PAX, and other gaming events, can be fun and exciting, but dangerous. Not only do you have to deal with the physical strain on your nerdy body, but there is a biological war going on every time you step into the convention center. I have been on both sides of several conventions, not all of them gaming, and have a few tips to keep your pain to a minimum and your enjoyment to a maximum. These are specifically aimed at PAX but several could be used for any type of convention.
Before you fly:
-Pack two times as many socks as you need for the trip. After a long day of walking around your feet will be sweaty and bruised. As soon as you get back to your room, put on fresh socks. Your feet will thank you.
-Make sure your shoes are in good condition. If your shoes are torn or the soles are worn out, get a new pair. You do not have to go all out with a fancy set of shoes, but get something sturdy and comfortable. The last thing you want are unnecessary blisters.
-Pack basic first aid supplies. You never know what could happen so it behooves you to bring along some band-aids and Ibuprofen just in case.
-Bring granola bars, trail mix, and other like treats. A great energy boosting food is something that mixes protein and sugar as the protein helps sustain the boost the sugar gives you. Not exactly science, but good enough to keep you going. Do a little research into your energy bars before you buy them as some can do more damage than good.
-Pack hand sanitizer. Pack two small bottles just in case one gets busted.
-Leave the boyfriend/girlfriend at home if they are not huge gamers, and sometimes, even if they are. If you were thinking about spending quality time with your significant other here, forget it. There is a good chance that you are going to be busy seeing as many things as you can and the last thing you want is to drag someone around who really just wants to be elsewhere. This will not be true for every couple but before you bring them along for the ride consider, are they going for them, or are they going for you, and are they going to have fun too?
-Plan to check a bag. Do not try and cram your stuff into a carry-on case. When packing your check-in luggage, make sure it does not exceed the size or weight limitations. Also, try and leave some space for the inevitable Swag you are sure to accrue.
-Bring a power strip. You are a big nerd and you have big power demands. You might not need it but even a 3 way splitter can make a huge difference in a pinch.
At your room:
-Familiarize yourself with the surrounding area. Go for a walk around your hotel and try to find places of interest between your hotel and the convention center. Keep an eye out for interesting restaurants, public restrooms, and any places where you know a party may be held.
-Expunge yourself of any waste before you leave for the convention. Or, to put it less delicately, empty your bowels thoroughly. You do not want to spend precious convention time sitting on the john.
-Make sure your room is ready for you to stumble into later that night without breaking your neck. Who knows what condition you will be in later, so play it safe and keep it tidy.
-Find a vending machine/ convenience store and buy some water. Keep these bottles and fill them up all weekend. This keeps you from spending too much on bottled water in the convention hall and ensures you stay hydrated. Hydration is key to staying healthy and keeping away PAX plague.
At the convention:
-Bring a backpack or messenger bag with you. There is going to be way more swag and promotional material than you know what to go with. Most events will have booths that give out free bags but avoid these if you can. The difference between a bag on your back and a bag in your hand is night and day after a few hours.
-Unless you are there to join in a tournament, ditch the handheld console. Keep it with you, for things such as Street Pass, but keep it in your bag. There are so many games and gamers around that burying your head in a game that you can play anytime really restricts your potential enjoyment. Try to see some games you might not like, go to some panels, or even make some friends. Everyone at PAX has at least one thing in common with you, do not make that thing Social Awkwardness.
-Do not be offended if someone rubs their hands with hand sanitizer immediately after shaking your hand because you should be doing the same exact thing.
-Bring a handkerchief or pack of tissue paper. Most controllers and headsets will be clean but not all of them. If something feels grimy, wipe it down, sanitize your hands, and continue playing.
-Do not touch your eyes.
-Keep some deodorant in your bag. Stick, not spray. You are going to sweat and your deodorant may or may not hold up. Keep it around just in case.
-Do not eat the convention center food. It is overpriced and terrible for you. Instead, munch on the trail mix and granola bars you brought. If you get too hungry to bear it, walk out of the center and hit your nearest sub shop, or the like. Avoid fast food such as McDonald’s at all costs. Not only will these places be packed already, but eating well during your trip will pay you back in dividends.
-Dress to impress. This does not mean to get into a tux or fancy dress, but wear some snappy casual clothing. You are almost guaranteed to meet some interesting people and you do not want them to remember you as “that guy with the ratty clothing.”
-Try to get some vitamin C in you any time you can. Finding an orange to eat may be a bit difficult but there are vitamin C infused cough drops that will not only help keep you hydrated but will give you a small pick-me-up as well. No matter how you get it, keep yourself supplied with this important Vitamin.
-Keep your schedule loose. Do not plan every single thing into a time slot. Keep yourself open to be able to flow with the event and just enjoy yourself. Do not worry about seeing a game that is coming out in a few weeks, go see the bizarre, the far out releases.
-Procure a map of the convention center.
-Do not forget that indie mega booth
-Hit up the FedEx or UPS store early. Grab a poster tube at the very least. Be prepared to spend around 10-20$ on shipping.
After the convention:
-Party hard, you earned it.
-There will almost always be an open bar which will almost always be jam packed. Hit some of the smaller parties if you want a less crowded experience.
-If you are with a group of friends, make sure someone is the “stay sober enough to get us back to the hotel” guy. If drinking alone, what are you doing? Make some friends!
-Watch your tab at the bar and at restaurants. Since you saved money by not purchasing terrible convention food you can splurge a little and hit actual restaurants at night. Be wary of their drink prices though, you could easily get carried away and end up with a bill you did not want to see.
-Make sure to keep an ounce of moderation in your nighttime escapades. You are going to be at the convention center the next day and it is going to be bright and loud. Stay hydrated and get more than three hours of sleep to avoid a hangover.
This may seem like a lot to remember, but really, most of it is common sense. You are human and susceptible to illness, exhaustion, and over intoxication, despite what games tell you. So let loose and have a good time, but take care of yourself as well.
Going to PAX? Got a great survival tip? Let us know in the comments!
The most important thing, IMO, that you missed:
Bring an extra battery for your smartphone. If you plan on taking pictures, notes, videos, voice recordings, ANYTHING on your phone, buy an extra USB battery you can carry around. It’ll save your life. I shared mine a few times, too, when I was waiting in line for the Halo 4 panel. The guy gave me a tshirt for it.