Oh man Pax East, where to even start. Do we start with the insane crowds, the informative panels, the endless booths from AAA and indie developers alike? The sheer amount of things to do and attend is still mind boggling. This was my first time at Pax and it was slightly overwhelming. From the crazy Boston drivers and the massive Pax crowds to the massive convention center and exhibit hall it can all be a lot to take in, especially your first day.
With so many things to tackle during the convention, utilizing their scheduling tool on the Pax app to help pin down all the things you really want to do can be super helpful, the only downside to having so many awesome things to do is there is no way to attend them all. I suggest choosing the top things you want to do and try and give yourself some time to get to each activity(lines can be ridiculous). Some of my personal favorite things to do was the competitive tournaments. Whether you are into fighters like DBZ and Soul Calibur, first persons shooters like Halo, or even retro games like 007 Golden Eye and Mario Kart 64, they have something for you. Competing in tournaments and walking the free-play stations were great places to meet new people, establish new relationships and make new connections. As a way to meet new people and start new conversations I frequently asked people already playing if i could join them which led to me meeting some pretty awesome people and having some great conversations.
I found that the atmosphere of Pax was one of its great features. Most people were very open and approachable which made starting conversations and creating new friendships very easy. I had a great conversation about gaming and esports with a guy who was there to support his young son. That 15 minute conversation is actually one of the highlights of my time at Pax, having a great conversation with others who love gaming as much as you makes for a great and memorable experience.
Pax had a great mix of panels for professionals in many different aspects of gaming, esports, streaming, and more. Some of my favorite panels were "The Business of Streaming: Sponsorship 101", Taking the Leap: Breaking into esports, and "How Cross-Play will Democratize Competitive Gaming". The panelist all brought shared their experiences, great ideas and perspectives about the industry. Many of the panelist also routinely stayed after the panels ended to talk to people and answer any questions, which is a perfect opportunity to network and build your brand.
Walking the floor was by far the most interesting and overwhelming part of Pax. There is literally a million things going on at once and the hard part is deciding which part of the gigantic hall you want to start in. Most people head to the AAA developers and titles so they can get to play games like "Days gone" early. All the AAA titles are great but the hidden gems of Pax are definitely the indie games. Chances are you have heard of "Days Gone" or "Mortal Kombat" as they are being heavily marketed through mainstream channels, but have you heard of titles like "Dunk Lords' from developers Story Forts, "Get to the Orange Door" by Hitcent, "Buildings have feelings too" by Merge games, or "Metal Revolutions" by Next Studios? Chances are you haven't, and that is because indie developers don't have a super huge marketing budget like Sony, but that doesn't mean indie games are any less fun. Each one of those games I personally got to try and they were hands down some of the funnest games i have played in awhile. My personal favorite was Dunk Lords, Dunk Lords brings a new concept to an old genre. As the name implies the center of the game is 2v2 basketball, but with a twist.
The game is a basketball beat em up but takes it a step further than NBA Jam and incorporates various power ups after each quarter until mayhem ensues. Dunk Lords was able to capture the fun feeling of a basketball beat em up, but also the addictive game-play quality of Rocket League. That is something that many new titles miss.
Many of the indie games are amazing and are just as enjoyable if not more so to play than most of the AAA titles, and since most people head to the AAA games its a lot easier and less time consuming to try out all the indie games as the lines are much shorter.
Pax Do's and Don't
1. Get to the convention center EARLY!!
I can't stress this enough, there are close to 70,000 people who attend Pax and are as eager if not more so than you. Everyone wants to get in and be the first in line to all the best panels, activities, and booths, so if you decide to show up late you can find yourself waiting in very very long lines. I found that getting to the convention center by 8:00 am seemed to be a good time as the lines have not yet formed and you can start waiting in popular lines early. If you plan to bring a bag with you i would suggest arriving even earlier so that you can bypass the excessively long bag lines.
2. Double and triple check!
Before you leave your hotel room double and triple check you have all your necessities. I had to learn this the hard way as I attempted to follow rule 1 and totally forgot my wallet.
3. Bring a Camelback!!
It's so important to make sure your drinking water as much as you can. With so much to do all day long, you can easily find yourself dehydrated. What i found to be extremely useful is my camelback. My camelback allowed me to store up to 2 liters of water directly on my back, I didn't need to carry anything and i was able to be hands free all day. This allowed me to stay in lines and panels comfortably. Because it is not considered a bag i did not have any issues with checking in and could bypass the bag line.
4. Make Time to Eat
Like keeping yourself hydrated feeding yourself can also slip your mind with all the excitement. I found myself going all day without eating and would end up starving by the end of the night. The convention center does have a lot of food available but it can be expensive, and if your have strict eating habits like myself it may be difficult getting enough food. Being a Vegan my options were very slim. There were food trucks available that served as an alternative option to the expensive convention food, but there were not many option for myself there either. I learned after the first 2 days and brought snacks with me that i could eat through the day. I recommend that you do a little planning before heading out if you have food restrictions.
We concluded our Pax run by attending the eMLS Cup in Boston. The best of the best fifa players in the eMLS were all in attendance to the final tournament of the season. The event was held at The Castle at Park Plaza which was a perfect setting. The atmosphere was crazy, the crowd was wild, and the games were intense. Doolsta and NYC_Chris eastern conference finals match was literally insane, the constant back and forth to lead into penalties was a roller-coaster of a match. With every goal the crowd went absolutely nuts. Doolsta the beast from the east ended up winning the championship to make a trifecta of championships for the year. If you have never been to an esports event and felt the hyped atmosphere, i highly recommend planning to do so, it was a great experience and an awesome time.