PAX Guide 2018: West Edition

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Posted by Marino (7272 posts) -

It's hard to believe that I'm currently preparing for my twenty-first PAX adventure. That's almost as ridiculous as the fact that we've been building this PAX guide together for over seven years now. As always, whether you're a PAX rookie or a seasoned vet, this guide is for you. As the last few versions have been, this one is mostly unchanged aside from some minor updates and of course the info specific to 2018. If you have something to add or a question, please let us know.


Do some touristy shit.
Do some touristy shit.

The Washington State Convention Center is a little old and a little small, but it 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 less than $5, 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 pop culture museum), and, of course, the convention center.

Giant Bomb (and Friends) @ PAX

No Caption Provided

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.

For popular panels, you're going to need to line up early if want a good seat. As a general rule, I'd suggest going to most panels an hour early. For the super popular ones, there's a bit of loitering skill involved. Enforcers will not allow you to line up until the line for the previous panel goes inside, what you need to do to get in the actual line as soon as that happens.

  • Friday
  • 5:00 - 6:00 PM
  • Cat
Hidden Gems: Discovering the Undiscovered of PAX WestNo
  • Friday
  • 8:30 - 9:30 PM
  • Hydra

The Improvised PostmortemPAX2
  • Saturday
  • 1:30 - 2:30 PM
  • Sandworm
Waypoint Radio LIVE!No
  • Saturday
  • 3:30 - 4:30 PM
  • Hippogriff
Let's Rank It!
  • Dave Lang
  • Darryl Wisner
  • Jeff Gerstmann
  • Felix Kramer
  • Kelly Wallick
  • Pat Baer
  • Saturday
  • 5:00 - 6:00 PM
  • Hippogriff
Mass Effect: USgamer Explores One of the Best RPGs Ever
  • Austin Walker
  • Matthew Allen
  • Nadia Oxford
  • Saturday
  • 7:00 - 8:00 PM
  • Hydra
Kinda Funny's Inter-Website Video Game Tournament
  • Greg Miller
  • Dan Ryckert
  • Mike Mahardy
  • Andrea Rene
  • Kahlief Adams
  • and more!
  • Saturday
  • 8:30 - 10:00 PM
  • Hydra
League of Heels presents West Coast WishesPAX2
  • Sunday
  • 11:00 - 12:00 PM
  • Hippogriff
Build With Baer Workshop: LEGO ChallengeNo
  • Sunday
  • 1:00 - 2:00 PM
  • Hydra
The (Personal) History of Video Games: Chapter 3
  • Eric Kanius
  • Felix Kramer
  • Rami Ismail
  • Abby Russell
  • Kate Stark
  • Sunday
  • 4:30 - 5:30 PM
  • Sandworm
No Really, Does the Author's Intent Matter in Video Games?
  • Alex Zandra
  • Lena Raine
  • Jeff Gerstmann
  • Aura Triolo
  • Undrea
  • Sunday
  • 8:00 - 9:00 PM
  • Sasquatch
Giant Bomb: This Panel Is Not About Anime
  • Jeff Gerstmann
  • Dan Ryckert
  • Ben Pack
  • Jan Jerome Ochoa
  • Abby Russell

The Enforcers

The Parlor Live (the comedy club CBSi rented out) shut down a couple weeks after this happened in 2015. Coincidence?
The Parlor Live (the comedy club CBSi rented out) shut down a couple weeks after this happened in 2015. Coincidence?

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 Improvised Post-Mortem is the newest must-see panel.
The Improvised Post-Mortem is the newest must-see panel.

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.
  • @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. If it has weight reduction effects, all the better.

Phone & Charger

Duh. You need your phone. But don’t make a rookie mistake 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

Strongly consider buying an external USB battery pack. It’s been a life saver for me the last few years. Worth every penny.

Portable Gaming

You will undoubtedly find some downtime (like waiting in line), and you will never be in a better place for local multiplayer.

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. Using it for dirty clothes will keep your stank-ass, sweaty socks off of the cool stuff you bring back on the way home.

Quite possibly the best photograph I've taken in 10 years of PAX.
Quite possibly the best photograph I've taken in 10 years of PAX.

The Daily List

Here's a few things that you should do every day. 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 four days requires fuel. It may sound crazy now, 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.


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.

Seattle has many great places to eat.
Seattle has many great places to eat.

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 the App

The official app is the best, easiest way to keep up with all the official PAX info (schedule, maps, announcements, etc.). You can even build your own personal panel schedule in there and set reminders. Get it for iOS or Android.


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. The Indie Megabooth has established itself as a primary feature of PAX. It houses over seventy 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.

The Indie Megabooth is always a good time!
The Indie Megabooth is always a good time!

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 over an hour to play Spider-Man when it comes out next Friday? Think about it. Do you really want to wait in line for an hour to watch a new Assassin's Creed Odyssey trailer that will be online Tuesday morning? Time is precious at PAX. Choose wisely.

Let's Rank It! is back again. It is inadvisable to eat things presented during this panel.
Let's Rank It! is back again. It is inadvisable to eat things presented during this panel.

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. 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 the game director of World of Warcraft, Ion Hazzikostas.


On Friday and Saturday night, Benaroya Hall 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 - Triforce Quartet, SAMMUS, Super Soul Bros.
    • Saturday - Video Game Pianist, The OneUps, Bit Brigade

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 Spaceteamand Cornhole. So, I can’t recommend it as much as I used to, but it still has the potential to be awesome.


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Do not accept food from this man.
Do not accept food from this man.

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. If you see a guy meticulously photographing everything in sight, that's probably me. Anyway, it's gonna be a blast. Have fun.

Avatar image for bboymaestro
#1 Posted by bboymaestro (744 posts) -

If that Team Captain tries to offer you uncooked hot dogs for a gimmick, just say "No".

