The PAX East 2016 Diary of A Wannabe Human
PAX East 2016 was one of the most enjoyable, liberating, and just purely fun weekends that I’ve had in a very long time, and as a constantly stressed, anxiety-riddled 20-something college student, I feel that it was a legitimately good experience. Now, this isn’t the first year that I went to PAX East, I actually got to go last year as well, however, due to money restraints, I had to bring my dad along so that he could help me pay for the hotel room.
While that was still fun, this year, I didn’t have to worry about that, I made all the plans myself for once, got my bus tickets, and sent myself hurtling down I-93 on my way to Boston. I stepped out of South Station with my backpack and 30 pound duffle bag in hand, and started my 1.2 mile walk to the Aloft Seaport Hotel. I might also add that my duffle bag switched hands about 60 times on the way there, because that bitch is about 1/5 of my body weight and I am a delicate flower of a man. Like the fool that I am, I waited at a crosswalk for 5 minutes on the way there because I thought it just wasn’t okay to cross, turns out, I was standing in line to get into the convention center. I wasn’t even on the property of the building and I was accidentally waiting to get into the building, so I silently crossed the street alone and continued on the way to my hotel.
I finally arrive at the hotel, which to my surprise, looks like it’s still partly under construction (which is because it had literally been open for 2 months). The nightclub addition to the hotel was just being used as bag storage, as it was pretty much a spooky-looking empty concrete room, though it looks like it’ll be pretty cool when it’s done. So I get my key for my room, go to the elevator and hit the but- er, touch screen (FUTURE) and go on an adventure to find my room. The hotel is really new, and it looks like it, I don’t know if it was fate that I was there for PAX but the decor seriously looked like an indie developer with a fetish for pixel art designed the pillows for the beds.
The first problem that I immediately note is that there is one bed, where as I was advertised two beds, which either meant that Ray and I were spooning, or we needed to improvise. Regardless, I’m very happy to be in a hotel and not on a bus or lugging my shit around Boston, and I head downstairs to plan a bit and wait for Ray. Unfortunately, Ray does not get dropped off by his driver at the correct hotel, and is instead about a mile away from our hotel, but using his otherworldly speed-walking skills, still makes it to the hotel in record time. So, I show Ray our den of love-making, he agrees that it’s nice as ice, drops his stuff off, and away we went to the convention center, with a pit-stop for Dunkin’ Donuts on the way (no, they are not sponsoring us, but if they want to, that’s awesome).
Thankfully, by the time we made it to the convention center, the line had seriously died down and we were able to pretty much just walk right in the door when we got there. I’d also like to take a second to thank the security there, sure, it might seem like a pain in the ass to us when we’re just trying to get to an appointment or something, but they kept us safe from potential threats, so thanks for being awesome, Boston Law Enforcement.
Finally, we’re inside the convention center, oh, how I missed this place since I had been there the year prior, and it’s almost exactly the way I remember. A few PAX decorations in different places, but not much else had changed, and I was kinda happy about that, it was like greeting an old friend. I mean, that’s a weird way to put it because I was technically inside of it, and to be- you know what I’m just gonna stop digging my own grave right here, it was cool, that’s what matters. So, after a few minutes of planning, and wading through crowds of people, Ray and I split ways to go to our respective appointments and I was on my way to meet a bunch of new people.
I have to say, and, the people were nice last year, too, but for some reason, it was like every single developer or PR person I met this year to interview were just so awesome and nice. I mean, I know they’re probably being extra nice because they want us to play their games, but still, to stand there for hours and hours and spout the same stuff over and over all weekend, I don’t envy them at all. Sure, walking around that concrete floor for like 8 hours isn’t exactly the most comfortable or fun thing, but at least I get to see all the cool stuff there. They just gotta stand there all day, and for that, I commend them, all of them, you guys all do hella good jobs putting yourselves and your games/products out there.
But I digress, so, as I follow my schedule of appointments, I see that I have one for ARK: Survival of The Fittest. I know somewhat of the game, I don’t know anyone that plays it, but I know it has dinosaurs and if it’s got that in it, then it can’t be bad, unless it’s Jurassic Park II or III, Lost World was stupid and you know it was. So I whip out my trusty PAX East 2016 app and take a gander at the map, and I kind of guide myself to where I think the booth is. This could have been avoided, however, if I just looked for the 1:1 scale T-Rex in the middle of the f*cking show floor, like how the hell did I walk by that and miss it?
