PAX West (formerly PAX Prime) is coming up quickly! For those who are unaware, PAX (Penny Arcade Expo) West is a huge annual gaming convention at the Washington State Convention Center, featuring all kinds of gaming, concerts, cosplay, and more over Labor Day Weekend. If you survived the experience of buying tickets, or even if you can’t attend the actual convention, there’s a ton of nerdy activities that will keep you busy through the weekend.
We publish this guide because digging through the list of panels to find LGBTQ-relevant content isn’t the easiest task. And amidst the parties thrown by huge gaming publishers, gaming news networks, and podcasts, there’s a few queer focused offsite events you need to know about. It’s time to fill you in.
Please note, this list isn’t intended to be 100% comprehensive, so if we’ve missed anything, feel free to list it in the comments below. This list is also subject to changes and updates. Descriptions are taken directly from PAX’s site or event pages whenever possible. Events that require a PAX Prime badge are marked with .
Let’s queer up PAX!
Roll For Diversity Lounge
Washington State Convention Center Floor 6
A great place to find your queer friends and make new ones! You’ll find queer-centric organizations like GaymerX, Northwest Press, Houston Gaymers, and Geeks OUT, as well as plenty of other diverse representation.
Notably new this year is Xbox’s Gaming for Everyone initiative, showcasing Xbox’s commitment to diversity, as well as Ad Council’s return for the second year with expanded efforts, including a new Love Has No Labels mobile game.
Other participants include AbleGamers, GeekGirlCon, OrcaCon, Planeswalkers for Diversity, Take This, I Need Diverse Games (read more about this group in our interview with Tanya DePass), Lady Planeswalker Society and PAX Pokemon League.
If you want to meet the folks behind Jetspace Magazine, this is the place to do it! We’ll have Pink Party 9 tickets available for sale Friday and Saturday, as well as the popular Bearfriend Material shirt and one brand new T-shirt.
Thursday, Aug 31
7PM: Dungeons and Drag Queens
Timbre Room (1809 Minor Ave)
Tickets: ($10 advance, $13 day-of)
Hey! Look! A Dungeons & Drag Queens Show!
Four fabulous queens embark on a comedy quest beyond your wildest fantasies. It’s slay or be slayed in an original adventure, played live on stage for one night only. If you’re into role-play, henny, roll the dice and join us for the show that serves death drops, death saves, and drink specials to die for. Arrive early for seating! Geeky drink specials all night long! 21+ only.
The Adventurers: Harlotte O’Scara, Butylene O’Kipple, Arson Nicki, Fraya Love, Matt Baume as the Dungeon Master, DJ Robosex Homosex in the booth.
9PM: GarciaBellamy Presents: PAX Countdown 2017!
Kremwerk (1809 Minor Ave)
Join us for the 3rd annual and largest night before PAX party. Free Pizza, some free drinks, games, and Dance away to the geeky tunes of DJ King of Pants. It’s absolutely free and 21+. The event is hosted by GarciaBellamy, Queer Geek! Seattle, Pink Party Prime 9, MidBoss (and 2064: Read Only Memories), and Seattle Gaymers & Seattle Geeks.
Friday, Sep 1
10AM – 11AM: Cartoon Network Presents: Inside the Game Design of OK K.O.! & Steven Universe
Look through the lens of game animation as Cartoon Network talks about the latest adventures from Steven Universe: Save the Light and OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes coming soon! Join the CN Games team, the developers Capy and Grumpyface Studios, and special guest OK K.O.! Creator Ian Jones-Quartey to learn more about the game development and design process taking place in the worlds of critically-accliamed show Steven Universe and newest hit animated series from Cartoon Network, OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes!
Mario Piedra [Creative Director, Cartoon Network], Ian Jones-Quartey [Creator, OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes], Dan Vader [Lead Writer and Designer, Capy], Chris Graham [Creative Director and Founder, Grumpyface Studios]
(Editor’s note: This panel is not queer-specific, but since Steven Universe is incredible diverse and queer-friendly, the game will likely follow suit!)
12PM – 1PM: The Evolution of the Gaming Industry: Fresh Voices in Gaming
The gaming industry has evolved a lot over the years as new and emerging voices are calling for change and the industry is beginning to listen. Join Xbox’s Gaming for Everyone team as they host a discussion with industry influencers who are working to make gaming fun for everyone.
