Well, friends, it’s almost time for PAX East 2023! The time when gamers and lovers of geek culture head to Boston, MA, during March 23 – March 26, 2023. Seeing how this will be my 9th time heading to the event, I figured that sharing what I’ve learned over the past few years would help those in attendance. So, without further ado, here’s The Outerhaven’s PAX East survival guide. Trust me; you’re going to wait to read all of this! No need to thank me either.
Keep in mind the COVID-19 Restrictions
One of the most significant changes to PAX East 2023 is the strict requirements for preventing COVID-19. All attendees, exhibitors, and anyone else who will be on location will be required to wear a mask at all times. To learn more about this, head over to the PAX East page here.
If you attempt to enter the BCEC and are exhibiting symptoms such as sneezing, feverish, complaining about body aches, or have been in contact with someone who was recently diagnosed with COVID-19, you will likely be turned away.
How do I acquire a badge for PAX East 2023
By now, you should already have your tickets for PAX East 2023. Especially since they tend to go fast, but if you don’t have any, don’t despair. It’s not too late, and your first place should be to head over to the official PAX East website. The single-day badges are $67, while the four-day badges are $247. At the time of this guide, all of the single-day and 4-day badges are still available.
**At the time of this article, the Saturday badges have all sold out.**
That said, you can still find single-day PAX East badges on the following websites;
Reedpop typically sends out badges for PAX East about one month before the event. Meaning at the time of this guide, the badges should be going out or are already in transit. Keep checking your physical mailbox. If you don’t get your badge(s) at least two weeks before PAX East, contact Reedpop and PAX at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where is PAX East 2023 being held?
Just like every other year, PAX East 2023 is being held in the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC), in Boston, MA. This convention center is massive, and if you’re heading to PAX East, be prepared to get lost a few times. There are multiple floors, places to buy food, tons of rooms, not including the show floor (where most of PAX East is held), and even a connected hotel. There’s also parking outside of the venue, but that’s pricey.
Is there PAX East 2023 app
There sure is! You can find this on iOS and Android by searching for PAX App in their respective storefronts or by going to the following links.
Make sure you download the app; it’s super helpful as it includes the entire floor map, locations of events, and more.
What does the Expo Hall map for PAX East 2023 look like
There’s been a few changes for PAX East 2023. For starters, the tabletop section has grown. Sadly, there are fewer exhibitor booths, and a number of big names, such as PlayStation, and Xbox, won’t be in attendance. But hey, Nintendo will be there, and that’s a big deal as they skipped out on PAX East 2022.
**Click the image to enlarge **
Dress for the weather
Please, please, please, be sure to check the weather before heading out to PAX East! As it’s held in Boston, MA, and is located by the seaport, it’s more than likely going to be chilly. Seeing how this year’s event is being held towards the end of April, it might be cold or starting to warm up. Either way, assume it will be cold, as it usually is in Boston, MA. Bring plenty of warm clothes; sweatshirts, hoodies, insulated pants, etc. I don’t want to see anyone wearing shorts and a tank top.
Be prepared to wait if you have a backpack/bag
If you’re coming to PAX East with a backpack or bag, you will be subject to a bag check. Every entrance has one, so there’s no getting around it. To help make the line move as quickly as possible, have your bag already open, so the checkers can see the inside of the bag. The sooner you do this, the faster you can get inside the building.
A helpful tip is to not bring a bag. Unless you’re there as media/press, simply come without a bag. There are so many booths that give out free bags while inside that may not even need one. Carry a folding bag or a drawstring sack that you can stuff into your pockets and pull it out when needed. If you are media/press, you’ll have a separate line that moves quickly, so don’t worry. There are fewer of you than there are attendees.
Please wear deodorant and shower
To be honest, no one likes to smell the stench of someone who doesn’t use proper hygiene, deodorant, and showers daily. Events like PAX East are usually full of people who don’t like to wear deodorant or shower, and sadly it causes some displeasure to the other people attending the events. Don’t be this person, and be sure to bring and wear deodorant. While it might be cold outside the BCEC, it will be warm on the inside. This means people are going to sweat, and sweating means stench without deodorant. Please wear deodorant, shower daily, and be thoughtful of others. Otherwise, I’m sure that we’ll see more than a few tweets and posts on the internet about the large amounts of stinky people.
Beware the long restroom lines
There are several constants at PAX East; long lines for panels and trying out games and extremely long restroom lines. If you have to relieve yourself, try and find a restroom that’s out of the way as it will have fewer lines. Those on the showroom floor or close to panels are going to have long lines of people who need to use them as well.
