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What I Learned at PAX East

For those of you that don’t know, I attended PAX East a few weeks ago. The three-day Boston convention is full of previews, swag, booths, indie games, and tech, and cosplayers and con elites come in bulk looking to get their hands on it all. It was my first real convention, and I went as media no less, badge and all. After spending hours crammed against other passionate gamers walking the show floor and waiting in lines of hundreds just to get a peak at some important panelist discussing something relevant to the industry, well, let’s just say I learned some valuable lessons.

PAX East isn’t the largest video game-themed convention in the US, but it’s nestled high enough up there that it makes for a good choice for a first-timer like myself. What I learned right away is that attending this convention wasn’t going to be a luxury as it was for all the patrons that paid to be there. My work was nonstop. Mornings were early and nights were late, and time I didn’t spend writing was spent researching and perusing the show floor in search of the next scoop. The last day there I must have visited over 15 booths myself, trying out different games and talking to developers and creative directors. I felt a sense of purpose, but by the end of the convention, I was ready for some R&R. Long days and a lack of sleep eventually take their toll, but would I do it all again? You bet. PAX East gave me a taste of what being a video games journalist could one day be, and it was everything I hoped for. If my experiences at PAX are any indication, writing about games for a living won’t be a cakewalk, but I couldn’t want it any more than I do now.

FiddlesticksI also learned that media doesn’t get nearly as many perks as I originally thought, at least not at PAX East. There were two wildly popular demos at the Boston expo this year: The Last of Us and Transistor. The lines for these games never dropped under a two and a half hour wait, and even seeing them that low was a rare occurrence. I would have loved to have been able to preview both of these games, but I simply didn’t have six hours to kill during a convention that lasts a total of 24 hours. A shame, really. I wonder how the professional journalists manage to get their hands on these popular demos; perhaps one day I’ll find out.

Another important lesson: Riot fans are absolutely insane. Enough said.

It was fun to bring my 3DS to the con and watch as I got Streetpass after Streetpass. I must have passed over 250 people in the three days I was there. Everywhere you looked you could spot someone gaming on one as they waited in line for food or demos, but I only saw two Vitas the whole time I was there. Two. I learned that Sony should probably quit now; Nintendo’s got this one.

Another thing I learned is that you have to be assertive and motivated if you want to attend a con as media. Want to interview a famous developer founder like Ken Levine or Randy Pitchford? You can, but you better believe that nailing that exclusive depends entirely on your willingness to get it done. Scheduling is a big part of getting content at a convention. Plan ahead, and when you see an opening, take it. Organization and an extroverted mindset will help any games journalist get content they might otherwise miss.

PAX EastIt was interesting to walk the show floor and see some of the cosplayers displaying their elaborate recreations of their favorite video game characters (the Fiddlesticks cosplay was a real treat). I never noticed how much work some people put into this hobby. Some costumes were so elaborate that I couldn’t even comprehend how the persons wearing them put them on. I learned that gamers are some of the most passionate people out there; it was plain to see at PAX.

Another big lesson is that if you want swag, you have to be annoying. I missed several opportunities to grab some neat stuff simply because I’m too reserved to scream at some innocent employee for a hat or t-shirt. But screaming works. Keep this in mind if you ever attend a convention and want to grab some of that sweet, succulent swag.

Some further minor lessons I learned include that Cliff Bleszinski hates bullying, literally everyone thinks I look like Blake from Workaholics, and a certain Macaroni Grill has an awesome waiter. But that’s another story for another time. In the end, I drove away from PAX with some sore legs and a smile on my face. It’s hard to see everything you want to see at a three-day expo when you’re competing against the loyal gamers that paid to be there, but the experience is worthwhile.

Now if only I could get into E3.