post pax east…

This past weekend, we had one of our friends, Adam Welker, from Eugene’s grad school days in town for a few days, particularly for a visit to PAX East on Saturday.  PAX East is the east-coast iteration of Penny Arcade Expo, a video game and table top gaming expo and convention known for its opportunities for indie gamers to get their start, and for fans to put their hands on new and old games.

I remember when my friend Jim introduced me to Penny Arcade in middle school, where it was growing quickly (they had a store and a serious following).  And it’s amazing that a webcomic with solid roots has stayed true to its vision and has expanded into the global brand that Penny Arcade is now.

So, here are some of my takeaways this weekend from PAX East:

  1. Buy a three day pass and commit to the experience.  Trying to do a PAX event, as humongous as it is now, in one day is impossible… literally impossible.  Lines are long for panels and for game demos, there is a ridiculous amount of stuff to do, check out, and observe.  All three of us has headaches post PAX, because we were trying to shove all this sensory overload into our eyes in an 8hr timeframe.  A 3day pass gives you time to relax during the day, feel good about standing in line for panels and game demos, because you know there will be time the next day to check out more stuff. It’s not much more taxing on your wallet, but is ridiculously beneficial to your experience.
  2. I was intimidated.  The lines to play games were pretty long, and people were queued up behind you watching you play the game they also desperately wanted to try out.  To a casual gamer like myself, it was intimidating.  I barely play PC games, and I’m not good at shooters, but I like to play them.  I stick to FIFA and stuff like Portal, but when it comes to side scrollers and real shooter games, I pretty much am useless.  So, I just watched.  I did not play any games at PAX East, just because I was intimidated and honestly, I didn’t want to waste the time of people in the line that would actually get much more out of the experience than I would.  Not saying that it wasn’t worthwhile, I just knew that my 5-10 minutes on the machine would be a waste when I could give a serious gamer a chance that came sooner.
  3. Please take this next statement with a grain of salt and I say this with the utmost caution and knowledge that I probably sound like a poophead – because I have said the same of people who said this in the past – PAX East could have used a healthy dose of event planners.  The crowds are huge, and even in a gigantic place like the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center feels small with the crowd PAX East draws.  However, there is no reason why a hall that fits more than a few hundred people should have doors opened 15 minutes before a panel, and therefore, attendees should not be standing in the same place in line 15 minutes after the panel starts.  That was the one negative piece of my experience this weekend, something that could have been easily prevented.

Honestly, all this melts down into a great experience, one that I was glad I got to take part in finally.  The people watching was top-notch, the games were fun to watch, and the even the dread of a large crowd from this introvert was relatively a non-factor.

If you have any interest/love/passion for video games, you must experience a PAX in your time, but, as I stated above, buy the three day pass and take your time.  It’s much more enjoyable when you slow things down.  Leave the fast pace to the video games you’ll be playing.

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One thought on “post pax east…

  1. I went for 3 days after only going for 1 last year, and you’re right–much less stressful. I spent most of the first day on the floor–we saw the Watchdogs demo, very cool–and spent more of the next couple days in line for panels.

    That said, the lines! A line for this, a line for that–it seems like you wait in line to wait in line in some cases. One BIG improvement they could do–while lines for demos are inevitable, how about some way to sign up for a panel without physically being in line? Maybe you get 2 “tokens” with your badge, and you can show up up to 3 hours in advance for a panel, give them a “token”, and you’re on the list. When you enter the panel, you get a token back–this way, you’re discouraged from skipping out on panels, because you can only do it twice. If you don’t show up with 20 minutes to go (after they seat you), it’s open to the public. They have to do something so that people can go to multiple panels in a row (Mass Effect’s panel was right after Dragon Age’s last year–dumb), and so that people aren’t wasting their whole weekend in lines. Just my two cents!

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