One of the biggest takeaways I had when leaving the Boston Convention Center once PAX East 2018 was over was that gaming is now undisputedly controlled by the masses. Don't think of that as a negative, though – this year's PAX East perfectly exemplified what it means to be a gamer in 2018.
Content creators, professional gamers, and even amateur players flooded the halls of the exhibition room, showing off their skills on gigantic screens that massive streaming sites like Twitch managed to erect. It was quite the thrilling experience to jot from one exciting tournament to the next, learning of each team's strategies in Overwatch or PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds.
Speaking of those two games, it was hard not to notice their presence at this year's PAX East, as Blizzard had their signature booth right by the exhibition hall entrance and hosted the first of their "Playload Tour" for fans. The installation invited cosplayers or just casual con-goers the chance to rotate around in a pedestal in front of a green screen, then see themselves recreated within the actual title. It was quite the immersive and fun experience. Plus, cosplayers were given extra priority to join in, as a shorter line was dedicated solely for them.
The cosplayers themselves came out in full force, brandishing some creative outfits from games like NieR: Automata, Mario, Overwatch, Final Fantasy X, Cuphead, and a lot more. It wasn't as spectacular as the gowns on display at Otakon or Katsucon, but the cosplayers at this year's PAX East do deserve their own merits.
Streaming and eSports have dominated the gaming conversation in recent years, and PAX East 2018 definitely improved on its offerings in these distinctions from last year. Tons of panel rooms were filled with people eager to learn more of their favorite professional players. The PAX Arena was almost always filled to the brim with people willing to try their hand at the next FIFA or Fortnite competition. Booths all over the hall were showcasing the latest gaming hardware through popular games like PUBG or Far Cry 5, and even Geico managed to jump in on all the hype by hosting a major Hearthstone tournament.
Twitch, of course, has a large presence at the convention too, boosting a lavish booth that invited fans the chance to have a glimpse at some of their favorite streaming personalities, broadcasters, league members, and more. Facebook Gaming competed against the giant right next door, highlighting how people can stream games on their very own social media profiles.
Perhaps one of the hardest booths to get into was the Nintendo one, as games that have yet to be released like the newest No More Heroes were on display for people to get their hands on. Just around the corner, the Big N hosted Splatoon 2 tournaments throughout each day.
While VR and AAA games had some chance to shine at the show, the focus of PAX East 2018 was on the community. Judging from the trajectory that the industry is headed, this is the right avenue for the venue to head down, and will probably encourage more fans to come to the annual convention next year. Fingers crossed that there'll be enough space in the Boston Convention Center in 2019!