Since I am attending PAX East this weekend I thought it would be a good idea to set up a guest post with another blogger that also going to the convention. So today Stubborn of sheepthediamond.wordpress.com will posting for Be MOP and I will have published piece about what to bring to these events on his website. Be sure check it out once you are done here.
Dear Reader (of someone else’s blog!),
Going to conventions, particularly for the first time (or the first time in a new venue), can feel overwhelming. Too much time during my first PAX was spent confusedly looking at the schedule and the map, trying to work out what was where. Since PAX changed venues after that, too much of my second PAX was much the same. However, since I’ve been a few times, I thought I’d write a handy summary of the variety of different things to do around the PAX arena.
At the top of my list is always panels. As an educator and, as the cliché goes, a “life-long learner,” I love going to hear people speak on a variety of topics. There’re three basic types of panels: the shill panel, the feedback panel, and the true discussion. Each has its own merits and drawbacks; at a shill, you’ll hear a lot of very tempting information about a product. You can often ask questions about the product, too, though the answers you get may only be in “beta” form (meaning they may never come to pass). If you’re really interested in a game, you absolutely should go to a shill panel, but if you’re on the fence, don’t expect a fair review.
In feedback panels, developers often ask the audience for input on how to do something. It may be how to better the community in League of Legends (been to that one) or how to further develop DayZ (my buddy went to that one), but often it’s a great chance to speak to the actual team leaders behind a game’s development and get some time to voice your ideas.
The discussion panels are often my favorite; they can cover a variety of tough issues like female representation in games and game companies or how to publish your first indie game. These panels often have the most honest and interesting exchanges, as in last year’s Extra Credits Q&A when James Portnow, their resident game designer, basically trashed a lot of “game developer” for-profit schools but also gave some really insightful and important information about how to pick a good one.
Whatever you do with panels, try at least once to step outside your comfort zone. Are you a dude who doesn’t think the whole female gamers thing is an issue? Give it a try; you might have your eyes opened, as my buddy did. Are you not particularly interested in indie games? Go to one of their developer panels and hear their stories; you might be surprised!
Of course, at any convention, there’s going to be an Exhibition Floor. This wildly crowded shopping mall reminds me of a carnival, with all sorts of sights and sounds to experience. I don’t spend a ton of time on the floor, but I always go to every booth to at least look at what they have, even if I only stay a few seconds. The floor gives you an opportunity for hands-on experiences with upcoming games. I first heard about The Last of Us on an exhibition floor several years ago, well before the final product was nearing completion, and even then, I was intrigued. As a result, I followed its development from there on out.
Sometimes browsing lets you find new and exciting things, but other times you may have a target in mind. Last year I bee-lined for the League of Legends booth, having heard of free goodies being given out. I got two free skins as well as some inside information on a secret contest that was running to find Teemo mushrooms to win a Teemo hat. Many booths will give out freebies of some kind, whether it’s a closed beta key, a plush sunshroom, which my wife scored from the Plants vs. Zombies booth, or a kiss with a Zombie, which my buddy scored from the same! I’d recommend you hit the floor later on Saturday, as the crowds usually die down as time passes, but doing so runs the risk of missing out on swag that they might have run out of.
A third option – and something that I consider to be really generous and unique – is the game library. You can peruse hundreds of board, card, and pen and paper role playing games, trade in your driver’s license, and play any of these hundreds of games for as long as you’d like. The result is always a ton of fun. I’ve bought several of the games I first tried there. Others I only enjoyed with my friends, then just put back. Whether it’s controlling berserk robots, throwing Romans into a volcano, or simultaneously cooperating with while secretly plotting the downfall of your friends, every game has the potential to be a lot of fun.
If board and card games aren’t your thing, there are huge rooms dedicated to letting you try computer and console games for free, as well. You just wait in line, then get a computer or console pre-loaded with many current games from which to choose. The lines for those sections can be long, though, so don’t wait until late to do this! We’ve been turned away twice due to line length and time, though both times we’d just wandered over for the heck of it, so it was no big loss.
Lastly, there’re a whole slew of activities that I’ve personally never done (since I’m an old man) but I’ve heard great things about. Both Friday and Saturday night there are amazing concerts with some very famous performers including MC Frontalot, the Bit Brigade, and Metroid Metal (among others). Like I said, though, I’m an old man and value my hearing too much, so I’ve skipped those in the past. My old buddy’s younger brother (who’s my buddy, too) goes every year, though, and really enjoys them.
There’s also the Omeganaut championship, a gaming challenge for random attendees who play for some very attractive prize packages (like going to Germany for a European gaming convention). I’ve gone to the final round the last two years, but the semi-finals are spread throughout the convention. I haven’t been, but I’ve heard they’re a lot of fun, too.
Lastly, again, since I’m an old man, I don’t attend after parties, since I’m too sleepy, but my young buddy said some of his fondest memories come from just hanging out after the convention center closes in someone’s hotel lobby, playing games and meeting new people. If you’re young and have an endless battery, you might want to try that, too.
All of these options only skim the surface of what’s available at PAX. Each one is really a bundle of hundreds of other options, experiences, and memory-makers from which to choose. I’ve never regretted a single decision I’ve made at PAX, whether it was to go to a midnight movie that got suddenly cancelled and instead had a celebrity come out and do a Q & A or to take my buddy to a mind-expanding panel and watch him grow a little, or to gush like a fool about The Secret World and get some closed beta keys and some free TSW swag. Every year I’ve gone, I’ve loved it, and I’m excited to go again this year. If you’re going, I hope to you enjoy it, too, and if you’re not, consider joining me next year!
Stubborn (temporary Bostonite)
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Be MOP focuses on the world of videogames with my own reflections about the current news and developments that happens throughout the gaming industry. Updates Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays