PAX East 2015 (convention review).

March 11, 2015 | By | Reply More

The Penny Arcade Expo, usually abbreviated to PAX, now occurs four times a year across the globe. PAX Prime is held in Washington State, PAX East is in Boston, PAX Australia is held in Melbourne and the newest addition to the family is PAX South, held in San Antonio, Texas, January this year. Apparently, the Texas convention broke all inaugural attendance records. Having just returned from PAX East, I’m not surprised. Boston was awash with people, from the city streets to the swarm outside the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center to the show floor. People, people and more people. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen so many people packed together in one room before. Granted, it was a large room.

PAX East 2015 (convention review)

The north end of the convention floor. PAX East 2015.

The main theme of PAX is gaming. Computer and console games, board games, pencil and paper role playing games. Peripheral industries also have a strong presence, from hardware vendors to custom furniture and fan-created everything.

PAX East 2015 (convention review)

Overwatch (Blizzard)

The big draws this year were Blizzard’s Overwatch, a team-based online shooter, Heart of Thorns, the first expansion for Guild Wars 2 and the return of Rockband. No demo for Rockband 4, but the line for pre-orders and merchandise clearly stated that the gaming community is ready for another band playing game. The lines for the popular demos were usually capped by 10:05. With the convention floor opening at 10:00 am, this meant rolling up to the convention center as soon as the doors opened and waiting in line for nearly two hours – just so you could go wait in another line. But that’s conventions for you.

There was a lot else to do. Hundreds of other lines to wait in and lots of other demos, including games I’ve never heard of like Dreadnaught and Gigantic. Elite Dangerous, a game that stole my husband about six months ago, had a good presence with a lot of people eager to explore the complicated gameplay. Also popular was the chance to try out the Oculus VR gear. There were a couple of games dotted about the floor that took advantage of the tech as well. As we are lucky enough to have a friend who owns a set, we didn’t need to wait for that demo.

I was disappointed not to see a demo for The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. I’m beyond excited about this impending release and might have actually stood in line for a firsthand look. CD Projekt did release seven more minutes of game play trailer, however, which can be viewed at IGN. I was also disappointed BioWare didn’t have a more robust presence. They did maintain their BioWare base and run a series of panels, but few were focused on their latest release, Dragon Age: Inquisition, which has been picking up Game of the Year awards left, right and centre.

PAX East 2015 (convention review)

Dragon Age Cosplay. Photo courtesy of BioWare

There were many other opportunities to get your hands on things, and in one instance, your bum. HyperX had gaming chairs on display and as the concrete floor grew harder and harder, their chairs appealed more and more. I sat in each one several times. My favourite had an adjustable back rest. There were also gaming tables, which I’ve seen at several cons. They always fascinate me, though, and I’m convinced I’m going to own one one day. Then I’m going to design terrain for it and make all my friends play D&D with me. Or maybe I’ll just design terrain.

There were also plenty of keyboards, pointing devices, controllers, headphones and sound systems to try out, all designed to make your gaming experience THE BEST EVER! If you’re willing to submit your email address in exchange for a raffle ticket, you could win a lot of this stuff, too.

PAX East 2015 (convention review)

Life Is Feudal

I had my picture taken with three knights in order to get a free game. I took pictures of the Alienware truck and posted them with all the required hashtags for a chance to win a keyboard and mouse.

PAX East 2015 (convention review)

Area 51 by Alienware

If they’d been offering this case (with all hardware included), I might have signed over my daughter or perhaps my husband. I also stood around waiting for my number to be called at a couple of other booths, but I didn’t win a single thing.

PAX East 2015 (convention review)

Three screens, is that all?

I did have fun imagining that I might win this set up from Klevv. I’d have happily settled for a box of memory or a Steam gift card, however.

I tried out a few indie games by a company called tinyBuild. These games were easily to learn and fast to play. More importantly, though, they looked good. I was hooked on Boid before I even picked up a controller to play. I also learned how to play Mahjongg. Not sure who I’ll convince to play with me. Maybe that D&D group I was thinking of putting together. I did enjoy the opportunity to sit and learn a completely new game, however, and there were a number of board game set ups just for that purpose. My husband learned to play Ascension, bought the game and then taught the rest of us to play. It’s a lot of fun.

With LAN set ups (BYOC or use one of theirs – there’ll be a line, but you knew that), freeplay areas, gaming tables, tournaments and a variety of panels and workshops, there is a lot of gaming goodness to pack into just three days.

Kelly Jensen

March 2015

Convention Info:

PAX East is held annually at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. PAX East 2016 will run from April 22-24, which should make for more pleasant weather. The snow held off, but it was cold waiting in line outside the convention center. This year, the cost of tickets was $45 a day. The three day passes did not come with a significant discount and, this year, sold out within three minutes of opening. Saturday passes sold out in under two hours. The entire convention was sold out shortly afterward. So if you’re making plans to attend next year, be ready to run the gambit of ticket sales the day they open. You can follow PAX on Twitter for updates on just when tickets will go on sale and when availability is approaching nil.

A number of hotels in Boston run a convention rate and can be booked through the PAX Site booking service. Hotels are served by free shuttle buses that run all day. A word of warning, however, from nine until after ten, these buses are full. We walked to the convention center on Saturday. A brisk, two mile hike at twenty degrees Fahrenheit with a wind chill I am not going to record. It was cold!!!

With all the games, hardware, accessories and geek-ware on sale, you’ll want to bring a decent wad of cash along, too. Oh and finally, Boston has a lot of pubs. Don’t forget your beer money!

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Category: Cons, Games, MEDIA

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