Penny Arcade Expo is a massive annual get-together in Seattle for people who like to have fun. (Which is everyone.) We popped by the halls recently to check out the players, and found a lot more diversity than you might’ve found a few years ago at an event like this.
Lately a lot of smart game commentators have been talking about the “death of gamer,” or “the gamer is dead,” or “the end of gamers,” an idea that is both intriguing and dumb. It’s intriguing because it’s referring to a phenomenon that is actually happening, and it’s dumb because the words “death” or “end” are totally misleading.
Here’s what’s happening: the term “gamer” used to refer to a specific type of aggressive nerdy white male who is highly invested in games where you play as an aggressive white alpha-male fantasy man who shoots people and acquires women like they’re power-ups. But now, “gamer” is increasingly including feminists, and gays, and people of color, and your elderly aunt, and people who play Candy Crush. In other words, you can call yourself a gamer even if you don’t like Call of Duty.
In fact, for the first time ever, the event featured a Diversity Lounge that catered specifically to LGBTs and allies. (They also had a room at the smaller PAX East this spring.) The lounge featured booths for queer and queer-adjacent developers, gender-neutral bathrooms, and in general a safe space to hang out and have a good time. PAX donated a ton of resources to the lounge, from tables to A/V equipment, so they’re really putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to making a convention where everyone is welcome.
Changes like this are freaking out some of the old-style gamers, who are scared that their community might fall apart. That is a legitimate concern! Shifting demographics have the potential to change communities! Even communities that alienate anyone who isn’t straight, white and misogynist.
But ultimately “gamer” isn’t dying, it’s just including more people. And it’s hard to see it as a bad thing that more people are having fun.
Scroll on down for some pics of the con.
Tallen and Steve wait for an opportunity to play Captain Toad.
Stanlo is crossplaying as a Larry Croft. Like, a really hot Larry Croft. Nice to see not everyone skips leg day.
Oscar and Armin are not furries (that we know of.) They came to PAX to represent Goat Sim, and also to eat tin cans.
Nick and Jolie step away from the excitement for a quick breather.
Neon and Glitz came to volunteer and generally be the most amazing power-couple in town. Check out the matching tattoos!
Mitchell consented to receive an orc-related handprint in exchange for a free t-shirt. Josh, as a Doctor, is above such shenanigans.
Mike, Brett and Doc like their victims like they like their coffee.
A dignified stance from Mark and James.
Mandy’s costume is pretty spot-on, huh Mister J?
Kyle (in what he said was Officer Jenny drag, but we don’t quite see it), Jun and Garius are more or less on-theme.
Here’s Kurtis and Malachi, everyone.
Kurt draws the attention of a security guard who really did not want any photos taken, possibly because she is actually Larry “Bud” Melman in hiding.
At first we were like “wait this isn’t game cosplay” but then we were like “ohhh, Kingdom Hearts,” so we’ll allow it, and not just because Justin is incredibly rad.
We forgot to ask what game Kristina’s costume is from … is it Bioshock? Somebody help us out.
Plopping is strictly forbidden, especially when there are Creepers afoot.
Pikachu, get down from there.
Bears have invaded the Sony booth.
Hunter, Morgan and Nathan have no idea they’re in the presence of royalty.
Caleb and Miranda are flashy dressers.
Andrew and David adopt a fighting stance.
Andrew and Madison have led us to speculate that a sim game about Time Lords would be pretty amazing.
Adrian and Amitie are out to save their respective planets. Although you can’t see it in this photo, Olimar’s nose has been subtly rouged, which is a nice touch.