close menu
Why You’ll Want To Check out PAX Unplugged: Penny Arcade’s Tabletop Expo

Why You’ll Want To Check out PAX Unplugged: Penny Arcade’s Tabletop Expo

You may have heard of Wheaton’s Law, “Don’t Be a Dick“. He proclaimed it in 2007, in his keynote address at Penny Arcade Expo. For so many of us, PAX represents the biggest and best celebration of the things we are passionate and excited about when it comes to geek culture. Since 2004, Penny Arcade Expo has offered a fan-driven experience for geeks passionate about games and geeky culture to come together and celebrate the things they love. And despite being a show that was initially focused on video games, PAX itself is a product of the diverse interests of the people who attend.

PAX 14

“From the very start, we really advocated for there to be tabletop space, even though it was a video game show.” Jerry Holkins, also colloquially known as Tycho of Penny Arcade, told me. “That’s because we knew that if you were into games but maybe you didn’t think of yourself as a tabletop gamer that if you saw it, you’d be drawn to it.”

We were discussing PAX Unplugged, the newest addition to the PAX lineup for 2017, to be hosted November 17-19 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. In the conversation, Holkins described himself using allusions to the Warhammer 40,000 universe, calling himself the Librarian of PAX as he’s been involved in the event since the first one was held in 2004. “PAX constitutes a convention of conventions,” Holkins remarked. He talked about how PAX could be imagined as a fractal, vast and intricate, but whose individual parts could be distilled down to a single unit, each a smaller gathering with its own community and culture in its own right.

PAX 52

“One of the things that’s inside PAX it is very coherent if you’ve ever seen it is the tabletop zone.” Holkins described. “It definitely has its own community and culture.” Describing the extension of the show lineup to include one with a focus on tabletop gaming, Holkins painted a picture of how PAX Unplugged’s emergence as a product of the specific culture and convention-within-a-convention feeling the tabletop gaming element of PAX always had.  “We think that [the tabletop culture and community of PAX’s tabletop area] is yearning to have its own separate, independent expression from the show.”

And while it seems like it has been repeated so many times over that it’s cliché, the current climate in terms of tabletop gaming is that of a golden age, as the exponential rise in popularity of analog gaming over recent years is undeniable. I asked him specifically about what gamers could expect, and though having nearly 11 months lead time means the details still have to be hashed out. The hallmarks of PAX events of course, would be present: keynote speeches, panels and of course, lots of open gaming space.

PAX 13

I also asked about whether or not a live session Acquisitions Incorporated would be played at the newly announced event. Holkins couldn’t promise at this stage that the Days Since Last Intern Death sign of the organization’s Winterdeep office wouldn’t be reset to zero on the weekend of PAX Unplugged, it was very clear that he and Ryan Hartman, Director of Events for PAX, were very much thinking about how they could make it happen, particularly since 2017 would the year Acquisitions Incorporated would have its premiere at PAX South. There’s a mindfulness of the importance of the scalable, sharable, theatrical and communal experience that is gaming in the style of Acquisitions Incorporated or even Geek & Sundry’s own TableTop. “You have to be conscious of that trend. There has to be an understanding that somehow our social space is scalable, and its possible to share that space with thousands of people.”

PAX 3

With that said, the new event does offer new opportunities, try new things, and of course, play with ideas. “I am so excited to bounce ideas off of the Enforcers,” Ryan Hartman, Director of PAX Events, told me. Enforcers are the volunteers who help run PAX events and work year round to make sure things are safe and smooth for all attendees, and are themselves a community and culture within PAX events. “They’re going to have a definite fingerprint on this show, just like all the others.” Holkins makes it a point to always thank PAX’s Enforcers first when he closes the event, and that group of people made up of fans helps ensure that PAX as an event stays true to its vision.

Suffice to say, the unique experience that is PAX is a product of the thoughtfulness that goes into planning it and creating an environment which supports the diverse constituent conventions that occur within. Planning like that is conscious and the structure is deliberately designed, though each constituent convention occurs organically and is filled with a spontaneous energy. When PAX describes itself as fan-oriented, it’s a result of that structure which optimizes and prioritizes the experience for the attendee. I know I’ll be in line to get my tickets, which will be available in the spring.

Do you have a favorite convention? Share which ones you love and why in the comments below! 

Featured Image & Blog Image Credits: Penny Arcade


Teri Litorco loves all things tabletop, so much so that she wrote a book about it. She also overshares about what she’s playing/miniatures she’s painting on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

A Gallery of Guests Who Have Crossed Paths With the Mighty Nein

A Gallery of Guests Who Have Crossed Paths With the Mighty Nein

article
5 Modern Muggle Board Games We Think Hufflepuffs Would Love

5 Modern Muggle Board Games We Think Hufflepuffs Would Love

article
New D&D Players: 3 Questions To Ask Before Multiclassing

New D&D Players: 3 Questions To Ask Before Multiclassing

article