Let me start off by saying I’ve been going to gaming/comic conventions for a very, very long time. Sometimes I went as a journalist. Other times I went as a company representative. Everything I’ve gone to has been fun (with the exception of the weird business thing E3 tried.) But PAX is always the most fun. It’s the only place I can take a look at some truly unique games. It’s also the only gaming-centric show that I can bring my daughter to.

The show started off perfectly for me. The keynote (which turned out to be more of a fireside chat with Jerry Holkins) was given by Amy Hennig, who is one of the best narrative game designers there is. She created the world of Uncharted with its truly three dimensional characters, which is something most games struggle to do. She talked about a lot of things, but the most interesting to me is that when she’s in process of designing a game or writing a story, she considers the player to be collaborator. She will stop at certain places and think about what the player will not only be doing, but what he or she is feeling and thinking as well.

No, she's not really being eaten by a dragon.

No, she’s not really being eaten by a dragon.

The games at PAX are amazing. I played demos for more than 10 games that I thought were really unique and compelling. I got glimpses of even more. Almost all of them were in the Indie Mega and Mini Booths, the PAX 10 and on the top floor, which has become its own indie enclave. All of these games were not only different than the releases from the big companies, they were also unique to each other. From simulation to puzzle to adventure and to the weirdest game I’ve ever seen, these titles have me so excited for the rest of this year and the early part of 2017. For details on the games I played the demos for, take a look at my PAX round-up page. In addition to those games, other titles like Political Animals, Elsinore, and a•part•ment also caught my eye.

And I saw some Hearthstone. This wasn’t a game demo (well I suppose you could learn a lot by watching,) it was a live tournament. Just like last year, one of the tournaments in the summer circuit was held live over the course of PAX. There was a big screen and a place to watch the action – not only the in-game footage, but the players as well. That said, you don’t see much more than a pensive stare from the players. But I love Hearthstone, and I loved watching the tournament at PAX. I actually learned a bit of Rogue strategy that should come in handy in the future.

Lots of fun painting miniatures.

Lots of fun painting miniatures.

The games are great, but possibly the best experience is seeing the show through my daughter’s eyes. Ana loved seeing the giant T-Rex and dragon at the booth for ARK: Survival Evolved. She loved the paint-and-take room where you could sit and quietly paint miniatures. A conversation between her and another little girl (who was dressed as Link) was great to see. They were trading details about what they were painting, and the other girl told us not to catch the “PAX Pox.”

Playing Castle Crashers was one of the highlights for her - even though we already play the game at home.

Playing Castle Crashers was one of the highlights for her – even though we already play the game at home.

Despite all of the games there, my daughter only wanted to play one that we already have at home, and that’s Castle Crashers. The Behemoth had the game running in an arcade booth. Ana had to stand on a stool to reach the controls, but it was awesome to see her play. One time she actually won against myself and two other guys. No one let her win. I was going to hit her and I missed. Then she whacked me and that’s how she won. Another game she wanted to play is also one we’ve got at home – Puzzle and Dragons. She didn’t have luck winning that game.

Everyone loses sometimes.

Everyone loses sometimes.

According to my daughter, this is a cuttlefish, not a squid.

According to my daughter, this is a cuttlefish, not a squid.

A benefit of being young and cute was the fact that Ana could basically get any swag anyone had by simply walking up and looking cute. My husband and I made a huge swag score on that account. And just like last year she gravitated to the booth that was selling big plush balls that looked like various items. Last year she got a dinosaur. This year she got what I thought was a squid, though she said more specifically that it’s a cuttlefish and she may actually be right. Thanks Octonauts!

All in all, PAX was awesome just like it always has been. I’m looking forward to next year, and how much Ana will change and like about the show.

This article was written by

Nicole has been playing games her entire life. Now that she's a mom, she's passionate about promoting games as a healthy pastime to other parents around the globe. She has been an editor at IGN, where she launched and hosted the Girlfight podcast. In her spare time (which is not very much, honestly) she enjoys gaming, reading, and writing fiction. Most of the time she’s a mom to a crazy, intelligent, and exhausting little girl.