April 5th – 9th was my very first journey to Boston and my first PAX East adventure. I’ve made it to the last 2 PAX Souths and this convention blows both of them out of the water. The expo hall was huge, there were 100+ panels, and it was the best con experience I’ve ever had.
1. Games I’ve Been Waiting For
The first State of Decay came out an Xbox Arcade game in 2013 for the Xbox 360. Soul Calibur V came out in 2012. This PAX East I got to demo the newest in these series.
I was able to get an extended play of State of Decay 2 at the Xbox One booth, which is about 20 minutes of game time. I will have a longer game preview coming out soon, but for the purpose of this listacle I just want to say: I needed this. For being an Arcade game, the first in the series offered days of play, no two play-throughs were the same, and as a sandbox set in the zombie apocalyse that let you hop from character to character, it was a game changer from the typical beat ’em up or tower defense game in the zombie genre. Playing the second one, I got excited and knew quickly I would be sinking hours into this open world. The game releases May 22 and is available for pre-sale.
Now, for the Soulcalibur series: it’s my favorite fighter. Soulcalibur IV was my favorite in the series and the levels of customization available quickly made me fall in love. Like I said above, it’s been 6 years since the last Soul Calibur and I honestly didn’t even have Soulcalibur VI on my radar. Part of me had lost hope that the series would come back, but when I saw the Bandai Namco booth, I couldn’t wait to play! But I did have to wait. I ended up playing on the last day of the convention and not even at the Bandai Namco booth. The line to play was wrapped around the booth almost all day and the fact that it was being run on computers, meant that it wasn’t up before the con opened to play, since the devs took their time with set up. Luckily, Soulcalibur VI had a double showing, with with a row of stations set up in the PlayStation booth. I have never held a PS4 controller but with the commands taped to the stand in front of me I got back in the groove. It only had two available characters, Mitsurugi and Sophita. I played Sophita and all the mechanics I loved were still there: knocking your opponent off the platform and there was a return to the eight-way run from the first 2 games, making movement the key to winning a match. The biggest change is the addition of the Reversal Edge. The super meter is now used to track progress towards your ‘Critical Edge’ — which is beautifully animated and back from Soul Calibur V — and the Reversal Edge is a way to absorb damage from the critical. When it’s used, you hit your button (attack, kick, dodge, block, etc.) and ride out your opponents ‘critical edge,’ saving you damage and letting the match run longer. The game is set for a 2018 release date but there is no hard release date. The game at both booths was run by a PC with the respective controllers and even though I only got to play to two characters the mechanics aim to make this the fighter I’ve been waiting for, and a great revival to a series that’s been dormant since 2012. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon.
Broadcasting software can be a nightmare, in fact, problems with OBS and the long set up time are some of the reasons I stopped streaming regularly. While at the con, I had the pleasure of attending a BEBO Alpha-Partner meet-up. I learned more about the platform and the moment I got back, I started using it. Bebo is an all-in-one broadcasting software. You can make overlays, monitor your stream with a built in dashboard (which has Twitch chat and activity notification), save all of your scenes and overlays in the cloud, run a bot, integrate all of your browser-based alerts (like StreamElements and StreamLabs), and my favorite part of the platform as a member of a stream team: no stream key necessary, just a log-in to Twitch or YouTube. It’s made my stream launch seemless and allowed me better utilize my monitors. Because of the built-in dashboard, having Twitch open in another window isn’t necessary to monitor your stream. It removes the hassle from setting up your stream and lets you just jump into the grind! You can download it at bebo.com.
3. Community Building
Conventions are always about experiencing a community of people who love what you love and who are also willing to wait in 3 hour long lines and pretend they don’t smell con-funk. However, the other reality is that cons are an every-person-for-themselves event when it comes to giveaways. You know, when a person is giving out free swag and you’re almost crushed or pushed out of the way just to get a shirt that’s not your size. When it comes to swag, it usually doesn’t matter about the community, in fact, you’re working against them. But at PAX East two of my favorite activities involved a team, making new friends, and free stuff!
Riot Games had a League of Legends room where they were screen printing lane roles and quotes onto shirts. The shirts were free once you got in line, the catch is, you chose a lanyard from one of the Riot employees walking the floor (this had your role on it) and then you had to complete you League team in order to get into the room and claim your shirt. For our crew, it was me, my husband and co-host Matt, and our co-host Adrian and cosplay streamer Stefani (his wife). I was Support, Matt was ADC, Adrian was Jungle, and Stefani moved between the last two roles – Top and Mid. The cool thing about this giveaway was that it required a group with less than five people to reach out into the community and talk with each other, wait in line together, and talk about their experiences with League. Because we were only four people, we walked through the exhibit hall trying to find our fifth (the guy in the middle of the photo above), meeting with people, talking, and getting to know how and why people played their roles in MOBAs.
Not only did you have to find and talk to other people to get a free shirt, but at the Square Enix booth, Final Fantasy XIV: Online had the Byakko Battle Challenge. You needed eight people and to defeat Byakko in order to claim your prize: a con exclusive shirt that says you beat the challenge. We had four people (Matt, me, and two of our friends from Stack-Up). Since the floor hadn’t opened up yet, we played with the devs and some booth workers to round out our 8-person group. Not only was this fight extremely difficult but it required an insane amount of coordination and strategy. The shirts were only given out to the victors which meant they worked with a team. These events were really not like anything I’ve seen at a con before and really worked at getting people together.
4. The Video Games and Education Panel
The best panel that weekend was “You Have Died of Dysentery: Meaningful Gaming in Education”, a panel about using video games in the classroom. It was done in a lecture style and the Oregon Trail themed Powerpoint was phenomenal. The presenter, Ashley Brandin, led us through how she used gaming and the concepts within it to drive classroom participation, learning, and comprehension of material. She talked about the concept of Flow theory which bases engagement on difficulty level of a task and the skill of the person performing it and how she used in her classroom at a public school. She also talked about the ways in which you can map history and lessons plans onto either existing games or work with your students to design your own. Over all it was her explanation and use of a semester-long achievement system that was my take-away. For more info on the panel and for my co-host, Matt’s, thoughts on it check out his blog here.
Challenge VS Skill FLOW chart
I have been following Nerdtino on Twitter for some time now. They’re the first “Latinx Comic Book Convention on the East Coast, focusing on promoting the presence of and history of Latinx, Hispanic, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latinx, and Iberian creators in Geek Culture! Comic Books, Literature, Video Games, Sci-Fi, Fantasy Horror, and More.” I got to talk to Thomas E. Delfi, the director of the organization and he was so fun to be around and getting to nerd out with other Latinx geeks was an amazing experience. The nuances we shared in thinking about items of pop culture, the trivia we tested each other on, and just the kinship of talking with someone who could empathize with my experiences as a Chicana in the world of comic books, gaming, and pop culture. Located in the PAX Diversity Lounge, sitting at their booth and talking with Thomas and the others at the table felt like home. He also showed me this amazing Aztec RPG. Let me repeat that: Aztec RPG. It’s a table top game called Dragons Conquer America where you play as one of 13 classes and essentially play D&D but in pre-colonial Americas and you know, women are the only ones who can ride dragons, and it’s all based on Aztec mythology and folklore. You can check out Nerdtino here and Dragons Conquer America here.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.