Those costumes you're seeing in downtown Seattle? They're for PAX West 2017, a convention for gamers that started in Bellevue and is now so big it's been split into three conventions in the U.S.

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Wondering about all those people in strange costumes you’re seeing around downtown Seattle?  It’s PAX West 2017, a convention for the gaming community that started in Bellevue and is now among the largest events hosted each year at the Washington State Convention Center.

PAX — which stands for Penny Arcade Expo — was created by high-school best friends Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkinsheld and first held in 2004 at the Meydenbauer Center. It was envisioned as a big party for people who saw gaming as a lifestyle, not just an activity, and drew about 3,300 people.

Nicknamed “Woodstock for gamers,” PAX has grown so big, it’s been split into three conventions in the U.S.: PAX West, PAX East and PAX South.  By 2011, attendance had grown to 70,000. And while crowds are no longer officially counted, the event — which runs through Monday —is sold out and the convention’s center’s 440,000-plus square feet of exhibition space seems packed. (Tickets, or badges, are being sold by individuals outside the event, however.)

Gerri DeSouza, right, who is dressed as the character Robert Small from the game Dream Daddy, talks about what makes PAX such a fun convention. Seated next to DeSouza is Shannon Russ, who dressed as a “knock-off shiny twin” from the same game.

It’s so packed that on a Reddit thread devoted to the event, one person is reminding others to shower, use deodorant and cover their sneezes.

Rachel Spritzer, of Tacoma, paid nearly $500 for a four-day pass to the event. She’s glad she came since “it’s a rite of passage for a lot of gamers,” but may buy just a one-day pass next year.

“Unless you are into the con (convention) scene, it’s pretty much the same thing each time,” she said.

The con scene, though, is what drew Maddi Bisset, of Vancouver, B.C., who was dressed as such a good version of the Widowmaker from Overwatch that she was stopped every five seconds, it seemed, by people wanting to take their photo with her.

“This is the big one,” she said. “It’s really fun, you meet tons of people and it’s very professionally run. There are very few hiccups.”

Cosplay is also the big lure for Shannon Russ, of Redmond, who went to her first convention in 2012 and “hasn’t stopped since.”

“I really like making costumes,” said Russ, who was dressed as a “knock-off shiny twin” from the game, Dream Daddy. “I’ve gotten so I can make something like this in two days.”