• By: Isabel Payne

Take a Leap into the World of Video Games at PAX East 2017

Photos taken by Isabel Payne. Logo belongs to PAX East. 

Each year, tens of thousands of gaming fans descend upon Boston for a weekend of sublime overindulgence on all things video games. What began in 2004 as a smallish convention in Bellevue, Washington dedicated towards gaming, has blown up over the years to become one of the biggest video game conventions in North America with over 70,000 attendees. Today, PAX has expanded into five events across the year in Seattle, Boston, San Antonio and Melbourne, Australia. It has become a convention heaven where gamers can play demos, learn about upcoming games, and chat with developers.

This year was no different in popularity, and the frigid winds and low temperatures didn’t stop attendees from braving the cold. As we approached the BCEC, signs of PAX activities started to appear as cosplayers with guns larger than themselves trekked from the nearest T station (which, as it turned out, was a 15-20 minute walk away). Upon entering the convention centre, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the event. Even though I had arrived an hour before the convention was even open, hundreds of people were already lined up to enter the expo hall. A quick walk over the main hall showed me why. Massive lit signs hung from the ceiling advertising booths for different companies, consoles and PCs were packed together where attendees could line up and try out the latest games, and massive screens showed player’s progress in a demo to curious onlookers, or even let you watch live streams on Twitch.

Pictured: Maul Cosplay as Geralt of Rivia from the Witcher 3, alongside another cosplayer dressed as Ciri.

While it was tempting to spend the entire day with the bright lights of the expo hall, it was upstairs and outside of the hall was where I wound up spending most of my day. Multiple theatres surrounded the expo hall, where attendees could attend panels on a variety of subjects from upcoming games, to identity in gaming. Some also gave fans the chance to meet their favourite YouTube or Twitch personalities do Q and As. One panel from Saturday morning, which I deeply regret missing, had the amazing title “Clucks and Clicks: Archaeology & Ethics of Chickens in Games”. I was determined to attend at least one panel that day, and so I found myself in line for CD Projekt Red’s panel on their upcoming Gwent game. There I learnt about the time consuming process of creating cards in Gwent (each premium card takes 30 work days to complete…and look AWESOME), but most importantly, got to see the amount of work and detail put into the game. Anyone who missed the Gwent panel can view it here on YouTube.

Possibly one of the greatest highlights for me was having the opportunity to chat with members of the Bioware team at Bioware Base not only about the upcoming Mass Effect: Andromeda game, but also about the original trilogy. It was amazing to sit and chat about our favourite moments of the triology, as well as about why Mass Effect was so special to me and having that conversation was really what made my PAX experience extra special.

A scale replica of the Talos-1 station from Bethesda's upcoming game Prey.

Not only did I get to meet parts of the Bioware team, they also had a series of challenges for visitors to their booth to do to win ribbons and an Andromeda Initiative patch. Part of it involved trying out the online multiplayer of the game on their decked-out Mass effect themed Logitech accessories. While the multiplayer demos were booked solid for the day, I was lucky enough to snag a last second spot and try the demo with a team of three other Mass Effect fans. Within minutes we were set up as different classes in the team and ready to kick some butt. Together we had to work as a team and survive seven waves of enemies, as well as two rounds with objectives that needed to be complete. Those who pre-ordered the new game have a lot to look forward to when it comes out next week (March 21st)!

Want to attend a future PAX event? Here are some things I learned after attending my first PAX:

1.) Be prepared for lines. PAX is notorious for lines and more often than not, you will be in one. Bring a book, or a hand-held gaming device to pass the time, or use this as an opportunity to meet other fans in line with you. 

2.) Pack your own food. Like the rest of the event, line ups for food are long and never ending. Not only that, but prices for most things are through the roof (think $9 for a hot dog). Packing your own food means you can skip one line, and eat your own food while in line for something else instead. 

3.) Wear comfy shoes. Public seating is an uncommon sight and you'll likely be on your feet all day. Comfy shoes are an absolute must, your feet will thank you for it. 

4.) While passes are hard to come by, it is always recommended that you get tickets for multiple days since attending only one day only gives you a small taste of what’s to offer. That, and the fact that you’re likely to spend most of each day standing in a line. I know that for future PAX events, I will be investing in multiple days instead of just one since I felt like I actually missed out on a lot of interesting panels and contests happening on other days.