PAX East 2018 Highlights

Post in Teq News by JessicaWenke on 20th April 2018

If I had to choose a word to sum up Pax East 2018, it would be “Madness.”  With over 12,000 attendees per day, 500 miles traveled, 4 full conference days, and 1 Teq Curriculum Specialist (that’s me!)—it was a conference to remember.

Founded by the creators of Penny Arcade, PAX is a series of gaming conferences across the U.S. (and one in Australia) that support and celebrate gaming in all forms.

As always, there was a lot to see at this year’s conference, which was held at the Boston Convention Center from April 5th-8th.

Below are my picks for the most inspiring and clever games, exhibitors, and panels at the conference. 


The Awkward Yeti – OrganATTACK, and Heart and Brain

Originally published as as children’s book, The Awkward Yeti, by Nick Seluk, is a series of cartoons that follow the inner dialog between the Awkward Yeti, and his heart and brain (as seen below).

Along with the cartoon, Seluk has created a series of games based on those characters that mix education and humor. My favorite is OrganATTACK (pictured below) which can be used for extension activities or conversation starters about the digestive system, and the impact certain ailments have on the body.

North Star Games – Evolution, Evolution: Climate & Evolution Flight

Looking for an engaging way to teach ecology? North Star Games has created Evolution, a game where each player creates their own species that evolves with advantageous traits to help it survive against starvation and predation.

Due to Evolution’s success, North Star has come out with other versions such as Evolution: Climate and Evolution Flight. These not just entertainment games with some science thrown in. The educational aspects drive these games and make it them perfect tools in the classroom!

Broken Archer – Best Pitch

Best Pitch is a game where you pitch your ideas to “tycoons” and along the way your fellow entrepreneurs can try to sabotage you! With three decks of cards—ideas, innovations, and sabotage—you can create thousands of combinations. Take a look at the pitch I made in the image below.

This game is great for improv classes, public speaking, and even business and sales classes. It requires participants to employ both their strategic- and creative-thinking skills. Check it out and let us know how you would use it in your classroom!

Example: (In an animated voice) “Imagine a large building with waxed lanes. On one end of the lane is a set of pins that are mocking you, just begging to be knocked down. You spot the perfect ball and know it will be the tool you need to silence those pesky pins. However, there’s a twist. The bowling lane is constantly moving like a treadmill set on high. Your throw must be precise and powerful enough to be a match for this fast-moving lane. But it’s no matter to you—you live for the challenge. And so you wind up your arm, start jogging, and WHAM! You throw! The pins are laughing maniacally at you but in comes the ball and it’s a…STRIKE! The pins go flying! You’ve done it! You defeated the mockers!…. Now, wouldn’t you love an opportunity to feel this success? By investing in treadmill lanes, you can!”


Child’s Play Charity

This year, Child’s Play Charity tripled the size of their booth and were positioned right in the middle of the expo hall, making it easier for the charity to promote their mission—improve the lives of hospitalized children worldwide through toys and games. (Who doesn’t love that?)

Take a look at their booklet of recommended therapeutic games for pain, boredom, anxiety/hyperactivity, sadness, and cognitive impairment.

Therapeutic Video Game Recommendations

“The purpose of this guide is to recommend therapeutic video games for children based on their symptoms. The games recommended in this guide were curated by researchers at EEDAR, a market-leading video game research firm, in collaboration with mental health researchers at UCSD.”


Hasbro and Harmonix – DropMix

It’s not every day that you find new technology for the music classroom, which is why this particular game excites me so much! The strategically planned center booth and loud attractive music didn’t hurt either.

DropMix is a music mixing system that allows players to combine popular songs in unique ways in order to create their own mixes. It’s a great way to start a conversation about tempo, rhythm, and countermelody.


Gaming without Gates: Fostering Children’s Social Skills

What I was hoping to get out of this session and what I actually came away with were very different things, which I’d usually find disappointing, but not in this case.

The session was run by the creators and content contributors of GeekMom, a parenting, technology, and culture blog. I thought the session would provide tools for fostering children’s social skills, though they only provided one tool—games. Surprise, surprise!

This wasn’t a negative though. What happened because of this was an open forum where parents and educators could discuss the successes and failures they’ve had with fostering their children’s social skills with games.

One audience member mentioned that he uses games to teach his children that failure is ok. Ultimately, he said the theory is that the goal of gaming is to fail, but to fail better each time, just like in life. This then led to a conversation about the importance of teaching failure for other educational concepts like Maker culture. I thought this was an interesting concept.

What do you do to teach failure to your children or students?


Educate yourself! What schools need to teach game design

If you have a student that is interested in game design, it might be difficult to know what foundation they need to be successful. This session provided some suggestions to help teachers navigate supporting their students in this endeavor.

  1. Have your student download game engines, play with them, and see what they like. Some game engines include 3Ds Max and Unity.
  2. Learn the ins and out of tabletop game design.
  3. Learn to code.
  4. Focus on group projects. Often in game design, a student isn’t working on every aspect of a game.They have to be able to collaborate with others.
  5. Check out sites like edX, Coursera, and Lynda for extensions to their learning!


Sequels, Series, DLC: How Games are Changing Storytelling

This session was extremely organized and conducted by an online publishing company called With a Terrible Fate. The main idea of the session was the completeness dilemma in gaming storylines. It’s like when you read a good book and you are sad that it’s over or when you read a good book and the ending left something undone. It might not be anything that’s substantial enough for a sequel, but it deserves to be addressed. This company worked to address those forgotten endings.

The educational component I took away from this session was that you could have your students pick their favorite game and add a story to it. It could be a pre-story, whole story, or ending—whatever your students are interested in! Just remember to convey the unifying elements in a story such as timelines, themes, setting, and players!

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