It's been four years now that I've been writing guides for anyone and everyone who wants to get the most out of their Penny Arcade Expo experience. Last year, for PAX Prime 2014, I changed it up a bit, so I'm gonna stick with that format for East this year too (with a few tweaks). If you’ve seen one of my guides in the past, you likely know that I’ve been through ten E3s, two Dragon*Cons, and what is about to be my thirteenth PAX. As I've said before, even with all this personal experience at video game conventions and trade shows, it’s thanks to help from a lot of y’all that I think we’ve got this guide thing down to a science. Even so, if you have something to add or if you have any questions about anything, please post them below.
I've been to Boston many times even before PAX started coming there, and it's easily one of my favorite cities. If you've been to Prime, but not East, it's gonna be like bizarro world to you. At Prime, the airport is far away and the convention center is in the middle of everything downtown. In Boston, Logan International is a few minutes from the convention center, but it's about a mile walk from there into the heart of Boston where most of the fun stuff is.
If you're landing at the airport, you should almost definitely hop on the Silver Line. It's FREE going into the city from Logan and, if you were lucky enough to get a hotel near the convention center, it'll take you right past most of them. If you weren't so lucky, the Silver Line will drop you at South Station, which is a hub that will get you to basically anywhere else in the city. If you're going to be in town all week(end), throw $10 or $20 on MBTA "Charlie Card" since each ride you take is going to cost about $2.
Check for hotel on Google maps, locate the closest "T" station (it'll be real easy), and work backwards to South Station. Even if you're not a city kid, it's quite simple. If you need help, there's plenty of Boston natives hanging around on the site, so ask away.
Giant Bomb @ PAX
You might spot a Giant Bomb staff member randomly on the show floor (just don't bother them if they're shooting something), but your best bet is one of these panels. There's at least one panel every day of the show that features at least one member of the staff, so no matter what day you're going to be at PAX, you've got a shot at seeing some or all of the Giant Bomb crew in person. Make sure you line up early (especially for the GB panel)!
FRI - 12:00 PM
A Bunch of Dads - Presented by Tested.com
FRI - 7:00 PM
Game Review Over: Critiquing the Way We Critique Games
FRI - 9:00 PM
Giant Bomb 2015 FY2015 Kickoff & Powerpoint Presentation
SAT - 4:00 PM
Making Video Sausage with Giant Bomb & Gamespot
SAT - 9:00 PM
404ing It: Breaking Down the Internet
SUN - 10:30 AM
More Video Game Wrestling Nonsense at...PAXAMANIA!
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, East Enforcers are coated in red. 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.
They don't always wear armor like this guy to the right. Just most of the time.
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 Packing List
Here's what you need to bring with you especially if you're coming in from out of town.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Daily List
Here's a few things that you should do every day.
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.
Walking around for eighteen hours a day for three days requires fuel. It may sound crazy, but you might actually forget to eat and stay hydrated. There aren't a ton of options real close to the convention center. There is a food court on the north side of the convention center, but it's super crowded and generally shitty. There's carnival-type food in the back of the expo hall usually too. But, scope out some of the few nearby locations ahead of time and maybe hit those instead. Try to eat two actual meals a day and carry some snacks for in-between. Alternatively, you could attempt to live on Dunkin for three days.
Time is precious at PAX, but you can’t go non-stop for 72+ hours. Try to get at least 5 or 6 hours a night.
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.
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.
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.
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…
The 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. Head to the back to the Tabletop arenas. You get the point. Go do stuff. New stuff.
The To-Don’t List
A couple little words of warning from a PAX veteran. You'll thank me later.
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.
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 Bloodborne when it will be out two weeks later? Maybe not. Do you really want to wait in line for an hour to watch a Batman: Arkham Knight trailer that will be online Monday morning? Time is precious at PAX. Choose wisely.
The Optional List
Three PAX traditions that should not be ignored. Your interest will likely depend on who is involved, so take note.
The “Storytime” session is typically a great opening ceremony for PAX, especially for first-timers. The Penny Arcade Q&A is once again immediately after this, so if you're a fan of those guys, you should probably go to the keynote to get a good seat. It's one of the few times they don't clear out a theatre before the next event. This year’s speakers are Telltale Games founders Dan Connors and Kevin Bruner.
On Friday and Saturday night, the Main 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 Super Guitar Bros, Triforce Quartet, and the legendary Paul & Storm. Saturday night, you can see Freezepop, Bit Brigade, and nerdcore icon MC Frontalot.
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.
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...watch out for glass bottles.