My First Time at PAX
Well, this year I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to go to PAX East. I had never gone before and to be honest, I was quite surprised to see what PAX was really like. I think I had conjured up this beautiful, perfect, fairytale idea in my head that this convention would be a gamers dream. The thought that this glorious land of PAX East, held in the city of Boston, would be a life-changing experience and I would never be the same. After some time spent thinking post-PAX I came to realize, I was pretty wrong. That being said, I would love to share the good parts and the bad parts of my PAX experience with all of you. Seeing as how people normally like to hear the bad news first, lets just start with that.
A Tight Squeeze
When I first walked in and was patted down by police, I couldnt help but notice the size of this whole thing. I mean, it was absolutely massive. I looked down from the balcony and saw the giant layout of booths and colors and people and televisions. I think I even said wow out loud to my friend and girlfriend. I learned very quickly a few moments later that some things seem much more beautiful from far away. We descended the staircase and the experience changed almost instantly. People would rush through you, cut you off, stop for no reason, and just straight up walk right into you. Keep in mind too that we went to this on Sunday, which has the least amount of people compared to the other days. I couldnt even imagine what it must have looked like on Friday night. My little group was forced to walk single file through the crowds, barely speaking a word to one another until we were able to find a small space with enough room to huddle up. The size of the building just wasnt big enough for the convention. I honestly feel like this was probably the most frustrating part of the entire experience and had the area been bigger, I dont think I would have had much else to complain about.
After spending about an hour just walking around to look at the booths, it was time to figure out where we wanted to go. Now the two games I play most, which are Rocket League and League of Legends, both did not have booths at the convention. I guess I didnt do my homework before attending, but the entire way to PAX I was ecstatic to be able to see a big League of Legends statue and maybe get some sweet black market PAX-exclusive decal from Psyonix at the Rocket League booth. Nope. They did have a Rocket League tournament though, which I was not around for.
Now that last little bit isnt really on PAX. Its not their fault that Psyonix and Riot didnt want to attend, but it definitely bummed me out. From the booths I did see there, I felt strangely out of place. I hadnt heard of the majority of the games, aside from big releases such as Overwatch, Gears of War, and the like. Since I hadnt heard of the vast majority of the titles, I wanted to catch a glimpse of some gameplay to see how they looked. This is where problem number one comes back into play because there were so many people crowding around every single booth, the only way I would have even gotten close enough to see would have been if I decided to push down some cosplay Overwatch characters and knock down some children. Seeing as how Im not a horrible person, I decided to just pass up on the opportunity and look for entertainment elsewhere.
This is when I got the opportunity to play a game for about 80-100 seconds. Every game there had about a 2 hour wait time. Some games even forced attendees to sign a sheet and they would call their name out when it was their turn, as if we had put in reservations at a restaurant on a Friday night. The only booth I could find that wasnt completely overrun was Brawlhalla.
My Attempt to Beat a Dev
Ive played the game a bit and they were giving out some free prizes depending on how well you did. I got in the back of the line with my group and we waited for a bit, just talking and hanging around. After about 20 minutes, I noticed that the line wasnt getting any smaller. I looked around and saw that people would walk around the line, grab the controller, lose, and then leave so another person could do the exact same thing. Again, in an attempt to be a good person, I decided that I wasnt going to push through everybody in my path. My group stayed in line while I went to ask a game dev why the line wasnt moving. I was told that there was no need to wait in line and if people want to play then they should just muscle their way in and grab the controller. It was around this point that I realized that the only way to have fun at PAX is to be a self-entitled, horrible person that disregards all the thoughts and feelings of those around them. Eventually the line started to move and I could actually see the games being played. I figured that the game developers were just up there having a good time, ready to give out cool prizes and promote their game. Again, wrong.
I watched a small girl, probably about 10 years old approach the controller. They asked her name, she replied, and then proceeded to talk about how she likes Super Smash Brothers and thought this game looked like fun. She had never played before and wanted a chance to win some cool stuff. The developers said good luck, and about 20 seconds later the girl was out. The dev did not care for one single second and brutally 3-0d her. I started getting pretty nervous because if he wasnt going to show any mercy on a child, there was no way he would give me anything for free. My turn for a 1v1 finally came and I decided to go with Ragnir. Hes pretty solid and I had played him a few times. I noticed all day long that the dev playing would always mirror pick his opponent and I hadnt seen him play Ragnir all day long. I thought that maybe this was my shot to pull out a fighter that I had some experience with and maybe the dev wasnt as used to Ragnirs kit as he was to other brawlers kits. I locked in with a lot of confidence and said good luck, to which he replied, Finally somebody picked my main!
I got 3-0d and won a pin.
After that we basically just walked around and tried to take a look at whatever we could see. Lines for everything were way too long and I wasnt about to stand around waiting for another 2 hours just to play for 5 minutes. Honestly, the line to just BUY Overwatch merchandise, not even to get anything for free, was probably about a 2 and a half hour wait with close to 150-200 people lined up. It was absolutely insane.
Im honestly pretty mad that I dont have a ton of good things that I can list off, and thats completely due to my own stupidity. We met some cool people when we were there and they helped us get our bearing a little bit when we were overwhelmed with everything going on around us. Some of the artwork they had was really incredible and they were giving away some awesome prizes at certain booths that I would have loved to take home with me. The issue there was that I didnt really know where to go to win stuff and since I went on Sunday, there wasnt a lot left to be given away.
Though the experience definitely wasnt what I was expecting, I cant say that I had a bad time. I was honestly really cool and its something that Im going to remember forever. I caught the names of a couple titles that stood out to me and looked them up when I got home, so even though I wasnt able to test them out while I was there, I was at least able to see what the games were all about. I honestly think that if I had been prepared and did more research, I wouldnt have been disappointed in the slightest. I went in thinking that this was going to be something completely different than what it actually is, and thats the real reason why I was caught off guard so much when I finally arrived.
If I could give any advice to people who are interested in going to PAX, it would have to be do your research and know why youre going. I mean, they had a Twitch lounge that I didnt check out because I had no idea what it was all about. They had scheduled tournaments and events that I knew about, but didnt have enough information about the times and games being played. The experience can be really phenomenal if youre completely prepared and do your homework beforehand. I dont regret going at all and if I ever decide to go again, Im going to make sure I know everything thats going on before I show up so I can have a game plan for when I arrive. If you do that and you dont mind large crowds, PAX can really be an awesome experience for you and whoever you decide to go with.