Saturday, March 30, 2013

Farewell 2013 PAX East: A Non-gamers Reflection

A picture I took of this year's program.
It has taken me a week to recover from last weekend's 2013 PAX East in Boston, Massachusetts. For those of you who are like me and don't really game, back in 2004, the folks at Penny Arcade wanted to create the ultimate conference and gaming experience and is how PAX was born. It started out as a 4,500 person event in Bellevue, Washington and now has expanded to the east coast and brings approximately 80,000 gamers together. Not just video gamers, which I still think is the bulk of people, but you will also find table top (board and card) gamers, techies, parents of gamers and those who cover this industry. 

Keith, Rob, Karim and Jay pose for a picture.
My husband, Karim and his friends have been going to PAX East since it came to Boston back in 2010. I joined him last year and it has been an enlightening experience as a non-gamer. I've grown up with the stereotype that gamers are male, but going to PAX quickly dismantled that. The gaming community is a diverse community. You will find people from all types of backgrounds, young and old, jock, geek and everything in between. There is something for everyone. Even as a non-gamer, I enjoy Kinect's Dance Central and make sure to get my dance on a couple of times while I'm at Pax. There is also Guitar Hero station.

Since it inaugural kick-off in 2010, the event has grown in attendance every year. I know this must please the organizers, but I also think that the event may be losing some of its luster for gamers like my husband who have been there from the beginning. While the event has a lot of great workshops, panel discussions, concerts and other activities for attendees, the wait to get into these events or try out a new game are way too long. Two and three hour wait times remind me of being at Six Flags on a hot summer day on a weekend. Waiting in line all day blows. If people spend their time in lines waiting more than two hours, after three events most of the day is gone. You can suck it up if you have a three-day pass, but if you are just there for the day, you're getting the short end of the PAX East experience.

Exhibition hall area
PAX EAST also has Bring Your Own PC (BYOC). Gamers bring their own computers, set them up and game with their friends in a designated area. The people who BYOC are dedicated. Last year, Karim did BYOC, but opted out this year. I noticed this year's group was significantly smaller. Doesn't seem like that is a good thing, especially if the event numbers are growing. Shouldn't the BYOC numbers grow too? If I was LANfest and PAX planners I would look into it.

Nvidia exhibit
This is not a bash PAX East blog. I still think the event has a lot going for it, but I also think there is room for improvement and don't want the event organizers to lose sight of what they can do to ensure people have the best experience they can at PAX East. 

I love that I was able to download the PAX event app to their smart phone through the Guidebook app and have all their information at the swipe of their finger. Very cool. There is also plenty of gaming swag given away. This year, my favorite swag items included a Pop Cap Planets v.s Zombies winter hat and the MOGA console gaming hand set that turns your Android smart phone into a gaming device. The MOGA console was given away for free if you showed your Android phone. MOGA just added a non-gamer to their market. Nintendo DS look out!

Loving my Pop Cap hat.
Another sweet addition to this year's PAX East was the expansion of the indie-game section in the exhibition hall. I actually found myself hanging out there and trying out a lot of table games because the lines were much shorter. Karim and his friend Rob really enjoyed an indie game called Dive Kick. Karim is looking forward to buying it from Steam. For non-gamers, Steam is an online community where PC gamers can by games, IM and connect with other gamers, gift and demo games. It's like a Facebook , but much cooler.

I also recommend the arcade and console game play areas at PAX East. One can play their "old school" favorites and get a history of how games have evolved over the last 40 years. 

After a week, I'm finally recovered. It feels good to be back to a regular sleeping schedule, but I'm already wondering what PAX East will have in store for event attendees in 2014. The waiting has officially begun.


Karim said...


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