PAX West organizers comment on security concerns following Jacksonville shooting

As the gaming community remains horrified by the shooting in Jacksonville that ended the lives of two Madden esports players and the assailant, focus shifts to PAX West, and how one of the biggest events of the year will handle security in the wake of this tragedy.

In response to an email inquiry from PC Gamer, PAX organizers reassured that it has "extensive proactive measures" in place, and that it has a decade-plus history of "working closely with the Washington State Convention Center, private security, the Seattle Police Department and federal law enforcement authorities to identify risks, assess them and develop our comprehensive security protocols."

PAX did not elaborate on any specific changes that will be deployed this weekend, noting that it does not publicize security details. Searching "PAX security" on Twitter reveals questions and concerns being directed at the official account and organizers.

PAX West has not employed metal detectors or bag checks in the years PC Gamer has attended. In 2014, Robert Khoo, former president of Penny Arcade wrote that "Given the distributed nature of the show [PAX West] (it's spread out across 8 venues, and so much of Prime [now West] in particular occurs outside of the walls of those venues), doing bag checks or having metal detectors wouldn't be practical/effective."

Boston-based PAX East, on the other hand, has required bag checks and metal detector pass-through for all attendees since 2014, less then a year after the April 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured hundreds.

Khoo, who left Penny Arcade in 2016, wrote before the introduction of these procedures in Boston: "Anyone that knows me understands how seriously I take security at PAX—it's something that's always at the forefront of our discussions, internally."

Here is the full statement from the PAX team given today:

First and foremost, our hearts go out to all of those impacted by the horrific, senseless act of violence in Jacksonville, Florida on Sunday. The entire gaming community is affected by this tragedy.

The safety of our attendees, exhibitors, and staff is paramount to ReedPOP and Penny Arcade. As PAX has grown in popularity, we have responded with the addition of increased private security, law enforcement, and other personnel, each of whom are on-site at all times during our events. 

As a rule, we do not publicly announce or discuss the details of our security program in order to maintain its effectiveness, however, we work closely with the Washington State Convention Center, private security, the Seattle Police Department and federal law enforcement authorities to identify risks, assess them and develop our comprehensive security protocols for PAX West. We have in place extensive proactive measures; some that are visible during PAX events and many that are not. We are always working to improve our security plans and, if need be, adjust them, to ensure that we are doing all that we can to make PAX West, and all PAX events, a safe and secure environment for the community.

Across the fifteen years of PAX events we have provided a safe and welcoming environment for more than a million attendees to come together for their love of gaming and we are ensuring that we adhere to that tradition at PAX West 2018.

PAX has a detailed explanation of its policies on the Safety & Accessibility section of its website.

Everyone attending the Show should be aware of the following security measures:

  • Security will be onsite at all times to assist you during all aspects of the Show
  • Everyone must wear their Show badge at all times. This includes exhibitors, vendors, attendees, guests (speakers, talent, artists), professionals, press, staff, and crew.
  • A fully operational security team following our vetted procedures is in place at the Show
  • Bag checks may occur at the Show
  • Walkthrough or hand held scanners may be used at the Show
  • Any CCTV in operation at the Show is monitored and recorded
  • Uniformed and undercover security may be in attendance at the Show
  • Uniformed and undercover Police may be in attendance at the Show
  • Canine Security and Detection may be used in or around the Show