Pax South: Lessons Learned

Wizarding School

I am in fact apparently a wizard.  Last night we recorded a double episode of AggroChat, and even though I purposely took an hour and a half nap… by the time we wrapped up and I go into bed at one in the morning I was completely toast.  Generally speaking when we record AggroChat I tend to do what I call the “rough edit” that night, which mostly means putting all the pieces together in the right order and then head on to bed rather than wrapping up all of the small details like I used to.  Then Sunday morning I get up, have breakfast, have coffee and by the time I can actually form words…  I do all of the bits that end up posting the episode in various places.  This morning I did apparently everything related to two separate podcast episodes, and pre-staged it all so that in theory everything will publish next weekend while I am at Pax other than the anook thread since there is no way that I know of to schedule one of those.  I absolutely positively feel like a wizard… and the only downer is that all of this work… and I still need to make interesting words on Aggronaut.

Pax South: Lessons Learned

As I am writing this blog post I am realizing that I have roughly four days left to plan all of the shit I need to do before Pax South.  This is the point where my anxiety kicks into overdrive.  I think of the most part I have everything ready that I need to have ready for the show.  Once again I am doing the “unofficial media” thing as has me booked for a few media appointments.  This time around I think I am far more mentally prepared for this reality than I was last year.  I also feel like I know more things about Pax in general and especially the Pax South setup than I did last year.  This time around I am also going to have a bunch more friends to hang out with, so while I am overall less interested in the panels this time around…  I am far more interested in the people.  The only bummer is that a bunch of people that I failed to connect with during the inaugural year…  are not going this year.  So this morning, largely for my own benefit to get my shit in order… and partially for the benefit of people who didn’t attend last year…  I am going to run down some of the things I learned.

Things Learned at Pax South 2014

Internet Sucks

The biggest takeaway from last year is the fact that the internet is going to suck.  I guess part of me expected that a major convention center to have open wifi access, since I just assume that is as integral a part of anyone’s life as it is mine.  They don’t… in fact several of the media appointments last year we had sidebars about how frustrating it was to get their own network up and running so they could run their own games.  There will be of course cellular internet through your phone provider… but I would not expect it to work.  I tried to live tweet the Guild Wars 2 Heart of Thorns announcement…. and two hours later those tweets were still slowly filtering their way to the internet.  If you need to meet up with people… trade cell phone numbers.  For the most part while text messaging was a little sluggish, they were still going through because non-media texts really do not require much of a connection to go through.  As a result our master plan for keeping connected is to start a group text message thread that hopefully everyone can keep running throughout the weekend.

Pax Pizza Sounds Better than It Is

Now I am not picking on Pax Pizza in general, because they are trying their best to feed the masses.  However if you have ever had one of those small round microwave pizzas that Sams Club and CostCo sell by the case, you’ve had Pax Pizza.  The food options inside of PAX were pretty limited, but do include standard fare like hamburgers, hotdogs, chips, pop and water.  There is a food court just down the Riverwalk that includes a lot of things… but this was pure madness the night we tried to go there.  My big suggestion is to bring some food with you, for the most part I survived in Cliff Bars and Beef Jerky and brought my own water bottle that was relatively easy to refill.

Messenger Bag not Backpack

This suggestion might seem a little counter intuitive at first, since backpacks are FAR easier to carry than a messenger bag… but hear me out.  Everywhere you go at PAX you are going to get crammed into very tight spaces with a bunch of strangers.  You know what you cannot really do when you are stacked front to butt with a bunch of people?  Guard your valuables…  and you are getting jostled so much that you really honestly could not tell if someone was getting into your backpack.  So sure you can group up in a way so that your buddy is on watch, but it is just easier to be wearing something that you can sling over your shoulder so that your hands can rest on the bag in front of you.  Thankfully I thought this though last year, and took with me a new canvas messenger bag…. but my reasoning was that it seemed like it would be easier to get into it at a moments notice.  However after seeing the queue room…  I was super glad I didn’t have a backpack for sheer paranoia and anxiety reasons.

You are Constantly Walking

It is hard to fully appreciate just how much walking you are going to do at PAX.  The convention center is pretty large just by itself, and things are spread out all over… and in addition to that if I am remembering correctly there are three distinct floors…. with something happening on pretty much all of them.  The amount of time I spent sitting was pretty non-existent, with “Statue Hall” and the tables near the concession stand being the only real areas for hanging out while seated.  So absolutely wear comfortable shoes…  but even then… it won’t really matter.  The biggest complaint I had was by the time I hit the hotel room I was just dead to the world… and still had to somehow knock out a blog post and do any of the other things I need to do to check into the world.  The lack of internet during the day meant that there was pretty much no way I could do this during bits of downtime.  I am honestly concerned about this one, because I am not walking nearly as much as I was before Pax last year…  I will survive.