Don’t be jerks to the Enforcers
The fine folks at PAX East with those red shirts that say “Enforcer” on them aren’t the bad guys. Yes, they may be pushy at times but instruct you to move along, but that’s their job. These folks have volunteered their time to help make this event the best it can be.
While you may not agree with everything they do, they’re there to help you. For example, during one PAX East event, an enforcer saw that I was a little tired from multiple appointments and went out of their way to fetch me a bottle of water. He didn’t have to do that, but he did. Be nice to them; they’re there for you. You may even make a new friend.
Don’t be jerks: Part II
Everyone who’s attending PAX East is there to enjoy themselves. You, me, that person over there, everybody. So it goes without saying that you should be on your best behavior. Don’t shove people, no knocking people over, no cutting in line, no stealing, no fighting (unless you’re doing it in a game), and no harassing of anyone. Of course, you can act like a jerk, but do so at your discretion. There are Enforcers and police officers there who won’t mind escorting you out of the event.
Just be cool, and have fun.
Take care of yourself, please
PAX East takes place over four days, and during that time, I’m sure you’ll want to see and do everything. This is great, but if you neglect yourself, you’re only hurting yourself. Make sure you get enough sleep, eat a good breakfast and/or lunch, and stay hydrated. If you find yourself starting to get tired, there are plenty of places in the convention center to take a breather and relax. Don’t beat yourself up, or the event will not be fun.
You also want to avoid wearing boots, high heels, or anything that is going to hurt your feet after a while. You’re going to be doing quite a bit of standing up. BRING OR WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES!
Also, make sure you bring something to entertain yourself while you wait in line. Lines and PAX East are a thing, so be prepared. A Nintendo Switch, Steam Deck (I hate you!) smartphone, 3DS, PS Vita (What are those?), Steam Deck, Switch, or anything to help you pass the time away. Or, if you’re there with a friend(s) or family, talk with them about how awesome the event is.
Bring a backup battery/charger/power bank
If you are attached to your smartphone/laptop/tablet, you’re going to want to bring a backup battery, power bank, or charger. Sure, there are charging stations in multiple areas, but there are even more empty outlets that you can plug into while you enjoy some downtime. In terms of Power Banks, the larger, the better…. unless you’re flying. Airlines will only allow you to carry 20,000mah-rated power banks, while others won’t allow you to bring them on at all. Be sure to check with which airline you end up using; otherwise, they may search your carry-on bag and take it from you; power banks ain’t cheap!
Of course, if you’re driving, I highly recommend taking the largest one you can find. Such as the Anker 20000mAh Portable Charger. I’ve used this for some time now, and it usually lasts me for a day or two of attending events. It even has two full USB ports and two USB-C ports. Or the MAXOAK Laptop 50000mAh power bank if you require more power!
If you’re using a laptop with a battery charger, make sure it has enough wattage to charge and power the laptop. The last thing you want is to think that you’re charging the laptop up, but in reality, nothing has happened.
Bring your food and drink, or go outside and eat
Now, there’s nothing wrong with buying food or drink while you’re in the BCEC. However, if you can, then I’d advise you to either bring something to nibble on and drink before you head over. Or if you find yourself getting hungry and you can step away outside, then do that. Food and drink are outrageously overpriced inside the convention center. Those prices are devised to get you, the hungry, and the thirsty, to spend ridiculous amounts of money.
If you have the time, make the trek to South Station, about 12-15 minutes down Summer Street. Head to the Seaport, which has plenty of places to eat, or order some food via DoorDash/Grub Hub, or any other delivery service and have it delivered to the convention center.
I typically bring a water bottle and refill it when I pass a water foundation, which are scattered all over the convention center.
What can’t you do should be the question. PAX East is the East Coast mecca of gaming events. Every year, thousands head to this event to play the latest games, check out some demos, see what the indie developers are up to, catch some panels, waste millions of dollars on all that sweet swag, and more. If you’re a gamer, a lover of geek culture, or a cosplayer, this is the event you wait on every year.
I suggest you look at the PAX East app and create a plan of attack. This way, you’ll be somewhat prepared; there’s a lot of stuff to do. Also, be sure to bring lots of money, just trust me with that. Credit cards and debit cards are alright, but cash is better. The wifi in the BCEC isn’t the best, and it can take longer to get rung up. Also, with cash, sometimes you can haggle a price down a few dollars.
