At any rate, I have had some thoughts about PAX kicking around, and after reading both Simon Carless' analysis on why PAX works and Steve Gaynor's blog post about game experience (which isn't related to PAX at all, but I think it applies) I feel I can pretty well put it into words, though perhaps only words that have already been spoken by those two.
Having never attended PAX before, I have to say I really enjoyed it. At the surface PAX is a pretty huge convention (2009's being the biggest yet), which would quickly bring up comparisons to E3 or San Diego Comic-Con (neither of which I have ever attended, though I know a lot about both). If you look at it from afar, and this is probably true for non-gamers, PAX is similar. A huge convention about video games and other geekery. Granted Comic-Con is spread out over a number of other things, but E3 seems like it would share a lot of similarities with PAX. This is not the case however.
I've heard PAX described as 'a large convention with a small convention feel' and that is pretty much the most accurate of a description you will get. Somehow a huge amalgam of gamers, both video and tabletop, have gathered in Seattle for one weekend solely due to promises of sweet games, cool events and of course game-related junk (free or otherwise). It's entirely a consumer show, catering to the people who, at the end of the day, make the video game industry run. Gamers. It's a pretty novel idea.
And PAX seems to be very genuine, which I think is the key to everything. There are areas where you can just go play games (PC, console, tabletop) if you don't want to take in any presentations or wait in any lines. You can preview some anticipated titles, or just goof around with friends. Or if you really want you can sit on a beanbag chair and play DS all day, because there are two or three hallways filled with the things. Can you imagine that happening at E3?
It's really something special to see it, really. Just tons and tons of people who love games and are there to enjoy themselves. It's something special, and I have to say in spite of what I thought, I really enjoyed myself. Pretty awesome.