Attending an Expo: A Noob’s Guide

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With PAX Aus later this week, I’ve hard to start thinking about how I’m going to make the most out of this year’s expo. Last year was my first opportunity to attend a gaming expo. I’m not sure what I expected but it knocked me for six.

Despite reading guides from more experienced attendees, I walked away feeling as though I didn’t get as much out of PAX as I could have done.

Since then, I found my way to this year’s EB Expo in Sydney and gained a few insights into the best practice for attending these events. So from one expo noob to another, here are some of my basic tips for attending PAX this year.

Download the Expo App

PAX have released their smartphone app and added the expo schedule to it. Download this app immediately. Once you step into the expo hall, it’s very easy to be overwhelmed by the vast number of booths and games in each booth.

Your brain will tell you its logical to work your way around like a shopping centre. Start at one side and move in a clockwise direction. Don’t expect to believe this logical side of yourself. If you’re anything like me, you’ll stroll through the walkways just taking in the sheer height of the displays and size of the hall.

Having the app and browsing the schedule beforehand will let you plan your days a bit more easily. You’ll find that most of the panels/tournaments you want to watch are on a given day and can therefore allocate more time on other days for general playing. Create your own schedule using the app and use it to keep on top of what you want to do.

You can find the app in the Apple store here, or in Google’s Play store for Android.

Take Some Friends

You will enjoy PAX so much more with a friend or two by your side. This might sound odd but if you split up from your group even for an hour, you’ll feel it. Expect to be queuing for hours (more on this later).

pax-aus-2015

Having someone to chat to in these queues will make it a lot less painful. Also who else are you going to make sarcastic remarks to while watching the Pokken Tournament tournaments?

Expect to Queue

This one piece of advice was everywhere when I was looking for how to prepare for my first expo. For some reason, it didn’t sink in. I went in and saw a long line and went “pfft. Maybe tomorrow.” Before you know it, you’ve missed the game.

pax-aus-lines

Let me make this clear: you will spend a large proportion of day in queues. More popular titles’ lines can balloon out of control very quickly. For example, at EB Expo, I was in line For Honour‘s line for just over an hour. Then we played for about ten minutes.

If you’re going to PAX alone or can’t handle queues, bring something to entertain yourself, like a 3DS. Otherwise, try to get into queues near the inevitable Just Dance booth – at least it’s fun to watch.

Dance Central ACMI Game Masters

Enter Some Tournaments

Again, if you’re anything like me, you’ll see a game you like pop up for a tournament. Maybe it’s Pokemon, maybe it’s Street Fighter, or even Smash Bros. You’ll take one look and think, “Wouldn’t it be nice?” Enter these tournaments.

console-tournament

It’s tempting to fall into the trap of thinking the best of the best will be in these tournaments and you’ll get trounced. Such was the case when I looked into the Pokemon tournament in Sydney. It’s been years since I’ve played Pokemon competitively and I figured I would be too rusty, too out of date, to compete. That is, until I sat and watched some games.

Excluding some of the tournaments on stage, like CS:GO, many of these players are just passersby and feel like trying their luck. So at best, a dedicated player will win easily; at worst, it’ll be 50/50.

On that note, for anyone watching these tournaments: get involved as an audience member. If you’re not game enough to go up and play on a big screen, the combatants are one step ahead.

They’re probably nervous and terrified of a catastrophic loss embarrassing them. Give them some encouragement.

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