PAX Guide v5.0

Courtesy of Fobwashed.

Three and a half years ago, I started writing a PAX Guide for Giant Bomb duders who wanted to get the best possible experience out of the Penny Arcade Expo. I went on updating it twice a year to the point where it’s basically been the same for the last couple editions. Well, it’s time to mix it up a little bit. If you’ve checked out a version of the guide in the past, you likely know that I’ve been through ten E3s, two Dragon*Cons, and what is about to be twelve PAXs. While I have quite a bit of personal experience in game-related shows, it’s thanks to help from a lot of y’all that I think we’ve got all the pertinent info nailed down. Hopefully, I can present it in a concise, helpful fashion.

Seattle

The Washington State Convention Center is in a perfect location. Anything you could possibly want to see or do in Seattle is within walking distance (or maybe a short monorail ride). From the moment you get off your plane at SeaTac, you can walk to the Lightrail, pay a few bucks and ride all the way into downtown. At that point, you’re close to all the major hotels, the Pike Place Market, dozens of great places to eat, an arcade, a 5-minute monorail to the Seattle Center (Space Needle and museums), and, of course, the convention center.

Downtown Seattle at dusk from the top of the Space Needle.

Giant Bomb @ PAX

Your best bet to meet the Giant Bomb crew is probably the meet-up on Friday night, but if you missed out on signing up for that or you're just not a premium member, then these panels are going to be the next best chance. There's at least one panel every day of the show (except Monday...sort of) that features at least one member of the staff, so whether you have a 4-day badge or you're only able to attend one day this year, here's what you need to know.

When/WhereWhatWho

FRI - 12:30 PM

Sasquatch

Games Journalism Hunger Games MMXIV

  • Danny O'Dwyer
  • Jeff Gerstmann
  • Dan Ryckert
  • More!

SAT - 8:00 PM

Sasquatch

The Giant Bomb Guide to eSports Victory!

  • Everyone!

SUN - 10:00 AM

Hedgehog

The Game Industry Rumble! Live on the N64!
  • ?????

SUN - 7:00 PM

Sphinx

We've Survived the Internet, And So Can You

SUN - 7:30 PM

Hedgehog

404ing It: Breaking (Down) the Internet

MON - 12:30 PM

Sasquatch

Video Game Memories: What Makes a Game Special?
  • Danny O'Dwyer
  • Anthony Gallegos
  • More!
The Giant Bomb panel at PAX Prime 2013. One of the best photos I've ever taken at PAX.

The Enforcers

Enforcers are a legion of volunteers that make PAX run efficiently. It would be a hot mess without them. In the old days, they would don the black. But, now that there are multiple versions of PAX, Prime Enforcers are coated in blue. If you need help with anything, just look for one of them. They’re never too far away. And if they ask you nicely to do something (like move out of an aisle/walkway), please do so.

The Queue Room at PAX Prime 2012. Organizing something this massive takes a lot of work from a lot of cool people.

#PAX

Even if you don’t normally use Twitter, you should sign up just to follow these accounts while you’re at PAX. It’s the best and easiest way to get up-to-the-minute updates on what’s going on.

  • @official_pax - The important stuff.
  • @pax_lines - Updates on theatre/panel lines and when they get capped.
  • @rkhoo - The man that makes PAX happen.
  • @pax_tourney - News on the dozens of tournaments going on upstairs.
  • @paxparties - An unofficial feed for the unofficial parties going on all weekend.
The main entrance of the WSCC. Welcome home.

The Packing List

Here's what you need to bring with you especially if you're coming in from out of town.

Money

Most places (including vendors in the expo hall) will take credit/debit cards, but it’s probably a good idea to carry a little cash just in case. And if you need to hit an ATM, do it early in the day as they sometimes run out of money later on.

Backpack

Whatever your style of choice is, bring one. Don’t rely on getting a free bag at the show. They’re often cumbersome and there’s no guarantee you’ll find one anyway. Trust me…carrying a bunch of random stuff you pick up throughout the day is going to suck without a backpack. Make it at least a 10-slotter. If it has weight reduction, all the better.

