There comes a time in every convention goer’s life where you’ll want to expand your attendance beyond the local ones in your area. I’ve been a regular at New York Comic Con for the last few years now, and as much fun and convenient as it is to go to this geek/nerd oasis every year, I’m always looking for new experiences and places to explore. Two weekends ago, I finally expanded my convention going experience by going to PAX East in Boston for the first time ever.
Friends, who have been going to PAX East in the last few years, have been encouraging me to go, especially when I became one of them when video games became an added interest in my list of hobbies. When the opportunity finally came knocking to go this year, you can bet your ass I snatched it up right away. Along with my other friend, who was also a first time attendee, we hopped on a bus to Boston to attend one of the biggest video game conventions to hit the East Coast.
One of the downsides of attending a popular convention is tickets sell fast. When 3-day passes used to be easier to come by, these days, it’s often near or next to impossible to obtain them. The only passes I managed to get for me and my friend were one-day Saturday passes. While it would have been better to have at least an entire weekend to attend the convention, the one-day pass had to be good enough.
Entering the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center that Saturday can only be described as pure elation and wonder. Not only does the convention center put New York City’s Jacob Javits Center to shame, but to see so many different sections organized to suit any type of gamer’s needs, from the console gamer to the board game player, it becomes a spacious sensory overload of sights, sounds, and heightened energy of people who are truly passionate about games. Luckily, I have a bunch of friends who are seasoned pros at going to PAX East, which meant my friend and I would be in good hands.
PAX has the usual stuff you’d see at conventions––merchants selling geek ware and cosplayers, but the difference here is you’ll see plenty of games to be play tested or previewed, more than what you’d get at Comic Con. Big companies like Xbox, Square Enix, Nintendo, and others were in attendance along with indie developers encouraging con goers to try out their games. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to try out any of the console games because the lines were too long and waiting on them would take a huge chunk out of the day I had. When you’re only at a convention for one day, you really have to budget your time wisely. This meant using the day to scope out every inch of the convention, while taking note of any sellers or panels we’d want to check out later.
Our wandering eventually led us to the tabletop section of the con and we decided to give Keep Calm: The Game a try. The best way to describe it is it’s really similar to the structure of Cards Against Humanity. One player acts as a judge, selects a red situation card, and the other players have to pick a card from their current hand that would best suit the card in play. The judge chooses the best card and then gives the red card to the player who had the best match up. Five red cards in total deems the player the winner. While the game may not be anything you haven’t seen or played before, it doesn’t make it any less fun to play. The creators of the game sold a prototype of the game at the con, and are in the process of setting up a Kickstarter to help fund the game. Their website also lets people vote on their favorite cards to make the final version of the game.
After getting our fill of walking the Expo Hall, my friend and I managed to fit in three panels, two of which were BioWare panels. The first panel at BioWare was their Women in Gaming panel, which had some of the women employed at BioWare talking about their experiences in the games industry, how they got into the business, and generally giving out advice on how to approach breaking into the games industry. The best takeaway I got from this panel was be persistent, apply for the position anyway even if you don’t think you’re qualified for it, and there are other positions in the games industry that doesn’t involve coding or knowing how to code.
The next BioWare panel was The World and Story of Dragon Age: Inquisition, which had one of Inquisition’s writers, Patrick Weekes, along with other staff talking about what went into writing the plot and characters of the game. Among the panel’s talking points was Iron Bull, romances, Corypheus, the theme of faith and religion, and the subtle changes Leliana goes through since Dragon Age: Origins. The panel took questions from the audience soon after and one of the questions a fan had was something I always wondered about, “Have they developed a full elven language (in the style of Tolkien) for the game or do they create it as they go along?” The answer? The developers just create the language in parts. Whatever words they create for the Dalish language, they have put together a dictionary to serve as their reference for future games. It was one of those questions I’m glad someone in the audience decided to ask. Another fan asked if the staff could comment on any upcoming DLC or expansion for Inquisition, but Patrick Weekes replied by saying that for legal reasons they couldn’t really discuss it but they are working on something for the game.
The final panel that closed out my time at PAX was hosted by Press XY called Transgender Characters in the Spotlight: Then, Now, Tomorrow. The panelists discussed and provided examples of some transgender characters found in video games and whether those portrayals were positive or negative. Among the games discussed included Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Simpsons: Tapped Out, and League of Legends. The panel really emphasizes the importance of breaking down stereotypes and how it’s necessary for video games to have more inclusion and diversity for all. Games are not and shouldn’t be a “boys only” type of hobby. I truly hope there will come a day when the issue of gender and sexuality isn’t a factor when it comes to playing and enjoying video games.
I may have had only one day to experience PAX, but I thoroughly enjoyed the time I got. After attending this year’s convention, I can confidently say I will want to come back in the future. Who knows? Maybe I’ll buy multiple passes to attend the other days, if the 3-day sells out again. I think it’s worth the time and money when you’re a passionate geek. Check out the rest of my photos below for more of my day at PAX East.