Questions for PAX Prime-goers

I know that to play games on the LAN you have to register your laptop ahead of time, but what about if you just want to have it with you for general internet access–is registering ahead of time still required? I’m going for the first time this year (and at 49, I’ll probably be the oldest fart there).

Any other pieces of advice you’d care to give, please do so. I’ll be staying at a friend’s house in the Northgate area, so I’ll have to take the bus into town on Friday and Sat… Is street parking free (or possible) on Sundays downtown?

It’s good to wear comfy shoes, I’ve heard. Water bottle, backpack containing…? Purel hand sanitizer, granola bars, laptop (depending on answer to the first question) and what else?

You can have a laptop with you, sure. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t let you try to bring it into the LAN area and set it up in a corner or something, if that’s what you’re asking, but there’s no problem with just toting one around for your own use elsewhere. I’m not positive, they might not be thrilled if you’re sitting there in a panel clickty-clacking away on your keyboard, but I don’t know if there are any actual rules about that. There are a few rooms where they make you check your bags at the door, so if you’re paranoid about parting with it, uh, don’t go in those rooms.

Water bottle is good, and yeah, if you’re bringing a backpack anyway, might as well bring some snacks cause food is overpriced in the convention center itself. Other than that, it’s just up to you. I carried a pack one day for grabbing junk from booths, and the next day just had my DS in my pocket.

The PAX space is littered with tons of beanbags where you can easily set up with a laptop and enjoy free (and vaguely working) wifi. I think a friend off mine is thinking of actually bringing a projector + controllers for some impromptu group indie gaming.

PAX is basically the most relaxed convention I’ve been to, don’t worry too much about anything :)

You don’t need to register your laptop ahead of time to just use it for general purposes. You won’t be able to use it in the LAN area for gaming - last time I was at PAX Prime, the LAN area was 100% full anyway - but there’s a convention-wide WiFi network that you can use from anywhere.

Important note, though - remember you have to carry the thing around through the entire day! I carried a laptop in my courier bag for one day of PAX and ended up not getting much out of it except a sore shoulder. If you just want to be able to check your e-mail or something while at the center, stick to carrying your iPhone/Blackberry/whatever. Remember that you might want to carry water bottles, snacks, convention swag, etc. and you have to schlep everything through the entire day.

Street parking is generally not free, but the convention center has an attached parking garage with plenty of space. I recommend just paying for convention parking rather than trying to hunt up free parking somewhere. Time is money and you could spend an hour circling downtown Seattle without finding something. The Seattle bus system is not very good, and you might not be able to catch a bus BACK from the center at a convenient time.

There’s a Subway and a few other food places in the convention center but they’re overpriced and will be extremely crowded. It isn’t impossible to just eat at the center, but it’s best to at least bring snacks so you can weigh “just get in line” vs. “eat a granola bar now, come back for real food at 3:00 when the line is less ridiculous”. You’re in downtown Seattle so it’s not like you can’t find eating places reasonably close, but you will need to walk a bit and nearby places will also be somewhat crowded with conventioneers.

Things to consider bringing:

  1. Business cards. Not because you’re going to network, but because it’s nice to have something with your name and contact information in case you meet a cool person and want to pass them a card with your friend code / gamertag / sexual preferences scribbled on the back.

  2. Energy drink or coffee drink. A water bottle is a no-brainer, but if you’re a coffee fiend remember that the Starbucks in the convention center is going to be mega-crowded too.

  3. Nintendo DS. PAX is the best and maybe only place in the continental US to use passive multiplayer features like in Dragon Quest 9. There are also lots of chill-out areas where you can just sit down, take a break, and play, or even borrow DS cartridges from the PAX stockpile. Also, there will be times when you’re just waiting in line - if nothing else, there’s a line to get into the convention when it first opens each day.

Street parking is free on Sundays and after 6 PM every day. I recommend the bus on Fri. & Sat., although as mentioned, bus service is inconvenient in the late evening. In any case, be prepared to pay hefty parking fees if you use a garage. (Open-air pay lots are significantly cheaper.)

Officially, outside food is “not allowed” in the convention center (i.e. be discrete with your snacks).

I recommend bringing a DS if you have one.

Personal laptops are fine. You only need to pre-register to get access to the LAN room. I believe there will be public-access wi-fi again this year.

As mentioned, the on-site Starbucks gets very crowded. There are plenty of (less-crowded) coffee vendors within walking distance of the convention center.

There is no PAX bag-check service, although you could probably use one of the local hotels if you absolutely need to stash your stuff midday.

You will not be the oldest person there.

  • Alan

What are the day rates for the convention centers garage? I probably need to drive in since there is no parking at the light rail station and it’s too far to walk from where I am staying, especially at night.

I have noticed parking is pretty steep in Seattle, even on the streets.

A question re: the wifi at PAX: I’ve got a laptop but I’ve also got an iPod Touch (no iPhone, alas). In the past I’ve run into weird wifi setups that don’t work with iPod Touches for some reason (like at McDonald’s, or at my 25th year college reunion. WTF?). This is why I’d probably want to take my laptop, unless we know for sure the wifi works with handheld devices.

And yeah, I wouldn’t even think of bringing my car into town on Friday and Saturday. Sunday, maybe, even if I have to pay for parking, since I’m not headed back to the Northgate area after but rather heading south toward Portland.

There are lots of drinking fountains. I’ve never needed a water bottle. Last year they had sanitizer at every bathroom too. I can’t comment on the network access.

You won’t be the oldest person there. You won’t even be close to it. I’ve been pleasantly surprised just how broad (in every demographic sense) the audience really is.

When it worked, the wifi worked fine with my iPod Touch two years ago. Wait, was I there last year? I can’t keep it straight. I was at the East Coast Pax earlier this year, but maybe I was in Seattle in '09. Yeah, that sounds right, I think that’s when I met Denny and some other people.

Either way, I’ve never had a problem with a device not connecting to the network, just times when it’s overwhelmed and kinda useless.

I’m assuming AT&T from the expo floor is just not going to happen? We didn’t get internet for our booth because it’s insanely expensive. Ah, who needs to check email anyway?


I don’t offhand remember the convention center rate, but it’s as cheap (or expensive, depending on how you view it) as the open air lots and it boasts better security. It’s also much closer!

Seriously, it’s the better deal if you’re bringing a car.

Last year my iphone was only vaguely useful. I could send text messages but that was about it.