Image source: Latinx in Gaming
Tucked away in a second floor conference room at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas was an experimental section of PAX South 2020. The Latinx Lounge was a new area of the gaming convention hosted by the Latinx in Gaming community, and dedicated to providing games, panels and events featuring latinx creators, developers, and personalities.
The Latinx Lounge was a fantastic idea, and the organizers did a great job stuffing as many events as possible over the three-day convention, including panels with notable developers and streamers (some entirely in Spanish), a one-shot D&D live show in a world inspired by Latin America, and even Friday night Salsa dancing lessons.
Salsa dancing lessons in the #LatinxLounge at #PAXSouth! pic.twitter.com/nTSXlm5TUB
— Guy ‘Yug’ Blomberg 🔜 #DICE2020 (@YugSTAR) January 18, 2020
The lounge also held a number of indie game from latinx developers, including Nevegante, Stonebot Studio, and HyperBeard Games. When the conference room wasn’t holding a full-scale event, the room was open for anyone to wander in and check out the games that awkwardly encircled the perimeter.
Unfortunately for those developers, PAX South goers have little reason to explore beyond the first floor of the convention center, which hosts the bright lights and loud noises of the PAX Arena tournament, the always busy hustle of the developers and vendors in the Expo Hall, and the more subdued but popular tabletop freeplay and tournament area.
In fact one of PAX South’s most unique features, the escape room-esque True Dungeon experience, was moved to the first floor next to the Expo Hall. And with the unique way the convention center is laid out, attendees can quickly jump back and forth between the handheld lounge on the 2nd floor above the entrance lobby, or even reach the third floor to access the PC and console freeplay areas, without ever walking past the Latinx Lounge.
At PAX South 2020, the only reason to explore the back end of the second floor (beyond the expo hall) was to attend a panel in one of the smaller theaters. Given the amount of panels and events hosted in the Latinx Lounge, it made sense to utilize a more private conference room. But it also meant the developers who wanted to showcase their games to passersby got the short end of the stick.
I dropped by the Latinx Lounge early Sunday afternoon, having spent two full days in the expo hall demoing games and chatting with developers and publishers. The room was so empty that at first I wasn’t sure I was in the right place. Lining the walls were several friendly developers with demo stations of their upcoming games. I didn’t have to make any appointments to jump on and play several of them in a row – a feat that’s largely impossible on the busy show floor.
I’m glad I made the time to go check it out, as I demoed some of my favorite games of the entire convention, including Stonebot’s 2D tower-defense brawler, The Last Friend, and Nevegante’s party-based platformer, Greak. All the developers were friendly and eager to chat, and some brought along game-branded merchandise to sell or hand out. But these games would have been much better served with a dedicated presence on the expo hall. Judging from this year’s map, the expo hall had plenty of room to spare.
A great example of ceding more prominent space to a new initiative was PAX Together. Like the indie-focused PAX Rising and Tabletop Indie Showcase, PAX Together had a dedicated space on the show floor that highlighted LGBTQ and other marginalized developers. It was hosted by Houston Gaymers and Gay Gaming Professionals and sponsored by Red Bull.
The games included in the PAX Together booth, like dating sim-meets-dungeon crawler Boyfriend Dungeon and the whimsical Zelda-like Garden Story, were not simply shoved into the Diversity Lounge, a dedicated space for underrepresented communities in gaming that has been an evolving feature of PAX conventions for the last several years. Thanks to Red Bull and the PAX Together organizers, they were given a prominent location in the expo hall with cheerful hosts and colorful banners to draw people in to check out the games.
PAX Together was a great source of relatively unknown (and completely unknown) indie games. Yet it was always a popular area thanks to its welcoming crew, open design, vibrant displays, and central location. I wish the games of the Latinx Lounge had been given the same treatment.
Both PAX Together and the Latinx Lounge brought many more developers – and more diverse developers, to PAX South 2020 than would otherwise have been able to attend. I saw a wider variety of games and met folks from varying backgrounds who enriched my PAX experience. Hopefully Latinx in Gaming can be given a proper booth in the expo hall in addition to hosting fun and insightful panels and events. I hope to see both initiatives become regular staples in all future PAX conventions.