How To Get The Most Out Of PAX Australia
Forget Drop Bears and Hoop Snakes, We’ve got tips to keep you going once you’re inside the PAX Australia convention doors
PAX Australia is on its way back for a second year, and you’ve decided to go. You’ve got a ticket and a sense of adventure – what more do you need?
Well, whilst they may appear to just be ‘fun’ and ‘games’, in reality, gaming conventions are serious business. If you throw yourself into the thick of things without some preparation, you could come away sick, tired, broke and hungry.
You can learn from our mistakes because there’s not enough time to make them all yourself. Non-Fiction Gaming has pooled the knowledge of a few convention veterans so you’ll have an advantage going in.
Take Care Of Yourself
Sleep, Sustenance and Showers
The three S’s should be your top priority (along with wearing that really cool gaming t-shirt you got for Christmas). PAX AUS spans over a huge 3 days and if you’re anything like the rest of us, you’re pretty excited about all the cool things to see. You’ll be so busy each day that it’s tempting to just run off your own adrenaline and the occasional coffee or sugary energy drink.
Don’t do that! Instead, do this:
In an ideal world, you’d get 8 hours of sleep each night and three meals each day. That’s not going to happen but it’s a good thing to aim for.
You might go out drinking with the team from Riot Games on Friday, and then Beta Bar gang on Saturday, but it’s important to remember to get your head down at some stage because otherwise you’ll burn out.
If you don’t get to see that awesome panel on Sunday because you passed out on the tram the night before, and woke up cold and alone in the tram depot in Preston you’ll only have yourself to blame.
As for sustenance, breakfast is the most important (and delicious) meal of the day. I know it’s exciting to get into the queue first thing in the morning and wait for a few hours before the PAX doors open, but how about taking the time to get something tasty?
If you’ve got time for a sit down meal there are a number of small cafes near the Melbourne Exhibition Centre that open super early. Crown even has a food court just off South Bank where you can get toasted sandwiches or some bacon and eggs.
Speaking of sandwiches, packing one and some fruit probably wouldn’t hurt. It’ll save you save a bit of money and you wont lose your spot in the queue for that panel when the hunger pangs start.
And please, for the rest of us… make sure you shower every day. I know the unwashed gamer is a stereotype but it doesn’t need you helping it along.
A bit of ‘Shower in a Can’ (deodorant) touch up later in the day wouldn’t go astray either. Remember you’re walking around a packed exhibition hall for around 12 hours. Even the neatest people can do with a bit of freshening.
Take Your Vitamins
(I’m not a doctor or a dietician so maybe consult a professional about health stuff)
Bring a multivitamin and a whole bunch of vitamin C along to the convention with you. Make sure to take the multivitamin every day, and whenever you get a chance, take a vitamin C.
Mixing this many people close together always has a chance to spread all sorts of nasty bugs. If they haven’t read this guide, other gamers may also be missing out on the third S, showering.
If you don’t want to come down with the dreaded con-plague or PAX-POX, you’ll keep your body filled with all the vitamins it needs.
Fruits and vegetables are really good for that kind of thing if you want to go more natural.
Stay Hydrated, Stay Alive
Let’s take a quick look at some of the symptoms of dehydration: Thirst, headaches, constipation, dizziness, lightheadedness, Irritability, low blood pressure, fever and delirium. Basically, no fun all round (except maybe for the delirium part).
Dehydration is pretty serious business and it’s one that can sneak up on Con-goers. You probably drink plenty of water when exercising and in hot weather. The PAX environment can be taxing on your body, you’re walking around getting sweaty palms from seeing famous people and crying tears of joy because you got to play that alpha you were dying to get your hands on. Those fluids need to be replaced.
Thirst usually isn’t the best indicator because by then you could already be on the path to Headache and Dizziness town. The best thing to do is carry around a water bottle and fill it every chance you get. Lots of little sips throughout the day is better than trying to catch up all in one go.
A Gatorade/Powerade can help restore some of those electrolytes and carbs your body needs. Energy drinks aren’t going to help you hydrate (they might even make it worse).
Book Your Pass, Transportation, and Hotel Early
Conventions like PAX sell out within a few weeks, so don’t dilly-dally. We assume you’re already going, but if you haven’t bought a ticket yet… Hurry up! Only a few tickets are still available.
Transportation and accommodation costs can increase sharply closer to an event’s date. There are a bunch of hotels nearby to the Exhibition Centre but it is the weekend before the Melbourne Cup so expect things to fill up.
The Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre has some underground parking that you’ll need to pay for. But cars are for suckers, especially when PAX is at the Melbourne Convention Centre, in the heart of the city. There will be trams, trains, buses, and even a pirate ship nearby, for all your PAX travel needs.
Pro Tip: Look into getting a Myki so you can use public transport.
Add an Hour (or more) to All Wait Times
So that super cool panel is at 10:30 and you figure you’ll get there nice and early at 10:00 sharp, right? Wrong! Lines at conventions exist in a weird subspace where wait times are vastly longer than you expect.
Think to yourself how much earlier you should get to the panel and walk past it an hour earlier. If you feel it’s not worth standing around for a few hours then find another panel.
And don’t be ‘that guy’ who walks around PAX complaining about the ridiculous lines. PAX is popular, and some of the panels are going to be ones that everyone wants to see. Plan accordingly.
