Califonia Extreme Pinball and Arcade Show

Ticket sales for Penny Arcade’s Seattle event, PAX Prime, began on May 2. By May 3, excited convention-goers had claimed every available pass. From the weekend badge that permits access to the whole of the festivities down to the single-day Friday, Saturday, or Sunday tickets.

“The bottom line is that we have something like 200,000 people who want to attend a show that only holds about 60,000,” Penny Arcade’s Mike Krahulik wrote in his blog. “No matter what we do, there will be 140,000 upset people. So what is the answer?”

Krahulik says the organizational team has considered a third PAX, moving the current Prime to a bigger venue, and extending the show into Monday. None of that will help you this year, so here’s five alternative gaming conventions that you and your friends can still get tickets to:

California Extreme
Santa Clara, California — July 28 and 29
Tickets: $60 – Weekend, $40 – Saturday, $30 – Sunday

Each year, a group of private pinball and arcade-game collectors bring their babies out to a Santa Clara Hyatt and set them all to free play. The list of available titles is staggering (see them all here). The odds are high that the floor will have more than a few classics that you’ve never seen in person before. Tournaments and seminars on how to become a pinball wizard round out the event which lasts late into the night.

California Extreme is getting more popular each year, and it can get moderately crowded throughout the afternoon. If your favorite machine has two or three people waiting, just check back later in the evening after most of the families have taken off.

Evolution Championship Series
Las Vegas, Nevada — July 6 – 8
Registration: $50 plus $10 per event for tournament participants, spectating is free

The Evolution Championship Series, or Evo for short, is the world’s largest fighting-game tournament. It brings together the best players across several different popular titles. The marquee event this year is Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition, Version 2012. Other tourneys include Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, Mortal Kombat 9, Soul Calibur 5, King of Fighters XIII, and Street Fighter X Tekken. If you’re good enough (you probably already know if you are), then register and compete to win respectable sized prizes. If you’re just someone who loves fighting games, then the good news is that it’s free to enter and spectate.

Don’t be scared. Evo makes it pretty clear that everyone is welcome. Each event features relaxed free-play consoles for people who find themselves jonesing for some action after watching the best of the best do their thing.

Portland Retro Gaming Expo
Portland, Oregon — September 29 and 30
Tickets: Sales begin May 6

The Portland-based Retro Gaming Expo is run by a non-profit organization that aims to educate people about the history of video games. It achieves this by preserving the software and hardware and presenting them in their original state to the public. Tournaments and panels flesh out the two-day convention, and the live auction sounds like it could scratch that Antiques Road Show itch that we all secretly harbor.

This is yet another expanding show. It just moved into the Oregon Convention Center, which is much bigger than its previous digs. With tickets going on sale tomorrow, it could see an influx of interested north-western gamers who missed out on their yearly pilgrimage to PAX Prime.

Strategicon GameX
Los Angeles, California — May 25 – 28
Tickets: $40 – full con (pre-register), $50 – full con (at the door), $30 – one-day (Saturday/Sunday), $10 one-day (Friday/Monday)

Board and card games are a huge part of the PAX experience. Strategicon’s late-spring GameX may fill the gap with board games (Ticket to Ride), card games (Dominion), live-action role-playing (Cthulu Dice), and more. That doesn’t mean GameX is bereft of digital entertainment. Open tourneys involving League of Legends and Diablo III are scheduled for each day.

A “GameX Stand-up Comedy Show” and “Gamemaster Piece Theater” both sound like the perfect panels to shake off your hand cramps from hours of shuffling through Munchkin cards.

Blip Festival
New York City, New York — May 25 – 27
Tickets: General admission starts at $31, three-day pass — $64.60 (prices could vary)

A good chunk of people attend the Penny Arcade Expo almost solely for the music. If the chiptunes genre (music made with video-game sound effects and audio synthesizers) is your scene, then this three-day concert event is the seemingly random combination of incomprehensible noises that you’ve been looking for. The lineup features 17 artists including MisfitChris, Bit Shifter, and Chipocrite.

The tiny Gramercy Theater has a 499-seat capacity which will provide an intimate venue comparable to the PAX experience.  The only real difference is that this place actually has seats.

Be it PAX or GameX, all conventions are nothing without the people you attend with. So if you and your friends are planning an alternative to your traditional Seattle trip, let us know in the comments. Hell, some of us may end up joining you.

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