PAX 2012 tips from old hands?

I’m in town this week for PAX from Canada and apparently there’s a guidebook app for iPhone and some veteran tips somewhere in the PA forums that I’m too lazy to look for at the moment. There are also off-site events from some manufacturers and publishers as well as the parties that I’m too lazy and old to look into.

So any tips for navigating, surviving PAX, notable stuff to buy or what free swag to get and how? Everything is through Twitter these days?

Don’t eat at the on-site cafe. Don’t eat at the Subway in the lobby area of the convention center. Both will be swamped with people. The lines are outrageous. The food is pedestrian. Go outside and eat somewhere nice. Also, bring a bottle of water and keep hydrated. It can get hot and stuffy!

Try to plan out your days somewhat. There is a lot of stuff to see and some of the displays can attract large lines. You’ll get frustrated if you miss something scheduled because you were stuck in a line.

Bring cash if you think you’re going to buy stuff at the booths. The credit/debit machines sometimes break down, plus some exhibitors will have an “express” cash-only line.

Bring a small backpack or messenger bag. You’ll pick up a lot of swag and you may buy things that you don’t want to lug around in the cheapo PAX freebie bag. Plus, you can pack a snack or the water in there.

I’ve only done PAX East, not PAX prime, but plan on playing with the board games. The lines are long and insane for most of the Video games, worth checking out, but to get the most gameplay for your time, nothing beats the boardgame area!

I’ve only attended PAX East, but I assume these tips will still hold for PAX Prime.

Get in line early for panels you know will be popular. You need to do this even if it will be held in a large room. I missed out on a Bioshock Infinite talk because the line filled up 45 minutes or so in advance.

That said, I find it annoying to go somewhere to wait in lines for half of the day, so you may want to pick your battles. Others may not mind, especially if they’re in a large group.

The official twitter account was helpful in warning you when lines were about to fill up.

Wash hands or use hand sanitizer often to help avoid the PAX flu.

If there are popular demos or rooms which are open all day you may want to hit them first thing in the day.

If you want a really nice dinner in Seattle, check out Art of the Table. It’s a relatively short cab ride from the Convention Center, but it is a small restaurant. It is not in walking distance.

Actually avoid shaking hands at all. The sanitizer, it does nothing.

Second hand, but a recent podcast (GWJ maybe) was talking about how you should make a point to check out the hardware / peripherals booths if you have any interest whatsoever. It’s rare to get hands-on time with so many different bits of hardware to really test drive them.

Bring business cards if you have them. Not because PAX is an industry hobnobbing event, but because you might meet a cool person and want to stay in touch later. Bring a pen or pencil so you can scribble your Steam username or XBox gamertag on the back.

Just as it’s a bad idea to try and get food on-site, if you’re a coffee fiend, you don’t want to get stuck waiting in line at the on-site Starbucks. It’s Seattle so there’s no shortage of coffee in the area but it takes time to schlep in and out of the convention center to get to anything with a short line, so you should either bring a thermos or bottled frappucino, or make a note on your schedule of a good break time.

To the “bring a bag” advice, I would add “don’t fill it up first thing” - do any buying or swag-hunting at the end of the day so you don’t have to carry it around. You’re going to do a lot of walking and standing up throughout the day, so having even a little weight slung over your shoulder will give you a sore shoulder by the time the convention wraps up for the day. Don’t worry, the guys at the booths brought plenty. They won’t run out before you get there if you wait.

Also, my recommendation for panels is to pay more attention to the people holding it than to the ostensible topic. Some people give really good presentations and will bring out fascinating anecdotes for the most ho-hum topics, while others will impose drudgery and repetition on the best ideas. If you can’t choose between two panels and don’t know the speakers, pick the one with the worse-sounding summary - if the panelists are good they’ll make it come alive anyway and you won’t have to wait in line because the summary scares everyone else off.

Good advice, but not ENTIRELY true. There have been things I wanted to buy, waited until later in the day, and they were gone.

This is rare, and usually self-evident. If in doubt, ask the folks at the booth if it’ll be in stock still by end of day.

Examples I’ve encountered were pre-release copies of Fantasy Flight board games and heavily discounted stuff that the vender just wanted to get rid of.

It has been a couple years since I made PAX but:

  • Plan important panels - you will miss the panel slot directly before a panel you want to hit because you will be in line.

  • Always have hand sanitiser on you, use it often.

  • Go as soon as the doors open, stay late. I found the best time to see and talk were right when the doors openned and right before they closed as the population was at it’s lowest.

  • Go checkout Seattle if you haven’t before. I always loved staying an extra day or two to hang out at Pike place and other local attractions (being from Saskatchewan myself).

  • I was also burnt by the ‘waiting to buy’ thing. Sometimes stuff sells out fast. I would say if you really want it - buy it.

One thing to consider: the line at the start of the day to get in can be incredibly long. I’ve found that showing up a little bit later than opening gets you in nearly as fast as waiting for a half hour in line.

Are the keynotes and q&a with gabe/tycho worth it to brave the press of people in main?

I would say try to go to the XCOM panel. That was my favorite panel of PAX East, Jake Solomon can be a pretty funny guy.

Also, check out the Chiptunes room, generally not overcrowded and you can hear some cool music.

Or alternately if you do shake hands, REMEMBER that you did, and don’t touch your face. If you can avoid touching your face, you probably won’t get sick.

Ugh. That reminds me… Don’t shove your face against the padding in the VR headset or 3D TV display. So gross.

No “wear two pairs of underwear” or anything?

Saturday transportation/traffic will be crazy won’t it? Aren’t there two football games baseball game and the music festival too?

So, I have my pass. Can I just put it on a lanyard and go to the stuff I want to see, or is there a central checkin or something I need to do?

Hmm I don’t even have a lanyard yet. I assume they will have lots there.