What panels should you attend?
I’d love to say all of them, but that’s not realistic. So what I will tell you is to make sure you check the official PAX East website and the PAX East app to see what panels are going to be available and plan accordingly. Keep in mind that the popular panels will have long lines, and not everyone will get inside to check them out. If there’s a panel that you simply must see, then make sure you’re in line at least 2-3 hours before it starts. Yes, it stinks to lose precious hours just to hold a seat, but that’s all just part of being at PAX East. If you can’t do that, then check to see if that panel is also being streamed – most of the bigger ones typically are.
Be mindful of the Cosplayers
Cosplayers are a big part of PAX East, and every year, they come out in full force. You’ll see a lot of amazing cosplayers, some amateur, some professionals, but all of them are looking to have fun. This also means there will be lots of people looking to take photos of them or with them. However, if you plan on doing so, please be courteous to them. They don’t owe you anything, and they’re there to enjoy the event like you.
If you want a photo, ask them first. If you plan on hosting their photo on the internet, try to have a business card to give them, so they know where to see it or who to contact to get a copy of the photo.
Approach Cosplayers with respect, and they’ll respect you. Also, while you’re snapping that photo, why not talk to them? They love that stuff! Ask them how they’re enjoying PAX East, compliment them on their cosplay or ask them about their favorite game.
Be aware of the Cosplay weapon policy
This is super important for cosplayers! If your cosplay has any prop weapons (guns, swords), you need to know the cosplay policy. Otherwise, the security folks will take your prop from you or deny entry.
No functional props or weapons are allowed at PAX. Simulated or costume weapons are allowed as a part of your costume, subject to prior approval by convention staff (Enforcers) and compliance with the following rules:
All costume props and weapons must be inspected and will be “peace bonded” by an Enforcer at the Information booth.
Live firearms including airsoft, either functioning or de-commissioned, are not permitted.
Replica firearms made from metal, solid resin/plastic/rubber are not permitted.
All firearm costume props and weapons must be rendered inoperable and are required to have an orange safety tip at all times.
Any bow-type weapons must be unstrung or strung with a low-tensile thread. All prop arrows must have soft, non-metal, blunted tips made out of foam or cardboard only.
Metal swords, knives & spears are not permitted. Any sharp implements are likewise not permitted (to include needles, syringes, ceramic blades).
Stilts and costumes which include stilts may be prohibited from certain convention areas. Be aware that you may be asked to remove them.
Costume weapons are for fun! Enjoy your costume, but do not strike, swing at or brandish weapons at other attendees.
MORE INFO / FAQ
What is peace bonding?
“Peace bonding” allows convention staff and Enforcers to tell at a glance that your costume weaponry meets show expectations. Peace bonding is accomplished by attaching one or more colored zip-tie’s to your cosplay weapon(s). We attempt to attach these in a way which will allow you to take pictures etc. without them subtracting from your costume/cosplay. Feel free to work with the Enforcers to peace bond your weaponry in a way that you are happy with!
I will be at the show multiple days. Do I need to get my weapon peace bonded multiple times?
Once your weapon is peace bonded you are all set for the rest of the show!
What about NERF guns?
NERF weapon are allowed if they have been rendered completely inoperable. Convention staff/Enforcers are the final arbiter of whether or not a weapon is inoperable, so please be ready to clearly show and explain what measures you have taken. Make sure to include an orange safety tip!
Look! I covered my metal sword in electrical tape! Is it OK now? No. Altering or attempting to alter your metal, bladed or otherwise prohibited weapon will not make it acceptable.
Attend those parties
While most of the fun at PAX East is at the convention center, there are other places to also enjoy yourself. There are a number of parties that will be happening during the event, and I recommend you try and attend some of those. Every year over on the Penny Arcade forums, there’s a dedicated post that highlights those parties; check it out. Parties and meet-ups are slightly less hectic times, and you’ll meet many interesting people as well.
Hey, do me a favor. If you see me, invite me to a party. I’m not a party-goer, and due to this, I tend to miss out on the fun. But I like fun.
Have fun and enjoy yourself
More than anything, just have fun. This is the reason you’ve traveled as far as you did, to have fun. To make new friends, partnerships, or whatever it is you do. So make sure you do that, be excellent to everyone, and try to get back home without getting sick. Though, good luck with the latter. Hopefully, you’ll run into me or vice versa.
We’ll see you all at PAX East 2023 this March 23 – March 26. Should you see me or any of The Outerhaven crew, approach us and say hello!