Phone & Charger

Duh. You need your phone. But don’t be a dumb and forget your charger and/or wall plug. Pro Tip: Turn your brightness down as far as you can tolerate. Keeping up with your friends at night through texts and/or Twitter is gonna be tough if your phone dies by 2 PM.

Battery Pack

Consider buying an external USB battery pack. It’s been a life saver for me the last couple years. Worth every penny. Plus, if you get an adapter, it'll keep your 3DS and/or Vita truckin' too.

3DS/Vita

Choose your weapon of choice…or dual wield! You will undoubtedly find some downtime (like waiting in line), and you will never be in a better place for local, handheld multiplayer. And then there’s StreetPassing. Oh…the StreetPassing. I see that green light flashing in my sleep.

Hand Sanitizer

There will be dispensers scattered around the buildings, but do yourself a favor and toss a little bottle in your bag and use it every time you play something.

Poster Tube

If you can fit it in your luggage, this is a veteran move. You might get a cool poster at PAX. You might even get it signed by Todd Howard. Make sure you have a way to get it home without crushing it.

Trash Bag

Yep. A trash bag. Just throw it in your luggage. Use it later for dirty clothes, which will keep your stank-ass, sweaty socks off of the cool stuff you bring back on the way home.

Bring your handheld console of choice. You never know who you might get to play with.

The Daily List

Here's a few things that you should do every day.

Shower/Deodorant

For the love of Bristlebane, please! It’s not difficult. You're probably paying an arm and a leg for that hotel room you got, so use those amenities.

Eat/Drink

Walking around for eighteen hours a day for four days requires fuel. It may sound crazy, but you might actually forget to eat and stay hydrated. There’s a ton of awesome places to grab food in downtown Seattle. Try to eat two actual meals a day and carry some snacks for in-between. Alternatively, you could attempt to live on doughnuts for four days. Just don’t get trapped by that Subway on the 4th floor. You’re better than that.

Sleep

Time is precious at PAX, but you can’t go non-stop for 100+ hours. Try to get at least 5 or 6 hours a night.

Get Out

Don’t spend all of your time in the convention center. Get out of there once in a while, get some air, grab some real food, see some of the city, etc.

Be Yourself

There’s a special vibe that envelops PAX. If you’ve ever felt weird or strange about the nerdy things you love, know that you’ll never be in a place with more people that enjoy the same things that you do than you ever will be. So, be yourself. Talk to random people in lines. You’re going to have a blast. Welcome home.

For a better look at all these places to eat, click the "a ton of awesome places" link above.

The To-Do List

Now that you've got a checklist of what to bring and some daily advice, here's some tips on how to prepare.

Download Guidebook

Guidebook is the best, easiest way to keep up with all the official PAX info (schedule, maps, announcements, etc.) Plus, @coonce works there now, so you know it’s gotta be awesome.

Gameplan

The schedule is out now, so start making a list right now of the panels you may want to see and any potential games you want to play. Compare your list with your friends and get a rough idea of what you want to see and do. Inevitably, you’re going to have make some tough decisions as multiple things you’re interested in will overlap. Accept the fact now that you can’t see/do everything, but if you go in there with no plan at all, you’re going to be overwhelmed.

Plan a Backup

Shit happens. Panels get full faster than you thought. Lines get too long to be worth it. The game you wanted to play might actually just be a presentation. Try to have a backup whenever you can. If all else fails, just go spend some more time in…

Indie Megabooth

Arguably the best part of PAX is the slew of indie games available. And, over the last couple years, the Indie Megabooth has established itself as a primary feature of PAX. It houses around 100 games from nearly as many developers and you could spend hours there. It’s also great because you can play a bunch of games without waiting too long. If you see an open station, play it! I don’t care what it is.

Escape the Expo

The expo hall is an amazing spectacle. No doubt about it. But, it's also a trap. Get the hell out of there and do some other stuff once in a while. PAX has so much to offer aside from the expo hall and you shouldn’t miss it. Head upstairs to the Classic Console and Console Freeplay rooms. Hunt down the Classic Arcade. Head down the street to the Tabletop arenas. You get the point. Go do stuff.