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#2 Posted by gamer_152 (14746 posts) -

Good-ass work once again.

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#3 Posted by inevpatoria (7436 posts) -

My first year not attending since 2013. I'll live vicariously through everyone joining the event. Hope the wildfire smoke clears out before things get going!

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#4 Posted by sparklykiss (2042 posts) -

Y'all still forget chapstick for when the convention center is suddenly the driest place on the planet, but, as always: This is a good write-up and I hope all y'all have a great time! :D

Avatar image for marino
#5 Posted by Marino (7272 posts) -

Y'all still forget chapstick for when the convention center is suddenly the driest place on the planet, but, as always: This is a good write-up and I hope all y'all have a great time! :D

You're not wrong. Though, it's definitely more of an issue in Boston.

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#6 Posted by James_ex_machina (1067 posts) -

I'm excited to attend PAX West this year. Unfortunately, I'm headed home (PA) on Sunday causing me to miss the Giant Bomb panel. At least I can see some cool panels with GB members on Friday and Saturday. I've attended PAX East 4 times and PAX Unplugged so far. I'm also looking forward to exploring Seattle and Edmunds, WA.

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#7 Posted by Marino (7272 posts) -

@james_ex_machina: You're gonna love the location (heart of downtown) compared to Boston's. But, you're also going to be confused as hell with not only how mind-bending the convention center is compared to the giant hangar in Boston, but also how half the show is not in the convention center.

Check out the maps I included at the bottom to help familiarize yourself a bit.

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#8 Posted by James_ex_machina (1067 posts) -

@marino: Thanks! I'll defintely study the maps to see how my schedule panels will affect my walking. Boston's convention center is a really nice place. I just wish there was more food trucks and beer for us consenting adults.

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#9 Posted by James_ex_machina (1067 posts) -

@bboymaestro: The uncooked hotdogs can't be worse then those hotdogs thrown around the room at PAX East 2017.

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#10 Posted by NTM (11749 posts) -

I say this every year, but still, I have to go to PAX here at some point. I only live about 30 minutes away... I've only been to the comic con we have there, and it was fun, but not game-centric (although there was a game kiosk). Oh, and yeah the air is bad here right now as @inevpatoria said. Hopefully, it clears up soon.

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#11 Edited by NTM (11749 posts) -

@james_ex_machina: Edmonds is nice, but it's kind of small and you probably won't find much there, to be honest. That is unless you really like looking at water and ferries. There's a really nice off-leash dog park there though. It's a place you'll be for an hour then go 'hmm, that was nice, time to head home now!' If you're into the city vibe, you can check out Bellevue, which is home to Valve of all places.

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#12 Posted by James_ex_machina (1067 posts) -

@ntm: Thanks for the info. Besides video games I'm into aquariums and microbrews. I occasionally follow the videos from Cory of the Aquarium CO-op store in Edmunds. I'll only be there Wednesday night and Thursday night. Enough time to check out Aquarium Co-op and hit a microbrew or two and head to the main attraction.

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#13 Posted by NTM (11749 posts) -

@james_ex_machina: It's not an issue, but your spelling of Edmonds is tricking me into thinking there's a well-known place that I don't know about in WA (because there definitely is places I've never heard of in WA despite living here my entire life). Anyways, cool. Have fun. Aurora is nearby; it's probably safe enough to walk if you happen to do that which is where many of the restaurant/stores are, like a Costco, but it's home to many vagabonds if you will (although, closer to Seattle mind you). Glad I moved away from there in 2009 to the east of Lake Washington and to be honest, the times I've gone back it only got worse there. The part of Edmonds you're talking about isn't exactly what I had in mind since when I think of Edmonds, I mainly think of the area by the water where you can see ferries coming and going. It's close though. Anyways, yeah have fun!

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#14 Posted by theboywil (5 posts) -

nice work....

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#15 Posted by Krataur (493 posts) -

Thank you for this! My first time going to any PAX, so this is extremely helpful.

Avatar image for marino
#16 Posted by Marino (7272 posts) -

@krataur said:

Thank you for this! My first time going to any PAX, so this is extremely helpful.

Glad to be of help. You're not going to want to miss another one after this.

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#17 Posted by NickFoley (671 posts) -

Brad's not traveling, at least not to Pax.

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#18 Posted by Marino (7272 posts) -

@nickfoley: Yeah. He was on the PAX schedule, but he hasn't gone in a couple years now. I've updated the guide.

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#19 Posted by rafar (35 posts) -

@Marino Every year this guide helps make PAX easier! Thank you so much for the time/effort! Watch out for my Wu-Tang inspired hockey jersey >:D

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#20 Edited by dprotp (682 posts) -

finally bringing a cardboard tube this year. at pax east aaron trites and co. were kind enough to give me a heroes of the storm poster tube, which i am reusing now with my friends i'm going with. gotta pay it forward!

Avatar image for beachthunder
#21 Posted by BeachThunder (15137 posts) -

Oh, hey, I remember doing that bomb pixel art yeeeaars ago. Here's a version of it without compression artifacts:

No Caption Provided

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#22 Posted by Firrae (140 posts) -

I assume times are in PST?

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#23 Edited by Forcen (2549 posts) -
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#24 Posted by mekon (511 posts) -

@forcen: Thanks, I spent a while looking for this.

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#25 Edited by Forcen (2549 posts) -
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#28 Posted by Marino (7272 posts) -
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#32 Edited by dylanilvento (6 posts) -

@marino I was exploring the new site and found this post and just wanted to say thanks for giving the Hidden Gems panel a shout out! I know it's been a little while since the show, but If anyone is interested in what cool games we found at PAX West, the recording is up as an episode of my podcast for everyone to check out:

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