Went to my first PAX last weekend at PAX West. I’ve always wanted to go, but those dang ticket sales are so sneaky. It always happens in the middle of the work day and sells out in (max) an hour. But, luckily, I manage to secure some tickets and got to go before I moved to Montreal (this should probably be explained in a separate blog post…)!
So first thing’s first. After going to PAX, I’ve got a few nuggets of wisdom to pass on so you know what you’re getting into right off the bat.
Lines. So many lines.
You wanted to grab some food. There goes 30 minutes. You wanted to take a picture with a game’s cool looking display? That’s 1 1/2 hours gone. Try out an upcoming game’s demo? Sorry, you’re going to have to wait 3 hours. Same goes for trying to get free swag from the various booths—most of them require you to do multiple activities and then you’ll have to wait in line to redeem your “prize” (the most common prize this year seemed to be fidget spinners. I’m good).
Building off point 1: bring something to do in line!
PAX West offered free wifi in pockets of areas around the convention center. I was sometimes stuck in lines with no wifi, so my phone was my only companion. That’s also when I realized I really lacked games that didn’t require an internet connection. All around you, you’ll see people whipping out their Nintendo Switches as they get ready for the long line ahead of them. I’d say a book or something is a good alternative as well.
It’s a little stinky.
So I’ve been told that the crowds are a little stinky at PAX. I didn’t believe them because I’ve been to so many cons! From US, Canada, and even Hong Kong, the comic, gaming, and anime conventions I’ve been to, I did not recall nearly as much stinkiness. And we’re talking about Hong Kong here too—where sweating is just a way of life because of the weather. Expect sour sweat smells and farts. At one point, I was lamenting because the guy in front of us in line smelled pretty strongly. Then, someone joined us at the back of the line and he also emanated stink. So after half an hour of that, I started to get a headache. If you’re going to PAX, please maybe rub on some deodorant before the long day ahead of you.
Don’t expect to play that AAA game you really wanted to try.
I really wanted to try out Far Cry 5, as well as some of the Bethesda stuff. Thing was, the lines get capped when they’re too full and even when I rushed in at 10 AM and got to the Bethesda area at 10:10 AM, the line was already capped with a 2-hour wait. You’ll then have to circle around and hope the line shortens and you get to squeeze in in time—and then you’ll wait quite a while. I personally ended up deciding not to do this and instead roam the show floors and sit in on panels. As much as I wanted to try out a game, I knew I’d maybe get 15 minutes with it after essentially using 1/3rd of my day to line up for it.
We actually bussed in to Seattle early in the morning on Saturday. Our bus left Vancouver at 5:50AM and arrived at about 9AM. Quick Shuttle stopped right outside the convention center so we picked up our passes at Will Call before stopping by our hotel to drop off our luggage. Day 1 was definitely overwhelming. There were so many things we wanted to do, but eventually, we realized we’d have to be really selective in terms of where we’d want to spend our time. We originally only bought tickets for Saturday and Sunday, but after not being completely satisfied with the amount of things we had accomplished, we bought tickets from random people for Monday (I got mine off someone on the street—a lady overheard me trying to bargain with a scalper for a $20 pass—it’s worth $48. She offered her Monday one to me for $20), and the boyfriend got his off Reddit for $30.
One of the best moments during PAX for me was meeting some of the members of Funhaus. I regularly watch their YouTube channel during my lunch breaks, so it was kind of surreal seeing the cast in real life.
Another thing that stood out to me is that everyone wants to display a giant dragon. Literally, doing my first walk around the show floor, all the huge displays were dragons. I ended up taking a picture with a few of them, but still—there are cooler things out there?
I really wanted to take a picture with the ARK display—you get to go sit on a massive T-Rex. I never actually got to the part of the game where I managed to tame a T-Rex, but I did sink a lot of hours into the game. I was really disappointed to find that the line was frequently capped due to capacity. I literally tried heading over every time I was in that show floor for the first two days, but every time I was turned away. Finally, on the extra Monday that we went, I stood in line for 2 hours to get my picture. I didn’t think much of the T-Rex other than the fact that it looked cool, but when I climbed up the ladder to sit on top of it, my legs got wobbly. I think it was a mixture of how fragile it looked and that hopping from the T-Rex’s saddle back to the metal platform exposes you to a gap that was just air.
We had also wanted to visit the Nintendo Indies area, but was also turned away every day. On Monday morning, we beelined to it once they allowed people to line up. The line ups started at 11:30 AM, but the actual games weren’t actually open to public until 12 PM. We were not first in line (surprise, surprise), so when we got into the games room, we had to then individually wait at each of the indie games. Again, lots of lining up throughout the whole expo. The games we did try were really cool though! I’m excited that the Switch has opened up themselves to so many new and exciting indie games!
Outside of PAX, we only really took breaks to eat. Lunches were spent at Pike Place, and we’d grab food from Target at night so we’d have stuff ready for breakfast. I really wanted to eat at our hotel’s buffet breakfast, but I also didn’t want to blow $25 at the Renaissance Hotel first thing in the morning. The first day, we ate at a pretty terrible Chinese restaurant inside Pike Place for dinner. The food was so salty it burned my mouth. The second night, we ate at Din Tai Fung—miles better and the xiao long bao was so juicy. The milk tea at Din Tai Fung was really weak though.
Overall, PAX was a lot of fun! I think if I lowered my expectations for the amount of games I thought I’d be able to try, it would’ve been even better. Ah well—live and learn! Though I’ll be quite far away from PAX Prime in the next bit—so maybe PAX East?!