Ever since I was 14 and I started really paying attention to E3, PAX and all the other gaming conventions, it’s been a dream of mine to finally get to go to one, just to see what it’s like. To see the sights, meet the people, smell the… odors. I just wanted to go, play all of the games, buy the swanky swag, check out new games that no one had ever seen before, and feel important like the thousands of other people there.
I started writing for Entertainment Buddha less than a year ago, and after writing a decent amount of articles, I realized that it might be possible to go to PAX East, and after talking with the ever beautiful Matt Heywood, he signed me up. I was pretty sure they’d accept me for a media pass, but every day I had to wait was torture, not knowing whether or not I was going to get to go. At last, the day came where I got my acceptance, which arguably was more exciting than my college acceptance letter, however sad that might be.
Over the next few weeks I gathered what I needed, bus tickets (no plane needed, I live in New Hampshire), hotel room, and lots of slim-jims and microwaveable food to cut down on costs and to be a cheapskate. So with rock-n-roll in my heart, I headed down to Boston on Friday, March 6th, for my first taste of a convention, excited and without a clue of what I was getting myself into.
When I got there, I was just dumbfounded by the amount of people that were there and by how smoothly everything seemed to be running. I expected lines out the door, lines for the bathrooms, lines for everything (like an amusement park), but everything was so well run that I never felt like I had to just stand around and wait for anything. I put my coat away in coat check and just farted around the outside part of the building where the food and stuff is. I didn’t go right down to the floor, but instead took a minute to watch people play Rock Band, check out the cosplayers, and people watch. Once I knew I had 30 minutes before my first appointment, I started looking for a way to get down to the show floor, hit the escalator, and my jaw hit the steps and rolled all the way down to the bottom.
I saw so many people, so many gaming companies and developers and publishers. I saw Capcom, and Square Enix, Microsoft, Alienware, all these companies that I knew and loved from gaming. Here they all were, laid out in front of me, and little did I realize that they weren’t even the best part of PAX. The best part was the Indie side, all the new, fresh games I’d never seen or heard of before, all these cool stores selling refurbished N64’s, SNES’s, PS1’s, and tons of secondhand collectors items I’d never seen in person. Stuff like the Pikachu Game Boy Advance SP was on sale there, or even a Famicom, or Super Famicom – stuff you wouldn’t just walk into a store and see anymore. It was so cool! It was like being in a museum, except you could buy the art and nothing was more than $300. It was great!
The main reason I was there was business for the website: to interview game developers about their games, play the games, and bring home info on all of them so that I could write stuff about all of them. I thought that the best part would be getting to play all of the cool new games I’d never touched before, but the developers were – without a doubt – the best part of the whole convention. I know how hard these guys work to build their games from the ground up, and they show their love for their products, and it’s so cool to see it in person and talk to them like people; to learn straight from them what it’s been like making their game, what they want to do with it, how long they’ve been working on it, what the reception has been like, and what makes them so excited about their games.
They were all so eager to just open up and start talking, that none of my interviews really felt like interviews. Rather, they were more akin to striking up a conversation with a total stranger. For example, when I went to check out Renowned Explorers, the developer was busy talking to someone else, so I just hung around and talked to one of their helpers who was there helping to show people the game and set them up. He was super polite and great to talk to, and he gave me the general idea of what the game was like and how it had been getting a pretty good response all day and how he was wicked into it.
I finally got to meet one of the developers and Co-founder of Abbey Games, Manuel Kerssemakers (@ManuelKers) and this guy was awesome. Manuel was wicked cool and super personable, and I got to talk to him about the game for a little bit before I played the game. I don’t do a lot of PC gaming, so he ran me through a lot of the basic operations in the game, and he was wicked patient with me. It was great talking to him though because I could really connect with him. For example, we could compare different games, talk about where he got a lot inspiration from Fire Emblem and the like, talk about THOSE games – it was awesome.
Afterward, he gave me a compass with the game’s logo on it – an actual working folding compass. That’s one hell of a calling card. Among everything I got at PAX, it is by far my favorite item and I’ve clipped it to my backpack. I get asked about it all that time, and it feels good to talk about it.
I know a lot of people might not think so, but I thought everyone was pretty friendly at the convention. I was rushing around a lot to make it from appointment to appointment, so I was really pushing my way through the crowds and zipping around the floor. It was hard to find a lot of the booths I was looking for (especially in the Indie Megabooth section), but I could always just stop somewhere and ask somebody where I needed to go. If I was lost, I could just stop at a booth and ask one of the developers “Hey, where’s this booth?” and they always knew exactly where to point me. Hell, most of them had helped other developers set up their booths. It was like a giant human body, everyone was working together even though they had their own jobs and their own games to showcase.
It’s such an amazing environment. Every time I made a pass by a section I had been in, I saw something that I’d never seen before, a new game, new store – something was always hiding in plain sight. I had only wished there were more hours in the day so that I could’ve had more time after my appointments to go and look at the small stuff that really caught my eye there. Seeing total strangers sitting together playing Monster Hunter at the Capcom area, teaming up to play Halo 5 or Fable Legends together was almost heartwarming to a geek such as myself.
I never thought that I would be able to muster the funds or the courage to go to one of these events, but I’m so glad that I was able to go. It was beyond the best thing I could have done. I’ll definitely be going back next year, and if I win the lottery, I’d love to go to E3 or something even bigger and crazier than PAX East. If you’ve never been to a convention because you’re shy or it costs a lot of money, start a piggy bank or something and just go. You will appreciate it more than words can tell. Thank you to everyone that made PAX East a good time for me and for everyone. I miss you already and I can’t wait until next year!
“Making you a better geek, one post at a time!”