One of our contributors was at PAX Unplugged earlier this month and gives us her thoughts on the event that is “specifically tailored to gamers of all ages.” She also took quite a few pictures of all the sights at the show.
All photos courtesy of Heather Snapp.
My husband and I have been attending PAX Unplugged since its launch in a very frigid Philadelphia 2017. We have watched it grow and expand the like the proud parents we became mere months ago (and we brought our little one along for her first con). I think what is so enticing about PAX Unplugged is that there is, literally, something for everyone. You like romance? Dating RPGs are a thing. Disney fanatic? Check out Villainous! Star Wars? Harry Potter? Both have plenty of card and board games for you to check out. Are you a fan of all things furred, fuzzy, scaled and slithery like myself? Boy, are you in for some fun! Everdell is a game I have been wanting to get my hands on since I discovered it in the vendor hall last year. I opted for the entire Evolution game with expansions, however, as I thought it would be something I’d more easily find players for (there’s always next year!). This year we picked up Fetch Quest and The Tea Dragon Society card games. With our new addition who likes to put everything she can fit into her mouth, dice games were a no-go this time around.
I’ll admit, I was skeptical my first year, thinking I wasn’t the “right kind of nerd” to enjoy what PAX Unplugged had to offer. For the most part, I was an avid PC gamer with roots in ye olde Dungeons & Dragons when I was willing to venture out and socialize with other human beings. As a loner, and a self-proclaimed, would be hermit, I tended to drift more towards things I could do solo or, at best, over the internet. There was a time when all of my friends lived inside my computer and I was okay with it. I played my video games, I read my epic fantasy novels, wrote fan fiction on occasion, blissfully unaware of what else was on offer. I owe it to my husband, really, for introducing me to the more that was out there.
Year one, I admit, I missed out on a lot. I’m pretty shy on a good day and I was afraid to sometimes even get a closer look at something I was interested in. Evolution, for example, is a game that caught my eye from the get go and that first year I was too anxious to get within 10 feet of the booth, much less sit for a demo. I never forgot it, though. For a whole year it was on my mind and in 2018, I made as much of a beeline for their booth as I could with swollen ankles and pregnant belly. I had doffed most of my anxiety by the second year, maybe because I had something much bigger to occupy my anxiety. I was about to give birth to a tiny human, these other humans were of no concern of mine anymore.
Year two was not only much more enjoyable for me but it was also bigger. We demo’d several games and spent a pretty penny purchasing a good number of them as well. There is a cooperative dice builder called Too Many Bones that I so thoroughly enjoyed, we dropped several hundred dollars buying the game, the expansions and all the little extras they had to offer. It was my first experience with a cooperative game and I really enjoyed it. I would go so far as to say co-ops are now my preferred type of game. This might stem from my aggressive competitiveness (seriously, play me in Mario Kart; it gets ugly) but it’s also nice to work with your friends instead of against them. I feel like they will also make it easier to introduce games to our womb nugget(s) as they grow and learn. This way they can be a part of the game and in on the fun without worrying about who is winning or losing.
Every year there is at least one panel on introducing RPGs and gaming to kids to aid development and I love every minute of every one. It’s not only beneficial to children with special needs, but all children. Whether you have children or not, you’re probably familiar with the various “learn by playing” terminologies floating out there. It makes sense. We’ve all been there, unless you were birthed as a grouchy 38 year old. The games we played as young children most times had something to teach us, whether we realized it or not. According to the panelists, children as young as 3 and 4 are getting their feet wet in RPGs. They create, they problem solve, they play by their own rules, and that’s okay. Honestly, I can’t wait to introduce it to my children. I can’t wait to see what their little minds will come up with!
This past year, the hall was PACKED. There were even more vendors and even more tables set up to play and demo and you still couldn’t find a seat sometimes. It was a special year for us as we took our adorable little girl with us to share in the fun. There aren’t generally too many young faces there but it’s always nice to see the next generation of gamers starting off so young. We were mildly concerned about how she would handle it but we had nothing to worry about. Aside from the short lived fiasco of finding a restroom with a changing table and one enforcer who tried to tell us we couldn’t have our stroller, we had no issues. And I really think she enjoyed herself. There was plenty of stuff for her to look at and some vendors, able to read the word “sucker” on our foreheads, would hand her appropriately sized items for sale. Naturally, once she squealed with delight, we would hand over our money no questions asked. And that’s how our daughter has started her (oversized, of course) d20 collection well before her first birthday!
Honestly, if you are in the Philadelphia area, or can be, when PAX Unplugged rolls around (Nov 20-22, 2020), I highly recommend it. Whether you identify yourself as a “nerd” or not, it’s a lot of fun. Gaming, for me, was always a little bit about finding myself, pushing the limits of my comfort zone, and discovery. Pax Unplugged is a lot like a doorway to opportunity. There’s so many options, so many different play styles, so many people from every background imaginable, and so many worlds to uncover and visit. Who knows, you just might find something you didn’t even know you were looking for.