PAX Guide 2015: Prime Edition

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Over four years ago now, I started writing guides to help people get the most they possible could out of their PAX adventure. PAX Prime 2015 will be my fourteenth one, but I’ve also seen ten E3s and two Dragon*Cons. So, the idea here is to use that experience to help PAX rookies and veterans alike. Thanks to input from others over the years, I think we’ve got this guide thing down to a science. As such, this version of the guide won’t be a whole lot different from last year aside from some minor updates. But, if you’ve got any suggestions, please post them below.

Seattle

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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 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 music/sci-fi museums), and, of course, the convention center.

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Giant Bomb @ PAX

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Your best bet to meet the Giant Bomb crew is the meet-up on Thursday night, but if you missed out on signing up for that or you're not getting into town until Friday (rookie mistake), then these panels are going to be the next best chance. For the GB panel (and any "popular" panel) you're going to need to line up very early if want a good seat. Enforcers will not allow you to line up until the line for the previous panel goes inside, so...do what you need to do to get in actual line as soon as that happens.

For example, the panel that is in the room before Giant Bomb is "Foreplay: Romance in Games." It starts at 6:30 PM, which means their line will go inside somewhere around 6:15 PM. That's when you can "officially" line up for Giant Bomb. And, no, you cannot go to the Foreplay panel and stay in the room. The Enforcers clear the room after each panel. Good luck!

When/WhereWhatWho

Thursday

9:00 PM

The Parlor

Giant Bomb Live, In-Person & Fully Clothed

  • Errybody

Friday

11:00 AM

The Parlor

The Giant Beastcast LIVE!

Friday

2:00 PM

The Parlor

Mario Party Party 5 LIVE!

Saturday

2:30 PM

Sphinx Theatre

404ing It: Breaking (Down) the Internet

  • (No Live Stream - Will Be Recorded)

Saturday

8:00 PM

Sasquatch Theatre

This Is It! The Giant Bomb PAX Panel for PAX Prime 2015

  • (No Live Stream - Will Be Recorded)
  • Errybody

Sunday

10:00 AM

Hydra Theatre

The 3rd Annual* PAX Rumble! N64 Wrestling, 30 Challengers, and YOU!

  • ???

Monday

2:00 PM

Chicken

How to Be a Hero

  • (No Live Stream)
  • Dan Ryckert
  • Russ Pitts
  • Susan Arendt
  • Dr. Mark Kline
The Giant Bomb PAX Prime 2013 panel was certainly one to remember. Especially those of you who have scars from those Infinity boxes.
The Giant Bomb PAX Prime 2013 panel was certainly one to remember. Especially those of you who have scars from those Infinity boxes.

The Enforcers

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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.

There's no Queue Room anymore (more on that later), so this is gonna happen.
There's no Queue Room anymore (more on that later), so this is gonna happen.

#PAX

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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.
Just because the expo hall closes at 6pm doesn't mean PAX stops.
Just because the expo hall closes at 6pm doesn't mean PAX stops.

The Packing List

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

Money

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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

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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

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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

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Strongly 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

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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. But you gotta get them puzzle pieces! And the fish! Oh...the fish!

Hand Sanitizer

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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

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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

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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.

Bring your handheld of choice. You never know who you'll get to play with.
Bring your handheld of choice. You never know who you'll get to play with.

The Daily List

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

Shower/Deodorant

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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

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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.

Sleep

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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

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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

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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 food places, click the
For a better look at all these food places, 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

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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

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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.

http://prime.paxsite.com/schedule

Plan a Backup

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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

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Arguably the best part of PAX is the slew of indie games available. And, over the last few years, 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

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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.

SWAG

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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

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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 an hour to play Mario Maker 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.

How do you think these people feel now? They waited 5+ hours to see Duke Nukem Forever in 2010.
How do you think these people feel now? They waited 5+ hours to see Duke Nukem Forever in 2010.

The Optional List

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

Keynote

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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 Kim Swift, who most people will know from Portal.

Music

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On Saturday and Sunday 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. Saturday’s lineup includes 7bit Hero, Freezepop, and MC Frontalot. Sunday night, you can see The Returners, Bit Brigade, and The Protomen.

Omegathon Finals

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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 2012 Omegathon Finals.
The 2012 Omegathon Finals.

PAX. PAX Never Changes.

The Queue Room is now a relic of the past (PAX 2009 seen here).
The Queue Room is now a relic of the past (PAX 2009 seen here).

Except when it does. There’s a few notable changes to PAX Prime this year that everyone who’s been before should be aware of.

1. The Queue Room is gone. The expo hall will now expand into what was the morning queue room, but not to add more booths. The idea is to make wider walkways and generally more space throughout the expo hall, which is a great idea. But, where do we line up then? They’re saying Enforcers will direct you where to go if you come in the main entrance of the convention center, which probably means you’ll be led outside of level four, which is where the overflow area was last year anyway. You can also line up at the annex across the street or at any of the theaters if you plan on going to a morning panel.

2. No stopping in aisles to take photos. This is primarily referring to cosplay. They’re encouraging cosplayers to congregate outside the expo hall for photo ops. Typically, the area around the merch booth on level 4 is popular for this anyway.

3. The registration desk is now at the Grand Hyatt, NOT in the convention center. That means if you did not get your badges mailed to you, you will need to pick them up at the Hyatt. You can do this on Thursday if you get into town early, which will be a lot faster than doing it Friday morning for sure.

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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 the Seattle Mariners logo. Anyway, it's gonna be a blast. Have fun. Just remember...

...do not approach this man.
...do not approach this man.

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