Since high school I always wished to one day attend PAX East, but I always found an excuse not to go. My school’s March break never lined up with PAX weekend and university essays made March the busiest time of the school year. This year I didn’t care about my school schedule or whatever assignments I needed to write, I just bought my PAX Easy 2015 tickets in November and dealt with the problems as they came.
I didn’t know what to expect from my first PAX or my first trip in Boston; the Toronto Fan Expo convention didn’t prepare me at all. After three days in the Boston Convention Centre wandering the show floor, I learned what to avoid and how to best manage time during the show.
These PAX East tips may not help veteran PAX goers, but they really improved my weekend in Boston.
Don’t stand in line to play games, it’s not worth it
After waiting an hour to play the Oculus Rift only to move a few feet forward in the enormous line, I knew I only wasted my time. My advice, avoid playing anything.
Crazy, right? At a video game convention it feels like an obligation to play the games you came to see. In reality, the lineups (outside of some indie game booths) can take hours to get through. Don’t waste your time; you can participate in so many activities instead of waiting in line for three hours. I know I’m going to buy Halo 5: Guardians and Splatoon. I don’t need to line up for hours to validate my purchase or satisfy my curiosity – there’s just not enough time to stand around waiting.
Go to panels
At the end of my first day at PAX East, I wanted to go home. I didn’t enjoy my time at all. Instead of attending the dozens of amazing panels, I made the mistake of wandering the show floor hoping to play something.
On Saturday I instead avoided the show floor and filled my schedule with various panels. I attended talks on the state of video game reviews, important industry data and the community’s social issues. My mood completely changed. If you want to make games, write about them or just want to learn about the industry, you can find a panel to attend. For me, the panels alone made the trip down to Boston worthwhile, even if I only played a couple indie games.
Because of the volume of people at the convention, you will need to arrive to panels early to line up, but you’ll never find an easier place to talk to people.
Talk to everyone
Turn to the person to your left or right and just start a conversation. Everyone at the show likes video games so you won’t run out of things to talk about. You won’t come off as a creep either. No matter how hard you try, the guy carrying a My Little Pony plush doll – with the pony’s head sticking out of his backpack – will always out-weird you.
Don’t just talk to the people in line, go talk to the developers. At the Indie Games Mega Booth I talked to more developers than actually played games. Unlike me, not everyone wants to learn of the development process or their financial structure, but you’ll find that every developer wants to discuss their ideas. Approach them with a question, they won’t ever turn away.
Drink a lot of water
With all of the walking, talking and laughing I did on the Saturday, my forehead felt like bursting because of my headache. I didn’t drink enough of the water I carried with me and got a huge dehydration headache as a consequence. As you keep track of panel start times and navigate the convention centre hallways, you forget to just stop and drink. If by mid afternoon your footsteps drag and your arms droop, sit down and eat a meal. After some food and water, you’ll feel like a different person.
StreetPass your Nintendo 3DS
People in North American don’t walk around in public with their 3DS, which makes getting any StreetPass tokens impossible. At PAX, you can’t go to the bathroom without walking by 10 people carrying a 3DS. The 10 person StreetPass queue means you frequently need to welcome people into your Mii Plaza, but at least it keeps you occupied while waiting in the unavoidable lines.
The following advice won’t need long form explanations, but bullet point form doesn’t make them any less important.
- Bring a backpack
- Buy a phone plan (advice for fellow Canadians)
- Shower daily (this unfortunately needs to be said)
- Plan ahead. Download the PAX East Guidebook phone application and make a schedule