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The Blackman ‘N Robin Guide to PAX- Don’t Survive, Thrive

Here at BNR, we love the Penny Arcade Expo- while we regret not having anybody covering PAX Prime this year (a fan of ours found these handy streams in case you’re stuck at home too), we believe it is time to release our wonderful top-secret long-lost ancient family guide to not just surviving but thriving at PAX. Anybody can survive- but do you have what it takes to make your PAX a success? We know how to do it.

1. Before PAX, Know What You Want to Do

I can’t emphasize this enough; if you haven’t already, download the fantastic Guidebook app for Android for iOS. Within, you’ll find a guide to PAX that includes maps, schedules and a list of exhibitors. If you want to check out the Xbox One at PAX Prime, you can just open up the app, look for the Microsoft booth, and add it to your to-do list. You might want to, considering what they’ll be showing off this year.

This is the Guidebook App. Available for iOS and Android, it's a must-have for anybody attending PAX.

This is the Guidebook App. Available for iOS and Android, it’s a must-have for anybody attending PAX.

You’ll also want to look at the panels that are being held- there’s something for everybody. If you skip out on the panels, you’re missing out on a lot. This brings me to another important point: know your schedule! Let’s say it’s 4:30. If there’s going to be a pane your interested in attending at 5:00, and you’re about to get in line to try out a big, famous, open world AAA game with a four-hour line, you might as well get in line, because if it’s 4:30, you’re probably already be too late for the panel. Why? Panels tend to attract plenty of people. The room for each panel can only accommodate so many people before it reaches the legal limit- it is for safety reasons that there’s a cap on how many people are allowed in a room. If you intend on going to a more “niche” panel, you don’t have as much to worry about with regards to missing out because the room filled up. On the other hand, if a panel is going to be attended by Notch, Bill Gates and Jimmy Hoffa, it’s a good idea to get there as soon as you can.

In case you’ve never attended PAX, remember this: if you’d like to attend a panel, head to the theater that the panel is being held in. Near it will be a holding room. While in this room, look around for outlets. If you bring a power hub, you’ll become the hero of PAX. Take the time in the holding room to catch your breath, look at your schedule, and talk with fellow hobbyists about the upcoming panel. You never know what you’ll learn- I got to chat with an awesome dev while waiting for a panel during PAX East, 2013.

Of course, it would be a mistake to try and pack every hour of your PAX experience with a specific activity. Leave some room open- you never know what awesome surprise you’ll encounter when you’re just hanging out.

2. You’ve Heard it Everywhere, But You’re Hearing it Again: Hygiene is Important

Seriously. Do you know why the Mall of America doesn’t have a heating system? It’s because there warmth of thousands of shoppers is enough to keep the place at a comfy temperature. Now, imagine waiting in a holding room for a panel- these rooms are usually a little cramped. Imagine sitting next to somebody who forget his deodorant.

Please, don’t ruin PAX for somebody. Bathe, and wear deodorant. Cologne or perfume is not an acceptable alternative. If you forgot to bring deodorant, toothpaste, or other important toiletries, visit a strip mall and pick some up. These items are cheap, and will tremendously improve your PAX experience.

While we’re talking hygiene, don’t forget to wash your hands and use hand sanitizer frequently. Avoid touching your mouth or face- you never know what could be on your hands or, worse yet, already in your own system. There’s always the chance that even if you feel perfectly healthy, the flu or cold could be waiting deep in your own system, ready to strike- so besides protecting yourself, being clean protects other people. There’s a thing called “con crud”, a nasty little illness that sometimes affects con-goers. If you maintain your hygiene, you’ll help break the cycle of con crud. So please, don’t spread disease.

3. Awesome Swag is Everywhere – Be Prepared

A lot of companies at PAX give away free stuff just for checking out their games- not that it should be an incentive, as a lot of great games don’t come with any swag at all, but you’ll probably be going home with a lot of stuff. Bring an extra bag with you- one for your ordinary stuff, one for your swag. Also, there are some vendors out on the floor- don’t forget to bring money, as there’s plenty of cool stuff to buy, ranging from rare games to original artwork. Make sure your bag is nice and large, but also make sure it’s packed properly, so that you don’t damage any posters or other slightly more fragile merchandise.