A small piece of the Indie Megabooth at PAX Prime 2013.

The To-Don’t List

A couple little words of warning from a PAX veteran. You'll thank me later.

SWAG

We all love free stuff, but seriously…don’t be that guy. Don’t wait in line for 45 minutes to play a game you don’t care about just to get a shirt. And please don’t loiter around a headphone booth hoping to catch an inflatable hat. You will get free stuff without trying too hard, so don’t let SWAG ruin your PAX.

Lines

Okay, lines are unavoidable. If you want to do much of anything at PAX, you’re gonna wait in some lines. But, this is on the “don’t” list simply to help you make good decisions. Do you really need to wait in line for two hours to play Destiny when it will be out the next week? Think about it. Do you really want to wait in line for an hour to watch an Assassin’s Creed trailer that will be online Tuesday morning? Time is precious at PAX. Choose wisely.

Ubisoft is notorious for having these big theater booths with long lines and no actual playable demos in them. They're not the only ones that do this. Don't fall for it.

The Optional List

Three PAX traditions that should not be ignored. Your interest will likely depend on who is involved, so take note.

Keynote

The “Storytime” session is typically a great opening ceremony for PAX, especially for first-timers. But the Penny Arcade Q&A no longer immediately follows the keynote, so unless you're a fan of the speaker, it may not be worth it. This year’s speaker is Mikey Neumann from Gearbox Software.

Music

On Friday and Sunday night, the Paramount Theatre will be rocking late into the night. Whether you know anything about the performers or not, the concerts are a great time especially if you don’t have any other late night plans. Friday’s lineup includes The Triforce Quartet, The Doubleclicks, and the legendary Paul & Storm. Sunday night, you can see 7bit Hero, Bit Brigade, and nerdcore icon MC Frontalot.

Omegathon Finals

The Omegathon is an elimination tournament that takes place throughout the entire weekend between a couple dozen attendees who were randomly selected prior to the show. The final game is always kept a secret until the very end. It’s usually a great closing ceremony, but it totally depends on the game. I’ve seen some great ones like Vs. Excitebike, Ikaruga, Trials Evolution, and (inexplicably) a stuffed animal crane game. But, I’ve also seen some pure train wrecks like Spaceteam and Cornhole. So, I can’t recommend it as much as I used to, but it still has the potential to be awesome.

The Omegathon Finals at PAX Prime 2012.

<>

Well, that's all I've got. If you have any suggestions, comments, suggestions, or complaints, let me hear it. As always, hopefully this will help some people out and maybe I'll see some of you at PAX. Let me know if you spot my Mii in StreetPass too. I'll probably be the idiot who's most recently played game is Baseball for Game Boy. Anyway, it's gonna be a blast. Have fun. And...try not to throw any chairs.

50 Comments
50 Comments
Posted by MooseyMcMan

I really wish I could be there with you guys!

Moderator Online
Edited by Fobwashed

EVERQUEEEEEEST!!!

Also, great guide =D

Slappin this here because it's the best panel at PAX

Posted by FinalDasa

Oh man this makes me wanna go. I'll have to aim for PAX East if I can.

I'll add that any panel you plan on doing, especially the GB panel, will require a bit of waiting especially if you want a decent seat. Don't be shocked if you show up only to find a very long line of people already waiting to get in.

Also, sleep. No really, sleep. On the final day of PAX East I was pretty exhausted. Even with an energy drink in hand I found myself nodding off during a panel. Luckily I caught up on sleep on my flights home but try and find a way to get some sleep in when you can.

Other than that this guide got me through my first PAX pretty easily!

Moderator Online
Posted by HammondofTexas

Marino! Great guide!

Posted by shiny_llama

Will V-bomb be in attendance? He's not listed on the GB panel description.

Posted by BreakfastKing

Little tip about the GB panel:

Over the last few PAX's, our community has developed a bit of a... reputation with PAX Enforcers. We love Giant Bomb. So much, in fact, that some of us show up 4+ hours early. We tend to hover around the line for the panel preceding GB and make things a bit of a mess for the Enforcer staff. They'll get pretty annoyed and send everybody that looks like they're waiting for Giant Bomb away.

