From April 21st-24th I made my way, for the second time, to the city of Boston to work for the PAX East 2016 convention. Last year I successfully joined the ranks of Enforcers (part-time workers employed by Penny Arcade for the duration of the convention) and it was an absolute blast, so naturally I knew I would be back again this year. Being a part of what makes such a large and exciting convention happen provides an amazing behind-the-scenes perspective that truly makes me feel special – not to mention, I get to make literally hundreds of people happy for three days straight! The PAX family is incredible and I’m so honored to be one of them, especially the Merch crew, the department that I work for each year. We “Merchenaries” (as we call ourselves) definitely know how to combine working hard with having fun. I’ve been so lucky to make so many awesome friends from my experience so far with the Merch crew. From pin trading to inside jokes to not annoying Brian TOO much (we hope hehe) to delicious homemade PAX-themed cookies, there’s never a dull moment at the Merch Booth.
This year, I had the pleasure of once again working the “rush hour” morning shift with the Merch Booth – which I prefer, because it literally flies by. This year we had awesome comfy PAX East hoodies that ended up selling out in nearly a day (craziness!), as well as some fun new shirts, a PAX moleskin journal, and a super nice playmat/mousepad (to name just a few of the things we sold). And of course: the pins. The “Pinny Arcade” trading game is a huge deal, one that I admit I will in all likelihood continue to avoid…otherwise my OCD collector’s nature would surely blow way too much money. I am content with the few pins I have received from friends – perhaps I will obtain more cute ones in the future! (I’m a sucker for the Kemper pins…)
There were some really promising new video games to check out this year: Overwatch, of course, continues to impress – though the lines to play were way too long for me (I’m terrible at waiting in lines…oops!) and Rocket League (my husband Jack’s current obsession) is still a big hit among pretty much everybody. I was personally really excited about the new game by the creators of Bastion (Supergiant Games) called Pyre: it’s not only beautiful, but fun to play. I’m definitely looking forward to that one! I also tried out / observed a bunch of fun indie games, including a magical tofu game for iPad and a fun action-adventure game called Hob by Runic Games, the people behind Torchlight and Torchlight II (both of which I really enjoyed!).
Nintendo made me especially happy this year (but honestly, they always make me happy!) with their giant Pikachu balloon for the 20th Anniversary of Pokemon, their larger-than-life Kirby, and their really pretty Star Fox Zero display.
The real star of the show for me this year, however, was the Tabletop room (specifically: Dungeons and Dragons). I’ve not only fallen in love with Matt Mercer’s delightful Critical Role stream (WHICH if you are at ALL a fan of D&D you should ABSOLUTELY watch as it is hilarious and amazing), but I’ve also been doing a lot of roleplaying and character creating with some close friends of mine and it’s really made me excited about D&D lately. Which is probably why, this PAX, for the very first time, I signed up to play “pick-up” D&D (5e) with random people! I was a little bit nervous, but in the end, it was a ton of fun and a great experience. I rolled my Rogue Keegan, and he impressed everybody with his ridiculously unfair stealth advantages and witty sense of humor. I think the DM, a volunteer with Wizard’s of the Coast, was also happy to have a few people (my friend and I) in the group with experienced knowledge of the game and how to roleplay successfully. I guess I’m somewhat of a D&D veteran now!
I ended up bringing home a set of dice for myself, as well as some adorable and totally nerdy D20 earrings, to commemorate the experience.
PAX isn’t just about games, though (well, it’s MOSTLY about games) – we also enjoyed some musical entertainment in the form of the Bit Brigade, a fun band that plays an entire game soundtrack while one of their members speed runs the game in front of a live audience (this year’s performance was of Ninja Gaiden for the NES – one of the hardest motherfucking games in the universe, which they tackled masterfully, leaving me unable to say anything except “HOW??”), MC Frontalot (who was kind of ridiculous and was my least favorite of the three), and The Protomen, a Mega Man Rock Opera Experience (yes, you read that correctly). We also had fun exploring Boston more this year, since the weather was MUCH better than last year’s Arctic temperatures; we had sushi, visited China Town, had a TON of delicious seafood, and walked way more than we did last year.
All in all, PAX East 2016 did not disappoint. If anything, it went by WAY too quickly. I miss all of my PAX buddies so much already, and I can’t wait until next year! I’m hoping to make it to Prime/West or South this coming year, as well – I would love to check out what makes those conventions different from East, and see all of my friends for a second time in the same year.
PAX – the convention as a whole – provides a venue for anyone who loves games to meet people, play together, and have fun – the community is awesome: literally everyone I talk to at PAX always ends up sharing a lot of the same interests as me, and instantly seems like a friend. It’s honestly the best! If you’re a fan of games, I urge you to check out PAX…the passes sell out quickly, but if you manage to snag one you definitely won’t regret the experience or the money spent. Or, if you don’t mind working hard for a few hours each day to gain some valuable perks like I have (such as making people happy and getting to experience the convention in a way regular attendees don’t get to), keep an eye on the PAX website for information on how to apply to become an Enforcer.