It’s Still Winter On Summer Street: The PAX East 2015 Recap

It should come as no surprise that for those in the northern regions, the winter months have a tendency to feel as if they’re moving at a glacial pace. It’s cold, grey, and you can go for days without seeing the sun. For many of us, we persevere via a healthy combination of collective complaining, human hardiness, and dressing in enough layers that you’d think we were wearing our entire wardrobe at all times.

We hear after Friends Matt LeBlanc did this for a while just to stay warm at night.

After Friends Matt LeBlanc also did this for a while just to stay warm at night.

You know, like that episode of Friends where Joey wore all of Chandler’s clothes. Except just like that episode, it also isn’t all that funny.

For some, the winter months are a great time to go outside and make snowmen, or go skiing, or simply take in landscapes that can be quite hauntingly beautiful at times. For others, the cold season means it’s time for a good book, some tea, and the most comfortable socks you can find.

For the tabletop gaming community, it means free time to play all the things. The winter months generally see an uptick in activity, as you’re already encased inside, and when your backyard turns into an endless tundra, gaming becomes a nice, cozy pastime during almost any of your waking hours. Well, except for when you can enjoy those 26 minutes of sunlight a day. Might as well appreciate that when you get it, right?

Here in the Northeast, the fall and winter months are our busy convention season. From small scale events to…slightly larger small scale events…we pass the Dark Days by gaming with one another and enjoying a shared hobby experience. From November through April there are no less than half a dozen different gaming conventions in New England, each of them providing their own distinct style and focus. We have so many in part because of the large and vibrant gaming community with our borders. We also have so many because they help maintain our sanity.

paxeast2Thus, when PAX East hits, gamers of all stripes around here descend upon Boston with a fervor usually only reserved for the first 55 degree weekend. Not only is it the largest convention in these parts by far, but it’s also a very real reminder that the end of winter is approaching.

Given that this particular winter has left Bostonians with over 8 feet of snow on the ground (with even more in surrounding regions), and much of that coming all within a 30 day window, everyone was ready for PAX to arrive – which helped since it was 2-4 weeks earlier than in previous years. The lead up to PAX was a bleak time, and the name of Stark was cursed on more than one occasion. But for gamers, the idea of PAX East shone like a beacon through the bitter darkness, a light at the end of a snow-carved tunnel.

Therefore, this PAX was particularly hyped up among the local populace. We wanted something even bigger and better than previous years, partially because we always desire to see such conventions evolve and grow in positive ways, and partially to use it as a means of traversing beyond the brutal Hoth-like winter and into the next phase of the calendar year. PAX may be the end to the the winter convention season in New England, but it’s the start of spring and events beyond. We needed it to be good because a jump-start for the rest of 2015 would have been most welcomed.

Unfortunately, what we got was a bit more subdued than that.

At least from a tabletop gaming perspective.

And a general attendee perspective…

…And the video ga…

…actually, you know what? It was pretty subdued all around.

Pretty much.

Picard was disappointed, as were we.

It’s not that PAX East 2015 was a bad expo. Rather, the consensus by many annual attendees was less than enthusiastic than previous ones, due to a combination of issues that continue to plague PAX year after year and it not living up nearly to the unrealistic expectations people had coming off a winter this harsh. As one of the banner game conventions in the country, PAX has a mandate by the gaming masses to deliver a banner experience. Alas, the takeaway was that on this front, it did not.

This consensus came from a wide cross-section of attendees: those who came primarily for tabletop games, those primarily for video games, and from a bunch of folks who enthusiastically came for a little bit of everything. So, although I admittedly am not nearly as much of a video gamer than I used to be and eschewed much of the expo floor proper, this doesn’t mean I’m offering up a completely skewed perception of the convention. Trust me: I’d almost have preferred it was just me who was left with a lackluster feeling.

Sadly, that sense that PAX was ‘good but not great’ was pretty widespread.

Still, amid all the griping, PAX East 2015 did have plenty of positive things going on this year, and they deserve far more of our immediate attention. So, let’s get started. I certainly had a number of PAX 2015 highlights. Which ones stood out most? Let’s find out.

Next: My Top Ten Experiences of PAX East 2015 (And Some More Griping)