4. Keep Your HP High

You’re probably familiar with the end of every RPG- that moment after you beat the final boss and realize that you have an unusually large amount of money and potions. PAX shouldn’t be like that. Your main health potion here is good old fashioned water- it’ll help you to ward off dehydration, which can make you delirious and more susceptible to con crud. Do yourself a favor and drink up- just try to remember where the bathrooms are. Don’t get gouged for a drink- bring your own water. And remember, while coffee may help you feel more alert, it’ll dehydrate you more quickly. Alcohol will make you much less alert, but dehydrates all the same. On another note, make sure you use the bathroom before joining the queue to play a game- you don’t want to be the guy pulling a Dance Central in the line for Halo.

It’s also helpful to check out the restaurants around your hotel before heading to the convention- this site has a nice convenient list of good places to eat in Seattle if you’re heading to Prime.

5. Protect Your Loot

This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s a bad idea to leave things where other people can get them. One year, I lost my favorite jacket, a pair of shoes, and some of my swag when somebody stole them. I thought they were in a secure location- the hotel had a little locked room that everybody put their bags into after checking out- this way, convention goers could just pop into the hotel for their luggage without heading to their rooms. Sounds convenient right? Well, it’s extremely convenient for thieves. Security was lax enough that I wound up ending my PAX on a bitter note- don’t let that happen to you. Keep your stuff away from other people, because while there are plenty of honest people in the world, it would be naïve to assume that nobody’s going to steal from you.

That being said, don’t seem guarded or paranoid. That, too, can ruin your PAX experience. Just take precautions, don’t take risks, and everything should turn out alright. Oh, and never leave your stuff unattended.

6. Your Electronics

There are a few of things to keep in mind when it comes to electronics. First, remember number five. Second, don’t forget your chargers. Third, the latest handhelds have interesting social abilities, such as “Near” on the Playstation Vita, and “Streetpass” on the 3DS (and, inevitably, the 2DS). Remember to bring your devices with you. Fourth, make sure that your camera (or cell phone) has enough space for the jiggobytes of pictures you’ll be taking at PAX. That’s all to be said on the subject.

This is what one of the holding rooms looks like.

This is what one of the holding rooms looks like. Bring a handheld.

7. Travel Light

Just bring the essentials mentioned in two, four, and six. When it comes to potions, take a little time to buy them at convenience stores in Seattle- water will be overpriced on the show floor. Make sure you have enough clothes for as many days as you’re attending, bring an extra change of clothes in case of emergency. And, of course, don’t forget to bring an extra bag to carry your extra swag. Also, comfortable shoes are a must. Please, don’t bring stilettos. Tap shoes are only acceptable in certain situations.

8. See Those Guys at the Booths? Talk to Them

While PAX is about the games, it’s also a very social event. Chat with the folks working their booths- you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you learn about the industry and what it’s like to work as a game developer. I’ve met some really cool guys at PAX- do yourself a favor and communicate. Also, you just might get some really cool surprise swag (not that it should be your sole motivator).

9. Those Folks in the “Enforcer” T-Shirts Are Your Friends

If you’ve never been to PAX, you might not know this, but the people in the “Enforcer” t-shirts are there to help you out. If you’re lost, have a general inquiry, or need urgent assistance, just ask one for help! Of course, it’s important to respect that an Enforcer may be busy- if you see an enforcer helping somebody else, it’s important to wait patiently or to find another. Of course, if it’s an emergency, interrupting an Enforcer is appropriate.

10. Have fun

One of my worries while writing this guide was that I made PAX sound kind of… Painful. In all honesty, though, the point of the guide is to help you to really enjoy PAX. You can ignore half the stuff in the guide and still have a good time- but you’ll have a better time following it. Remember, nothing in the guide says not to enjoy yourself. So have fun, be yourself, be free– just don’t be a jerk about it. Remember, PAX is only as good as you make it- you can make it awesome.

11. Visit the Nintendo Booth – Seriously

I’m no shill for Nintendo, but it’d be a mistake to go to PAX and to not visit the Nintendo booth- I’ve never not been impressed by what they’ve had to show, and there’s always good swag. Do yourself a favor and check it out!

Extra Advice

Follow @PAX_Lines on Twitter to keep an eye on, you guessed it, lines. It tweets the length of lines and whether or not a panel room is full.



Other Guides

How to Prepare for PAX – One of Swords

PAX Prime Information and FAQ – Penny Arcade Forums

If you’re heading to PAX, we hope you find these tips handy. If you have any of your own, please sound off below. Be sure to follow @Jourdan_Cameron on Twitter!

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