We are just a few days away from Boston’s largest gaming convention: PAX East. The doors of the BCEC will open to Bostonian nerds and travelers alike for one of my favorite weekends of the year. There will be games to play, people to meet, panels to see, swag to collect, and so much more. In fact, it can all be overwhelming. If you’re a newcomer to the convention you can easily be blindsided by how much there is to do. However that should not hinder the fun you’re having. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of strategies I’ve picked up after attending the convention for the past five years.
There is a lot to take in at PAX. The first year I attended I mindlessly wandered the floor overwhelmed, not sure of what I should do. I had a good time still, but I did not make the most out of the short time I had there. I went in there not knowing what to expect and left bewildered and amazed.
In order to avoid the confusion and chaos, take some time to make a general layout of your day. The show’s schedule is currently available at Paxsite.com and on the PAX East 2016 app. The schedule shows the time and location of all panels, as well as a brief description of them. Read through the panel list and figure out what you want to see. Generally speaking, you are going to want to show up to the panel line about a half hour to an hour before the show starts. If you want seats close to the front or if it’s a popular panel, you may want to show up even earlier than that.
When you know what events and panels you want to go to, create a basic outline of what you want to do for the rest of the day. Figure out when you want to explore the floor and what you want to see on it. Keep in mind that the floor is typically most crowded roughly from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Even for someone who isn’t claustrophobic the peak traffic time can get uncomfortable, especially on Saturday. At this primetime try to see a panel, grab lunch, explore the side rooms of the convention, or even check out Boston.
Lines are Inevitable but Manageable
There will be thousands of people at the convention looking to do the same things you want to do. That means that there are going to be plenty of lines. They start at the beginning of the day to enter the convention and there will be plenty of others for trying out games, going to panels, and everything else. If you are spending the majority of your time at the convention waiting in line, then you are not getting the most out of the weekend.
The good news is that you can and should manage the time you spend in lines. This strategy ties back into setting a schedule for the weekend and planning out what you want to do. Now let’s say hypothetically you really want to play Gears of War 4, Doom, Star Fox Zero, or some other blockbuster hit that will likely be there. However you don’t want to wait up to six hours in line to play it (and yes, some of the more popular games can have a line that long). Well, try heading to that game first thing in the morning. You will have to wait in to get into the con for quite a while (if it’s a really popular game try getting in line at least an hour before the doors open), but there isn’t anything else to do at the con at that time. Find out exactly where that booth is and get to it immediately (but no running please). The line will be shorter then compared to the rest of the day.
But what if you do that and the line is still too long for your tastes? I would recommend not waiting for those games. Sure, it’s exciting to say that you played the newest Gears of War months before it came out, but is the 20 minutes of gameplay worth the three hour line? In my opinion, no game would be worth that wait, especially when most of them are coming out within six months or so. There’s so much to do at PAX with such limited time that the line probably isn’t worth it.
While I’ve already covered how to manage lines for panels, PAX does have a fantastic reference to help you out with it. Follow @PAX_Lines on Twitter for updates on the lines of many panels. It will let me know when lines start filling up and will tell you when to hurry up your panel.
As much as I love PAX East and the convention center, I’m not a fan of overpriced churros that are hard as a rock. Luckily, you don’t have to eat the food at the convention center (and you shouldn’t).
First off, I’m going sound like your mother and recommend you have a great breakfast. Don’t just have a piece of toast but take some time to have a full meal. PAX can be an exhausting experience and you’ll be thankful when you eat a breakfast that energizes you. You’ll be walking around all day and you don’t want to start to crash around noon.
For lunch you have a handful of options. If you’re trying to save money or time feel free to pack your own lunch. It’s going to taste better than most of the food in the BCEC, it’s less expensive, and it’s allowed. There are bag checks when you enter but they are searching for anything that could be dangerous for con-goers, not turkey sandwiches.
If you want to buy your food around town there are a handful of fast, tasty, and local choices. There are a handful of places at South Station which is a ten minute walk away or a five minute ride on the Silver Line if you’re feeling lazy. There you will find mostly sandwich shops and fast food places in there, but there are plenty of options.
Come dinner time I recommend exploring the city a little bit. Quincy Center is just a twenty minute walk away with plenty of great restaurants. There is a range of shops to get pizza or sandwiches to go, or a handful of restaurants to sit down in. There are plenty of great places to eat in the city so try something new and don’t settle for convention center food.
Be Mindful of Others
With thousands of people arriving all sharing the same hobby, you’re most likely going to get along with most people there. However you should still be mindful and not too comfortable.
PAX is filled with cosplayers, developers, streamers, and YouTubers you might want to take pictures with. Just be sure to ask before taking anyone’s picture. It’s common courtesy to ask before just to make sure they are comfortable with it. In most cases they will be happy to take a picture with you. Just about everyone has a great time at PAX, so a good mood is bound to follow. With that being said, the unspoken rule is to leave people alone if they are eating. There are few moments of peace and quiet at PAX, so if you see someone you recognize or a cosplayer who is eating, just let them be.
Another important note to help others and yourself is to practice great hygiene. PAX is a great big dirty place. Thousands of hands will be touching the same railings, doors, and controllers. That means the infamous PAX Plague spreads quickly. Be sure to carry around a bottle of hand sanitizer and use it regularly.
Most importantly have fun and be respectful to others. PAX East is a place with thousands of people gathering together for the love of games. It’s easy to talk to anyone and make some friends. So plan your time accordingly and enjoy your weekend of nonstop gaming.