About a week ago, I went to PAX East 2016, my third PAX East adventure. To be honest, I didn't have a lot of hope for enjoying the event before I got there. I attribute that sentiment to the fairly lackluster experience that was PAX East 2015, at least compared to the year before that. The first time I went to PAX East (2014), I was amazed by the spectacle that is the Expo Hall. A vast expanse packed tightly with booths and people, showcasing unreleased games and tech, impressive statues and game related art, and most importantly, free swag.
To my friends and I, the best part about PAX isn't the ability to see new games, nor is it to listen in to panels with gaming celebrities. (We don't even count the tabletop/console/PC freeplay areas, as in our opinion, there's no point in coming to PAX to do something you can do at home.) For us, the single facet that makes PAX truly worth it is the ridiculous amount of free stuff people give out. The first time I went to PAX, I received around 3-4 free shirts, about 10-13 posters, and a bunch of small collectibles. To me, that completely made up for the $40 entrance fee, and convinced me to want to go again the next year.
Alas, 2015 was a major swag drought. I don't even remember what I got, only that it was a fairly small amount. In the end, I ended up buying way more than what I received for free. While I admit that this expectation of free swag is not one set by PAX but rather my experience from the previous year, I was still disappointed. That disappointment stuck with me when the badges for PAX East 2016 were on sale, making me really consider whether or not I wanted to go. However, as evidenced by this post's title, I did end up going, if only at first because of my friends.
When I arrived at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, the disappointment had been replaced with excitement, as it's really hard to stay negative when in such a fun atmosphere. (At least before you have to wait an hour in line for an indie game.) After making my way through the security checkpoint, and after the approximately 40 minute wait for the Expo Hall to open, I was filled with that sense of wonder I felt when I first went to PAX. I guess that sounds kind of cliché, but let's be real here, you would feel the same way if you saw a life size statue of a Tyrannosaurus Rex (Courtesy of ARK: Survival Evolved).
Even better, the swag was back! On my first day (this year I went on both Friday and Sunday) I got 4 free shirts, a bunch of posters, and a few small yet still very cool collectibles to add to my collection. (Plus 2K had a 5 shirts for $10 deal, which is almost as good as getting shirts for free.) The second day failed to disappoint as well, ending with 6 shirts, some sunglasses, and more posters.
Now, some of you might look down upon going to a convention solely for free swag, but don't worry, I played some games too. One was Livelock, which at first glance seemed to be another MOBA, but in actuality was a 3 person, cooperative, isometric shooter that was pretty fun to play. I also was able to try my hand at Elder Scrolls: Legends, which all my friends complain is simply a Hearthstone rip-off with two lanes. However, I have never played Hearthstone, so this particular style of game was completely new to me (and surprisingly fun!).
All in all, PAX East 2016 was a pretty worthwhile experience, and it has restored my faith in PAX in general. I can now wait eagerly for next year's event, with the hopes that I can enjoy another glorified shopping spree - er - I mean gaming convention.