Hope this hapless girl geek to prep for PAX East!
March 9, 2010 10:07 AM   Subscribe

What should I know before going to PAX East? Specific advice for females and first time con goers especially welcome!

I read Penny Arcade regularly, listen to Jonathan Coulton, and know my way around German-board games and Sixaxis controllers, but I'm not really an uber-geek and I've never been to a con. I live in the area, so PAX East seemed like a perfect first time, but now I'm getting a little anxious. I picked my way through the archives and found a lot of useful advice, but, being generally clueless, I'm not really sure how the PAX crowd compares to the other cons.

I missed the 3-day badges, so I got a Saturday badge, and I'm on the fence about getting a Sunday one. I am simultaneously excited and overwhelmed by the schedule. What should I see? I have no idea! Besides just general con advice, is there anything I can study up on to better appreciate things?

To the girls out there: Any specific clothes/shoes recommendations or warnings? Purse: good idea or bad idea? Should I really be carrying pepper spray? Kidding, kidding.
posted by Diagonalize to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
When I go to cons (primarily of the comic type) I normally bring a large messenger bag or backpack. (Note that my con-going to normally work/shopping focused.) You'll undoubtedly collect all kinds of leaflets, books, samples, etc. you might also want to tuck another foldable bag into your main bag just in case. At least at comic con, a swag bag is one of the best giveaways because you accumulate so much stuff. I also bring carabiners so I can attach bags to other bags. Oh, and a rubber band may come in handy if you pick up any cool posters. And a highlighter so you can mark the stuff you want to see in the program.

Wear comfy walking shoes as you may be walking miles a day on concrete floors with few breaks to sit. And bring a water bottle and maybe some small snacks too as food can be expensive and the lines can be long.

Have fun!
posted by mrsshotglass at 10:34 AM on March 9, 2010

If you're actually actively getting cool posters, you may want to bring a plastic poster tube with a strap. If you're in Boston, you can probably score one of those at Pearl in Cambridge. I recommend a backpack for all your other stashing-stuff needs.

If you've got a Nintendo DS or other portable networked game system, bring it. PAX is a hotbed of pickup DS games.

I can't speak for PAX, but I've had issues at SDCC with random and targeted harrassment by attendees and vendors. SDCC's security is notoriously lax on harrassment, but booth staffers are not and will help you if you're in a spot; I don't know about PAX's Enforcers, but if you do run into some crap and they don't seem inclined to help, try ducking into a booth and grabbing a staffer and explaining your issue. (NCSoft's community reps waded out into the crowd and made a guy keep his distance from me last year in San Diego, for which I am eternally grateful.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:53 AM on March 9, 2010

I don't know about PAX's Enforcers, but if you do run into some crap and they don't seem inclined to help
posted by fairytale of los angeles

I believe MeFi's own 'robocop is bleeding' said he was going to be a PAX East enforcer, if you wanted a contact on the inside, if you're concerned about safety/security issues.
posted by haveanicesummer at 11:12 AM on March 9, 2010

PAX East will be my fourth con of any sort, and first my three were much, much smaller. In my experience, nerds are good people, and creepy people tend to have major shame issues: if someone's harassing you, make some noise and draw attention. I'm under the impression that there will be Enforcers about to keep things running smoothly. If you want to be extra proactive, note where official-looking people like you would look for emergency exits.

The most important advice: wear comfy shoes.

MC Frontalot has advice for you too.
posted by giraffe at 11:13 AM on March 9, 2010

I definitely dropped an "are" in one of those sentences. Sorry about that.
posted by giraffe at 11:16 AM on March 9, 2010

Get to all the scheduled events you want to attend *early*. The meeting venues fill up really quickly.

nthing comfy shoes.
posted by misha at 11:19 AM on March 9, 2010

If you're actually actively getting cool posters, you may want to bring a plastic poster tube with a strap. If you're in Boston, you can probably score one of those at Pearl in Cambridge.

Pearl closed last month, but you could probably get a poster tube at Utrecht (harvard sq) or Blick (kenmore sq.)
posted by modernserf at 11:23 AM on March 9, 2010

Response by poster: I'll likely be there with a group (including my boyfriend) at least part of the time, so I'm not super concerned about safety, but it's always good to have an idea of what to expect.

This might sound like a stupid question, but what kind of posters are we talking about? I like free schwag and cool art as much as the next girl, but I'm not dying to plaster my bedroom walls with Twilight promotional crap.

And since you mentioned it, anyone have a favorite comfy shoe? I'm planning on finding and breaking in a new set before PAX East.
posted by Diagonalize at 11:27 AM on March 9, 2010

I like free schwag and cool art as much as the next girl, but I'm not dying to plaster my bedroom walls with Twilight promotional crap.

Unless you mean Twilight Princess, I wouldn't worry about that at PAX.
posted by haveanicesummer at 11:32 AM on March 9, 2010

Response by poster: Heh, yeah, I figured that much, but I meant that more in the line of "Are these posters I'll actually want to hang up or are they mostly just for slick geek cred?" For example, I enjoy the God of War series, but I probably don't want Kratos glaring down at me from a God of War III promo piece, but an art deco-style travel poster promoting Rapture might be cool.
posted by Diagonalize at 11:44 AM on March 9, 2010

For comfy shoes: I like Saucony Jazz, which used to be popular with the kids a couple years ago. Good arch support.

There's a Saucony outlet at 1036 Cambridge St., roughly between Cardinal Medeiros and Prospect. It's smallish, but there are discounts to be found.
posted by giraffe at 12:36 PM on March 9, 2010

I've got New Balance WW955GTs, shoe-wise. I used to like my Doc Marten 9913s for SDCC, but I've killed them utterly.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 1:06 PM on March 9, 2010

Piggyback question: how much swag are we talking about? I like free stuff.