The line to sit on top of the T-Rex and get your picture taken must’ve been at least 200-300 people long at all times, I mean, how many times in your life are you gonna have that chance, right? They offered to put me in the front of the line to get my picture taken but if I was at the front of that line and some media dork that looked like me just waved his badge and cut me, I’d be pissed, so I declined the offer. So, one of the devs and I talked for a while, standing in front of the gaping mouth of the T-Rex, and it was the first moment where I started to really get lost in the majesty of PAX.
The T-Rex, the big screen above it, showing people playing in the tournament, the crowd of people watching, waiting to sit on top of the statue, talking to the dev and hearing how super invested he is in his game, the journey that the game has made from its release until now, etc. It was at that moment where I just really thought “Yeah, I’m back, this is what I’ve been waiting all year for, and the wait was worth it.” I’m just a regular, constantly-on-the-verge-of-being-broke college student, from a dinky little town in New Hampshire, so I don’t have a lot of cash to throw around to go to conventions like I’d really like to all the time. I’d love to go to SDCC, or E3, or Anime Boston, or any of those, but I really can only make so much money each year, so I can only really afford one semi-big convention per year, and that’s only cause I don’t have to pay for plane tickets. But I almost like that, because it really makes me appreciate PAX East, and how it’s my one escape every year, so it’s worth it to not be able to go to every con that I want.
Not to mention, thanks to Entertainment Buddha, I’m able to go as media, my badge is paid for, I get to meet and talk to developers, I get to test new products and games, give my feedback on them, and it actually matters. I think that’s the killer part of PAX, I don’t feel like I matter very much in college, I go to class, I play sports, I do stuff around campus, but I don’t feel like an individual, I’m just another college goob. At PAX, I feel different, I feel like developers and PR people give a damn about my feedback, they take things into consideration, they talk to you like a person, not a number. PAX makes me feel like I matter, and that’s absolutely huge to me, so, sorry I got sidetracked there, I just wanted to gush about that.
Anyway, back to the convention, after the ARK interview, I continued about my day, going to my interviews, and one of my last few interviews for the day was with Logitech! The booth itself was already awesome, with a big light-up display and a big round booth for people to walk around and fiddle with their products (which I covered in another post)! The best part of visiting the booth, however, was that I got to meet Abby Dark-Star, a super awesome cosplayer that now works for Logitech (on top of still trying to do cosplaying, talk about overtime!). I had no idea I was going to meet someone one-on-one that day that I had admired for so long, she kicks ass at making her costumes, and she’s an inspiration to people that want to work for themselves doing cosplaying, Youtubing, or anything to go with gaming. She was super nice, she took a few minutes out of her busy day to talk to me about Logitech, cosplaying, and writing, and then was nice enough to sign a Logitech T-shirt for me, which I’ll put a picture of below!
So, the first day wound down, Ray and I met up, went back to the room, dropped off all our new business cards, the few things that I bought, and grabbed some dinner. Without fail, the whole time we were in the hotel room, Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives was on TV, and as much as Guy Fieri is the salt of the earth, damn that show is entertaining.
We started to grow roots in the room a bit, so we decided to go back to the convention center and check out a Super Metroid speedrun that was supposedly going on. After waiting for about 34 years for the panel to start, we finally got in to watch, I can’t tell you that I remember the guys that were doing it, because frankly, most of the time I just wished I was staring at Guy Fieri’s goatee. The one redeeming quality of the panel was that it was sort of an “Ask Us Anything” event where people could line up at microphones and take turns asking the guys on stage questions. Some of them were pretty funny, and some were actually pretty thoughtful, stuff to do with going away to college, things like that. Of course there had to be the occasional edge lord that had to ask some nasty question and immediately get shut down by the guys on stage (hell if I didn’t wanna get up and slap the dude). There were a few younger kids there, so it was only proper to shut down the nasty questions because nobody wants to hear that crap and no one wants their kids to hear it.
So, the speedrun went on, badly, I might add, they did not break any kind of records, they died, had to use a save state (yeah, emulator, not the actual game). It was slightly entertaining, but all I could think about was how damn tired I was and how much I just wanted to walk back to the hotel and sleep. So, that was over, we walked back to the hotel, and noticed a pizza in front of the door of the room next to us. Of course, we had an inclination to take the pizza, but, someone ordered it, clearly, and they were probably just too busy doing… well, I don’t know, because pizza is more important than everything, but I digress. After watching Guy Fieri eat more things and nonsensically talking about anime and JRPGs, we retired for the day.
