PAX South – the Comic-Con of video games, a geek’s Fiesta, the Wrestlemania of roleplaying games, Sundance of socially awkward gaming enthusiasts – will bring the best of video game culture to San Antonio from Jan. 29 to 31. 

The three-day convention includes panels with the biggest names in the gaming industry. Thousands of square feet of space at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center will show off the newest and greatest games, as well as 24-hour parties, concerts, tournaments and events.

I’m ready for this.

I previously attended PAX Prime in Seattle and the first annual PAX South in San Antonio last year. I also hosted PAX Game Night and made progress on my own video game/theater project Heroes Must Die last year, but this year, I’m all in.

Maybe it was because I stowed away on the organizers’ plane home, stumbled out of their luggage four days later and demanded a spot in the show; for whatever reason, I’m exhibiting this year and participating in a panel, “Gamedev In SA: Can We Attract Business to the Alamo City?” with local technologists, educators, and gaming community organizers. All of Heroic Games’ PAX  game, panel and event information can be found on our blog.

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Though I love PAX like a drowning bee loves mixed metaphors, I had a bone to grind, an axe to pick. Much more could have been done to connect the city to the conference. Half the gamers I spoke with had no idea that PAX had selected San Antonio for its southern conference. Few San Antonians exhibited or spoke on panels last year. Where were the specials from hotels and restaurants? Where were the meetings at Geekdom to encourage young companies to showcase? Where were the sit-downs with the art groups working to revitalize downtown?

It seemed that the organizers did very little to reach out to local business, and locals did little to promote the convention. PAX South received light local media coverage, including a preview and review published by the Rivard Report, but this year I wanted to really add some local flavor to the conference.

The 2015 conference was a success, with more than 40,000 attendees, it was the most heavily attended first-year of all four worldwide PAX conventions – but there seemed to be a missed opportunity.

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I worked with TechBloc this year to coordinate meetings with the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau, and reached out to event organizers through friends in the industry to make connections. Whatever the outcome, at least I can say that I tried.

The wheels are in motion to make future official connections, but improvements have already been made on their own. A number of people from Texas and San Antonio are representing as exhibitors and panelists, and the word has spread farther this time around. I had planned to go “into” the Internet to find these people and bring their words to you. Several broken monitors and a soiled Tron suit later, I went “into” the Internet less literally and reached out to locals on social media.

Here is an incomplete but fairly representative list of the thoughts and activities of Texas and Alamo City residents as they prepare for the convention’s second year in San Antonio and second year of growth. For a more complete list of Texas exhibitors see Macbitt’s PAX South Guide.

Rick CanfieldSan Antonio-based game tester, filmmaker, photojournalist

“With the right vision and passion, San Antonio may see its own emerging creative economy tap into the multibillion dollar global game industry, spurred on by the rising creative class of San Antonio talent, adding on to the cultural mission of SA2020 that Alamo City Comic Con and last year’s inaugural Alamo City Film Festival have already spearheaded,” said Rick Canfield, host of Gamers United. “To become a leading city in the arts, it will take a collective effort during this renewed virtual renaissance.”

New Experience WorkshopSan Antonio-based tabletop game publisher, former PAX exhibitor

“While we won’t be exhibiting in an official capacity, we will be returning this year to represent New Experience Workshop Games in the free play area,” stated a representative for the tabletop game publisher New Experience Workshop. “Our first game made its public debut at PAX South last year and since then has been successfully Kickstarted and professionally published. We’re looking forward to bringing it back along with new demos and more fun stuff this time around.”

PathFinder Society San Antonio, worldwide fantasy roleplaying campaign

“The Pathfinder Society of San Antonio will be there with a booth signing people up for Pathfinder Society in general and running Pathfinder games all weekend,” stated a spokesperson for the gaming group.

“Princess Javier,” local gaming enthusiast

“As an avid gamer, cosplayer, convention attendee, and San Antonio native, I’m extremely excited to see what PAX South has to offer this year,” said Princess Javier.”This year I hope to interact more with the expo attendees and make more friends as well as cosplay for the majority of the weekend!” 

Finn Staber, Austin-based game developer, PAX panelist

“I’m a programmer/designer at Portalarium working on Shroud of the Avatar,” stated Finn Staber, a game developer in Austin and a PAX panelist. “I’ve helped launch seven successful tech startups in Austin. Two of my side studios are creating VR (virtual reality) experiences, and are slated for potential launch titles with the HTC Vive. The week following PAX South is going to be huge in Austin, with tech events for the Austin Unity Meetup group and VRAustin.”

JD Donovan, Houston-based podcaster, gamer, and PAX event host

“I run the Ultcast podcast, new episode every Friday,” stated Donovan. “You can look us up on iTunes and Stitcher as well visit www.ultness.com.” Donovan also hosted PAX Game Night last year and will co-host Heroic Games this year.

Extra Life Guild, San Antonio-based charity organization and PAX Volunteers

“The Extra Life San Antonio guild will be at PAX South in support of the Extra Life to help man the booth in the exhibition hall throughout the event,” stated a representative of the charity organization Extra Life Guild, which raises money for the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. “We will be joined by members of the Extra Life Austin guild, along with members of the RackerGamers crew to help staff the event. Events like PAX are major recruiting events for the Extra Life group since it focuses on our main demographic, but more than anything it is a way for us to spread the mission of Extra Life. Every person that learns about Extra Life has the potential to take that message with them back home and start the movement in their hometown to benefit a children’s hospital near them.”

*Top Image: Retro Gaming area at PAX South 2015. Photo Courtesy of Rick Canfield.

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Rick Stemm

Rick Stemm is a game designer, playwright, educator, and community leader in San Antonio. He teaches at Say Si, works with various San Antonio theaters, and helps run pretty much every game development...