A Beginners survival guide to PAX AUS 2017

Feature article

PAX AUS 2017 is creeping up and before you know it you’ll be on your way to attend Australia’s biggest gaming convention. But before you do we are here to help you get prepared and survive the showroom floor with our annual survival tool: A Beginners Guide to PAX!

Whilst for some of us it will be a return to familiar sights, sounds and faces, for others it will be their first time attending such a large scale event. For those about to pop your PAX AUS cherry we are here to help. Here’s a quick rundown of the history of PAX. PAX is the brain child of Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, the authors of the Penny Arcade webcomic. Created in 2004 and first known as Penny Arcade Expo, it started  in Bellevue, Washington because they wanted to attend a show exclusively for gaming. While the very first PAX was attended by a mere 3,000 people, this year it will see over 70,000 gamers march through its doors. PAX has grown from a single show to now featuring multiple shows across the US and even an international show here in Australia known as PAX AUS.

PAX AUS is one of my favourite events on the gaming conference calendar and with good reason. Above all, PAX is about the community and the gamers, and its that emphasis on community that puts PAX above all other game trade shows. While attending PAX AUS you’ll notice that everything on the showroom floor is accessible and playable. Whether it’s the latest upcoming Triple A title from companies like Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft, or unique and outstanding indie titles from some of the world’s most talented developers. It’s this open access policy that means there are no secret “behind the scenes” previews for press only. All of this helps to foster PAX’s healthy and exciting community-driven approach.

During your time at PAX AUS you’ll also see cosplayers amid the crowds and there’s no shortage of parties or after-parties for you to attend. If you’ve had your fill of beeps and boops then you’ll also be able to enjoy some tabletop gaming on the tabletop gaming floor. In the end you’ll hopefully be as hooked on PAX as we all are and you’ll soon come to realise that it’s not so much a convention about games but a gaming convention with friends – approximately 70,000 of them!

So now that you know a little bit about PAX itself, here’s a few helpful tips and tricks from the pro’s here at Team Checkpoint on how to survive and get the most out of your PAX AUS experience.

RACHEL

PAX AUS is always the best time of the year for me. Not only do I get to enjoy everything that PAX AUS has to offer on the gaming front, but I get to catch up with all my interstate friends who travel to Melbourne every year just for the convention!

My advice for our Beginners Guide to PAX AUS 2017 is that it’s easy to get swept up in all the excitement and miss the things you really want to see and do. I highly recommend setting out a gameplan, for this there’s no better resources than the PAX AUS app and the PAX AUS schedule. Both of which can be found on the official PAX website. Once you have those in hand, it’s as simple as writing out your plan and setting a series of vibration alerts on your phone to remind you when everything is about to start. For example you may want an alert for our panel: Changing The Narrative : Representation In Gaming.

In your time spent adventuring at PAX AUS it’s also important to remember other key quest items like adequate footwear, hydration and a trusty backpack. Your backpack will be necessary for phone chargers, portable gaming devices, and to store all the loot you collect from around the expo. Oh, and if you’re anything like me you may want to bring some painkillers too because the showroom floor is quite noisy and the environment can become overwhelming for first-time PAXers and seasoned veterans alike.

If you plan to take in panels while you’re at PAX AUS (which I highly recommend) this is where I suggest you use your phone to set multiple vibration alarms. Time very quickly gets away from you and with lines starting for most panels up to a half hour or more before they start you’ll definitely need reminding. Queuing up for the bigger panels is a must, and with the noise and excitement on the showroom floor it’s easy to get distracted and miss your panel all together.

“…keep a handy supply of antibacterial hand wash to clean your hands after you touch things, literally anything or anyone!”

Another bonus to PAX AUS is the loot, there is no shortage of free goodies to be had, and competitions to enter on every corner. Just remember though that most competitions will be drawn on the day so if you enter, they will have call-out times that you must be there for otherwise you will miss out completely.

You should also be aware that there are a lot of people at PAX AUS and a lot of international guests, and with this mass of people comes a mass of germs. So keep a handy supply of antibacterial hand wash to clean your hands after you touch things, literally anything or anyone! Last year I got quite sick because I forgot this rule on the 3rd day and I won’t be forgetting it this time around.

KIEREN

Well it’s that time of year again, PAX AUS is just around the corner and I am ready and raring to hit the stalls this October and get my game on! Of course there’s also quite a few talks within the exhibition hall that I am super keen to sit in on. Not to mention the board game area and the 3DS chill lounge to relax in and recharge your batteries. There is just so much to do that you pretty much need three days to do it all, and even then you’re still strapped for time. Being a PAX AUS attendee, now in my third year, there are certain things I make sure to do before I head on into this marathon event.