So, we enter day two, and as Ray and I drag ourselves down to the elevator to get some breakfast, we notice that the mysterious floor pizza is gone. Either someone else got the same idea that we did, the floor ate the pizza, or the people in the room actually got it, but that last one seems pretty unreasonable, let’s be honest. Down we go to get some breakfast and stare longingly into each other’s eyes, and I gotta say, not to plug Aloft, but their breakfast was pretty prime, I would definitely recommend it, 9/10, it’s like breakfast with guns. Back up we go to wash the PAX off of us from the day prior and get dressed in our finest jeans and t-shirts, steel ourselves, and make a swift exit.
Upon arrival, we realized that the line to get into the building was completely bonkers, we got there early just in case, but we must’ve been in line for 25 minutes just to get into the hall. Unfortunately, the only way to get in quick was to not have a bag, but we kind of needed them to carry our crap, so we got into the hall just in time to get to our first appointments. I played a lot of games the second day, but my favorite thing that I did all day was going to the HyperX booth and using the new Xbox One CloudX headset, that thing was sleek, comfortable, and had amazing sound quality. The game that I got to play it with was Star Wars: Battlefront, which, for not being the game that we wanted it to be, you’ve got to give it to them that they nailed the sound design in that game. It was seriously like I was in the game with the quality of that headset, it was so light and so powerful, I highly recommend checking it out when it’s available later this year!
After that, it was a lot of wandering around the floor, trying to find my various appointments, and I played a LOT of really cool games this year, whether by appointment or not. I got to use the HTC Vive at one point, and until this point I had only ever played one game on a VR headset and it was on the Oculus Rift, without the motion controllers. I can’t recall exactly the name of the game that I played during the demo, but it was absolutely amazing to me. It was a first-person shooter where each controller was a gun that you could swap out for a shield capable of blocking enemy shots and shooting EMP blasts. It kind of felt like some kind of Jedi training simulator if they used laser pistols instead of lightsabers. You could walk around the platform, duck to dodge shots, hit bullets back at enemies, my god it was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had with videogames. I know VR isn’t something that’s super new for a lot of people and that I’m late to the party on this one, but this is one time I’ve been pretty glad to say: better late than never. If I come across a shitload of money any time soon, I’m buying a nice as ice gaming PC and VR headset, hands-down.
I did a ton of walking and just kind of looking at stuff to get my bearings of where everything is to make the rest of my time there go more smoothly, and I happened upon the Mega 64 booth! These guys are some of the funniest, nerdiest dudes on Youtube and have made some of my absolute favorite videos of all time, and you should absolutely check them out. I got the guys to all sign my Shovel Knight Amiibo, that I had specifically brought to get any Youtubers I could find to sign. They were all awesome to meet in real life, and I hope one day to maybe interview one (or all) of them, so that I can talk about them even more! And seriously, they’ve been around for a long time, some of their oldest stuff is over 9 years old, and it’s still hysterical. If you haven’t watched their Tetris video, you’ve missed out on some classic Youtube.
I almost forgot to add this part in; while I was walking around, I came across the Yogibo table, and these guys make giant, crazy beanbag chairs. I talked a little bit with a couple of the guys there about some of their newer products which included newer chairs that include velcro arms. The idea is that the velcro arms will make it more comfortable and relaxing for those with autism, which I thought was a hell of a cool idea. At first it may seem like they just cater to gamers that have a little extra money to throw around for a novel beanbag chair, but these guys are actually doing some really cool stuff with their products. I couldn’t afford a chair, but I did pick up one of the absolute coolest stress-balls I’ve ever found. The outside has a really cool t-shirt material cover, and the squishy part inside is made out of… I don’t even know, man, some kind of otherworldly material. Check out the website here if you’re thinking of maybe buying or even just taking a gander at their awesome products!
So, I’ll fast-forward a bit and cut out the fatty bits where I was just walking around like a reporter without a clue and get to when the sun started to go down. Oh, yeah, it was time for Ray and I to venture out into the town and check out the awesome after-parties going on everywhere, meet some cool people and do as us media folk do. Also, I’d never been able to go to these things before because I wasn’t 21, so it was extra exciting for me (even though my drink of choice is Sprite, I still couldn’t get in before). So we walked through town for what seemed like probably 20 minutes to get to one of the parties, and got there while the line wasn’t too ridiculously long. After enough waiting to where I was almost starting to get a little salty that they weren’t letting us in, the line started to move, and fairly quickly at that. We meandered through to line, got in, got our weird rave-pints with lights built into the bottom, and… just kinda looked around. We didn’t know anyone there, so we just kinda stood there like the guys without dates at the high school semi-formal. And yes, that actually was me at my high school semi-formal, get your jabs in now while it makes sense to make the joke.
