By Sam Coulter
From a young age, Pacific Northwest native Sam Coulter was drawn to the weird and wonderful in life. When she travels she looks for the places and things that are overlooked, odd and sometimes macabre. In the occasional column Weird Wanderings she’ll share her quirky adventures and all their accompanying weirdness.
One of my first forays into Washington’s weirdest places was to Seattle’s Penny Arcade Expo, West, commonly called PAX. PAX is a massive international game convention originally started in Washington by the popular webcomic artists of the acclaimed Penny Arcade. The multi-day convention debuts new games, games in development, board games, apps, artists and more. There’s a slew of sellers hocking tons of merchandise. I’ve never been much of a gamer, but a group of friends persuaded me to attend with them, twice, promising good times and sweet swag.
PAX West takes place annually starting in late August and ending on Labor Day. This year’s convention runs August 30 through Sept. 2. In order to get a good place in line and get goodie bags before they ran out, we left at midnight in order to arrive at 8 a.m., waiting in line for a couple of bleary hours in the rain while playing Pokémon Go. Though the goodie bags are offered every day until they run out, the throngs of attendees burn through them pretty quickly.
After a long walk down an unsuspecting grey hallway, we went through a set of double doors into intense electronic dance music and pink and blue lights. It was cinematic and more elaborate than I could have imagined. Though I mostly walked around in a sleep-deprived daze, developers, artists and pros brought their A-game to this convention. Some highlights include:
- A chance to play cutting-edge VR and brand new games (be prepared to deal with the germs and the sweaty stink of hundreds of other nerds though).
- The opportunity to meet innovators and artists who make games possible.
- Lots of free T-shirts and swag.
- Seeing a full grown man dressed in a Sonic the Hedgehog costume in a foot race (though you probably won’t see this every year, expect some crazy cosplay antics for sure).
There’s usually an entire floor dedicated to board games, and the Cards Against Humanity company has had some wild interactive swag or merchandise. The first year I went they had delicious popsicles with descriptive flavors such as, “It’s too late to stop climate change cherry,” and “Mango F*@! Yourself.” Who doesn’t love a tasty frozen treat that insults you or reminds you that the planet is doomed?
In what I describe as the board game cave, we got to act as beta testers, playing games like the now cult favorite, Secret Hitler. We were locked in a safe where we had to wear cat ears and use clues to find our way out (this was before escape rooms were widely in vogue).
PAX was, and still is pretty expensive. Expect to pay around $55 a day to attend and plan to purchase tickets as soon as they go on sale. Friday and Saturday are usually the most coveted days and can sell out within minutes. Find out more at https://west.paxsite.com/.
Other Peculiar Places in Seattle
Regrouping after PAX, we visited Rock Box in Capitol Hill for a few hours of karaoke and bar hopping. Rockboxx specializes in Japanese style karaoke, where you and your party can share a private room, rather than awkwardly singing in front of a gaggle of tipsy randos. If you want to sing with friends sans the strangers, Rockboxx’s private room karaoke is a great way to spend an evening. Just be sure to make a reservation in advance.
Anyone with even the slightest nerdy leanings should visit the Museum of Pop Culture Seattle, between the Queen Anne Hill and Capitol Hill districts of Seattle. There’s something for nerds from all walks of life, and it holds some of the most significant props and costumes from science fiction, horror, and pop culture in all its facets. There’s the “Terminator” robot, Luke’s lightsaber, original costumes from the “Thriller” music video, and so much more. There are interactive exhibits, historical visits, and the best gift shop I’ve ever seen. It’s relevant and poignant, because the museum shows visitors how deeply pop culture plays into our lives. It’s a true Washington treasure.
Sam Coulter is a neurotic traveller and creative that likes exploring the bizarre and surreal aspects of cultures near and far. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.