them are eager to try games and learn.

And it’s that openess and age that creates the wave of energy at PAX that I do not see at GenCon. It’s rewarding to watch someone go from a casual interest in rolling dice to seriously getting into the game and dragging their friends over to try it. I’d say at PAX, in my experience, about half of the people standing at the table are unfamiliar with our games — Munchkin and Zombie Dice attract the most attention — and of those finish the demo asking “where can I buy this?” 

Am I saying GenCon is a lesser show than PAX? Not at all! GenCon is still fun — I love when the BattleTech Pods make an appearance — but PAX reenergizes my desire to make games more than GenCon ever does. It’s that energy of the younger crowd, and their excitement and cries of fun, that reminds me why I work in this industry.

So thank you, PAX, for giving me a place to meet new people, a place to teach games, and a time to get excited about games and game design all over again. 

I’m ready to play again and, more importantly, I’m feeling that desire to complete a new game design.

NOTE: Written while on a flight home. Not the cleanest text, but when I went to rewrite this I decided to keep what I had because it was raw and honest.

Posted 3 years ago 4 notes

Notes:

  1. highmoon reblogged this from philipjreed and added:
    Food for thought.
  2. deadlyfredly reblogged this from philipjreed
  3. highmoon said: Thanks for that.
  4. philipjreed posted this

About:

Toy blogger, game designer, and general geek, Philip J Reed works at Steve Jackson Games as Chief Operating Officer where his primary job is to remain calm and keep what little sanity he has left.

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