I just got home from PAX East last night, and in thinking over the weekend, there were a lot of possible mistakes or misconceptions I had as a first time attendee that I will fix next year. I thought I'd share them here, for one, to check my slightly sleep-deprived thinking, and for two, maybe to provide some advice for new attendees in the future.
- Comfortable shoes: I don't know how the Bayonetta and Harley Quinn cos-players did it - by my math I was on my feet for nearly 10 hours on Saturday and by the end of the weekend I was having trouble walking.
- Travel light: I carried a backpack and a camera bag with me - I minimized what was inside, but even then the bags alone weighed about 15-20lbs, and after 3 days of carrying them around you really start to regret it. I'd recommend at most a light messenger bag if you really need to bring something with you.
- Don't bring a camera: I know this is counter-intuitive, but I really found that I was spending far more time looking for that perfect shot, or waiting to record the 'best moments' of whatever I was seeing, rather than actually enjoying the show; Not to mention I'm sure I annoyed my fair share of people behind me when my camera goes up above the crowd and blocks their view. I think I'll leave my camera at home next year. This also goes along with #2, since the camera is just one more thing to carry around with you.
- Food: This was a surprising issue. Breakfast on Friday at the nearby diner took nearly 1.5 hours to get seated and eat, due to other PAX attendees, and, oddly enough, an entire rugby team from Ireland. In general any restaurant or fast food place within 3 blocks of PAX was jam packed the entire weekend (Legal Sea Foods in the Prudential Center had a 1.5 hour wait for a two person table on Saturday). I would actually suggest packing a lunch, and if you really must have dinner close to the convention, make sure to make a reservation well in advance.
- Main Theater Events: In retrospect, I realized that many of the main theater events will be recorded a appear on the PAX DVD set (assuming they're making one - if not, video can be obtained on various video sites and/or the free community DVD project that's in the works) So on Friday when I saw a bunch of people leave the theater after the Keynote when the first PA panel was starting I couldn't really understand why. Now I know - the PA Panels are always fun, but unless you really want to ask a question, your time would be better spent elsewhere, which brings up point 6.
- Don't just look, play: The most fun I had all weekend was sitting down to play a game with random people at PAX - I spent a lot of time running around the exhibition hall checking out the new games and tech, and really didn't give myself enough time to just sit and play. I would highly recommend paying a visit to the board gaming and console freeplay or LFG rooms early in the weekend.
- If you want to play, plan ahead: I found some of the gaming events required signups. For example, the majority of D&D events were sign up in advance. Now I know they are planning to fix this in future events, but for PAX East, they actually filled their signup sheets for the entire weekend by Saturday morning, so anyone showing up after that was left with their limited first-come-first-serve event. If there's something you really want to do, check it out as early as possible, maybe even send an email to the organizers before the show to figure out how it's going to work.
- Gabe & Tycho signing: Maybe another counter-intuitive suggestion. If you've already got their signature, or met them somewhere else, please don't go. As a rule, the lineups at PAX are actually pretty fun, this one was less so. When the enforcers let us know G&T (M&J, actually, I guess) were only going to be signing for 1.5 hours and there were about 150 people ahead of us in line, it became the most anxious, passive-aggressive line I've ever seen. One guy actually threatened my brother when he came up to the line to bring me food. As it turned out, because of the huge amount of people, M&J went through the line really fast, I made it to the front in about 30 minutes. That said, if you do the math, that means M&J spent an average of 12 seconds with each person in line, which was certainly true of my run past the table. Ideally, the line should be reserved for people who've never met them before, so Mike & Jerry can afford to spend more time with each person.
- Concerts: You should go. It's awesome!
- Bandland: You should go. I met Jonathan Coulton, MC Frontalot, and Paul & Storm, and they were all incredibly nice and gracious people, and the lines are rarely long enough to not be worth it.
That's all I've got for now. I'd really appreciate comments and any other advice you'd like to add.