Lessons From A PAX Veteran

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The first time I went to PAX was 2007. I stood and sat in the the enormous line with my friend Josh for what seemed like an eternity. Ushered into what was then the main theatre, we listened to Wil Wheaton give that incredible keynote that became the guiding light for my PAX experience since. PAX 2007 was an incredible three day whirlwind.

I have been lucky enough to return to PAX Prime every year since. This year will be my seventh consecutive year attending and in that time, I've seen it grow into a massive conglomeration of everything your heart desires. Throughout all of it's growth, it has remained a one of a kind experience. So allow me to offer you a few tasty bits of advice to those of you attending PAX for the first time.

Keep in mind, while most of this is written with four day pass holders in mind, the lessons are certainly applicable to those attending fewer than that.

Over-encumbered or awesome cosplay?
Either way, you are in pain.
First thing's first. What do you take with you? Like me, you'll be tempted to bring everything you love with you. Unfortunately, unless you're a member of the French Foreign Legion, that 100 lb. pack will feel like a life draining parasite before noon.

Pack light. If you have a handheld, bring it, and maybe two or three games. It's a great way to pass the time in line, especially if you get there early. A couple snacks are good to pack in there as well, for the hungers. Unless you have a specific thing you want a specific person to sign, don't worry about packing a book or console. The PAX book you'll get while in line is perfect for autographs. Lastly, but probably most important, water. Pack a water bottle, or wear a camel pak if you prefer. You will be walking or standing most of the day in close proximity to hundreds of people. Your cells will thirst. Quench them.

We know what you're packing now, but you're still naked! Worry not, this one is easy. Look at your closet. Find the most comfortable clothes you can still wear in public. Wash them all, then pack them all. Next up, wear socks and covered shoes. I know, it may seem unwise to restrict your feet from breathing, but after the 307th time your foot gets stomped or stubbed, you'll wish you had better shoes. You'll also experience the aroma of all the other people that let their feet breathe. Remember, breathing is best left to your lungs. Find a comfortable pair of sneakers, something you can walk around all day in. Because you will be... you will be.

Now that you're fit for the out of doors and packed for your time, lets discuss what you should do. If it's your first time, I highly recommend checking out one of the Q&A sessions with Mike and Jerry. They're really funny and give a good primer for PAX attendees. The Keynote every year is also good for this. Other than that, try to keep your schedule open. While the panels and shows at PAX are great, the best times I've had have been talking and playing games with other people.

If you can, step outside your comfort zone. Try a new game, talk to people you think are interesting, or happen to be in line with. I guarantee that you have a lot in common. I've met some amazing people at PAX. As a matter of fact, we met Sslarn and MoreGun89 at PAX in 2010. You will be around thousands of other people that like and love the same things you do. It would be a shame not to engage some of them in conversation. Set goals if it helps. Every year, I try to find at least two games I've never played and jump into a round with complete strangers.

There will be a lot of things going on at PAX. Know this; you won't be able to see everything. You will kill yourself trying. Trust me, I've been the bedraggled attendee crawling towards the next panel. It ain't pretty. Give yourself at least a couple hours leeway in between panels and events to allow for lines and travel time. It's also a great idea to subscribe to the official PAX Lines twitter feed. Make sure that you allow time for yourself to eat. There is food at the convention center, as well as almost everywhere around it. Take advantage of this and nourish your -hopefully- quenched cells.

Keep an eye on your things. Even though most of the people at PAX are awesome, there are a few dicks lurking in the shadows. If you have a camera (you should), wear it on you, or pack it in such a way that you can't leave it somewhere. backpacks are good only as long as you have them on. You'll also get a ton of goodies from booths and grab bags. Keep it close and drop it off at your home/hotel/hole/whatever at the end of each day. carrying all that stuff around will make you more likely to lose something.

PAX is amazing. There is too much to do and see. You will miss things, and you will have regrets. Above all else, be awesome to other people. The best thing about PAX isn't the games or the events or panels, it's the thousands of other gamers there with you. Take a moment at some point to take in the enormity of it all. You are at PAX. Everyone around you is there because they love games. At PAX, we don't have to be anyone other than ourselves. No one is telling us to grow up, no one there will tell you that games are a blight. You are among friends, you're among family. Your time is short, but every second is memorable. PAX belongs to every gamer. Have fun.