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PAX Unplugged proves tabletop gaming is more than a hobby

Nerd culture that's inclusive.
PAX Unplugged comes to the Pennsylvania Convention Center Nov. 17 to Nov. 19. | Provided
PAX Unplugged comes to the Pennsylvania Convention Center Nov. 17 to Nov. 19. Provided

Philadelphia is rapidly becoming one of the cornerstones to the tabletop gaming community. Penny Arcade X, or PAX, visits the city of brotherly love Nov. 17-19 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Quintin Smith of “Shut Up & Sit Down,” an immensely popular board game review show and podcast, sat down with us to talk about the expanding culture behind tabletop gaming. He dispelled some of the myths behind it, and discussed how PAX Unplugged will be a platform to help advocate young, artistic talent, inclusivity and diversity in gaming.

PAX isn’t some taboo nerd conference. Since 2004, PAX has grown to be one of the largest, most sophisticated video game conferences in the world, with annual visits to Seattle, San Antonio, Boston, and Australia that attract hundreds of thousands of attendees. PAX establishing itself in Philadelphia is a huge deal, and Smith emphasized the importance of bringing people together. “Thousands of people who all love playing games together descending on a city for a big love-in? It's magical!” Smith said. “People hear the phrase ‘board game convention’ and assume it's going to be a load of competitive, stern nerds trying to prove that they're the best at Monopoly, but that couldn't be further from the truth.”

Tabletop culture is on the cusp of a renaissance. With the help of the internet, especially the likes of streaming on YouTube and Twitch, the conversation around tabletop gaming never stops. Accessibility has been key to its growth, and Smith weighed in. “I think the board game renaissance that we're enjoying today began picking up speed in the early noughties. There are of course games that were designed in the '70s, '80s and '90s that we still play today, but the amount of new releases and the speed at which ideas evolve in 2017 is just unheard of.” Smith also noted that sales are skyrocketing, and board games are finding their way in at digital gaming conferences. Add that to the boom of board game cafes springing up in cities all over the world, the renaissance can’t be ignored. Places like Redcap Cafe and Amalgam Comics are leaders for tabletop culture in Philly.

Players and designers come from all walks of life, and diversity is finding its way into the mix. “There's been a really fantastic shift towards inclusivity in recent years,” Smith added. “With the board game community making more of an effort to welcome people of different backgrounds into a hobby which has occasionally been antisocial, and is almost always male and white. A lot of that shift has come from the younger players, so I'd tell them to give themselves a pat on the back and keep up the good work.”

Tickets are still available for PAX Unplugged. For more information, visit unplugged.paxsite.com.