From the beginning, PAX has been a celebration of gaming culture — and not just the video kind. Set aside from the expo floor and the main theatres is the “Big Top”, where disciples of board, card and collapsing stacked blocks can seek refuge with their own kind (which includes myself).
The Big Top is a fairly massive space and combined with its out-of-the-way position and focus on gaming of the non-computerised kind, it doesn’t get quite the same traffic as the expo itself. That’s not to say it’s completely uninhabited — far from it, as you can see from the photo below.
There’s also a large console gaming area, so it’s not devoid of electronic entertainment if you feel the need to grab a peripheral and inhale a few newbies in Super Smash Bros.. That said, you’d be completely missing the point of this area of the show.
In many ways, I actually prefer the quieter, slower-paced atmosphere of the Big Top. I’m also a board game nut, so I could easily spend the entire day there watching or playing. It’s definitely more spacious than most other areas of PAX, so if you’re looking for somewhere to walk around without being crushed, pushed or prodded while still getting your game on, I would recommended spending some time here.
The biggest draw card is the Wizards of the Coast stand towards the back of the Big Top, where it’s all about Magic: The Gathering. From what I understand, the nice crew from Melbourne’s own Games Laboratory are helping run the section, so if you’re looking to cast or purchase a few counterspells (or say hello), you’d do well to check it out.
Finally, you have to pass through the Big Top to get to the Skippy Theatre, which sits above a building outside the left-most entrance (if you’re coming from the expo floor). It’s at Skippy where Michael Shanks held his panel and it’s also where I almost died (slight exaggeration there).
I was coming down the stairs from the Skippy Theatre when some poor guy behind me slipped and tobogganed into my legs. Fortunately, with the stairs completely wet from the rain, I had a firm grasp of the hand rail and managed to avoid serious harm.
Oh, and the other guy was alright too.