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.
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.
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.