So a few things if you insist on getting there early. Don't be weird or obvious about it. Don't get too close to the line before our line. Don't start a pre-line line. They don't like any of that crap. Also probably don't wear a Giant Bomb shirt. That's a dead giveaway and the Enforcers will realize what you are probably trying to do.

And don't let that discourage you. If you don't care about good seats, you can show up kinda whenever. I keep hearing that as crazy as the GB panel has gotten, it has never actually filled to capacity. I have a feeling we have been real close, if not there already, so don't show up as the panel is supposed to start and expect to get in. But if you allow yourself 30 minutes to an hour beforehand, you will probably at least get in.

Edited by BaconGames

One small detail that is now relevant to me who knows the layout at the BCEC but not PAX Prime as a whole, is it longer or shorter to get from one theater to another than at East? By my 4th East, I've honed my timing to know when to leave, line up without being too early but I don't have that reference for Prime. As someone who has been to both as much as I've been to East, what's your take on that?

Posted by Marino

@bacongames: The major difference is that most of the theaters are not even in the convention center. If you look at the names of the theaters on the schedule, there is a sort of a secret code to knowing where they are. The first letter of the theater name tells you what building while the type of animal tells you what floor. Sound crazy? Well...

  • Hedgehog - Hyatt - Ground floor
  • Sandworm - Sheraton
  • Sasquatch - Sheraton
  • Sphinx - Sheraton - Level 3 (they fly)
  • Wombat - WSCC - Lower
  • Wyvern - WSCC - Upper

Here's a map from a few years ago to give you an idea how far certain places are. The farthest is easily Benaroya. They are using it as the Main Theatre again this year. It's a symphony hall that was also used for the TI3 Dota tournament last year.

Long story short, you're probably going to spend a lot more time outside than you do in Boston.

Staff
Posted by BatmanBatman

Awesome work man ...to bad Seattle is a little far from where I live ... also Bioterrorists

Posted by BaconGames

@marino: Thanks a bunch. I saw something about this naming scheme on the forums but I've integrated it into my schedule and now I should be all set. Since it's Seattle, I'm assuming it's a good idea to bring a small umbrella?

Edited by Marino

@bacongames: Having spent over a cumulative month of my life in Seattle, I have to say the "always raining" thing is largely an exaggeration. The last few years, it's been quite warm even.

Staff
Edited by Chaser324

Battery Pack

Consider buying an external USB battery pack. It’s been a life saver for me the last couple years. Worth every penny. Plus, if you get an adapter, it'll keep your 3DS and/or Vita truckin' too.

If you're like me, you're probably telling yourself that you don't need one of these, but you're dead wrong. This is a PAX requirement. Your phone battery will probably drain much faster while you're at PAX than you're accustomed to - being in close confines with thousands of other mobile devices all competing with each others' signals tends to have that effect.

Moderator Online
Posted by GERALTITUDE

I really enjoyed reading this and making fake plans to follow it in my head.. :( maybe next year..

Edited by AlwaysBeClothing

I've been reading these guides every year just to get a taste of that PAX experience. This time however, I will be using the guide, for realsies. The most important thing I need to know though, is how early to get in line for the GB panel. Two hours? More than that?

Posted by Marino

@alwaysbeclothing: You aren't "allowed" to line up until the line for the previous panel goes inside, which in this case would be just prior to 6:30 PM. Now, as @breakfastking mentioned, there is somewhat of an art in loitering around in the area of where the line will be prior to the "allowed" time. If you want a really good seat, you need to be ready to jump in the official line right as that previous panel's line goes inside. If you don't care about being up front, you should still probably get there not much later than 7:00 PM.

Staff
Posted by Hailinel

@marino said:

@bacongames: Having spent over a cumulative month of my life in Seattle, I have to say the "always raining" thing is largely an exaggeration. The last few years, it's been quite warm even.

Well, not quite.

PAX takes place during the late summer, which is typically the driest and warmest part of the year here. If PAX were to be held at any point between, say, October through May, you'd stand a far greater chance of getting rained on.

