PAX South Main Floor. Photo taken by Joseph Sloan for CheckpointXP.

I was fortunate enough to attend PAX South over the weekend, and it also happened to be my first ever Penny Arcade Expo. PAX has exploded over the last decade from a small con dedicated to fans of the titular comic to a massive gathering of fans of geek culture from all over the world. No longer is there just a single PAX. Now we have PAX Prime, PAX West, PAX East, PAX South, and probably several more that are eluding me.

So you can imagine how excited I was to get the call to head on down to San Antonio and check out PAX South. Let it be noted that flying out of Detroit to San Antonio can be a harrowing experience. Our flight failed to land twice in San Antonio before finally diverting to Austin. An hour and a half Lyft ride later and we finally made it to San Antonio.

Galeforce Nine at PAX South 2020
Attendees browse Galeforce Nine display at PAX South 2020. Photo taken by Joseph Sloan for CheckpointXP.

I could dedicate an entire article to the trip down there, but management would be none too pleased. So let’s get into the big takeaways from PAX South itself. Here’s some of my biggest observations from this year’s event.

You can see the entire convention floor in a day

I really can’t tell you how I nice this was. As someone who has now attended events like E3, Dragoncon, and Youmacon, I’ve gotten used to being as massive conventions. And while it’s cool that there is always something else to see, you also feel like you’re always missing out. I could spend the entirety of E3 in the main hall and still not experience everything.

3D Realms at PAX South 2020
The 3D Realms booth at PAX South 2020. Photo taken by Joseph Sloan for CheckpointXP.

Meanwhile, PAX South was just about the perfect size for me. We dedicated the entirety of Friday to walking around the show floor and checking out what everyone was exhibiting. By the time 6:00 PM rolled around, we had canvassed the entire room, made our strategic purchases, and experienced most of the exhibits.

Cosplay wasn’t as prominent, but what was there was great

We were genuinely surprised at how little cosplay we saw on Friday. While it’s not uncommon for the first day of a convention to be light on cosplay, this was really remarkable. Now that said, what we did see was AWESOME. Those who chose to bring their cosplay game on Friday certainly had every right to be proud.

Spinel cosplay at PAX South 2020
Spinel from Steven Universe portrayed by @Amandahuginkiss99 at PAX South 2020.

Saturday saw a great deal more cosplay and that’s when it really began to feel like a con. There were plenty of Witchers, which me wish I had coins to toss to them. There was some Steven Universe, and quite a bit of K/DA cosplay to be had. It all added up to an awesome show on Saturday, even though we were very busy. Speaking of which….

The Pro-Am was awesome!

I’ve only casted a couple events in my life, and this was certainly my first time at the desk for Overwatch. That said, it’s was one of my favorite experiences in esports. More important than any of that was the fan engagement with the pro-am. All weekend long, we watched people filter in and out of the PAX Arena to watch various events.

Joe preparing to cast PAX Pro-Am
Joe prepares to cast the PAX Pro-Am at PAX South 2020.

I can safely say that no event drew as much intrigue in the PAX Arena as did the Outlaws Pro-Am. When we began casting the event, every seat in the arena was filled and the entirety of the standing room around the arena was taken. Throughout the event, a large crowd gathered to watch attendees play Mystery Heroes alongside some of their favorite Outlaws. I was thrilled to be a part of it, and the whole experience was incredible!

You will know the name Daedalic Entertainment

If you don’t already, I’m guessing you’ll know the name Daedalic Entertainment in the near future. For a convention that was very Indie, Daedalic had a highly polished and professional set up. They were exhibiting multiple games, and I was lucky enough to try two of them.

First up was The Suicide of Rachel Foster, an immersive horror game. The story focuses on a young girl who returns to a hotel her family owned. There, she is haunted by ghosts and bitter memories of her childhood. The game is built on the creepy vibe that old hotels give off. Multiple times, it made me think of The Shining, and I can’t pay a much higher compliment than that. If you’re interested, it’s available for pre-order on Steam.

Secondly, I got a chance to try out Iron Danger. While the name doesn’t do much for me, the gameplay hook certainly did. Iron Danger plays like a hybrid of a tactical RPG and a puzzle game. The player gives instructions to their characters, which can be accomplished in a number of rounds. However, the hook mechanic is the ability to turn back or move forward through time. In this, the game ends up playing like a puzzle game as you try and figure out the most ideal route through encounters. It’s not available yet, but check out the Steam page here.

Houston Outlaws put on a show!

We were able to attend as guests of the Outlaws, but I don’t want you to think that’s influencing my opinion. Their set up over the weekend was truly spectacular. In addition to supplying players for the Pro-Am, they also ran a Path to the Pro panel which our own Robbie Landis was lucky enough to be able to moderate.

Robbie hosting the Path to Pro panel at PAX South 2020
Robbie Landis hosts the Path to Pro panel with the Houston Outlaws at PAX South 2020.

Their booth was center stage as well. Attendees were able to compete in a tournament, with winners of each round advancing and eventually be entered into a drawing for a prize. Players were on as well to meet and greet with fans, as well as some cool merch. It was awesome to see Outlaws getting to interact with their fans, and it has me feeling pretty good about home and away matches this year.

Overall, PAX South was a very different event than other conventions I’ve been too. While I love E3, it’s become very… mechanized. You schedule interviews and experiences in the app, and then show up to wait in line. You game-plan out every minute of every day, and still wind up missing out on so much. PAX South took me back to some of my early conventions. Gen-Con in Indianapolis, Colossal Con in Ohio, and even Youmacon when it was still small. PAX South is a large convention that gives off the vibe of a small one, and that’s definitely a good thing.