I had my second ever PAX experience with this year’s PAX South in San Antonio, Texas. The convention center was newly remodeled (and half under construction), the show was full of indie and large developers across video gaming and tabletop, and once again I had a fun mix of business and pleasure as I interviewed developers, played upcoming games, and hung out with long-distance friends as we met up at PAX.
It was an amazing weekend. Stay tuned here or on my social media channels for all my published content coming out of PAX South. What follows here is my personal account of my experience.
This year my mom was able to babysit my kiddo and house full of dogs and cats to allow my wife to come with me. We arrived in San Antonio early on Thursday and got to do some fun tourist stuff, like checking out the Alamo and walking around the Riverwalk and Rivercenter Mall.
We also went up to the top of the Tower of the Americas to get an evening view of the city.
We never get a date trip like this. Even though it was just the day, it was a lot of fun!
This year they pushed the opening of the convention back an hour. Not only did this make mornings much easier, but it gave me a chance to jump in with the Early Media Access on Friday, which began at 9.
I set up an appointment in a private meeting room for the Nintendo Switch, which lasted over an hour. You can read my takeaway from the Switch and upcoming Nintendo games like Zelda here.
I wanted to play more Zelda but I ran (literally) across the hall to where my friends had saved a seat for Chris Perkins’ key note speech. I’m a big fan of D&D and Acquisitions Incorporated and wanted to see his speech. It did not disappoint!
I had a bit of time afterward to jump into the expo hall. We sat down and tried Random Encounters, one of the games in the Tabletop Indie Showcase. It was a Kickstarter game from a year ago, and the devs were super friendly and engaging. The co-op dungeon crawler was a blast, and I ended up purchasing it later that day.
After a quick lunch I had a full day of appointments, from 12:30 to 6! It was incredibly exhausting but I saw a ton of great games (and not so great ones) and talked to some awesome people.
I was super tired and ready for dinner, but my friends (whom I hadn’t really seen all day at that point) were in line for the True Dungeon experience. I went up to the 3rd floor to join them.
The whole thing took over an hour but it was a neat demo of the full multi-hour experience they run at GenCon.
It’s basically a crazy mix of LARP and Escape the Room, complete with character sheets and animatronics. Impressive, though we were rushed through the two rooms. Pretty sure the wait took longer than the actual event!
We met up with even more friends and had dinner at Maria Mia near the Rivercenter Mall (and right next door to Luciano). At that point our group had swelled to 7 plus a newborn!
Afterward we went back to the convention center. But after True Dungeon and a big dinner it was late by the time we got back. We tried playing some board games but Zombicide ended up being a slog.
Note to self – don’t play a big board game that no one’s played before after an exhausting day!
Dinner: Maria Mia
Saturday was easily my favorite day of the convention, despite the noticeable surge in crowds.
I set up my appointments in the morning specifically with multiplayer games in mind so I could try and keep my wife and friends with me, knowing we would probably all separate on Friday (which we did).
Both Earthfall and Hyper Universe ended up being some of my favorite games of the convention, and it was a blast getting to play them with friends. The devs were super forthcoming and fun to talk to and the games were a lot of fun.
I wish I would have had more time with both, but I had scheduled myself very tight to see as much as possible.
After that we started to separate again. My wife jumped in line for Acquisitions Incorporated (she’s an even bigger fan than me) while I checked out a number of indie games, including the very nice-looking Mages of Mystralia.
Eventually I grabbed lunch and joined up with the Acquisitions Inc crowd. This was total “me” time as we sat and watched the full three hour live show. It was incredible, and definitely my favorite part of the whole convention. It was the first time they did it at PAX South and I hope it becomes a new trend.
That took up the rest of the afternoon. We wandered around the expo hall for a bit, then went out for dinner. We eventually decided on a BBQ place on the river.
Since we’d gotten out earlier than yesterday, we went back to the hotel to FaceTime with our daughter and change. Then it was back to the convention center.
After last night’s experience I knew not to grab a new game and try to figure it out. Instead I whipped out my newly purchased copy of Random Encounters and we played a fun four player game, which took up the rest of the evening.
Dinner: Lone Star Café
Last year I spent the final day just wandering around freely trying games I hadn’t gotten a chance to try yet – especially board games.
Acquisitions Inc took up a large block of time on Saturday, so I still had several media appointments scheduled on Sunday.
I met with Games Lab and played Final War, a fun tactical card game that combined PvE and PvP battling. It released in Australia last year and is coming to the U.S. this week!
I also met with Daedalic and Northstar Games, played more games and met more awesome developers and marketing folks.
I found I actually preferred talking to people to playing the games themselves, especially with the time it takes to play most board games. Never enough time!
At one point I swung by the permanently crowded Nintendo booth. I was able to jump in and play Splatoon 2, the only game that wasn’t available in my meeting.
On Sunday I also went to my only panel I attended at the con, which looked at using games as a teaching tool for education. Look for my recap of the panel on Pixelkin soon.
The convention shuts down at 6pm. We had checked out of our hotel that morning and parked in a nearby lot. So we jumped in our cars and ate at the one place everyone says to eat in San Antonio – Mi Tierra. Fantastic Mexican restaurant – would eat again!
Dinner: Mi Tierra
And that’s it! Another year, another PAX South in the books. It was an amazing experience. I’m extremely fortunate that I can combine business and pleasure in this unique way, made even more fun that all my friends meet up there (all of whom live hundreds of miles, and one several states away).
See you next year, San Antonio!