I guess it’s about time I gave my impressions of PAXEast, since it’s been a month.
Overall, I thought it was great and I had a blast. It was my first time at a PAX, as well as my first time at any kind of geek convention. I’ve been to work-related conventions, but those are, well, work. I attribute my enjoyment to several things. I attended with my wife and it’s always fun to go places with her and watch her reactions to events (her first flight out there, her first geek event, her first in-person meeting with her co-workers). Rubi’s co-workers also made it an enjoyable trip – they were neat people, and fun to hang with, even when they were in “work mode”. The community at the official PAX forums also were a big help to anyone attending. They’re encouraging to newcomers, listing page after page (after page after page) of information, and organizing unofficial events to coincide with the con. And of course the people in-charge of PAX made it fun. They have several years of experience putting on PAX in Seattle; unfortunately, they didn’t plan on such a massive response to the first East Coast PAX.
The attendance was huge. I think I heard they planned for thirty thousand people and almost twice that show up (I heard numbers from fifty- to sixty-five thousand, but never a definite total). As a result, the venue was overwhelmed. I was told to expect to stand in line for an hour or two, and show up way early to the events I really wanted to attend. That was a necessity. The cue line each day was massive, practically filling the entire first floor of the venue, wrapping and winding through two huge exhibition halls and a couple of hallways too. The cue line was fun though. Huge screens were set up here and there that displayed interactive content for the long wait, encouraging the people standing there to play along with the on-screen content or interact with it via their smartphones. Geeks and nerds sat around playing Magic with the card decks that came in the swag bags, high-fiving the passing lines across the guide ropes, responding to the on-screen prompts, etc. It made the long wait bearable.
The exhibitors didn’t know what to expect from a first-time event and their turnout was low. The exhibitors that did show up did a great job, put on great displays and many had good swag (but the initial swag bag was pretty sad…). I scored several t-shirts, several lanyards, and some in-game points for DDO, among other things. There were also some great booths selling their wares, and Rubi and I both made some purchases of geek goods.
The panels and presentations seemed to fill up too fast. There was plenty to do, but the attendance was so overwhelming that everything filled up quickly, and I saw many people turned away from doors, and the on-going events had huge lines. For the most part, I managed to get into everything I really wanted to see, the Keynote and the Red vs. Blue panel, plus a few other things. I understand that plans are already underway for PAXEast 2011 to be in a larger venue, and it should be better organized as a result.
The Enforcers (volunteers) at PAXEast were amazing; making sure everything flowed smoothly and everyone got where they needed to be (or didn’t go where they weren’t supposed to), as well as interacting with the attendees and making them feel welcome.
The only real negative I want to mention is that I was walking around with a large boot on my leg and using a cane to get around because I had broken my ankle a month earlier. It wasn’t until the middle of the last day of the con that an Enforcer asked me if I wanted a medical badge so I didn’t have to stand in the lines. That would have been useful to have the first two days! But no one mentioned it to me, and I didn’t see it mentioned on the website, tickets, or the fancy guidebook everyone got.
All in all, PAXEast 2010 was fun and I’m looking forward to going to PAXPrime with Rubi in September.