I need to write all of this down before I forget — the lines, crowds, panels, people, and most of all, the games.
Getting PAX East tickets was nothing short of luck. I happened to be rooming with M, the president of DGA (Digital Gaming Alliance), a gaming club at Cornell. We were rooming for Grace Hopper, and it was during that conference that she managed to pull off buying several whole-weekend PAX badges, one set that I became the proud owner of.
The tickets seemed rather pricey for a weekend conference, but I’ve heard stories of PAX for quite a while now during my excursions to the gaming side of YouTube, and it definitely seemed something worth my time, at least this once. I have a handful of games I quite like in my Steam library, and I knew that for some of the developers it would be beyond awesome to visit their booths.
I take the T to the conference center. It’s chilly but not too bad. But the lines were a spectacle – every inch of the block was filled with line. Note to self – the best way to get in fast is to not bring a bag, as the no-bag line was barely a line at all.
Once inside, surprise! More lines. Everyone was waiting to get inside the Expo Hall. Twitch was providing free bag and coat check, which I happily used during this time.
The Expo Hall was overwhelming. Think of bees, but replace each bee with a person walking, talking, taking a photo, or doing all three. Some aspiring YouTubers were definitely trying to put together a vlog. Cosplayers were everywhere (memorable: male D’Va from Overwatch). People were lining up to buy merch from different vendors, and there were endless tables at one end with board games all set up for play.
In the center were developers at booths, maybe 200 meters in each direction. The ceiling was covered in banners of vivid colors yelling out the names of the big companies. There were rows of PC’s and consoles everywhere with games set up, and people playing those games. There were setups of Rocket League and LoL and some other shooter games I don’t recognize with volunteers/competitors playing, and spokespeople narrating their every move. There were large monitors in the makeshift pathways showing game trailers, playthroughs, or showing what the current player was doing.
I must’ve spent a solid half hour just wandering around, taking in all the visuals. I soon found SuperGiant Games though, and eagerly waited for Singleplayer Pyre to open up. It was a game demo I’ve seen before on YouTube, but playing it firsthand was nothing short of amazing. All around me fans of the company were musing about the mechanics and how it was so different from their previous titles, and how good the art was. The game was such a good experience. I also loved watching people battle each other in Multiplayer every time I passed the booth.
Lunch eventually came. Note to self: never buy food from the conference center, it’s a 40 minute wait. Go to Jimmy John’s and get a sub in 10 minutes.
I played several indie games that day, each one different. The games were of very high quality. I especially liked a RTS multiplayer game on console, and a fast-paced pixel art platformer that had very satisfying gameplay. I’ll add their names to this post later.
The panels I went to that day weren’t my thing, but the evening concert was definitely interesting. I came for the latter half that featured Protomen, a rock band from Nashville. Not sure if I dig the style, but their vocalists and musical quality were top-notch.
Note to self: don’t miss out on PAX swag bags. Sometimes they have cool stuff. Also, sign-ups for competitive board games are in the morning. Don’t miss it.
The second day felt far more productive, as the strain of taking everything in was lower. I made my way through the featured indie games, played more Pyre, and did lunch correctly this time.
The panels I went to were amazing. The first, Romance in Video Games, was highly entertaining despite the fact that I didn’t recognize the majority of games and their respective characters that were used as references.
The second, Indie Developers Modify and Play Werewolf, was my favorite. It was an hour and a half of shaking with laughter, as many of the developers submitted very silly or troll roles to the game. Some of the roles were:
- Jukebox: must sing their vote
- Fungi: must dance during the night phase of the game, and choose someone to dance also
- Team Leader: votes first
- Pillow Fighter: if they are voted to die, they can win a pillow fight once to live
- Businessman: if they are voted to die, they can distribute cards to half the audience to live
- Mushroom Cultist: you pamphlet another person each night to convert them to a Mushroom Cultist. If everyone alive is a cultist, the cultists win.
- Fairy Glittermother: if you glitter a person who is a cultist, they must run screaming from the room. Side effect: cultist dies
- Night Owl: awake at night. cannot reveal what was seen
- Puppy: audience provides feedback via barking about who the werewolves are
- Clue-giver: can reveal a letter of a werewolf’s name.
- Shitty Battery: must stand next to a new outlet each turn before giving a vote
In addition, sometimes the dead could vote!
What ended up happening was that one of the Werewolves was both a cultist and fairy glittermother. He ended up pamphleting and glittering most of the villagers, effectively eliminating most players. In addition, another Werewolf who was the Businessman became an audience favorite, so when he was voted off, the audience ran up to him and grabbed the cards from him, granting him life for another round. The third Werewolf was the Puppy, which is the most innocuous-sounding. Needless to say, the Werewolves won.
Good times. It apparently was the 3rd time the Werewolf panel was run. It’s something I’d definitely go to again in future PAXes.
The last day was highly abbreviated, as we all had to leave mid-afternoon to get back to Ithaca in time. I paid the Kinect Dance station a visit and danced to a song, encouraged by the loud support of the small crowd that gathered. I played my last game of Pyre multiplayer. I walked around the Expo Hall one last time, and bought a Blizzard Overwatch bag. I said goodbye.
PAX East was definitely a highlight of this month. Now that I’ve gone once, I’m sure that the next time will be a lot more productive in terms of time and activity management. As a first-timer, it was a great experience. Thank you Boston for hosting it!