Two weekends ago another PAX East was held in the great city of Boston. I was fortunate enough to attend the always busy and exciting video game convention that happens once a year for a third time. Saturday was the only day I was able to go to PAX, but even one day there is enough to experience almost everything the convention has to offer.
When going to any PAX, whether it’s Boston or Seattle, you’re there for the games first and foremost. Plenty of demos are on hand to try out at the Expo Hall, from AAA titles like Detroit: Become Human to indie games about a two-ended dog called Phogs! The usual suspects were there—Xbox, Playstation, and Nintendo—except none of them had anything I really wanted to play badly enough to wait on line for. I don’t own a Playstation 4 or a Nintendo Switch, and I didn’t want to play something I couldn’t buy anyway. The demos at the Xbox booth were of games that didn’t particularly catch my interest like, Sea of Thieves or State of Decay 2, but I didn’t walk away from PAX without playing a few games.
I tried out the mobile game Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition at the Square Enix booth, mostly because there were plenty of empty spots to step up and begin tapping away at the iPads they had set up at a table on the side. I couldn’t really get much of an impression of Pocket Edition, like whether or not this iOS and Android version shoves the whole game on your phone or tablet, but I did enjoy the touch controls. When the cute, chibi-sized Noctis and the gang fought against a monster, the controls felt smooth and intuitive to quickly pick up what you need to do in the game right away. Most of it was about swiping and tapping away until you whittle away the health of the enemy or creatures you encounter. While I did find Pocket Edition to be as fun as playing the original console version of the game, it failed to convince me to download it from the app store and experience this version of FFXV. Not to mention that some of the reviews I read about the game also turned me off from wanting to bother with it. One reviewer mentioned that it lets you play one chapter for free before you’re forced to buy the game to unlock everything. I already have the console version of FFXV and have paid extra for the season pass of the game and the download for the recently released Royal Edition. I don’t really need to pay and play FFXV on my phone too.
I played the aforementioned Phogs! with my friend and it’s one of the strangest yet endearing indie games I’ve experienced. As these two-ended dog heads with a body that slinks like a worm, Phogs! is meant to be played as a co-op game. Sort of. Phogs! was set up on an Xbox console and two players were encouraged to grab one end of a single controller so both people had a joystick, a bumper, and a trigger button to press. Then the players work together to solve the puzzles in each level by figuring out how to grab, stretch, and move the end of the dogs’ heads you have control over. It sounds weird, and it’s hard to explain Phogs! without playing the game yourself, but it was good fun and a great way to strengthen your team building skills. Luckily, I played with a friend who was very patient with me when I fumbled my portion of a task for us to get out of one room to move onto the next.
The final game I tested out at PAX was a game called DropMix. Developed by Hasbro and Harmonix, DropMix is a music game that uses playing cards and an app you download to your phone or tablet to sync up with their game board. Basically, it’s a game where you imagine yourself as a DJ mixing very different genres of music and songs to create one awesome playlist. As my friend and I waited on the short line to try out the game, he gave me a little background on DropMix and how it worked. To my surprise, I found out DropMix had come out late last year. Before PAX and my friend telling me about DropMix, I had never heard of it or knew Harmonix had developed a new game. The game was both really unique and so much fun to play. You drop cards to the corresponding colors on the board, and you stop and listen as the sick beats start to play. If you think Dolly Parton and Weezer are an odd match and would never go together, musically that is, well, you need to play this game and have your mind blown. The amount of different combinations and styles of music you can mix together was astounding, and you could probably spend hours dropping cards on the board just to see what mix of music was possible. My friend who already owns the game confirmed that he would spend most of his time dropping and swapping out cards on the board just to see if it was possible to make a terrible mix. According to him, he has yet to hear one terrible song made out of the array of artists and bands available in DropMix’s impressive catalog of cards. After playing DropMix, I may have found my new favorite game I’d want to purchase—if only the game wasn’t a bit pricey.
No convention is ever complete without a little bit of cosplay, and PAX as usual had plenty. Being around the Square Enix booth attracted a lot of cosplayers from all the different Final Fantasy games ever released. There were some notable Overwatch cosplays around the convention floor that weren’t the usual Tracers or D.Vas I’ve seen at New York Comic Con or even past PAX Easts I’ve attended. I didn’t take as many photos of cosplayers this time, and that had more to do with having plenty of photos of the ones I’ve seen and snapped before. The handful I did take were all worth adding to my collection of photos.
Saturday being my one and only day at the con, there weren’t too many panels that stuck out as “must-sees”. At least not from the major developers and studio side of things. The ones I would have wanted to see the most, like the Final Fantasy XV or Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead panels, occurred on days I didn’t have a ticket for. The panel schedule may not have had much, but I was determined to find some interesting and smaller panels to sit in on. After going to both Comic Con and PAX East, I found it’s always a good idea to use a panel as your rest time when you’ve already gone through the Expo or Exhibitors Hall and still want to do something rather than spend the hour of rest time scrolling through your phone. Fortunately, I found two panels that were both entertaining, informative, and educational.
The first panel I went to was called Queer Gamers Unite! Building Confidence to Take Down Trolls. While the panel was more focused on combating toxic gamers as an LGBTQ gamer, many of the tips and situations discussed could apply to everyone. The panelists discussed their own personal experiences of being the target of an online attack, how they reacted to the situation, or how they would act differently depending on the gamers they were playing with. One guy talked about how he would change the inflection of his voice to sound more manly if he were playing against a group of male gamers he didn’t know, but then be more himself and sound as if he was one of the girls if he played with a group of female gamers in an online match. The panel touched upon some serious issues any gamer can relate to if you’re a person of color, a woman, queer, or all of the above. I definitely enjoyed the vibe of the panel because it really addressed the problems with online gaming, while keeping things light and funny at the same time.
The other panel I attended was moderated by the non-profit charity Take This and entitled, “We’re All Frauds!” Succeeding Through Self-Doubt. This panel talked about how we can navigate through the feeling of fraud syndrome and stop second guessing our own successes, especially when we’ve legitimately earned them. Just like the Queer Gamers Unite! panel, there was a ton of humor, engagement, and a great topic being discussed. What I particularly liked about this panel was hearing big and successful people in the games industry admitting they struggle with allowing themselves to celebrate their personal successes and often think they didn’t deserve it. You realize just how easy and effortless people make their successes seem to be when really they’re struggling to constantly prove themselves or belittle their successes when they shouldn’t.
This wraps up my single day attendance at PAX! See some additional photos from the convention below.