Posted by rmanthorp

GET HYPE FOR ROYAL RUMBLE!

Moderator
Edited by mrfluke

@marino: hey. do you know anything about how the autograph sessions work? like do they put a set limit on how much stuff you can get autographed?

Posted by Marino

@mrfluke: This year is really the first time they've had a dedicated autograph area. I would assume it's limited to one or two items. Might be a good question to ask @official_pax via Twitter. Let me know if you get a response.

Staff
Posted by mrfluke

@marino: might take a couple of days to hear from them as they have been slow for me, but ill let you know if i hear anything.

Posted by RonGalaxy

Any word on which panels will be streamed? I'm guessing everything in Sasquatch/Hedgehog will get streamed?

Online
Posted by Marino

@rongalaxy: Not sure. Wasn't almost everything streamed during PAX East?

Staff
Edited by RonGalaxy

@marino said:

@rongalaxy: Not sure. Wasn't almost everything streamed during PAX East?

Everything except for patricks panel and vinny/rich gallop panel. Both of them were recorded in some capacity though.

Online
Edited by Hassun
@ItsHumanity

Posted by HistoryInRust

Hope y'all have safe trips out to Seattle. Will look for as many Giant Bomb/Whiskey Media shirts as I can identify during PAX. Be sure to say hi to those folks!

Posted by Vorpal

@breakfastking: So, as long as there's space in the theatre, it's possible to enter a panel after it's started/the doors are closed?

Edited by Marino

@vorpal: You can come in late if there's space. There will still be Enforcers outside who will direct you where to go in.

On a related note, it's worth mentioning that you cannot "camp" a theater. What I mean is that they clear out the theaters after every panel (except the Main Theatre in some cases). So, for example, you can't go to the panel prior to the Giant Bomb panel just to get a good seat. This is also important when determining which panels you want to go to because you need to allow for enough time to get in line for the next one.

Staff
Posted by Vorpal

@marino: Okay, cool. Good to know that camping isn't an option--I was wondering about that.

Edited by mrcraggle

What is with Ubisoft and those rooms? I've never been to PAX but they had one at EGX last year and I just didn't see the point of lining up to essentially see a video of Watch_Dogs.

As for PAX (and gaming expos in general), get a belt clip for your hand sanitizer. It's just super helpful so you can just leave it there without having to keep reaching into your pockets. Also make sure your sanitizer has moisturisers in it just so your hands don't end up drying out and cracking. Maybe also bring some kind of hand wipes and use it on the game controller before use in addition to your sanitizer.

Posted by Hailinel

What is with Ubisoft and those rooms? I've never been to PAX but they had one at EGX last year and I just didn't see the point of lining up to essentially see a video of Watch_Dogs.

As for PAX (and gaming expos in general), get a belt clip for your hand sanitizer. It's just super helpful so you can just leave it there without having to keep reaching into your pockets.

A lot of what's shown off at PAX Prime is essentially the same as what was shown at E3 in June. They use the same demo builds for playable demos and use the same trailer presentations and spiels (modified to account for the event, of course). Unless it's something particularly unique (ex: The PAX Prime reveal of Duke Nukem Forever), everything on display is essentially recycled from prior industry events.

Posted by mrcraggle

@hailinel: PAX doesn't really interest me in that regard. I'd much rather just go to the panels and meet some duders and hang out. There are other events that seem better suited if you're just looking to get an early hands on.

Posted by Hailinel

@hailinel: PAX doesn't really interest me in that regard. I'd much rather just go to the panels and meet some duders and hang out. There are other events that seem better suited if you're just looking to get an early hands on.

Yeah, but not everyone is able to attend those other events.

Edited by mrfluke
@marino said:

@mrfluke: This year is really the first time they've had a dedicated autograph area. I would assume it's limited to one or two items. Might be a good question to ask @official_pax via Twitter. Let me know if you get a response.

got a response back from them in regards to the autographs

"Due to the high demand of autographs, I believe it is one autographed item per person."

