Your guide to PAX: Where to eat healthy, how to relax and find quiet, and why trading is king
PAX is a show of hard choices.
It’s impossible to see everything there is to see. Lines to get into many of the panels are long, lines to play the biggest games are longer, and events have a bad habit of overlapping each other. The crowds can be intimidating, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with choices about what to do and where to be.
It’s important to remember that there’s no wrong way to “do” PAX, and there are ways to beat the crush, find some peace and quiet, or just expand your horizons a bit. Let’s discuss a few options you have at the show, and to maybe even take a break from the craziness and noise of the show floor. Here are a few hints about how to keep sane and have the best PAX possible.
Why are you waiting in line?
It’s impossible to avoid lines at a show of this size, but be smart about what you’re willing to wait for. A panel filled with your favorite people? Great! You’ll get to hear some neat things, you can usually ask a question, and an autograph or a handshake is rarely out of the question. That’s worth the wait in most cases.
Playing a big game is also a good excuse to line up, especially for multiplayer demos where you’ll get a chance to test yourself against the crowd. If you’re a giant fan of a certain game or franchise, why not wait to play the latest installment? It’s great to be able to go hands-on and get an informed opinion about the game.
Just be aware of what you’re getting on the other side of the line. In many cases you’re lining up for a trailer, or hands-off presentation, or a short video, and why bother? That content is usually on Youtube a few days after the show, and you have wasted a large chunk of your day to sit down and passively watch something that you could just as easily have seen at home. It’s not worth it.
That same time could be used to play about a dozen games at the Indie Megabooth, a giant mess of indie games all in one place. The creators are right there, the games are always interesting, and you can watch the videos of the other games later.
So to sum up: Hands on? Worth the wait. Video content? Skip it, find something interesting.
It’s time to relax
The good thing about PAX is that you don’t have to stop playing games if you need a time out. Head over to the board game area and try a new game, there are plenty of vendors giving demos, or people just passing the time with their favorite tabletop game. It’s easy to try something new, and this area is relatively quiet, calm, and it’s easy to see something new.
The hotel lobbies are a hotbed of gaming in the evening, and everyone is looking for players. Head over if you’re bored of your hotel room and see what people are playing, ask to join, or bring your favorite game, find a tablet, and start something up. This is a great way to meet people and keep the games going as late as you’d like.
The handheld lounge is quiet, the bean bags are great for relaxing, the people are friendly, there are games you can borrow from the library, and if you’re working on any of the Street Pass games on your 3DS this is close to heaven. It’s not rare to find someone laid out and taking a quick nap in this area, and I often head that way for a few rounds of a portable game and to clear my head.
One more tip: Juicy Café on level 2 is a good place for some healthier food or a smoothy. The better you eat, the more energy you’ll have for the show.
PAX is for trading
I’m a big fan of Pinny Arcade trading, and I even have my own pin. Trying to get a full set is fun, and even as a staff member it’s a challenge, which makes finding a hard-to-get pin or trading for it such a thrill.
I’m also going to be trading Disney Infinity Power Discs to get a full set, and have been talking to people on Twitter about what discs we have and what we need.
Why is trading things so much fun? It’s a great way to meet people, and to talk about the show, and there’s something to be said for helping someone find something that they’re looking for, while bolstering your own collection. It gives people a reason to mingle, to chat, and to share a common interest.
I’m biased when it comes to Pinny Arcade for the obvious reasons, but I’ve had so many great interactions with people during pin trading that it’s been a great way to interact with the crowd. It’s fun when someone stops me to trade, and we soon get a small group together talking about pins, the show, games, or any old thing.
And of course we’re all trading street passes.
Buying power discs is fun and all, so is the thrill of finding a rare disc in a blind package, but trading your doubles with other fans of Disney Infinity is much more interesting. I’ll be keeping my discs with me throughout the show, come say hello if you’re in the mood for a trade!
Make time for the Omegathon
The Omegathon is a series of events where a randomly selected group of people compete against each other in a series of games, or other feats of skill. It’s always tense, always interesting, and the more events you attend the more invested you become in the outcome.
PAX comes to a close with the final round of the Omegathon, and it’s always an event. During PAX Australia there was competitive speed runs in Portal, there was competitive rounds of Geometry Wars, and the Omegathon concluded with an epic game of Jenga. This is one of my favorite parts of PAX, and I’m always surprised when people say they’ve never checked it out.
Give it a shot, just pick one of the rounds and go. I promise you’ll have a good time. The Omegathon is tense, and the game choices are almost always clever, and the final round is a surprise. You haven't lived until you've shared the excitement of spectator-level Jenga.
There are so many interesting games, miniatures, role-playing games, tabletop things to play and try that you're limiting yourself is you stay on the main show floor or only do panels. Don't be afraid to walk around, talk to people, and try to find interesting stuff. I'm always surprised at the things I find during the show that I didn't know existed, and I spend a significant amount of time planning so I can make the most of my time.
Even as press I try to keep my time less than 50 percent structured with interviews and appointments so I'm free to walk the floor, get a sense for what's new and interesting, and listen to the buzz to find the interesting games. You really never know what you're going to see, and just being there and exploring new games and watching the people is a large part of the experience.
New to Seattle? This guide is a great starting point. Do you want to take a break from the show but still buy some games? Card Kingdom is an amazing store. Need any more general, and some very specific, information? The forums have you covered. Want to find a party? Do it!
Be sure to pack comfortable shoes, nothing will ruin your weekend faster than a blister or two. Go down to bandland to meet the musical acts, pick up a CD, and say hello to the Strip Search artists. Play a board game you've never seen before. You can't do it all, but you can find the PAX that's right for you, and that sense of exploration and fun is a big part of why the show feels so good.