PAX Prime 2013

5 Sep

OMG I am so tired! I spent the last few days standing in lines, walking around, demoing games and generally soaking in the atmosphere of my first PAX Prime!

Tickets sell out faster and faster every year – I heard a few years ago you could still buy tickets a month before PAX but even though they added an extra day this year, it sold out within hours. James and I originally had tickets for Friday, but picked up a couple of extra Monday tickets at cost. I also went on Sunday because I borrowed Mike’s pass in the morning (he was sleeping) and John’s pass in the afternoon (he saw the crowds, smelled the stench and decided to take the day off).

Friday

The guys went to see a talk by Peter Molyneux so I kind of wandered around on my own. I followed the crowds and accidentally wandered into a League of Legends tournament.

I got a good seat (maybe 5-6 rows from the front) because I was on my own. James sometimes plays LoL with our friends from back home but I had no idea what was going on. The atmosphere was really great though – lots of cheering when people died, and it was really easy to get into it.

As you can see from the photo below they had the players playing live on either side of the big screen and cameras on their faces. They were all like … 14 years old! Also they were totally impassive while playing – even when they got killed or killed someone.

The commentators were just to my left. It was funny how they wore suits just like sports commentators. They were also quite young – in their 20s maybe, and I figured they were retired LoL players.

I left after the first match (my prime seat was quickly snatched up). By that time the hall was really packed – it looked like maybe a 30-60 minute wait just to get into the room for one of the crappy standing-only spaces in the aisles.

I met up with the others in the Expo hall. We wandered around looking at stuff and James and John played The Crew at the Xfinity booth.

Afterwards they got a special license printed out.

James and John didn’t realise it was supposed to be a license so they took their photo together. =P

While they did that, Mike and I checked out the Hidden Path booth. They were demoing two games – a tower defense one and also a fantasy/sandbox/building game. I was terrible at both. We didn’t have to wait to play and after demoing one of the games they gave everyone a poker chip:

You could keep the chip or trade it in for a spin on the prize wheel. This was the Defense Grid wheel – the Windborne one was slightly different.

I didn’t get a t-shirt my first day, but when I went back on Sunday it was the end of the day and the nice lady just asked me which one I wanted. =)

Also we found Claptrap!

In general Friday’s lines were the shortest. I thought it would be the Monday because Monday tickets were the easiest to buy for face value, and a lot of people I talked to were leaving Sunday night. But I think people use Friday to decide what they want to do for the rest of PAX. I reckon Friday is definitely the day to go to the more popular demos.

James and I also watched the trailer for the new Xcom. They gave us each an iron-on badge for watching it, but the line was short and I think James would have done it for free since, as you can see from his License to Speed earlier, Xcom is his favourite game.

Later that day we discovered the Mountain Dew QR code promotion. There were QR codes hidden throughout PAX and scanning them gave you different points that you could collect and trade in for loot. That ended up being a biiig clusterfuck but I’ll talk more about that later.

While we were in the queue room getting showbags we saw that there was a signing booth set up. James and I got our PAX passes signed by Gabe and Tycho.

We called John and Mike to let them know to get in on the action.

The photo isn’t super clear but in front of Gabe and Tycho there’s an assortment of pins. There’s a kind of pin-trading subculture at PAX, and Gabe and Tycho each had a bunch of pins that you can only get by trading with them. James didn’t realise and thought it was just swag, so he took one of Tycho’s pins. At the end of the first night when he was showing me his loot I was like “you’re not supposed to have that!” So um, yeah, he accidentally stole a pin. Oops.

Here are the pins we ended up with. I’m not really into the pin trading thing – the only pin I bought was Mr. Pigglesworth at the bottom because I thought he was sweet. The pin at the top right James and I got on Monday for watching a demo of Infamous: Second Son. Then since we had a double of the Infamous pin I swapped it at the Hidden Path booth for the Windborne pin in the top left because I think the pin is so cute. Then the one in the bottom right is the one that James took.

The swag bags were pretty cool this year. They each had two League of Legends skins (which we distributed to the guys that James plays with), Magic the Gathering packs and PAX Prime-only Cards Against Humanity cards that people were going nuts over. People were taking extra bags to get the CAH cards and LoL skins and discarding the Magic starter decks.

I found a stack of Magic decks that people had stacked neatly for anyone who wanted them. I showed James, and we now have two of each colour.

We spent the evening running around getting QR codes for the Mountain Dew promotion. Which in hindsight was such a bad idea because everyone else was too, and since I didn’t have a Saturday ticket I wasn’t able to keep up. Still, it was pretty fun collecting the codes – it was cashing them in that was a pain.

Sunday

I borrowed Mike’s pass in the morning to cash in our QR codes. I had enough for any of the top prize (2 x 4 day PAX passes for 2014, Turtle Beach headsets and Polk soundbars) but so did hundreds of other people and there was this huge stressful queue on the day. They cut off the main queue after a hundred or so people, and the rest of us were milling around in a frustrated mob.

Everyone was angry and the enforcers were angry, and it was really just awful. People were furious that they’d spent all weekend running around collecting codes for nothing. I talked to some people who had been there since 6am (PAX opens at 10am) who still didn’t make it into the first queue wave because it was a matter of luck and being really pushy/aggressive.

Obviously the top prizes disappeared before they even opened the queue again. It took me maybe an hour to reach the start of the second queue and you can see how many people were still behind me.

