Like so many of the people who went to PAX Prime this year, you may have been struck with a feeling of dejection as you came to the realization that it was ending. The three day celebration each year when nerds of many kinds get together and do all of their favorite things is a powerful experience, and who better to talk with about it than the man behind the scenes, Robert Khoo.
Robert Khoo serves as the "Show Director" for PAX, meaning he's making sure the convention is running smoothly. As much as the driving force behind PAX is Gabe and Tycho's machinations, Robert is the one making sure the machine is working. Khoo was kind enough to answer my questions despite his incredibly busy schedule (he's in Tokyo doing "business things").
Trung Bui: How many people were in attendance of PAX this year? I know last year was 60,750 and it looked to be the same numbers, if not more. Attendance seems to grow each year, and with PAX East also going on, do you expect the numbers to continue to climb?
Robert Khoo: 67,600 was the final tally — since we sell out each year, we’re actually limited not by demand, but by the size of the venue. With PAX East we have a lot more room to grow in that regard, so I think our Boston show attendance will be pretty interesting to track.
TB: What was your favorite moment of PAX this year?
RK: My favorite was the reveal of the Final Round of the Omegathon (the Omegaclaw!). We worked super hard to make sure the presentation was jusssst right, and after hearing the crowd freak out when the curtains opened — we knew we had done our jobs right.
TB: One of the biggest things at PAX this year had to be Duke Nukem Forever. Randy Pitchford called PAX the perfect place to unveil it, just because of the sheer number of gamers who were casual fans of Duke, or hardcore people waiting thirteen years for it. Do you believe that PAX has turned into something a bit more commercial because of this? Or do you think that these kinds of things are rewarding to gamers who make the trek out to Seattle every year?
RK: Has PAX gone commercial? God, I hope so! Videogames are products that people buy, and PAX is about the culture that surrounds those products and the experiences those products create. I think Randy hit the nail on the head when he says it was the perfect place to announce DNF — I’m not sure if there would have been a more appreciative audience in the world than those at PAX. People that attend the show come out not for the announcements, but for the culture and community — having incredible things happen, like the DNF reveal, is just cream.
TB: Since my first attendance in 2008, I would definitely say that variety has improved vastly, especially with the inclusion of "Of Dice and Men", the live-action D&D panel, but the heart of the convention has always been gamers getting together and doing things they all love. Would you want to see variety extend even further?
RK: I’m not so sure — people seem to really love the formula of the show we’ve created. We like to tweak things here and there, but PAX is often considered the highlight of the year to a lot of people. I don’t think it would be prudent to try and mix it up too much.
TB: PAX is pretty much your baby, you're the managing director for Child's Play and you've been with Penny Arcade since 2002. Could you imagine yourself not working for them now, given your illustrious career?
RK: Haha — you know, looking back at it, yes — it seems like quite a body of work, but could I see myself elsewhere? I’ll tell you what — when I feel Penny Arcade has reached its maximum potential, I’ll start dusting off the resume. But we’re not even close yet.
TB: Penny-Arcade: The Series has given people a bigger glimpse into the workings of the office, the workers, and the writing process for each comic. Did you ever have any reluctance to have a crew come in there and record the possibly deep and dark habits you, or anyone else, has?
RK: Absolutely. Letting the crew in was terrifying at first, but we felt we had something special in the office and sharing it with our audience was something worth doing. After the pilot episodes hit, we put our fears to bed, and the rest is history.
TB: Do you have any dream projects to add to PAX? I know it's already huge in scale and has a lot going on during the convention, but still, what's that one thing you still yearn to include?
RK: I’d love to add an artist alley of sorts specifically for game-artists — we’ve just been trying to figure out the best way to pull it off.
Khoo's thoughts are definitely interesting and eye-opening, and I for one would be incredibly excited to see a game artist's alley. After all, a game is little more than an idea without visualization. As far as the commercialization of PAX, Khoo hit the nail on head regarding the convention's objective. Believe me, it is incredibly hard to describe the reaction I saw when people first set their eyes on the Duke Nukem Forever booth. It was like the opposite of Alderaan blowing up.
With the opening of PAX East last year giving East Coast nerds a place to call home, the PAX empire continues to expand. People fly out from all over the country to attend the event, and any one who has ever been understands why. There's no doubt in my mind, as the years go on, that the Penny Arcade Expo will have solidified its role as Nerd Mecca.
Ranters, how many of you made the trip to PAX this year? What did you think of the show? How would you like to see it develop in the future?
Game Rant would like to thank Robert Khoo for taking the time to speak with us.