Edited by Chaser324

@hailinel said:

@mrcraggle said:

@hailinel: PAX doesn't really interest me in that regard. I'd much rather just go to the panels and meet some duders and hang out. There are other events that seem better suited if you're just looking to get an early hands on.

Yeah, but not everyone is able to attend those other events.

Regardless of that, I would advise against standing in long lines for demos, theater demos in particular. There's just so many better ways to spend your time. If there's a significant line to get your hands on something you're super interested in, by all means wait (I waited in line to play some Below at PAX East and it totally was worth it), but I wouldn't suggest doing that for more than one or two games.

Moderator Online
Edited by mrcraggle

@chaser324: Eurogamer Expo was nothing but lines last year. Took me 2 hours to play Titanfall, 1 hour wait for Hotline Miami 2, then another 2 hours to get into the Sony section where you have to join even more lines once you were inside. The best thing about the whole day was that I got to speak to the community manager and voice of the Lotus in Warframe. I hope I didn't annoy her too much with all of my questions.

Posted by Butano

Being a first timer this year, I'm super excited for Prime. Thanks for putting this all together every time a PAX happens, @marino! The schedule on their official site was a bit daunting at first glance, but now I know which panels to definitely attend.

Posted by InsiderGamer

@marino: Yes, thanks again for a great guide. Do you or anyone else have suggestions on things to sightsee while in Seattle?

While PAX is the main attraction (and GB within that, of course), I've never been to Seattle before and probably won't be back in some time, so I figure I might as well see the things I need to see while in the area. Thanks.

Edited by Marino

The Guidebook app is live now.

You can view it here. Download the app and start planning your days out.

Staff
Posted by FinalDasa

@marino: That thing was a lifesaver so often. Funny how hangovers and sleep deprivation will make you forget which room is where and what panel is when.

Moderator Online
Posted by Marino

@marino: That thing was a lifesaver so often. Funny how hangovers and sleep deprivation will make you forget which room is where and what panel is when.

No doubt. And in Seattle it's even more important since all the theaters are in different hotels and whatnot.

Staff
Posted by FinalDasa

@marino said:

@finaldasa said:

@marino: That thing was a lifesaver so often. Funny how hangovers and sleep deprivation will make you forget which room is where and what panel is when.

No doubt. And in Seattle it's even more important since all the theaters are in different hotels and whatnot.

Oh that sounds confusing. I thought I had a handle on the Boston rooms after running around the convention on the first day but by day 3 I was getting pretty turned around. And I'm pretty good with directions most of the time.

Moderator Online
Posted by patbaer

Hey duders!

I have been told that all Main Stage panels and all panels in Hedgehog will be live streamed. This includes the PAX Rumble and my 404ing It panel. I have not heard if they're doing any other rooms.

Also Brad Muir had to bail on my panel, which is a damn shame.

Posted by Chaser324
@patbaer said:

Also Brad Muir had to bail on my panel, which is a damn shame.

D:

Moderator Online
Posted by lordofultima

Will V-bomb be in attendance? He's not listed on the GB panel description.

Nope. Second child birth happening.

Posted by Splodge

Anyone know if the Games Industry Hunger games thingy is going to be streamed?

Posted by rockman10

woo! First PAX for me, heading in this morning to see what's up!

Posted by Chaser324

woo! First PAX for me, heading in this morning to see what's up!

Welcome to the club. PAX East this year was my first one, and now I've got the bug in me and want to go to all of them. Not being in Seattle right now is causing me serious mental and emotional anguish.

Moderator Online
Edited by megabite10164

So I couldn't find anything definitive about a stream for the Hunger Games event but since it's hosted by Gamespot if anything happens along the lines of a stream it would be posted here.

http://www.gamespot.com/pax/

Posted by Splodge

So I couldn't find anything definitive about a stream for the Hunger Games event but since it's hosted by Gamespot if anything happens along the lines of a stream it would be posted here.

http://www.gamespot.com/pax/

Its started, so it looks like theres no stream. Hopefully someone is recording it and it will be up later.

Posted by Larmer

@splodge: I do believe they said on The Lobby that they would be putting video of it up on Monday or Tuesday.