Benjamin Williams [Community Program Manager, Xbox], Gordon Bellamy [Advisor, TheWaveVR], Toni Rocca [President, GaymerX], Kristine Hassell [Social Media Administrator, GeekGirlCon], Craig Kaufman [Program Director, AbleGamers]
1PM – 2PM: Life is Strange: Before the Storm – A new series has begun.
Join the key developers from Deck Nine Games to celebrate the recent release of the first episode in a brand new series in the award winning videogame franchise Life is Strange.
The discussion will be kept spoiler free, but will consist of multiple, never heard before details of the game including insights of what players can expect from the new series.
The panel will include a live playthrough where the audience will choose how the action plays out, alongside a lengthy Q&A session to gain further insight direct from the development team.
(Editor’s note: Life is Strange featured queer characters and relationships and it’s likely this prequel will too.)
2PM – 3PM: Yes, This is a Diversity 101 Panel. Yes, You Still Need It.
You might know diversity and inclusion are pretty cool, but chances are someone you know doesn’t. So we’re going to give you the 101, an easy to digest and pack up discussion on why diversity is awesome that you can take back to your friends and family who still need that extra push to get it. This will be an intro level panel, but we will be giving tips and tricks to start a conversation on this topic should you find yourself trapped in a, well, actual situation.
Tanya DePass [Director, I Need Diverse Games], Chris Barney [Designer, Metahex Studio], Rachel Bazelais [Engineer, N/A], Link Hughes [Designer, ArenaNet]
6PM – 7PM: Gaming While “Other”
The casts of our favorite video games are getting more diverse with every release, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. While games like Overwatch, Assassin’s Creed, and Skyrim are pushing the envelope, you’re more likely to find the option to play an alien race than a slider bar that goes darker than light beige in many others. There’s also still the problem of entire franchises using the Brown=Bad trope, leaving entire demographics of gamers feeling lost. How can we fix that?
Hadeel al-Massari [Writer / Programmer, Freelance], Alex Abou Karam [Game Designer / Artist, Freelance], Tanya DePass [Director, I Need Diverse Games], Sean Finnegan [Producer, IGN], JC Lau [Tester, Bungie]
Saturday, Sep 2
12:30PM – 1:30PM: How to Build a Local Queer Gamer Group
So, you want to start a meetup for queer geeks in your town—or maybe you already have, and you’re looking to grow. Learn how local organizers have created inclusive and welcoming atmospheres for LGBTQIA gamers, grown existing communities, worked with venues to host events, and partnered with other groups to build membership. Seasoned organizers will walk through what worked for them and how it can work for you, and answer any questions you might have.
Matt Baume [Writer, Freelance], Eric Hulsey [President, Houston Gaymers], Justin Saint [Founder, Vancouver Gaymers], Louis Thomas [Organizer, Rough Trade Gaming Community], Ashley Cook [Organizer, Queer Geek Seattle]
3PM – 4PM: Play It Forward (Charity and Giving Back in Games)
This panel discusses how leaders and organizations in the game community are emerging and acting to make the world better in all sorts of ways, like games for veterans and hospitalized kids, safe spaces and groups to support people with anxiety and depression, and just generally giving back. And most importantly, how gamers can get involved.
Gordon Bellamy [Visiting Scholar, USC], John Polson [Senior Business Developer, Publishing Lead, Humble Bundle], Liz Cooper [President/Founder, Gamers for Good], Kevin Wallace [CEO, KWAdvising], Zach Wigal [Founder, Gamers Outreach]
6:30PM – 7:30PM: How to Broadcast Safely as a Marginalized Streamer
Broadcasting games, creative work, cosplay, tabletop games, and other hobbies can be fun, but it can also be perilous for some of us. This panel will bring you some tips and tricks such as using bots, human mods and other methods to make your experience as stress free as possible.
Brandon Stennis [Community Manager, XSplit], Tanya DePass [Director, I Need Diverse Games], Deejay Knight, Adam Koebel [GM in Residence, Roll20], Nikki-Colette Manzie [Community Outreach Coord., Gamers Outreach], Simply Undrea
8PM – 9PM: Foreplay: Romance in Games
What’s it like to be in the business of making gamers fall in love with characters that aren’t real? With a growing diversity of games, we have a broader spectrum of romances than ever. But what makes you fall in love with your favorite in-game paramour? Hitting the right balance of writing, artwork, voice acting, and music is complicated. How do the pros do it? And what could the future hold? Come cuddle up as we turn down the lights and turn down the bed on modern, digital romance.
