BOSTON, MA—The one overwhelming impression I'll take away from this year's PAX East is that gaming culture is now undeniably driven by "content creators," professional gamers, and amateur players sharing their work and their play with the world.
This is far from a new trend, both in gaming in general and at conventions like PAX East, which attracted tens of thousands of gamers to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center this weekend. Streaming and eSports stars have been a growing presence in the expo hall and in the panel rooms for a few years now, after all.
But things seem to have reached a tipping point at this year's show. The PAX Arena booth was one of the most raucous in the whole convention, drawing huge crowds for competitions in everything from Fortnite to FIFA. Right next door Geico—of all companies—once again hosted a major Hearthstone tournament that drew throngs of applauding fans for major player personalities. Other booths held their own amateur and professional competitions (including a whole lot of PUBG) to highlight their hardware, their software, or, in the case of Discord, their surprisingly popular community management hubs.
Amazon-owned streaming site Twitch took up a large portion of the show floor with a lavish booth that provided a respite for its "partners," that "exclusive group of the world's most popular video game broadcasters, personalities, leagues, teams, and tournaments" as Twitch puts it. Not to be outdone, Facebook Gaming had its own lavish booth next door highlighting how it, too, can let you share livestreamed gameplay video with your friends on its massive platform.
Microsoft is trying to get in on the same space with Mixer, its own streaming solution that featured yet another massive booth where content creators could stream from soundproof booths. Nearby, the usually staid Nintendo hosted a constant stream of live commentary over four-on-four Splatoon 2 matches, trying to encourage its own eSports phenomenon. And farther down the show floor, signings for YouTube and Twitch personalities like JackSepticEye weaved around in massive, three-hour queues.
While there was the usual selection of single player indie games on hand this year, and virtual reality continues to be a major draw at live events like these, it was the booths and events focused on sharing that seemed to have the biggest impact. It's a trend that seems likely to continue as the generation that grew up taking broadband Internet and online gameplay for granted continues to grow into an ever larger force in the gaming market.
We'll have more game impressions and embargoed news from the PAX show floor in the coming days. For now, check out the gallery above to see some of the best costumes, products, and promotional displays we came across on the show floor.