It was a truly great feeling to be back at PAX East this year. The hiatus due to COVID was necessary but it left a huge hole last year without this iconic convention on the schedule.
Thankfully we had a great PAX East, I talked about what the show is all about, how each of the days I attended went and I discussed a whole pile of great games I checked out. But what I did not address was how fun the social experience at PAX East was even with the rules in place.
There is a ton to do and see from concerts and panels to signing events, cosplay meetups and community gatherings. There was even a good amount of after hours events outside of the convention halls for those willing to celebrate a little more liberally.
The Panels and Special Events
I touched on the panels at PAX east in the past, but this is truly a keystone of any PAX Experience. The Panels run well after the exhibition floor closes and cover an incredibly wide range of topics.
This year there were not many ‘big-name’ panels aside from the now seemingly mandatory Gearbox Main Theatre presentation. This was bombastic, long, entertaining and packed full but ultimately did not reveal a great deal of new information aside from some new partnerships and announcing Tales of the Borderlands 2.
It was fun to be part of this big presentation, but many of the other panels offer an intimate look at an incredibly wide range of topics. Highlights for me were a great panel on ADHD and DND, a Discord community game night and Embracing the Nonsense in TTRPGs.
These were varied and interesting sessions, some more interactive than others. I also really loved the offerings of concerts and the always interesting live Acquisitions Incorporated: Live at PAX East. The concerts and live gaming sessions are a huge reason to attend PAX East and neither one disapointed.
With panels, concerts and gaming sessions running till after 11PM each of the first three days PAX East can be enjoyed for nearly 13 hours each day. That makes for a full and fun packed conference for anyone that attends.
The Community Spirit at PAX East
One of the cornerstones of any PAX is inclusiveness, this is embodied by the catchphrase uttered by Wil Wheaton at the very first event in Boston, Welcome Home. As the conference has grown so has the community involvement and outreach.
Things like Gender Neutral bathrooms, special areas like the Take This AFK room, Community room and PAX Together Intersection not only give safe spaces but also safety resources. Many of these areas are safe harbors for LGBTQ+, celebrates diversity and underrepresented groups and offer guidance on suicide prevention and depression.
These spaces have organically grown year over year at PAX East and it is always great to see this become a bigger part of the PAX ecosystem.
Charity has also always been a huge part of the PAX East Spirit with many events held to contribute towards the Child’s Play and Extra Life initiatives. Activities and booths were featured both on the show floor and in this years case with The Cookie Brigade also featured in a permanent space in the conference Centre.
The Cookie Brigade started as a very grassroots style charity campaign. Folks baked cookies, wandered the halls of PAX and sold their wares with all proceeds going to Child’s Play. Over the years they had to adapt to convention centre rules, food licensing and of course COVID.
This year they actually had a permanent spot near the handheld lounge and not only featured their cookies but also had a garage sale table and a large stable of licensed Pinny Arcade pins. I donated some rare Magic decks to their garage sale this year (which sold for $300 – Yay!) and they had a great year overall raising over $60,000 for Charity.
Child’s Play and Extra Life also had spaces on the show floor selling Pins, offering contests for donations and generally being awesome with their outreach. I stopped by all of the areas focused on Charity and community and the spirit and enthusiasm from all involved was amazing.
To round it all out there were also many pop up spaces to just chill and enjoy random events with PAX goers. Places like the Lawn on D that featured 10 food trucks, a huge lawn and beautifu l weather was a highlight most days for me.
The fun interior locations like the Jackbox and Speedrun stages were also quite full throughout the four day convention. These spaces offer non-stop entertainment as people Speedrun all sorts of games from Mario to Elden Ring and the Jackbox stage is a community game show that is always hilarious.
The After Parties
Even with the shroud of Covid still in the air there was still a hunger for some fun nights out in Boston and there was a nice mix of community and corporate sponsored events available. This is obviously the one part of the PAX East experience that has a touch of risk, but for those willing there was plenty to experience.
All the events I attended required proof of full vaccination to attend, despite Massachusetts no longer mandating that for public events. While this definitely does not mean it was risk free as transmission could still occur, it gave a better peace of mind than fully open events.
The iconic Pokecrawl for Child’s Play made a return to in person attendance this year with a huge wrinkle. It was held at a single location, The Wild Rover, and attendance was capped at a third of the normal amount. I attended and while it was no longer a proper bar crawl it was an intimate and truly fun event.
I met some old friends from years past and made some new ones. I had a full day coming up so I was quite moderate at the event but donated liberally to get good numbers for the charity drive. In the end the Pokecrawl (or should it be PokeStay?) raised over $3100 for charity, not too shabby considering the smaller crowd.
Other events like The Last Boss Beer Release and SonicBoomBox PAX East Afterparty sponsored by Voodoo Ranger were ways to check out some new local beer releases. These events were smaller scale and were a mix of free and pay events.
Bigger After Parties like the Black Dessert and ACER Predator Party were the two major all consuming events. Both were free to attend, and both offered swag, drinks and food.
I was able to go to both and while the Black Dessert event had more food, and insanely, an all night open bar it is hard to beat the insanity of the Acer Predator party. I enjoyed the chill atmosphere of the Black Dessert event and copious food and drink, but the all out party atmosphere at the Royale for Acer is hard not to enjoy.
At the Acer Predator event there was a good amount of live gaming where attendees could challenge pro Rocket League players to a match. There were also stations were Predator-branded gaming laptops, desktops and monitors could be demoed and all attendees had a discount code for the hardware,
Once the games and demos ended though DJ Frank Walker got on stage and played us through till the event closed. I am no stranger to EDM so I can safely say he was a fairly basic DJ, but he got the crowd moving and having a great time which is all we needed.
This event was hosted by Intel, Fandom and Acer and was a truly amazing experience. It felt surreal to be at a big crazy party like this after 2+ years of COVID and while there was risk, the vaccination requirements made it feasible to my mind.
PAX is a Social Experience
In the end, while gaming is often solitary in the digital age the increasing focus on Tabletop experiences and community spaces at PAX make this event incredibly social. Opportunities to meet like minded people, dance at concerts, laugh at live D&D and even party are a huge part of the PAX East experience.
For an event catered to the gaming community, who is often portrayed as awkward and anti-social, PAX East truly shines a light on how giving and welcoming the community is. Meeting and talking to new people in an out of the Industry is one of the best parts of the PAX experience and year by year it just gets better.
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