Socialize in Lines
Waiting in lines sounds terrible (unless you’re from the UK) but it doesn’t have to be like a trip to the post office (That tortured and desolate hell scape. I just want to pick up my parcel. WHY MUST YOU TORMENT ME POST OFFICE LADY….. Ahem.).
Strike up a conversation with the people in the queue. The lines can be a pretty fun place to make friends, and impromptu games often spring up among line-mates, so embrace the lines as part of the PAX experience.
You’re both at a gaming convention and in line for the same panel, that’s at least two things in common already. Make some light conversation to get the ball rolling, something neutral should work fine.
“Oh, that’s a pretty cool Pin you’ve got there, where did you get it?”
“What booth would you recommend I have to visit before I leave?”
“I read this cool article on Non-Fiction Gaming about talking to others but I can’t remember the examples it gave.”
Other options include challenging someone to a game on the Vita or 3DS or bringing a mini board game Connect Four.
Pro Tip: Hitting on people in lines may seem like a good idea. But if it’s awkward, it’s hard for either party to escape gracefully (at least without giving up your precious spot). If you do meet a pretty humonoid person, and you’d like to continue your conversation later, suggest meeting up afterwards near the end of the line-waiting period – that way you don’t have to stand next to them awkwardly for the next half hour
Don’t Wait in Lines Too Much
If you only want to see the big blockbusters at the convention, you will have a very short convention experience. You’ll spend most of your time waiting in lines and you’ll play maybe three or four games. Consider limiting yourself to just one or two long wait times for things you really REALLY want to go to.
In the time you spend waiting for one shot at Grand Theft Auto V, you’ll be able to play almost every indie game on the con floor. In that same amount of time, you can go to a concert, or enter a tournament, or get some food.
Try to make the best use of your time, even if it means you have to skip on some of the big attractions.
Pro Tip: Although, if you can, make one of the big attractions trying on an Oculus Rift headset. It will change your life.
Try New Things
One of the coolest parts of a gaming convention is the ability to have new gaming experiences. Even if you are the best League of Legends player in the world, you should still take some time to play an awesome new indie platformer or two.
Who knows? You might stumble upon the next awesome Aus/NZ indie craze, and be able to say that you played that cool pizza-matching ninja puzzle game with talking dolphins before it was cool. (I would totally play that game.)
Enter a Tournament
So there are 100,000 people going to your convention, but only one of them can win any tournament. Chances are good that your parents lied to you, you’re not a special little snowflake, and you are probably going to lose. (Except for the best snowflake. They get to win. But it still won’t be you.)
But that’s not a reason to avoid giving it a shot.
Every person I’ve spoken to who participated in a PAX tournament last year has only good things to say about the experience.
Tournaments are a great way to make friends and get critiques for your playstyle. Whether you are into shooters, fighting games, sports games, or even puzzle games, you should try to enter at least one tournament before the convention ends.
Oh, and stick around when your tournament is going on. You don’t want to be disqualified just because you wandered off and got lost.
Leave the Convention, Get Some Fresh Air
Obviously, you pay for a convention to go there, but there are things happening outside the PAX Australia walls. There are lots of awesome things to do outside of the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.
Food, in particular, is much cheaper and much higher quality outside the convention center, so unless you are cool with paying large sums for small amounts of luke-warm greasy food (“Mmmm… three day old chips.”) do some city roaming.
This is especially fun if you’re not from Melbourne. While the weather can be temperamental, there are heaps of awesome cafes and restaurants to check out.
Also, there’s a pirate ship right outside the convention centre. A pirate ship! Priorities people.
Pro Tip: Friends don’t let other friends NOT go on the pirate ship.
Get Involved with the Convention
Doing things for the convention can be fun and can save you for a lot of money. You could run a panel or help out at a booth.
Have you thought about applying to become a PAX Enforcer? Catherine wrote about her PAX Enforcer experience and said it was hard and amazing at the same time. She recommends it to anyone that is tempted.
“Enforcers are a special breed of people, who have decided that the best way to experience PAX is to help others have fun.”
In the article, she readily admits that it isn’t always fun, especially when the crowds are particularly busy,, but the satisfaction of helping others have an incredible time at PAX makes up for the long hours. And Enforcers often come back year after year to help out, so PAX must be doing something right with their team.
At the very least you can just smile and be nice to other people. Nothing fancy but it helps brighten up the day.
Finally, Have Fun!
This seems like such a simple rule, does it really need to be said? People often forget this golden rule. Conventions are about having fun and PAX Australia is no exception. If whatever you are doing isn’t fun anymore, stop doing it.
Don’t wait for an autograph for a whole day if what you really want to be doing is going to the Live Sketch Panel. Don’t wait for free swag, when all you want to be doing is hanging out in the Handheld Lounge. Don’t wait in line to play that R18+ beta just because everyone else is lining up for it, go play in the Pokemon Championship like you secretly want to (“BURN THEM ALL CHARIZARD!”)
Pro Tip: PAX Attendees who follow the ‘Have Fun!’ rule are guaranteed to have more fun.*
*Disclaimer: Fun cannot be guaranteed by Non-Fiction Gaming, and this statement is not legally binding.
Take a look through the book and see what interests you. Sample everything with a smile and have some stories to tell your friends.
Do you have any Pro Tips for PAX People? Let us know in the comments below.