A write-up about my visit to PAX East.
A few months ago, two friends and I decided that we wanted to take a trip to one of those big gaming and technology conventions. The soonest one within three hundred miles was the Eastern cousin to Seattle’s annual convention staple, PAX, or the Penny Arcade Expo, an event organized by arguably the world’s most successful webcomic creators.
Friday morning, the three of us met up at the local Park&Ride to grab a bus into the heart of New York City, and then from there to Boston. The trip was all smooth sailing until we got to MA and realized that the map I had printed out didn’t have any street names on it, or at least, not the ones we needed. Finding the train station was an exercise in patience, and while I enjoyed walking around Boston for an hour, delaying the inevitable need to partake of the world’s most expensive public transport, I cannot wholly say that this activity was so looked upon by my companions. Eventually we asked where we were and realized that we had in fact been walking in the right direction and were two blocks away.
To Boston’s Metro Authority: Boylston Outbound is missing St. Peter Street on the rail map. This turned out to be an issue because as the closest station to the South Street Bus Terminal, it served as our easiest if only means to get to our hotel at St. Peter. We just ended up getting on the damn train hoping that it would get us there, and it did, the “Platform 9 and 3/4″ of all train stops appearing sometime after Howe or Kenmore. Luckily the hotel was immediately across the street, but I was still sure that we were going to find a way to get lost.
We checked our bags because check in didn’t begin until four that afternoon, and decided like three real stooges that it made more sense (and let me start by saying that I was equally at fault for this) to walk about a mile before begging someone to tell us how far the convention center was. It was another 20 minutes in brutal cold and wind before we found a train station, which could have been found about sixty feet outside our hotel, but hey, whatever. I’m not bitter.
As a matter of ritual we asked how to get to the Hynes Convention Center from the train station, and in order to look like a local I just called it “The Hynes” but then realized that I looked like an ass because I was both asking for directions AND wearing a badge for the geekiest of all conventions around my neck. Is anyone keeping score?
We got to the show and realized what we were in for. It was populated almost solely by the Mountain Dew drinking, Cheeto consuming crowd. It took a bit to get used to the idea that we were surrounded by middle aged people clearly living with their parents. The four hundred pounder in the Viking helmet was a nice addition. We opted to walk in a straight line, which lead us almost immediately out of the convention and into the Mall connected to the building the show was in. After a quick lunch, we headed back in, grabbing a “swag” bag each, which had nothing of interest in them, and became that irritating thing that we each had to carry around all day.
The first day we did a lot of walking around trying to see what there was to do. We played Rock Band in front of twenty or thirty people, which was enjoyable, but I’ll be real honest: playing exact replications of songs is fucking terrible. I get so little enjoyment out of banging on plastic drums. Anyway: Rock Band gamers, enjoy your game but put “play a real instrument” on your bucket list. It’s a world of difference.
That evening after visiting an Expo hall in which Nick, my good friend, grew obsessed with getting a free shirt, and I bought a signed DVD from a few people I’ve been a fan of for a while, we sat down in the line for a concert in the Main Theater. It was supposed to start at 8pm, so we got in line at 7, and we weren’t allowed in until 9.
We didn’t much like the band, so we just ended up leaving. Getting home was fairly easy, but everything in Brookline (just outside of Boston) was closed by then except for a Wallgreens. Thankfully, it was the only shitty meal I had on that trip. It was frozen White Castle Mini-burgers or bust, so I went with it. I microwaved it first of course.
The real fun began the second day with a breakfast that cost more than it should have. We pretty much knew the rail system back and forth by now, so we made it straight to the show and signed up in one of the rooms to play some games we didn’t actually own on one of the several hundred systems they had set up on a big show floor.
Afterwards we walked around another Expo room we hadn’t seen and then made our way to the Rooster Teeth panel.
Rooster Teeth is best known for its hit web series, Red vs Blue, which has always been made using the Halo series. They debuted twenty or so minutes of the new season, which was predictably hilarious for the first 15 minutes. Then suddenly, the video changed to CGI, which resulted in a very enjoyable, very well choreographed battle scene that would never have been possible inside the actual video-game Halo.
While my two friends waited in line for something else, I went up to “Jamspace” which was a fairly wired room equipped with, surprisingly, real instruments. I signed up and played a slow jazzy tune with a guitarist and bassist, which started with my dropping a stick, readjusting a cymbal and starting again. The crowd clapped.
After that it was time to try out Dungeons and Dragons. I’d had mixed experience with it, all of it pretty much positive, but I hadn’t played in six or more years, so we figured we’d all give it a go. Turned out it was more entertaining than expected. Nearing the end of the game I thought I might go for what they refer to in baseball as a “fancy dan” which involved leaping onto a table and throwing a sword at someone, but instead I got stabbed in the back, tripped trying to jump onto the table, and bled all over the place. Still, between that and my friend Adam’s story about his character “Abraham Lincoln” we were all in stitches the entire game. Maybe the best part was looking at the people at the table right before my stunt and saying with confidence, “Watch and learn folks, this is called ‘betting on the home team’.”
On the way home we intercepted a small crowd from the convention who had come around the other side of the train station intent on entering it. A kid of maybe 16 years old in a beanie was just about to enter when he saw an old homeless man right inside the door. I guess he thought he would go in another door or something so he started to back out. I didn’t have any money on me, so I didn’t feel too bad about walking past the old man. The kid in the grey hat fell into step on the other side of me, that is, away from the hobo, who, to my surprise looked at the kid and yelled, “Gimme that hat!”
It was only hilarious after the fact. I didn’t look at the kid but was told after the fact that he was about to take off his hat. He was just a kid from the show and I didn’t really feel like seeing him get stepped on, so some other guy and I told him to fuck off. He got the message.
We got back to the hotel.
The third day, Sunday, we opted to avoid confusion with check out and just hang in the hotel room with our stuff and go straight to the bus back to New York. The trip was uneventful.
Overall it was an excellent weekend. I know I’m forgetting some things, but if anyone has an interest in the show, or if you just want to see Boston, I recommend both.
Thanks for reading.