It’s 6:20pm on Day 1 of PAX West, and we cruise around the freshly-closed Expo Hall. Our first stop, obviously is to investigate the World of Warcraft booth: we are able to see Doomhammer sans the throngs of people. The place is wholly different with the florescent lights on. We linger in the Rooster Teeth booth, unsure of what to do next.
“Should we go find the drinks?” Jay asks. The group agrees unanimously. Off we toddle through the maze of abused gaming tech booths which are practically begging for a vacuum and a nap. Maybe that last part was wishful thinking. It’s 6:31pm.
Jay is one half, and the nuts & bolts business side, of Filthy Casual Clothing, formerly known as Cherry Sauce Clothing. Mike is his more creative co-founder. Darshelle is their primary photographer, and they all handle the social media. We are also accompanied by a few other friends, all of whom are extremely gracious and waste no time in getting comfortable with their shadows for the evening. The ribbing begins almost immediately.
At the Sky Bridge, the crew queues up for free alcohol afforded to the exhibitors after-hours on Friday. Bursts of celebratory cheering, rapid fire conversations, and long-awaited reunions seem to be the first order of business. Once libations are acquired, the group splits into two: a large group of cosplayers have grabbed a wiped-out Darshelle’s attention, as she’s very accomplished cosplayer, and finding time to connect with contemporaries seems to be the way she recharges. Gamers in general tend to be a tad uncomfortable socially, so it’s no small surprise that everyone is double-fisting beer. Well. Almost everyone. Slight hyperbole.
Darshelle’s double fisting. It’s adorable.
Admittedly, having the massive crowds scatter goes a long way to ease the palpable veneer of awkward many vendors and exhibitors feel when the public is around in such large, constrictive numbers. We’re being given cups of hummus with one small wedge of pita bread ninja-starred deep into the dip. Immediately, the jokes fly about the ratio of bread to hummus, almost universally, throughout the Sky Bridge. From what we’ve noticed, gamers tend to glom on to anything with which to banter. Apparently, even hummus isn’t safe. “Finger the fucking hummus!” Mike bellows. Everyone cracks up and jumps on the innuendo train. It keeps going for 10 minutes. The hummus sits, dejected.
I sneak myself a cup of red wine, and silently watch the cyclone of inside jokes, meme-quoting, and boastful bravado that serve only to propagate more banter. The demand of tweeting particularly good lines is both a compliment and a challenge to see who can take credit for the zinger first. No one makes a move, regardless of how good the laugh is. Suddenly there is a battle cry to “Head to the Curse Party, guys!” Silence ensues. It’s 7:16pm. We have moved approximately 10 feet since the drinking started.
This is the only event Filthy Casual attends where they don’t have a booth. Darshelle explains that aside from E3, being without a home-base at PAX West affords them the freedom to go around and immerse themselves in their community. “It’s always the people,” she says.
“You can be good at anything, and dump money into anything, but if you don’t have the people with you, you won’t go anywhere,” Mike adds.
And impressively, Filthy Casual certainly does seem to be inherently of the people. Hours fly by as they genuinely tend to their relationships. It becomes apparent rather quickly how vitally important their community is to them. They treat everyone with an honest openness: as if you were family merely by the fact that you, too, are a nerd and we all love video games. It feels great. There’s a warmth, a genuine desire to be talking to each other. Not to get free stuff, not to boost their own fame. Because they all have the same origin story in gaming, and in Mike and Jay’s case, it’s their mutual love of World of Warcraft from which their company came. It’s taken Filthy Casual seven years of massaging the one idea they had.
Jay drives that point home: “The gaming industry becomes your family once you get into it. 2-3 years ago, we didn’t know anyone. We would sit alone in our hotel room at these shows. And now, we’ve experienced acceptance on so many levels. And that’s made the difference for us.”
We’ve moved to the other side of the Sky Bridge by the point, hovering a distance away from the increasingly rowdier crowd in favor of a darker corner of the Expo Hall. More drinking, more talking. A guy comes rolling by sitting on a RC skateboard, his friend drunkenly controlling the weaving and speeding. We laugh as they try to take a corner too fast, and spill onto the carpet, the guy on the skateboard biffing it hard.
When asked what Jay sees for the future of his company, he takes a moment to think about his answer– a still moment in the chaos surrounding us. “We want to grow our community of casual gamers. None of us are pros by any means. We aren’t professional streamers. I mean, one day, I was streaming and was called out for being a filthy casual. And that’s where our company name came from,” explains Jason. “It was a joke that has gone really far. But we’re all filthy casuals. And we think that’s an important side of gaming to grow.”
Mike, standing nearby, chimes in: “Sometimes people are cool with you not taking games so seriously. Sometimes people are cool when you don’t try so hard.” It was an interesting thought to chew on. It’s 8:26pm. No less than 6 minutes later, the decision has been made to head to the Square Enix after-party being held at the Hard Rock Cafe down the street. As we leave, we notice that the tense, stressed, and worn-out exhibitors we started the night out with have been replaced by nerds at-ease hanging out in a room full of their closest 200 friends. As we leave the Convention Center, we stop in the lobby to allow for Jay and Mike to network. That is, after all, why they are here.
Networking mischief managed for the time being, we head down Pike Avenue towards Pike’s Place Market, the mercury lamps casting a firelight pallor over downtown Seattle. Along the way, rain begins to gently patter upon on the stream of people leaving the show, and catches in the streetlight.
At this point, food needs to happen. We split up, agreeing to meet up at the Square Enix party once we accomplish this. Jay gives us a number and said to message him once we were upstairs at the Hard Rock. It’s 10:16pm when we finally rendezvous with Jay via text. He mentions being in a VIP area on the roof of this place, while the general admission is open to all on the 2nd floor. The response rate of folks in the industry tends to be spotty at best during the after-hours events. Jay, however, obliterates all the preconceived notions about that. “Hey, we’re on the top floor. It’s VIP, so I’ll see what I can do.” Five minutes later, he shows up with wrist-bands and we are able to access the roof in short order. Guys I need to make a point here: in our industry, this never happens.
Going into this party, we were prepared to ask the crew a ton of questions. However, sitting by the firepit, surrounded by the people Jay and Mike and Darshelle call friends, it’s very clear those questions answer themselves. We wanted to ask how this company appeared out of no-where and took the industry by force. How, after years of trying their hand in the music and comic-book scenes, simply by returning to their roots in gaming, two men were able to become iconoclasts within our nebulous industry.
As Jay explains, the idea of a “filthy casual” was something that started as a joke: “We were streaming, and one day, some dude comes in and says ‘Your stream is shit! You’re just a bunch of filthy casuals!’ and that’s how it was born.” What was their secret to success? How did they go from alone in a hotel room to the VIP rooftop party hosted by Square Enix?
The swirl of photographers, influencers, promoters, cosplayers, and industry professionals floating nearby answer that question for us, merely by being who they are: filthy casuals.