Gaming enthusiasts try out Intel's both featuring DX Racer chairs and Alienware PCs. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone
Gaming enthusiasts try out Intel's booth featuring DX Racer chairs and Alienware PCs at PAX South 2016. Credit: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / San Antonio Report

San Antonio gamer Christian Perez has attended every PAX South convention since the gaming event first launched in San Antonio in 2015. His streak now has come to an abrupt end.

Known as the “the most attended gaming convention in the southern U.S.,” PAX South organizers ReedPop and Penny Arcade announced late last week that PAX South will not take place in January 2021 “out of an abundance of caution in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic.”

Already eagerly planning meet-ups, after-parties, and networking mixers of their own based around the convention, San Antonio gamers have been left to lament the cancellation of the event. According to officials from Visit San Antonio, 254 citywide and in-house meetings have been canceled in 2020 and 2021, totaling $410.9 million in lost economic impact. Currently, there are 60 conventions scheduled in 2021, representing an estimated economic impact of $199.3 million.

“It is unfortunate but this is our reality right now,” Perez said. “I just hope we can move on from the current situation and that there will be a PAX South in 2022.”

The emerging coronavirus pandemic had raised concerns at PAX East 2020 in Boston, which was held Feb. 27-March 1 this year. PAX West in Seattle, PAX Unplugged in Philadelphia, and PAX Australia in Melbourne all were canceled this year because of the pandemic.

For the past five years, PAX South has brought tens of thousands of people to the heart of the Alamo City to meet other gamers, display their own new games or related artwork, or check out the latest in gaming technology.

Held each January at the Henry B. González Convention Center, the event has helped grow San Antonio’s own gaming community while helping local game developers launch, said Ansley Partosa, event coordinator for the Greater Gaming Society of San Antonio. 

“On one hand, I’m sad and worried about local gaming businesses and talent that rely on the pull of PAX South to help their businesses grow,” Partosa said. “On the other hand, I definitely think everyone’s health and safety should be the No. 1 concern.”

Victoria Sertich, coordinator of the game development program at Northwest Vista College, said it was the first PAX South in 2015 that led to the creation of the Greater Gaming Society of San Antonio. 

“Before that we all thought we were the only ones here making games; we were all unaware of each other,” Sertich said. “So at that time we started the Greater Gaming Society.”

Sertich also said showcasing at PAX South for the past three years has been helpful for her own local gaming studio, 3D Generation

“Not many people realize there are games being made here, so it was a great way to connect with our local community,” Sertich said.

Before PAX South, there wasn’t a large community of game developers in San Antonio, Sertich said. Having a major gaming convention in San Antonio for the past five years has encouraged more San Antonians to explore esports while boosting the local economy, she added.

“For our students, it was great to have an event like this that not only is for the consumer gamer side of things, but the industry side,” Sertich said. “PAX was always gracious enough to give us a panel to talk about San Antonio’s gaming and game development community.”

Not having the convention this year likely will have economic implications on San Antonio’s tourism industry this year, said Chris Saenz, store manager at local social gaming lounge PLAYLive Nation.

“Unfortunately we will hurt,” Saenz said. “But that’s everywhere right now, and San Antonio is resilient and innovative.”

Organizers ReedPop and Penny Arcade said in a statement that they look forward to PAX South’s return to San Antonio in 2022 “with the support and guidance of local government and health officials.”

Perez said he definitely plans to attend PAX South 2022 – unless he ends up moving to Japan before then. 

“PAX South has been one of my favorite events,” Perez said.

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Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report.