Any legitimate gamer tends to be a pretty savvy lot. They know what games they like and are usually pretty good about knowing what they want and when they can get it. But the excitement really stirs when the big gaming expos like the Tokyo Game Show, E3, or Consumer Electronics Expo’s come around. People eagerly sitting around their computers for each of the big three’s (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo) floor shows for all the new products and trailers to come out in the next year or so. Sadly, what these fans miss out on is all the cool individual booths from the indie or smaller developers because these shows are generally for the press or those in the business. Thankfully, the guys over at Penny-Arcade.com have created PAX and PAX-East, a gaming convention for the fans. This past Easter, I was able to travel to Boston for PAX-East 2012 for the first time. Having been to anime conventions for the past 12 years, I thought I was well prepared for my first PAX experience, but even seasoned con goers can make rookie mistakes. So as a bit of a public service, here’s a small list of tips to help you avoid the pitfalls I stepped through.
1: Know why you are there, Be prepared.
PAX is convention that is more than just a floor show for new video games that come out. The show is chock full of booths of new shit to try, table top games to sample and play, card game rooms, PC lan parties, retro game areas, and multiple theaters for various panels. People also set up their own shops such as the 3DS users taking up a hall way to street pass and multi play their portable games. There is so much shit to do and a lot of it starts right from the doors. Luckily, the people at PAX have the schedule up and on the website well before the convention even stars. So before you even start packing for the convention, sit down with that schedule and make a plan. It will benefit you greatly and allow you to do that much more when you arrive. Otherwise you are going to burn time by walking around.
2: Travel Light.
This really isn’t a comment about the convention itself per say, but it is something to bear in mind. The convention lasts from Friday morning to about midday on Sunday. Unless you are there to cosplay, enter a tournament for Warhammer 40k, or can’t play Street Fighter 4 without your favorite fight stick, then chances are you don’t need to bring much. I myself made sure I brought enough clothes for each day with some extra undies and put that all in a overhead sized suitcase. In reality, all of my shit could have easily fit in a backpack and it would have made traveling around the city that much easier.
3: Wear Comfortable Shoes.
Lets face it. How many gamers are “in shape?” If you said a lot of them, then you are stupid. If you said “I am in shape”, you are probably a fuckin’ liar too. I don’t consider myself to be that out of shape but the truth is I can afford to lose a few, (cough40). When you go to something like PAX, you can expect to do more walking than you do in your daily life. The convention center is going to be big, you are going to be standing around a lot, and everything around the city will probably be in walking distance. So if you were planning on buying a new pair of kicks either buy ones that are exceptionally comfortable, or bring a pair you know are so because you are going to be walking a lot. My hotel was only about a mile from the convention center but after a day of walking, I think I chaffed my fat dopey thighs and complained for the next 2nd two days from all the walking I had to do.
4: There is ALWAYS a line.
This can apply to things like the panels or speeches, but it most applies to the exhibition floor. There are going to be THOUSANDS of people there. So say you are walking around the floor and you see something you would really like to try, in my case it was Lollipop Chainsaw. You might look at the line and think to yourself “man that’s a really long line. I’ll come back when the line is shorter.” Wrong. The line is NEVER shorter. If there is a game you want to try, you better get your ass in that line and wait because the there will never be a point where there’s only one or two people. If there is a panel you want to see, you better get to that line an hour early and be ready to wait. The convention is getting bigger so make sure your smartphone, DS, or PSP is charged because you’ll have some time to kill.
5: Respect the Enforcers, But don’t listen to them.
Every conventions has gophers or in the case of PAX, enforcers. These people are here to try to keep the peace, keep everything running smoothly, enforce the rules, and be helpful for the attendees. But if there is anything that I have learned is that the majority of these people are just volunteers who are putting in a few hours of time so they can get a free badge for the convention. They may know their job for show to make a line form up or where its supposed to go, but ask them any timing related question or any general convention policy and 90% of the time, they don’t know shit. Technically they have the power so you want to do what they say, but the truth is they know about as much as you do. This is especially true at the start of a convention. Follow the program, look for signs, hope for the best.
6: Leave your stupid luggage in the hotel, Asshole.
I said to travel light and that using a backpack is a good idea. But one thing that people seem to forget that drives me fuckin’ crazy every time I run into one, is that people don’t understand proper spacing when they have their stupid backpack on. It’s annoying when I walk by them in the con, its annoying when they are backing up or turning into me in line, and its REALLY fucking annoying when we I go to one of the concerts and the asshole is jumping up and down with it on. You are taking up space for two people and they rarely notice that they are bumping into someone else. Unless you are transporting something for a tournament, leave that shit in the hotel room. Even better, the convention has bag checks all over for just 3 dollars. Leave them there. You may not hear it from other con goers, but they’ll be thanking in their head for not being the backpack asshole, and you won’t have me flooring your ass in one of the concert mosh pits for being a douche bag.
7: Eat Somewhere else.
Seriously? 7 dollars for ice cream? 17 dollars for a knock off Chipotle burrito and a 20 oz coke? Fuck you Boston Convention Center. There are lots of places to eat around Boston and the convention, so don’t waste your money there. You can get an actual nice dinner for that price…. Anyways, lastly..
8: Show up early.
The doors for the convention and the exhibition hall open up at 10am, but the they start letting people line up inside at 8am. That is when you need to get there when you first show up. The con is pretty well run for the most part. They send out the registration badges a week or so ahead of time, but they tell you to still go through the reg line for your lanyard and swag bag. We got into the line about 10:30 and we were so far back in the line by the time we got into the expo hall, they were completely out of lanyards and swag bags and we got nothing. So for that first day, get there as early as you can so you can get through the obnoxiously massive reg line that much faster. Or, if you don’t care for a swag bag, bring your own lanyard and bypass it. You can probably enter from the main hall right from the gate if you have your own lanyard. This also applies on the last day, may people can’t leave their luggage at the hotel for long so you will want to get there early so you can get your stuff at a good bag check before they fill up.
Obviously this is a rough list of things as this was my first PAX-east and some may be no-brainers for the seasoned traveler, but these are some simple pitfalls that you can take to heart that might make your first trip that much easier. Some of these may be pretty basic ideas but trust me, even as a 12 year convention attendee, you can’t expect to get everything right so its a good idea to be prepared.
See you next PAX-East.