Miellyn Fitzwater Barrows [Creative Director, Gorgeous Robot], Hilary Heskett Shapiro [Senior Brand Manager, Bethesda Softworks], Sean Baptiste [Community Manager, Adult Swim], Arden Ripley [Writer / Developer, Date or Die], Hannah Telle [Voice Actor, Life is Strange], Nicole Martinez [Writer, Telltale Games]
9PM: Pink Party Prime 9
Neumos (925 E Pike St)
21+ / $15
Pink Party Prime 9 returns to Neumos on Saturday, September 2. Bring your PAX party to our party, the biggest and best queer geek party during PAX West. You don’t even need a PAX badge to come! All of the queer gaymers, geeks, and nerds will be there. If you only come out of your parents’ basement once a year, then you’d better come out for this!
Come check out the plethora of console and arcade gaming stations in the PINK PARTY GAYMING LOUNGE (sponsored by Living Computers: Museum + Labs), enjoy a few geek-themed featured drinks, and dance your heart out to our amazing music from DJ Krot and DJ Toya B. Don’t forget to get your cosplay ready for the OFFICIAL PINK PARTY COSPLAY CONTEST (sponsored by AHF Seattle), hosted by queer comedian El Sanchez, where you can win cash and prizes.
A portion of the proceeds from Pink Party Prime 9 will benefit Seattle’s Gender Justice League.
Sunday, Sept 3
3:30 – 4:30PM: Queering Up Misconceptions (LGBTQIA Game Industry Life)
A fun and open discussion of LGBTQIA life and careers in the game industry. What’s it like? What is the state of queer content in games? How do you balance identity and fitting in? What resources are available? Queer vets from all facets of the craft share their experiences from the inside.
Gordon Bellamy [Visiting Scholar, USC], Chris Wright [Tools BVT Manager, BUNGIE], Matt Dobill [Law Clerk, Morrison-Lee], Chris Millar [CEO, Fun Bits], Morrigan Johnen [Community Manager and Social Media Manager, Crystal Dynamics], Daniel Lingen [Sr. Conversation Manager, EA]
5PM – 6PM: Community Managers: The Everyday Heroes of Gaming
Community managers play a huge role in creating safe spaces where players can be accepted without fear of discrimination (race, gender, religion, sexuality, age, ability). They set the right tone by celebrating diverse community members while managing trolls and finding a way to push out harmful behavior. Join experienced community managers from Twitch, The Sims, Rocksmith and Life is Strange as they share their stories, wins and challenges in building inclusive online communities for everyone.
Erin “Aureylian” Wayne [Lead Community Manager, Twitch], Amanda Drake [Global Community Manager, Maxis / The Sims], Dan Amrich [Community Developer for Rocksmith, Ubisoft], Eric So [Senior Community Manager, Square Enix]
6:30PM – 7:30PM: Hemming and Health: Self-Care in Cosplay
Cosplay is fun, no doubt! It’s a rich and vibrant culture. Still, there are stressors that people hesitate to talk about: time frames, physical health at conventions, anxiety, image expectations of other people (gender, body type, ethnicity, etc.), and many more. Join our panel of cosplayers as we discuss some of the stressors they’ve experienced, how to overcome them, and how to get back to the fun! Moderated by Raffael Boccamazzo (“Dr. B”), clinical director of Take This.
Raffael Boccamazzo [Clinical Director, Take This, Inc.], Mala Foxx [Owner, Adventures with Mala], Terrance Bouldin-Johnson [Owner, Epimetheus Cosplay], Brigid Lohman [Designer and Seamstress, Birdylo Custom Costumes], Kelsey Bujacich [Independent Costume Consultant], Dominique Thomas [Executive Producer, Afroductions]
Monday, Sept 5
12-1pm Don’t Pick On Loox: Surviving Conflict and Building Community
Getting along can be hard. Online, it can feel impossible. But it’s not always as simple as just turning off the game. So how can we navigate difficult online interactions without fighting fire with fire? How can we repair rifts when they pop up within our own communities? Join us as we reflect on years of research into the complex social dynamics involved in our gaming worlds & focus on concrete tools for building more inclusive spaces that can withstand the harsh winds of conflict and change.
Stacey Weber, MA, LMHC [Psychotherapist, Face the Sea], Joshua Neal, MA, LMHC [Psychotherapist, Capitol Hill Therapy], Megan Spurr [Managing Editor, Dorkadia.com]
(Editor’s note: This panel is not queer-specific, but two of the panelists are queer and there would be a focus on building more inclusive spaces.)