PAX East: A Gamer’s Paradise
After spending last weekend at PAX East I am happy, exhausted and enveloped in that post-con mix of joy over having spent three days with people who “get me” and sadness over those three days being over. This is truly my favorite con and I look forward to it all year. There’s a warm, fuzziness to PAX that not ever con is able to catch. It’s as though it knows it’s a big deal, with previews of the hottest games, plenty of giveaways and amazing panels, but underneath all the lights and music and razzle-dazzle is just a Geek yelling “Squeee!” and running through the halls. I admit that Geek might be me, but I was joined by around seventy thousand other Geeks doing exactly the same thing and it was wonderful.
This year’s new location at the Boston Convention and Exposition Center made the increase in attendance, about 17,000 more than last year, no big deal. There were still lines, but there was more than enough space to manage them without resorting to signs taped on walls and frantic Enforcers trying to keep it all under control. It’s worth noting that the Enforcers at PAX are amazing and if you ask them a question, they will have an answer, and are helpful and friendly to a fault. I even had a couple offer me assistance without asking when I apparently had a somebody-please-help-me look on my face. You’d be surprised how turned around you can get in a giant convention center when you’re constantly jumping from one shiny thing to the next.
I could rattle off a list of all the new games that were there, or the panels, or the giveaways, but that’s not what makes this con special. Sure, there were amazing demos that you could wait in long lines to see, and panels with wonderful speakers, but that’s the kind of thing you can get at every con. Change the titles of the games and the names of the speakers, and it’s all the same. What makes PAX special is the atmosphere. No other convention I’ve attended has quite the same level of joy and excitement. Standing in line for an hour to demo the new hotness, you’re likely to walk away with a dozen or so fellow gamers that are your new best friends who you’ll be playing games with later that night. If you need a timeout from the crazy of the convention floor, then head over to the boardgame library, check out a game and sit down to play in a huge room with complete strangers who are happy to join you. This is what makes PAX great. The incredibly social act of playing games, but with 70,000 people, who will make you feel like you’ve been hanging out at your best friend’s house all weekend and make you wish you never had to leave.
(You can see all my pictures of PAX East 2011 right here)