As for specific shoe recommendations, these and these are my current comfort shoes, and I can recommend both. I'm not sure what style you're looking for or if you just want anything you can walk around in, though.

It'd probably be a good idea to bring a jacket/sweater/hoodie that's light and small enough to stuff in your bag. I'm not sure how hot or cold it's going to be.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:18 PM on March 9, 2010

Not directly answering your question, but - there are more than a few MeFites (including a big bunch of MeFighters) who are going to be there; I did start a Metatalk thread here, but I may have shot that bolt too early - keep an eye on Metatalk for a proper meetup thread (or start your own - if you're local, you know where to go much better than us out-of-towners).
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 1:33 PM on March 9, 2010

Actually (and my apologies for the textual stream-of-consciousness here), another piggyback question, if the OP doesn't mind:

Those who have been to Pax West events, while free swag is great, are there opportunities to make bargain purchases as well? I'm trying to figure out how much spare capacity I should have, bag-wise... :-)
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 1:48 PM on March 9, 2010

I'm a lady-type going to my first PAX, also! I'm planning to take a backpack instead of a purse as I find it more comfortable for wearing all day with any significant amount of weight, and I will be carrying water and snacks so I don't have to interrupt my PAXing to hunt for them. I'm interested to see what other advice folks have.
posted by miskatonic at 1:48 PM on March 9, 2010

I've been to PAX in Seattle twice, and I'm a 20-something female.

A smallish/manageable backpack is a must. There is A LOT of swag. Seriously. A. Lot. At least one of the vendors will be giving out some kind of large bag that you can use to carry you swag, but you may want a separate bag for breakable things, or things you purchase, or even just some water or snacks. I easily get overwhelmed and over hungry, so depending on what facilities are available food wise, you might want a snack or two.

WEAR SOMETHING COMFY. You will be impressed at the hugeness of it all. You will be able to walk around, try games just for the fun of it, and talk to people. You need to be comfy. There is a lot to see. Even if you don't go to all the talks, visit all the booths. See what kind of swag they are handing out. See if they are demoing a game. Did I mention the swag? There is a lot of it.

Keep your hands free if possible. (Hence backpack, and your one or two free bags filled with swag that you can carry/put down as you go). Even if you don't consider yourself a huge gamer, there are lots of things to touch, lots of things to look at. Sometimes there are puzzles to solve, or big, organic interactive things going on.

Don't be shy. People are surprisingly welcoming. The enforcers are fabulous. Some may be in costume. They expect you to take pictures.

IF you really want to see an event, show up early. If it looks super popular (say, the Keynote) show up 45min-1 hour early. There are surprisingly orderly queues and line ups so that the most people who can see an event are able to.

Be adventuresome on some of the events! I saw Scott Kurtz on a whim, he turned out to be a great storyteller, and now based on that one PAX event, I enjoy his daily comic.

If you like German Board games, there will be several rooms where you can borrow a board game and play with some people. This is a great way to get away from the con floor for a bit, take a breath, and maybe meet some people. I would plan to do that when you get tired.

Have fun!
posted by billy_the_punk at 6:26 PM on March 9, 2010

I can't speak for PAX, but I've had issues at SDCC with random and targeted harrassment by attendees and vendors

I'm a female too, and I've never had this experience in SDCC (I've never gone to PAX either) and I'm usually on my own, both in events and in the exhibition hall.

I carry a big tote bag or a backpack. Carry band-aids in case you get any blisters.
In SDCC, I usually throw away about 70% of the posters/flyers I get.

You might have to sit on the floor. Bring a light jacket or sweater, sometimes the air conditioner in those rooms is brutal. The Nintendo DS is a great suggestion, but anyting to pass the time in queues is fine.
posted by clearlydemon at 7:19 AM on March 10, 2010

Response by poster: You guys are awesome. There are a lot of great suggestions in here, and I'd welcome more, if anyone's still watching this space.

I had dropped into the PAX East thread on MetaTalk back when it was still percolating, but perhaps a new MeTa is in order, since that one is now a month or so old. Admittedly, I am local, but only fairly recently, so I still don't really know where the cool kids hang in Boston, especially around the convention center. But if no official meetup gets off the ground, feel free to memail me if you want some MeFi company there, since I'll probably have a couple of Mefites in tow. Hopefully we can at least run into each other!
posted by Diagonalize at 10:04 AM on March 10, 2010

Meetup thread.
posted by grobstein at 11:03 AM on March 10, 2010

The lesson from PAX '09 was bring your own Purell, but hopefully Pax East will be less of a breeding ground for contagion. That said, all the usual rules of thousands of people packed into one place apply: wear layers, expect the air conditioning to be blasting to counteract everyone's body heat, and wash your hands.

Other tips: bring your DS or handheld of choice for waiting in lines for panels & events. Also (weather-permitting), walking a few blocks from the convention center for lunch will usually mean far less of a wait.

I've never had issues with being a girl at PAX, but I did have an optimistic dude hit on me in the Sheraton lobby while waiting for a rl WoW meetup. He gamely interpreted a disinterested "I'm waiting for some folks" as me playing hard to get until two dozen guildies came up and asked him who his character was. Hilarious.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:42 PM on March 10, 2010

The PAX twitter just said:
All jokes aside, we just heard norovirus is spreading in Bos. Area colleges. Purell ineffective but WASHING HANDS helps-Avoid the salad bar!
So, uh, just by way of warning.
posted by grobstein at 7:00 AM on March 25, 2010

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