Attendees try out new games during the first PAX South in 2015.
Attendees play new games during the first PAX South in 2015. Credit: Iris Dimmick / San Antonio Report

Players, designers, and costumed fans of all things gaming will take over the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center starting this Friday for the third annual PAX South, a three day showcase of modern game craft and culture. PAX officials expect 2017’s convention to be the biggest to date, exceeding last year’s 40,000 participants.

The PAX South weekend is packed with panel discussions, live concert performances, autograph sessions, and an array of game-related competitions and events. Also featured is an expansive exhibit hall, a handheld lounge, and designated areas for console, PC, and tabletop gaming. As is expected at such an event, participants are encouraged to show off their best cosplay.

To register, click here.

Since PAX South made its San Antonio debut in 2015, local participation in the convention has expanded, as has independent game development in the city.

The youngest gaming pioneers at this year’s convention stem from SAY Sí’s Home for Innovation & Video Ecology program. The group of young developers, ages 14-18, worked collaboratively with instructors from the after school arts program for six months to develop “Date Me Super Senpai,” a dating simulation RPG (role-playing game). The game is set in a high school for superhumans, where players explore the school grounds and make choices that affect who they can date and how they are perceived by other characters.

The characters represent all body types, gender identities, and sexual orientations, so all players feel included as they meander the stresses of school and search for love in this simulated world. Currently in its developmental stages, the game is expected to be released this summer.

The SAY Sí students will be part of the new “San Antonio Game Devs” booth, which will showcase local independent game makers, such as Hebi Studios, Heroic Games, 3D Generation, Infinity Online Studios and Ractive, as well as local art organizations and educational institutions, including Alamo City Studios, The Art Institute of San Antonio, Southwest School of Art.

“It is an honor for SAY Sí’s high school game designers to participate in the PAX conference for the first time this year,” said Jon Hinojosa, SAY Sí’s artistic and executive director. “They … [developed] a gaming experience that is unique and progressive. To be showcased on such a platform not only reinforces their hard work as legitimate and valued, it also binds them to the growing creative community of designers here in San Antonio.”

Buoyed by a successful PAX South in 2015, local game designer and artist Rick Stemm led efforts to increase collaboration between conference organizers and the local community. He spearheaded a series of meetings with PAX officials to discuss increasing opportunities for San Antonio game developers.

In addition to the booth, which will also offer information about development groups such as Greater Gaming Society of San Antonio and the San Antonio chapter of the International Game Developers Association, PAX contributed 100 complimentary badges for game design students from Northwest Vista College, Say Sí, The Art Institute of San Antonio, Blue Star’s Mosaic Program and Trinity University.

On Sunday, Jan. 29, from 2:30-3:30 p.m., a panel discussion, Game Dev in SA – San Antonio’s Indie Scene, will take place at the Bobcat Theatre. Panelists include Heroic Games Founder Stemm, Ractive Founder Jonathan Perry, Merge VR CEO Andrew Trickett, Hebi Studios Founder and CEO Angelus Delacroix, and independent game writer Kristen Perez.

“Anyone with any interest in the local [gaming] scene needs to attend this panel,” Stemm told the Rivard Report. “[It] will include an update on accomplishments of the past year, our plans moving forward, and everything you need to know about how to get involved.”

PAX, which stands for Penny Arcade eXpo, began in 2004 in Bellevue, Wash., and has since expanded to five different events in cities across the United States and Australia. It is now considered the largest consumer gaming convention in the country.

PAX South hours are Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m.-midnight and Sunday from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. The exhibit floor closes at 6 p.m. each night. At the time of publication, PAX South three-day and Saturday passes were sold out, but Friday and Sunday passes were still available. For more information, click here.

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Kurt Gardner

Kurt Gardner is a cultural critic and digital marketing professional. He reviews film, theater, and music for Blogcritics, ArtBeatLA and ArtSceneSA.