So, at one point, we just kinda looked at each other and knew what the other was thinking, we didn’t know anyone, people were just kinda playing Counter-Strike in the middle of the room, I was running out of Sprite and unfunny jokes to make, and I was starting to sweat a little. So we made our exodus after only about 25 minutes of being there and made the choice to try to go to another party… on the opposite end of town, pretty much. After walking the wrong way for a little while, turning around, going the right way, walking past our hotel and down some streets where it was everything I had to not constantly be looking over my shoulder. Maybe it’s because I’m a scaredy cat and kind of a country bumpkin from New Hampshire, but any time a street isn’t completely well-lit and I can see shit moving inside cars that I’m walking past.
We finally get to the other party, get in, get our drinks, stand around for a bit, it’s a little better, a little more lively. Then, after about 15 minutes and one very long pee break, once again, we were bored, tired, and ready to call it quits. So, we left, walked back down murder street, back to the hotel, and after about 5 seconds of contemplating, decided to order a pizza. Once the pizza arrived, we sat on the floor to eat it while watching Chopped Junior and discussing life, writing, anime, and JRPGs. After a few hours of nonsensically talking which eventually turned into nonsensically babbling about absolutely nothing, we decided it was time to hit the hay for the night.
The next morning, we had our breakfast routine again, shambled downstairs ordered our food, and sat and ate while sort of half-looking around at all the people milling about. It was kind of cool to see people that I now recognized as some of the game devs from the show floor, even if it was just for a friendly nod or a wave. We got washed up and ready to go back to the convention center, no appointments on Sunday, so I brought my camera and we both brought our bags for the few odds and ends that we might buy. We got to the center and the line was… my god, it was just an absolute nightmare, it was busier than it was on Friday and Saturday put together, I think. So, we went back to the hotel, dropped our bags off their, came back, pulled everything out of our pockets, held it over our heads and quickly made it through the no-bag line. I did get to keep my camera around my neck though, so yay for that. We pretty much lost each other as soon as we hit the show floor, but it didn’t really matter because I just went milling about, taking regrettably not as many pictures as I could have, but just looking around. I bought a few things, stuff I probably didn’t need, but hey, no one would believe I went to PAX if I didn’t buy a shirt that said so, yeah?
Eventually, it comes time for Ray to leave and go back home so I met him back at the hotel, and saw him off, after a couple blunders from uber drivers. Pretty sure the first one he called just straight up got vaporized or drove off the edge of the earth, but hey, whatever. So I gave Ray a big kiss and a slap on the ass and off he went to spend like, I dunno, 400 hours on a train, or somewhere in that ballpark.
I walked back to the convention center and went back to visit Tim Rogers, the lead developer on Videoball and talk to him about writing, because oh my god he’s an amazing writer. Even just looking at his Twitter makes me feel stupid and like I clearly have no idea what it means to write, and if you want to search for something he wrote, look for his MGS2 review. That piece is the stuff of legend, it is absolutely golden, and it’ll make you think about the game and life in ways that you never thought possible. I was super happy that I happened to catch him on what was probably his lunch or soda break or something, and he was so nice and so encouraging to someone like me that really kinda constantly doubts themselves. I hope that somehow I can reach out to him and get him to read this article even if to just read this one paragraph so that I can tell him: Thank you, Tim Rogers. You are an awesome writer, game developer, and human being, and one of these days, I swear I will score one goal on you in Videoball.
So, it’s starting to get late in the day, and I sadly meander back to the hotel to pack up my things and get ready for the bus ride back to NH. I pack up, check out, and walk across to the food trucks to eat something before I venture out. As I ate my guacamole-bacon grilled cheese sandwich, and stare at the sunset, I think of some profound shit in my head that I’ve totally forgotten by the time I’ve gotten to the end of writing this. I realize that it’s mid-June right now and PAX was mid-April, but hey, life gets in the way, and this is more of a fun thing anyway, the kind of thing I put up on the fridge and my mom pats me on the head about.
So, here I am, two months later, and PAX East 2016 is still the highlight of my year, I had so much fun just being there and absorbing everything. I hope to god that anyone that started reading this has actually made it all the way here to the end of my rambling. I hope you guys enjoyed this, I’m really sorry that it’s a tad late and that E3 is happening/has happened at the time of writing this so I’m behind on that as well. But thank you guys for reading this, those of you that made it this far, and those that didn’t make it this far, you’ll never see this, but thanks for at least clicking on my link! I hope to be able to write more things like this (in more of a timely manner) about more conventions this year and in coming years.
“Making you a better geek, one post at a time!”