As Gen Con was my first last year, PAX is my first this year. Funny, I know, since I live up here near Boston, you would think that PAX was my geekly haven for years and years. Not the case, in fact, PAX was a little repelling. Not because of the content, but mainly because of the sheer number of people that attend this damn thing. I was always under the impression it would be too crowded to be fun, and I was almost correct. Almost. I started my gaming lifestyle when I was really young, around five years old. I started in video games and didn’t even know that there were tabletop RPG’s until I was eighteen. That huge gap in my gaming hobby was filled with video games. Kind of funny how backwards that works for the younger generation, eh? But I digress…
Reuniting with my gaming roots, I thought it was finally time to experience PAX. All three days, I went and whoo boy, was that an experience. It’s not called “Line Con” for no reason. In fact, if I wasn’t perusing around the expo floor, I was waiting in line. For food, to try a game, to buy merch, doesn’t matter what I was trying to do, I was in line. This is probably the most stark and shocking difference from Gen Con that lead to me deciding I prefer it over PAX. But I’m not here to tell you that PAX sucked, because it didn’t. It was very exhausting but a very interesting and fun experience.
The first day of PAX, I was a little late getting there because cosplay can be a pain. Jessica, my significant other, was wearing a ball gown type thing for a character from Odinsphere, a side scroller game. The kicker is that it wasn’t done by the time we had to leave so that ate up some of the morning. Which is ok, because damn, was it cold! I didn’t really want to wait in line so in hindsight, this was for the best. When we finally got in, I was completely and utterly gobsmacked at the sheer amount of people crammed into this place. Anybody who’s been to Gen Con knows that it’s pretty relaxed throughout the con, except for the exhibition halls. Here, there was no escaping the chaos. The second you walk into the expo hall, you’re greeted by the low murmur of gamers excitedly talking to one another and trying out games, the beeping and booping of various game screens showing you what they have to offer.
It was video game heaven, to be frank. It was almost a little overwhelming, and my experience on the first day was testament to that. I had nothing planned, I was just going to mosey on around and see what was there. The first thing I did was actually meet up with the mind behind the Twitch show Exploding Dice. We chatted for a bit and he gave some pointers to my friend, Ben, who is starting up a podcast himself called Nerdmantle. A very pleasant interaction, I’m actually hoping to open lines of communication and work together int he future. After that, I met up with Amber, a streamer and friend I met at the game I ran for Roll20 Con. I always love meeting up with people I’ve gamed with online, that personal connection is really cool. I went to three panels on the first day; The first one of which was about breaking into the industry. Mind you, they were talking about the video game industry as opposed to my preferred tabletop one. Surprisingly enough, there’s an immense amount of overlap between the two, although the two gaming styles are vastly different. It was a multi-part panel that was going to basically brush over everything, beginning to end. That initial part was simply about how to approach a company and how to handle interacting with them before being hired. Having just been through that with Pelgrane Press about their production assistant position, (which I didn’t get, congrats to Alex Roberts!) I was relieved to learn that I had handled the whole process rather well. Especially for someone with no experience in the matter.
I didn’t go to any of the other parts, though I probably should have, simply due to lack of time. The other two panels were about Indie game development and a Cards Against Humanity spoof panel about psychology in gaming. The last one was far less interesting than it lead itself to be, but the Indie gaming panel was very interesting, especially since only one panelist and the moderator showed up initially. I hadn’t played a single game but, man, was that first day tiring.
Saturday was where I played some games, or one game rather. That day was conquered by an X-wing Miniatures tourney, it was actually the part of the con that I was most excited for. It was my first time playing in a tourney with an experimental Imperials list I had cooked up. While I lost two of the three games I played, it was incredibly fun and I’d do it again in a second. I walked away with an X-Wing coin and some alternate art cards from X-Wing Miniatures Maine, a company that had came down to have a small presence at the con. I hadn’t expected to win anything so this was actually a very pleasant surprise. The tourney went form 11 to 4-ish and I was pretty exhausted afterward. I wandered the expo floor for a while before finding myself in the Twitch Prime lounge upstairs to just sit back and unwind for a bit.
It had never occurred to me before how huge Twitch has become in recent years, how much video gaming is actually a big social culture now. They had a big projector up showing a panel that was going on elsewhere at the con. After that, it was some large League of Legends tourney going on somewhere. I was pretty wiped out by this time, so my attention was less than sharp.
On the third day, I was raised to gamerhood. Okay, maybe that didn’t sound as funny as I anticipated but I have to at least try every now and again. Sunday was more crowded than I expected, the original plan was to game on Sunday to avoid lines. Alas, I was wrong. Lines were still out in force. That didn’t stop me though, I bucked up and stood in line some more. I got to play a few games, one of which was a preview of the Morrowind expansion for Elder Scrolls Online. I hadn’t played ESO prior, though the interest was there because I loved Skyrim. It was set up as a 4v4 death match thing, and I got thrashed pretty good. However, it did show me that I liked the way that ESO functions and after the con, I bought it for $20. Not bad, considering the original price tag before it was free to play.
That was really the only memorable game I played, though looking around, I’m really interested in What Became of Edith Finch , Prey, the Nintendo Switch and Mass Effect Andromeda. I didn’t get to play any of those, but the fact that they stuck out in my mind says they’re doing at least something right.
Overall, I do definitely prefer Gen Con. It’s more organized with the games, no lines or waiting unless you’re buying something or waiting for your table to fill. My PAX experience also showed me that my interests have shifted as a person. I care a lot less about video games now than I have in the past. Tabletop has taken the spotlight, mainly because of the amount of freedom and positive social interaction, I surmise. On the contrary, going to PAX did rekindle my love for video games, making me remember why I used to play them so much. Though not exactly what I have now learned I prefer, PAX was a good time and I will be going at least one of the three days next year. I can probably touch everything I want to see in one day on the con floor.
If you saw me at PAX and you don’t already, give this site a follow! I’d very much like to speak and maybe even game together someday. Until then…
Stay Metal \m/