PAX (Penny Arcade Expo) is a series of gaming conventions started by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, the team behind the ultra-popular webcomic Penny Arcade. The first PAX was held in Washington, but grew so quickly in popularity that it is now held in Seattle, Boston, and starting this year, Melbourne. (That’s Australia, folks.)
I wasn’t able to attend PAX last year (since I’m a little more comic-crazy than I am game-crazy) so this year was the first year I could go! People travel quite a ways for PAX– I talked to people from Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia– but for me, I just had to hop onto the T. Maybe there is a reason I decided to come to school in cold, cold Boston.
PAX is huge. I think PAX East 2011 hit… 70,000 attendees? Nowadays, they’ve stopped counting. But the event keeps getting bigger.
As a result, three-day passes sold out in 24 hours this year. I managed to snag only a Saturday pass. Good thing I have awesome friends.
Um, hellz yeah.
So after I got out of work on Friday, I headed straight to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. No costume, mind you– just some Asian girl in her civies checkin’ out what this PAX thing was all about.
And I walked in.
That photo’s not even half of the exhibition hall. This place was huge. All the big game companies– Nintendo, Square Enix, Ubisoft, Microsoft, Sony, they were all there. PAX isn’t just about video games, though. Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering had their own huge booths. Hardware companies like Turtle Beach, Asus, and Kingston had their own thing going. Up-and-coming start-ups, indie developers, and local game companies had their own stands as well. Throw in all sorts of stands selling board games, game-themed t-shirts, Pokemon cards, hats, buttons, stickers, jewelry, and you have…
Well, you have me doing this.
I was overwhelmed. The crowds, the noise, and the sheer amount of super-awesome gaming stuff completely bowled me over. I meandered through the hall in a daze.
I came with a mission, though. After a half-hour of wandering around, I headed to the line for Friday’s concert. Despite getting in line two hours early, the line was already long.
Wait, two hours?
PAX is notorious for having huge lines. When a convention is this big, it happens. For the big panels and big game releases, people will wait hours just to try the demo or see their favorite game developers. But being in line is part of the experience.
One of the great things about conventions is how friendly everyone is. People often relate it to being in a hall full of strangers who are also your best friends. It’s kind of true. No matter the age, background, gender, religion, there was one thing for sure at PAX: everyone loved games. In fact, compared to everyone else, I felt like I hadn’t been gaming enough.
That day, I woke up at 6 in the morning (for work) and ended up going to sleep at 3. It’s fine. It was totally worth it– the concert was awesome.
Though, come to think of it, maybe I should have slept more.
I still had a full day to go.
On Saturday, I decided to take my dorkiness to the next level. PAX isn’t really big on cosplay. Probably because a big event like PAX attracts a more general crowd– people are more likely to be less hardcore.
I had a darn costume and I was going to use it.
…even though I think I horribly embarrassed my friend.
This time I actually had time to do what I wanted. First, I headed to the Make a Strip panel, where the creators of Penny Arcade actually draw a strip live for the audience! This year was a little different, too. Usually the comic is pre-planned. But this year, they took topics from the audience and chose two at random to make a strip with.
And then I finally got to explore the Expo Hall in all of its glory.
One thing I didn’t know about PAX? The freebies. The $40 I paid for my pass was probably compensated in random free stuff. Here, have a photo:
The other thing I didn’t expect was people’s reactions to my costume. I mean, PAX isn’t a big cosplay event, so I wasn’t expecting any hullabaloo. In retrospect, this was pretty dumb of me. Even if my costume is total crap, I was still dressed as one of the most popular video game characters ever.
Thus I ended up delaying my friends wherever we went.
Somehow I even ended up on gamesradar.com.
Being dressed as a well-loved character has its perks, though. Read: more free stuff. A random guy came up and handed me this sticker…
And the lovely people at gameskinny.com gave me a t-shirt.
The expo hall was full of unbelievable amounts of awesome. I saw the trailer for Watch Dogs, watched people play through Transistor and The Last of Us, lusted over Triforce necklaces and Cards Against Humanity expansion packs, and even demo’d Pikmin 3!
My favorite thing, though, was the indie game developers. The wait to try their games were short (not the two-hour lines like other games… I’m lookin’ at you, The Last of Us) and the developers were friendly and more than willing to chat. Plus, they usually gave out free candy.
I was pretty excited. Can you tell? I enjoyed myself. It might show.
The day ended nicely with a performance by Sam Hart, MC Frontalot, Jonathan Coulton, and Paul and Storm.
So that was my first PAX! Though I had a great time, I definitely needed sleep. Running around with a sword and shield all day is fun, but exhausting. I crashed at my friends’ apartment for the night and finally got a full night’s sleep for the first time in days.
And that’s how I ended up going to PAX for three days in a row.