Since it’s creation in 2010, Laura and I have been attending PAXEast, and every year our Video Game Pilgrimage seems to get better. Now many of you may be asking, “But Chip, how can I personally improve my Penny Arcade Expo experience? Surely all of the responsibility falls on Masters Gabe and Tycho to make my money seem well spent!” While it seems that most of the good times you will be having do rely on the coordinators of this convention, we here at GIMMGP have learned many lessons along the way that have made every year at PAX just a little bit better (read: SO MUCH BETTER). Now we will share these lessons with you, the faithful reader!
Lesson 1: Don’t drive when flying is so much easier. Laura and I learned this the hard way during our first trip to PAXEast. From GIMMGP Headquarters, it is a roughly nine hour car trip to Boston versus an hour and twenty minute flight. While many of you are thinking that the cost of plane tickets is too much when compared to a road trip with friends, I assure you, it is not. The drive to the convention may seem like a mild inconvenience, but it is during the ride back that you will feel the toll of a weekend spent gaming. After nearly 72 hours of walking around Boston, standing in line, watching concerts until 2 AM, and eating at odd hours, a arduously long car ride home is the last thing you will want. As a special note for the driver of the car, get ready to have all of your passengers fall asleep on the way back, thus cursing you to stay awake for the entire car ride with no company save for the fear of napping at the wheel and killing all of your friends in the process!
Lesson 2: Get a hotel within walking distance. Laura and I encountered this lesson during our second year at PAXEast. While the PAX website will offer you many hotel options in their block of discounted rooms, most of these hotels are at least a bus ride away. During PAX2011, we stayed at an amazing hotel near the airport, which was reasonably priced and had a beautiful harbor view. What more could we ask for? Well, in order to get to the convention, we would have to ride a shuttle back to the airport, to catch a bus to the stop near the convention, and walk the bridge over to the expo. Once again, seems like a minor inconvenience, but the buses stop running at midnight. So if you want to stay for a concert or a late tournament, you will have to fight your gaming brethren (read: unwashed masses) for a taxi cab at 1AM. We found this year that just being able to walk back to our room saved so much time, and provided one less hassle to deal with as we are gaming our brains out.
Lesson 3: Attend on Friday and come early. Many of us hip young professionals have hip young jobs to go with our lifestyle (read: a crappy 9 to 5). Because of this, so many people wait until after work on Friday evening to make their way to PAXEast. Laura and I did this the first year, and we found that most of the merchandise we wanted was sold out by Saturday, and the lines were so much longer as well. Since then, we have learned to not only be ready and waiting in the queue line on Friday morning, but to actually arrive in Boston on Thursday. That way, when you are unleashed into the exhibition hall first-thing Friday, you will have first dibs on all the swag you could want, and the lines will be much shorter since so many people wait until Saturday to attend. Doing so will also ensure that you receive the sort of accommodations you want, since a block of rooms only has so many two-bed rooms to go around. One more note on the hotel blocks: if you don’t get the room you wanted, don’t be an ass. In the three years we have attended, I have gotten three room upgrades (for free) when our accommodations were compromised thanks to being polite to hotel staff when explaining the situation (four people cannot stay in one king bed!).
Lesson 4: Do your research, and plan ahead, especially with dining. In addition to playing video games, Laura and I enjoy trying new restaurants and sampling local specialties. While the Boston Convention Center does offer many different food options at their Food Court (at convention prices, $3.50 for a Mountain Dew! Blech!), there are so many interesting and delicious food options just within walking distance of the expo. This year, we returned to the massive portions at the No Name Restaurant, consumed amazing lobster rolls and Brick Red Ale at the Barking Crab, and we had our cake for breakfast from the delicious bakery, Flour. Each of these restaurants were mere blocks away from the convention, and it allowed us to get away from the hustle of PAX without having to miss out on the convention festivities. Each of these fun places we found just by doing a little research before we left. Hmm, what’s that dear? Ah, Laura wants me to add that homemade Boston Cream Pie for breakfast, while quite tasty, is a terrible idea (grumbly tummies and sugar crashes, yay!).
Well, that is all the advice I have to give. Now I will let Laura finish this post with a barrage of her own advice. Take it away, darling!
There are better ways of getting to the convention than a car — planes, trains, and buses are much less of a hassle. Boston Public transportation can be your best friend — understanding the basic bus routes and schedule is easy and Bostonians are usually willing to shout directions at you (if you ask nicely). Do a bit of research, don’t just show up and see what happens — what happens is you end up eating two day old unrefrigerated chinese food and pizza or having to transfer buses half a dozen times because you don’t know any better. Mini fridges are a god send. He who snores loudest, sleeps in the bathroom. The two bands you MUST see are the The Protomen and Video Game Orchestra (line up early or you won’t get in). Take your badge off to sleep and shower, otherwise it’s good to keep it on hand always. You will have to stand in line a lot — bring friends to hold your place so you can pee. Most of the best merchandise sells out in the first half of the first day. Wear comfortable shoes. Boston will be cold, pack appropriately. Understand that at the convention center pizza is $8 a slice, budget accordingly. There is tons of stuff to do outside of the expo hall too.
Above all DON’T BE A JERK. Your being a jerk to someone leads them to be a jerk, which leads to a whole domino effect of jerks, which leads to 60,000 screaming 5-year-olds all crammed into one room. Nobody wants that.