I ended up cashing in James and my points for cards to use in a future promotion that starts later this month – hopefully I’ll be able to try for the Turtle Beach headset again. But yeah, overall it was really shittily organised and if I could do it again I’d just avoid the promotion altogether.

The rest of the day was better. I got into the demo line for the new Saints Row game even though James already owns it.

I waited for maybe 45 minutes, but this time expectations were managed correctly and the line was really well-organised. 5 people could demo every 5 minutes so the booth guys could tell people exactly how long the wait would be. They’d do a rough headcount and tell people who had just gotten in line “you’re 1.5 hours from the front”)

But yeah, the reason I lined up was to get James the t-shirt. After playing we got this tab to exchange for a shirt:

I was really proud of myself because James loves Saints Row, the (back) design is cool, and he also really likes purple.

Since I hadn’t planned on going Sunday it was just about the loot – I tried to get as many t-shirts for James as I could. =) I did watch a demo for Watch Dogs which looks amazing. It supports asymmetrical play, where one person plays the hacker and the other person plays as the Big Brother-esque city, trying to prevent the hacker from reaching their goal by throwing up roadblocks in real-time.

I actually only watched it because I’d gotten it confused with another title that James likes – Sleeping Dogs. =P But it was still really interesting and James said he is also interested in Watch Dogs, so yay. I got two t-shirts for pre-ordering Watch Dogs and the new Assassin’s Creed (very easily cancellable if you find a better price … or just want the free t-shirts =P).

I participated in the Counter Strike tournament at the Corsair booth (running every 30 minutes) to get another free t-shirt. I’ve never played Counter Strike before and was predictably terrible at it. Still, free shirt! The winner also got a free gaming keyboard, headset or mouse, but that wasn’t me. Obviously.

As I mentioned in my Friday summary at the end of the day I scored a t-shirt from the nice lady at Hidden Path. It was a different design from the one that Mike got on Friday, so maybe they had different designs for every day? Then I headed home, absolutely exhausted!

Monday

In the morning I went to the King of Tokyo tournament hoping that they were giving out promo cards to the participants. Unfortunately it wasn’t an official tournament so there were no promos to be had. =( This was the ballroom at the Hyatt set up for various board game tournaments:

James went to the Nvidia talk, where he said they were giving away lots of loot (unfortunately he didn’t get the NVIDIA shields, graphics cards or $5000 gaming PC).

We met at the Wolfenstein booth in the Bethesda area. James kept wanting to climb on top of the statue but I thought that was a bad idea so he settled for gently patting it.

I waited for maybe an hour in the Wolfenstein queue. I kept looking around for James so I could give my spot up to him when I was close, but he was in the Magic the Gathering queue where you could throw CGI fireballs on screen or something. Again, I was embarrassingly shit at the game – I was stuck in the starting area because I didn’t realise you could press B to crouch. Then when I was guided out I got insta-killed by some Nazi robot. And I had it on the absolute easiest difficulty. I think it was called something like “Daddy, can you pass me the controller?” =( The shame …

I was more interested in the Elder Scrolls MMO but it was so popular that they capped the line. Apparently it was a 2.5 hour wait even if you managed to get in! But anyway, if you played Wolfenstein or Elder Scrolls you got a lanyard and three (unofficial) pins:

I really liked the Elder Scrolls one! Totally worth the wait.

Then James and I had some lunch and headed to the Gearbox (Borderlands) talk at the main theater. We got there about 30 minutes before the talk and the line was already long. But it was worth it because the talk was interesting and they ended up giving everyone some Gearbox 20-sided dice, fake tattoos, codes for one of the Borderlands 2 expansions, codes for some Borderlands 2 skins and a code for Homeworld HD.

I gave my codes to Cat and Scott because even though I love Borderlands, the controls make me feel really nauseous. =( So I just settle for watching James play.

Afterwards Mike, John and I headed to the Expo hall while James went to a Dragon Age talk. John and I got some free bandanas for taking this photo:

You can tell that as each PAX day passes my eyes get smaller and smaller from tiredness.

Afterwards we watched Mike play some Ace Attorney on the DS, then went to try out World of Tanks (which I sucked at so badly I couldn’t get out of the tank-selection page). But it was totally worth it because John won a joystick in a raffle!

Then the Expo hall closed and it was time to go to dinner. =)

I definitely want to go for all of the days next year. Even though I’m not super into video games I like acquiring the t-shirts and loot for James, and the atmosphere is really fun (if a bit stinky at times). Even the queues weren’t terrible because I’d always chat to the person beside me and find out a lot of stuff that way.

Cat was jealous that PAX Prime had so much more swag than PAX Australia – and just more stuff to do in general. There was definitely a lot of stuff to get if you were interested. Here was my haul:

The grey shirt that says PAX Prime is the one I got from the CS tournament. It’s a pity they only had XLs left because there was a picture of the Space Needle on it! But anyway if you were solely after swag you could easily have doubled my haul. Plus if you were good at games or got lucky you could end up with computer mice, keyboards, headsets, etc. I even talked to one girl who won a computer case!

But there was so much to do – the panels were great, chatting to strangers was surprisingly fun, and playing new games was cool too. So yeah, I’m definitely keen on going next year and it was a really fun (if super tiring) way to spend 3 days. =)

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