Nowhere to Charge Devices

You ever seen people huddled around a single power jack at an airport?  That is absolutely going to happen at PAX.  There were a handful of places where you could sit down near an outlet, and they were essentially the most heavily guarded spots available.  As a result… bring a power bank.  These devices are pretty ubiquitous and since it is inevitable you are going to be on your phone for much of the show…  I highly suggest having one and plugging in while you attend panels.  I ended up getting a pretty cheap one for this year from Amazon that in theory will charge my phone three times, but if I can get one good charge I will be relatively happy.

Patch Your 3DS Streetpass Now

One of the traditions I was indoctrinated into by Ashgar last year was collecting StreetPasses on my 3DS XL.  For whatever reason… every single person walking around seems to be carrying their 3DS almost entirely for this purpose.  A single pass through the main room and I would need to find someplace to stop and clear out my streetpass queue to allow new people in.  Why this is awesome is that when you get a game like Bravely Default… that has a minigame based on the number of street pass users you have available… it is absolutely amazing to bring an army.  That said in order to get the full benefit… you need to make sure that all of your games and apps that can collect streetpasses are all patched up and running the latest revision.  Since you won’t have internet access… do it either now before you leave, or from your hotel room.

Ask an Enforcer

If you have any questions or need help with anything…  your friends in orange are there to help.  The enforcers are a great part of the PAX experience, and they will quite literally be directing you to where you need to be.  If you have any questions about what a given line is for, or where you need to be to attend a specific panel, these fine folks are going to be able to point you in the right direction.

Daily Carry Bag

As I said before last year I carried with me a canvas messenger bag, and it worked out excellent.  The biggest thing I liked about it was just how easy it was for me to fiddle with it while waiting in line.  I could fish out my power bank, 3DS, or chomebook quickly based on whatever I needed to deal with at the moment.  It also serves as a handy way to keep any swag you happen to pick up along the way.  There will be booths on the main floor that have really nice shopping bags… but these are awkward to juggle while standing in line.  Bring a good bag, it will be your best friend.  Right now here is what I am looking at carrying with me, just as a way of helping you think through what you might need.

  • Water Bottle – seriously this is key. Stay hydrated by making sure you have something easy to refill.
  • Cliff/Quest/Whatever Bars – these are easy ways to get some food in you when you are hangry.
  • Beef Jerky – easy portable protein, I can live off this stuff.
  • Dried Fruit – going to add this one to the list this year, thinking some dried fruit might help mix things up.
  • Chromebook – lightweight, easy to carry device for taking notes.
  • Small Physical Notebook – because sometimes you need to actually write something down.
  • Digital Recorder – this is new this year, instead of trying to record audio on my phone I got a small digital stereo recorder.
  • Nintendo 3DS – because streetpasses are awesome.
  • Business Cards – last year was shocked at the number of times I was asked for one… this time I came prepared.
  • Power Bank – for recharging your phone or anything else that will recharge off of a USB port.
  • Tiny Bottle of Advil – the floor is loud, and without a doubt it is going to give me a headache, so the scout in me wants to “be prepared”.
  • Hand Sanitizer – because humanity is a messy huddled mass… and you want to stave off the PAX Pox.

This is essentially what I carried last year and it worked out well.  The only two things that I am really adding new this year are the Dried Fruit, because I think it might be beneficial for me to be able to snack on.  I am also adding a dedicated Digital Recorder, because trying to record audio on my phone was complete bullshit last year.  I contemplated trying to add a proper camera, but I didn’t want to add another device to my bag.  I am once again going to make do with my phone camera, but I will just need to take into account that I cannot simply snap a quick photo, do to the horrible lighting conditions on the floor.  I am really hoping the whole text message network thing is going to make meeting up with people easier.  If you too are going to be on the floor, let me know… because I would love to catch as many people as I can.  It is my hope that this is going to be an amazing year, and the goal this time now that I feel like I have my feet under me… is to see as many people and games as I can.  One last quick note is… that if you find yourself getting overwhelmed there are actually lots of relatively quiet places you can go hide out.  There is always the AFK room that PAX runs specifically for this purpose, but even then I found lots of other places on the third floor of the convention center where I could get away for a bit.  The further from the main floor you get, the more sane and rational the crowds become.



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