During the summer of 2017, I decided I was going to surprise Austin with procuring tickets to PAX East 2018 as an anniversary/Christmas/ early birthday gift. After years of hearing his friends ask him if he was going, hearing them brag about their experiences, and Austin watching the recordings on the Penny Arcade website afterwards. I decided I was going to do some research and figure out how to get these coveted tickets (actually known as badges).
After a couple of days of investigation, I found out Penny Arcade announces the availability of badges and all sorts of updates via Twitter. PAX East, which is located in Boston, MA, typically occurs in early April; the announcement is usually made mid-October to early November. I created a Twitter account and painstakingly checked for updates. My heart raced every time I received a notification. Our friends have always shared that once the announcement is made, tickets sell out within 1-2 hours.
Then on November 9, 2017, the on sale tweet was live. I was in a team meeting at my job and politely excused myself. My hands were shaking as I nervously waited in an online queue, beads of sweat formed on my brow as I was hoping no one noticed my absence. After 10 painfully long minutes, I was able to purchase them!
I was not very excited about going, this is Austin’s thing. He reads the comic strips , listens to the podcasts, watches the different web series, watches the various Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, and knows about everyone on the staff and their own projects.
Me, I’m just here so I don’t get fined.
On Friday April 6th, we hightailed it to Boston with antici…………..pation.
PENNY ARCADE AND PAX
Penny Arcade is a burgeoning media empire that initially started as daily three-panel web comic series back in 1998 by two childhood friends. Penny Arcade’s comics tend to focus on video games, tabletop games, comics, and other pop culture references, often making humorous observations. Since its inception, Penny Arcade has developed several successful games, published graphic novels, podcasts, and web series.
The folks at Penny Arcade are also philanthropists, as they established Child’s Play, a nonprofit charity that collaborates with gaming organization to improve the lives of children through games and toys. Child’s Play works with hospitals, domestic violence centers, and other child care facilities, domestic and international, by providing gifts to children to as a form of therapy or just an escape from some of life’s unpleasantness. They are pretty great!
In 2004 Penny Arcade decided they wanted to start a convention that focused on gamers and gaming. Comic Con, Otakon, and other conventions are great for highlighting comic books, anime, and other geeky/nerdy activities, but gaming seemly was still untouched. And with just an idea and several hardworking individuals, PAX was born. What started out as a local gaming expo in Seattle, WA with only a couple thousand participants has grown to tens of thousands of people and expos located in Boston, San Antonio, and Melbourne, Australia. PAX is a great place to learn about up and coming video games, tabletop games, role-playing games, virtual reality, indie games, and so much more!
This was my first time at a convention, period. Austin is a pro, as he has attended San Diego Comic Con multiple times among other events. My stance on the whole event was that I was mainly there to observe, I am not that big of a gamer and I only occasionally watch and listen to the Penny Arcade content. I was trying not to be negative, but this is not really my scene and the thought of being in a large crowd immediately gave me a headache.
As much as I hate to admit it, I had a GREAT weekend! I am still shocked by it. The vibe of the whole event was so positive and welcoming. I was more infatuated with the inclusiveness of it all. One thing I am always conscious of is the make of a crowd, if the crowd is too homogenized, it makes me feel uneasy and uncomfortable. People of all ages, shapes, colors, and abilities were in attendance. No one was made to feel uncomfortable and if you did, they would address it right away. We were all super awkward and it was universally understood.
We highly enjoyed listening to the Penny Arcade creators, Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, discuss their challenges, opportunities, and next steps, as well as, their continued battle with anxiety and depression. It really felt like they could be our friends and had that “we are just like you” vibe.
As I mentioned, I game, but I am not up on the latest games and that does not interest me too much. You know what? That was okay because they had other avenues as well. In addition to the gaming floor, they had educational panels such as recognizing mental illness, using games to combat mental health, LGBTQ+ gamers, and increasing the presence of marginalized groups in gaming. Now that’s my jam!
I also racked up a pretty decent amount of adorkable pins and buttons.
I will say that on the second day, when we were on the gaming floor, I did experience a wave of anxiety. The crowds became too much, the noise was too loud, and the flashing lights made me dizzy. I think I got too cocky; it was an interesting feeling being unknown in a crowd, knowing no one was paying attention to me, and still feeling okay. Then it wore off and I felt overwhelmed. Luckily they thought of that too, there was a designated room where you could catch your breath or speak to an actual clinician if need be.
All in all, we had a really good weekend. Austin had a great time and met a lot of his PA idols. We spent way too much money on fancy dice sets, pins, buttons, lanyards, bad ass t-shirts, and food. I do not foresee us making this an annual thing, but I can see us going again down the line.
Have you ever been to a hobby convention? What was your experience like?
Is there a convention or expo you wish existed in your area?