For those, like me, who have purchased their 3-Day Pass, it’s worth making an effort to prepare a daily PAX AUS checklist and pack to bring in with you, to ensure you’re ready to hit the ground running and to help keep up your energy. A nice big breakfast and a multi-vitamin drink in the morning to jump start the body always goes far as you’ll find yourself constantly moving about the exhibition centre. Comfortable clothing and in particular shoes will save your feet and back a lot of strain at the end of the day. Things you’ll want to bring into PAX AUS are a lightweight bag, a few small healthy low G.I. snacks, a full water bottle, and sufficient chargers for your phone and/or handheld game system. I have a feeling we will see a lot of Switch’s in use during big lines.

The one thing I do recommend everyone try while you’re at PAX AUS is the Indie Showcase area. I’m always blown away at the level of involvement we see each year in this section. There’s always something to play and developers are there specifically to listen to your impressions, suggestions and comments. Doing this helps them create the best game they can and it gives you a sneak peak at what to look forward to in the future.

“…my final piece of advice is to just have fun and go with the flow.”

Last but not least, my final piece of advice is to just have fun and go with the flow. You don’t need to do everything in one fell swoop otherwise you’ll run the risk of burning yourself out on the first day. Pace yourself, you’ll have three days to do everything, but if you only have one day, knock off the must-see events first, that way the remaining time you have will be more relaxed.

JIMMY

If you are like me you leave all your PAX AUS preparations to the last minute – but that’s ok! As overwhelming as events like PAX AUS can be, you can enjoy yourself without feeling the need to rush.  A bit of planning can help though. The biggest mistake I make at PAX AUS is to see a game I like and decide to “come back to it later”.  If there is a queue, just join it!  These events can be a bit unpredictable and there is no guarantee the queue won’t be longer later.  There is nothing worse than leaving PAX AUS with regret.

While you may not wish to spend hours mapping out your day with the schedule, see what big titles are out that you wish to play, and make a bee-line straight to them first thing in the morning.  Also see if there are any sessions worth seeing.  They could end up being the highlight of your day and helps your eyes rest from constant screen time. If you do not have time to plan, don’t fret – just head to the biggest signs first.  The big games.  With the queues.  I always go by the flawed logic that queues are shorter first thing in the morning.  While that may not always be true, at least you get them out of the way and you can plan the rest of your day better.

“…it does pay to do a bit of research.”

I tend to spend most of my time at PAX AUS checking out the indie titles and new technologies such as VR titles.  With VR games, it does pay to do a bit of research.  Some of these games have booking systems and are guaranteed to be booked out by the time you wander around to them.

Giveaways.  I like free things.  While you wander about keep an eye out for times when companies hold their giveaways and competitions.  Even just one for the experience of the crowd going wild.  Sure, you may not get selected to win a console, but there is a very good chance you will walk away with something like a hat.

It goes without saying, but leave your shopping until the last moment.  Sure, things may sell out, but you don’t want to lug around bags of loot.  I usually take a small backpack to hold any freebies I may get, and also, I can wrap it around my leg while I play a game for security.

Finally, if you go to PAX AUS with friends, set up a meeting point and a set time.  I always get lost and at least my friends know at conventions that I will be at a certain point at a certain time.

Last but not least our best bits of advice we can leave you with is this: should you find yourself carrying too much loot or have perhaps gone a little spend crazy and are now overburdened you can always take advantage of the coat check. Coat check is available for a simple gold coin donation and can save you from some back pain later down the road. Also PAX AUS can be very crowded and a lot of people means a lot of B.O… So bring some deodorant! I can’t stress enough how important this is, it’s not only pleasant for you after a long day strolling the convention floor to smell good but its pleasant for those around you as well.

Above all PAX AUS is a convention where you will make new friends and meet up with old ones, it’s a friendly environment full of people all there to enjoy the best gaming has to offer. PAX Australia 2017 will be held at the Melbourne Convention Centre from the 27th to the 29th of October. Tickets are still available on the PAX website, and don’t forget to grab your copy of the PAX AUS schedule (paying extra attention to our panel) while you’re there.

Have any tips of your own or advice you think we missed? Feel free to add them in the comments below. And don’t forget to shout out and say hello if you see us on the showroom floor!