Despite the near negative degree cold and high winds blustering through downtown Boston, the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center was full to the brim with fans, cosplayers, and developers for PAX East 2017. The largest fan convention and trade show in the Boston area, this gaming-centered convention is estimated to draw around 100,000 visitors or more to this completely sold-out, three-day event.
Fighting your way through the cold and crowded subways seemed to be the price you had to pay this year to gain access to the most recent releases and indie games of the season. From Nintendo’s new Switch console to Mass Effect: Andromeda to the most up-to-date software for gamers, PAX’s show floor was full to the brim and overwhelming to a relatively new convention goer like myself.
But if you weren’t coming for the games, you were coming for the personalities. Streamers and Youtube personalities were abound this year. Markiplier, Jesse Cox, Crendor, and many other streamers had fans lining up for hours to be able to get into panels or a grab a photo or autograph. Some didn’t make the cut, with lines for the Markiplier panel having waits as long as three hours, stretching all the way down the hallway. I was able to sneak into the Cox and Crendor Live panel myself, but only after waiting for more than an hour, legs going numb after sitting on the floor for so long. You could also catch your favorite streamers down by the Twitch booth, sitting on bar stools while chatting with their fans. Or you could jump into the background of their streams through the glass, soundproof booths set up nearby. If that wasn’t enough for you, you can stop by any number of stages to catch live broadcasts or competitions, developer interviews, and hands-on looks at games. Couldn’t make the convention this year? No problem. Twitch has you covered with all-day live streams from each theater and the show floor. There really wasn’t any limit to the amount of presence that Twitch and the online community was showing this year. While I love walking around the floor checking out the newest titles, it’s the human personalities and the interesting panels that really hold me there and prevent me from leaving after a few turns around the booths.
Some people have no problem waiting for two hours or more in line to play their favorite games, but that has never been my kind of thing. I much prefer walking around, grabbing business cards as I go, and checking things out when I get home. PAX has been a place to check out the new titles and grab the merch I otherwise wouldn’t buy if I wasn’t at a convention. Last year’s convention was the first year I could go since moving to the area, and it quickly became one of my favorites. However, this year seemed more low-key. Large signage seemed to be reduced, and gone were the days of giant ARK T-Rex statues or Overwatch-branded vehicle rides. This may be due to there being more booths overall, but it definitely felt like there weren’t many games present that really jumped out at me even with some major names present. Mass Effect: Andromeda was an especially weird experience, as I didn’t even notice it had a presence until I was leaving and saw their private theater room that seemed to be by-appointment only.
PAX has always tried to step-up their game every year, introducing new events or features to make the experience more enjoyable. Sometimes they succeed, and sometimes they fail. PAX XP is an example of one of their failures. Registration of badges lead to blank webpages making convention goers confused as to what they just signed up for. To make matters worse, the app seemed to not work until the day of the convention, with problems on iOS drawing frustration from iPhone users. To make matters worse, many non-US attendees couldn’t even register because their postal code wasn’t recognized by the system. When it did decide to work, the app allowed you to join in on a convention-wide scavenger hunt, scan QR codes, and win prizes. But after the problems with the initial registration, many from at least my social group opted to not participate.
Discord and Twitch also tried something new as well that may or may not have succeeded. The Discord Lounge was a new feature this year, a small space within the show floor, offering a space to sit and chat with friends. It advertised itself as a place to relax away from the convention, but failed in actually offering an escape. The lounge had limited seating and no closed-off area in which to actually make yourself believe you weren’t still in the middle of the show floor. Twitch was trying something similar as well — but only for the people who had Twitch Prime — offering a Prime Lounge, private coat-check, and a gaming cart you could have follow you around. It seemed interesting, but as I don’t have Twitch Prime myself, I can’t tell you how well it succeeded. But if you didn’t like either of these things, you could check out the AFK Lounge offering a small, dimly lit place among the panel rooms crowded with bean-bag chairs and people looking for a quick nap.
I didn’t really get the chance to check out any major games this year, but a few games did catch my attention enough to at least prompt me to pick up a business card. Hob was one of the big ones as it is created by the developers of Torchlight, a game I have never stopped loving. The indie game Rime seemed really interesting as well. Advertising itself as more puzzle, less combat-focused of a game, it caught my attention with it’s interesting art-style. A few games that I was already following made an appearance as well including: Northgard, Stonehearth, and Pyre. But if board games are more your thing, you’ll love the huge tabletop area and developer learn-to-play booths, which were some of my favorite parts of this convention.
If you’d like to go next year, tickets go on sale after PAX Australia around October or November, so look out for that two hour window to snag your own. Otherwise you’re stuck paying scalper prices. Hopefully next year it won’t be below zero.
You can also find her reviews on romance anime, manga, and comics at bloomreviewsblog.wordpress.comcomments powered by Disqus