The PAX East gaming convention starts today in Boston. You probably already know if you’re going or not—tickets to these things usually sell out months in advance. If you had a badge or ticket but were somehow still on the fence, though, let Paste guide you. PAX has become a controversial event over the last few years, and there are good reasons both to go to it and to not to go to it. Elsewhere today we discuss why you should probably skip PAX East, but right now let’s look at five reasons why it might be worth going to.
The company behind PAX East is gross. They make a bad comic and believe in some bad ideas and at least one of the two founders has little idea how to conduct himself in public. That trickles down to some of their fan base, but PAX is the largest gathering of regular people who play games that we have here in the States. It’s a massive audience, most of whom are probably nice, and many of whom might know little about the web comic behind the convention or its creators. It could be an opportunity to educate people about the lack of diversity and respect within the industry and Penny Arcade’s contribution to that atmosphere. The “advocacy track” at GDC was valuable but it was almost the definition of preaching to the choir. I don’t know how successful those talks would be at PAX—you can’t (and shouldn’t want to) force people to attend, and there’s a good chance that only people who already know how to not be assholes would be interested in panels about how to not be assholes—but to not even try to engage this huge audience, to just immediately write off this event that gathers tens of thousands of people and that could be used to advance the self-evident fact that people should be tolerant and respectful of each other despite their differences, feels like a wasted opportunity. An alternative convention that’s viable and on the scale of PAX would be fantastic, but very unlikely. PAX is probably the best we’ll get, so shouldn’t we make the best of it? Until an alternative exists perhaps the people who are genuinely interested in a game convention could try to make PAX better, even if the people who organize it have little interest in doing so.
The best part of PAX is the boardgame area, and not just because it’s usually quieter and less crowded and less sweaty than the main floor. Even when they’re stressful boardgames are still more relaxing than most videogames and they offer a nice respite from the standing and walking you’ll be doing at all other moments. At PAX you can play old favorites with a new group or try games you wouldn’t otherwise play, both new releases and classics you and your friends may not own. It’s a great way to sample without dropping money on a box, and also a great way to meet new people.
I first played Bastion, Skulls of the Shogun and other great games that didn’t have massive promotional budgets at a PAX East. Sometimes the most memorable games you’ll find at an event like this are from unheard of developers relegated to small booths on the margins of the show floor. Inspect these fringes before wasting hours in line for the hottest upcoming holiday shooting sprees. Also make sure you check out the PAX East Indie Showcase, which features six mobile games that look promising.
Although I was never able to add anything to my Turbo Grafx collection at a PAX East, there are many dealers selling classic games and equipment. Maybe you don’t have a second hand games shop in your town, or a quality flea market. Maybe you don’t trust the internet enough to order online. If so PAX is a great place to go antiquing and stack up on forgotten favorites or old obscurities.
If you only go to one panel at PAX East this year it pretty much has to be this one. Like the title says, 30 people are going to play a Royal Rumble match in one of AKI / THQ’s unbeatable wrestling games for the Nintendo 64. Those wrestling games are among the best games in history, on any system or in any genre, and seeing designers, journalists and gaming “personalities” play it live like a real Rumble will be a fun way to kill an hour early on a Sunday morning.
Also go read our list of five reasons you shouldn’t go to PAX East.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s games section. He’d like to be in Boston this weekend but not necessarily for PAX East.