Saturday, March 26, 2011

Post-match Analysis: PAX East

PAX East Expo Hall from the Skybridge.

Well, call off the hounds. Here I am, back again on British soil. PAX East was an experience and a half, to say the least. If you are reading this, and you have not been, there aren’t enough superlatives in the world to justify a description of just how best it was.

So, I figured that rather than spew all the same coverage you will find on the various quality video game sites, I would eschew that approach for a brief overview, alongside some lessons learned from the experience.

The Convention Experience: If, like me, you will be attending PAX Prime/East as your first convention experience, rest assured that you are going to love it. The raw excitement of just being surrounded by like-minded men- and womenfolk will make the event amazing in and of itself. I have never seen 70,000 such likeable people in the same place. There was nary a rude person in sight, and everyone is bending over backwards to make sure everyone else has a great time. I think PAX is particularly lucky in this aspect, since it is born of Penny Arcade, something operated and run by a genuinely great group of people. It’s no surprise that their adherence to Wil’s Law influences their followers.

You are merely a mortal: No matter what physical state you are in, you need rest and regular meals. This sounds like pretty dumb advice, and perhaps that is because I am pretty dumb, but I neglected to pay much attention to this repeated lesson in the forums. I figured that, as a generally active person, I would cope fine with undaunting concepts such as ‘You will be standing a lot’. That’s okay, guys, I stand all the time. Yeah, but when you’re carrying about 3 or 4 different bags, packed full of all the dreck of the day, it turns out that wandering around non-stop for 15-18 hours (and longer) a day is actually pretty exhausting. After a 9-hour overnight bus ride, a daytime tour of the sights in Boston, and a bun for dinner before a frankly amazing Pokémon-themed pub crawl, I was running on empty all of Friday. Friday being the first day of PAX, I burned myself out by Saturday midday. Saturday evening was spent physically shaking in my hotel lobby, keeping up with events through Twitter. So be sure to get plenty of rest, and perhaps make the effort to eat outside of the convention centre. The food there really wasn’t the best, in my humble opinion.

Phat Swag, Yo!: From what I had read, PAX was sold to me as a heaven of video-gaming swag. In all honesty, the best items I brought home were the t-shirts that I bought. There is plenty of interest, but the only really worthwhile things were those that cost money. In saying that, the prices are wholly reasonable. My advice here is that if you are thinking of free stuff as a great incentive to going, you may want to rethink your priorities. The average price for a t-shirt was $20, which isn’t too bad at all, really. Booths such as Logitech were handing out 35% off vouchers for the website, which was a brilliant idea. With that model, they didn’t have to bring much with them, and you didn’t have to worry about carrying around the sweet new mouse you’ve just bought. Disclaimer: I didn’t actually buy anything from Logitech, but I’ll be holding onto that voucher for the foreseeable future.

Don’t leave home without it: Honestly, try to avoid this thinking as much as possible. My daily load left me pretty over-encumbered. Essentially, all you need for each day is your pass and your money. Everything above and beyond this is when you need to start deciding what you really need. Personally, the only luxuries I would had to this are a smart-phone and a camera if you wish to capture anything.

Be a happy snapper: I cannot emphasise this point enough. Like Ferris Bueller told us so many years ago: Stop and look around every once in a while. Drink in the atmosphere (not enough to contract the dreaded PAX Pox). I thought I was constantly taking pictures. I took, all told about 140 photographs over the 10 days I was in North America. When I look back through them, there are so many things that I neglected to immortalise. Particular among those things are the people I met. I was snapping cosplayers all over the show, but I completely missed the people I spent my whole weekend with. Pretty stupid. Next time, I’ll be posing people in my pictures.

Kiss me, I’m Irish!: In closing, if you take anything from this post, please don’t ever tell anyone in Boston that you are from Ireland. You will not remember much after that mistake. Once word got out, at a pub crawl of approximately 100 very generous people per bar, I consumed so much whiskey that my night is recalled in snapshots.

That’s all for now, I will try to post up some more pictures, things like cosplayers and the like, in the week to come. It’s a bit of a busy time, but I know that’s no excuse. Peace out.

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