Believe it or not, PAX East 2020 is right around the corner. It feels like PAX East 2019 just happened yesterday, but here we are again: another 4-day gaming extravaganza! And I’m happy to say that we’ll have two Couch Bandits writers attending: myself and Ben Gogel. Keep an eye out for recaps of our PAX East experience in early March.
If you’re new to PAX or simply looking for recommendations of what to do this year, we have you covered. We’ve gone through the schedule with a fine-toothed comb to pick out all the must-see events, panels, and shows.
Recommended Thursday Shows
- Storytime Session with John Baez (Main Theatre; 10:30am – 11:30am): Every year, PAX invites a speaker to open up the convention, and for 2020, they’ve invited an old friend to lead the Storytime Session: John Baez. Baez is in the cofounder of Behemoth, which you may recognize as the company behind PAX classics, like Pit People and Castle Crashers. Right now, they’re developing Alien Hominid Invasion, and we’re crossing our fingers to learn more about the title at PAX this year. Even if you’re not interested in the games, these Storytime Sessions are usually a blast to attend—the speakers tell engaging stories revolving around their life and gaming in general—so it’s worth checking out and starting your PAX experience here.
- Penny Arcade Q&A (Main Theatre; 11:30am – 12:30pm): This panel consists of Tycho and Gabe, aka Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik—the founders of PAX and the minds behind Penny Arcade. The format of this panel is simple: Mike and Jerry answer your questions, no matter how weird and ridiculous they are. They don’t take questions at the actual show, but if you’d like to submit one, you can fill out this form ahead of time. These Q&As are always good for a laugh, and I love how they make me feel like part of the PAX family.
- A Career in Games and Disappointing Your Ethnic Parents (Bumblebee Theatre; 1:00pm – 2:00pm): PAX always hosts a number of panels related to the gaming industry. Most tend to focus on getting into the industry at entry-level or showcasing perspectives of those who have been in the industry for a while. This panel sounds like it will be a mix of both, and it will open up a discussion around what it’s like to join the industry when you’re from an ethnic background or a household that may not respect or understand the industry. It seems like it will offer an important point of view, so definitely check this panel out, especially if you’re interested in a career in games.
- Gearbox Main Theater Show (Main Theatre; 2:30pm – 4:00pm): This panel is looking to be huge—Gearbox Software has the entire Main Theatre to themselves, and they’ve boasted “never-before-seen reveals” among other surprises. If you want to know what’s on the docket for Borderlands 3, Risk of Rain 2, or Homeworld Mobile, then you should stop by this event.
- World-First Reveal: Baldur’s Gate 3 (Albatross Theatre; 3:00pm – 4:30pm): Personally, I am incredibly pumped for this reveal. Larian Studios, the masterminds behind the Divinity series, recently revealed that they’re developing Baldur’s Gate 3, which will be our first time back to the Sword Coast in over 20 YEARS. As a huge fan of Baldur’s Gate and Divinity, this is like a dream come true, and Larian Studios Creative Director Swen Vincke will be teaming up with Jesse Cox to show PAX goers what the studio has been developing for the game. This will be a world-exclusive reveal, so get in line early and don’t miss out!
- Omegathon Round 1 (Dragonfly Theatre; 4:00pm – 5:00pm): The Omegathon is essentially PAX’s own video game tournament. When you register for PAX, you can sign up to take part in the Omegathon, and throughout the course of the convention, the contestants battle it out. They play a variety of games to rise to the top, and it’s always a blast to watch. This year, the first round starts with a game called SLAPZI. It will be a ton of chaotic fun, so I highly recommend checking out at least one round of the Omegathon, and don’t be afraid to get super invested in it like the rest of the crowd!
- Zelda Universe Presents: A Musical History of Zelda (Albatross Theatre; 5:00pm – 6:00pm): This is another one I’m excited about, because I’m a big Legend of Zelda fan. Zelda Universe will be hosting this panel, and they’ll be discussing one of the greatest aspects of the series: the music. If you want to walk down nostalgia lane, swing by this panel and listen to some classic tunes, with a good amount of analytical insight from the team. And better yet, there will be some trivia with prizes, so you can flex your Zelda knowledge and compete with the biggest Zelda fans around.
- Full-Time YouTube: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Dragonfly Theatre; 5:30pm – 6:30pm): If you’re a fan of gaming YouTube channels or want to make it as a YouTube star, this panel is for you. Five YouTubers will take the stage to discuss their experiences on the platform, including how they started and how they reached a certain level of success. You can learn all the hard truths about the job here. The panel will include Jirard the Completionist, Arlo, Shesez (Boundary Break), Andrew (Beta64), and Mike Pixley (Treesicle).
- Art Battle East 2020 (Condor Theatre; 7:30pm – 8:30pm): This panel will feature the most talented artists in the building going head to head in a drawing contest. It sounds like there will be a lot of audience participation for this game, so if you want to shout drawing ideas at a team of artists who have to produce those ideas instantaneously, then you’ll definitely want to stop by. It sounds chaotic but fun!
- Thursday Night Concerts: Video Game Pianist, MC Frontalot, Insaneintherain (Main Theatre; 8:30pm – 11:30pm): I’ve always loved seeing the musical acts at PAX. This year, the Video Game Pianist, MC Frontalot, and Insaneintherain will be heading onto the stage to send off the first day of PAX with a bang. If you want to rock out, head up to the Main Theatre before you leave. Your ears will thank you later.
Recommended Friday Shows
- Building a Career on YouTube in 2020 (Albatross Theatre; 11:00am – 12:00pm): Becoming a gaming content creator has been a popular dream for many, so if you’re interested in learning some tips and tricks to the trade, you’ll want to check out this panel. The panelists include SwankyBox, Nathaniel Bandy, TetraBitGaming, Charriii5, Nintendrew, and NicoBBQ of Minus World. They’ll dive into many of the details of the career, including the YouTube algorithm, using the right equipment, working with brands, and more.
- UpUpDownDown at PAX East (Condor Theatre; 12:00pm – 1:00pm): If you’re unfamiliar with UpUpDownDown, then buckle up. Long story short, it is the home of everything gaming for WWE Superstar: Xavier Woods. Xavier has also been featured in many of the Acquisitions Incorporated sessions, so the PAX community loves him. This panel will be run by Xavier, and I’m sure hilarity will ensue, so you won’t want to miss this if you’re a fan.
- D&D Presents: Q&A (Albatross Theatre; 2:00pm – 3:00pm): If you love Dungeons & Dragons, then you might know a little about Chris Perkins. Many believe Chris to be the best Dungeon Master of all time, leading the likes of Acquisitions Incorporated; Dice, Camera, Action!; and now, D&D Presents: T.O.R.C.H. This latest project will actually make its premiere at PAX East 2020, which is super exciting, and I know I’m going to love it. If you’re like me, then you’ll probably want to check out this Q&A they’re leading before the show on Saturday. We’ll learn some good info about the characters and background, I’m sure.
- The “C” Team’s Better Advice Panel (Dragonfly Theatre; 3:00pm – 4:00pm): Hopping on the D&D train again, this panel will feature Acquisition Incorporated’s C Team, aka Omin Dran, Walnut Dankgrass, Rosie Beestinger, K’thriss Drowb, and Donaar Blit’zen. Even if you don’t watch the show regularly, this panel is a treat to watch. They have fantastic chemistry, so I’m sure there will be plenty of laughter in this session.
- Holy Ocarina! Exploring Religion in the Legend of Zelda (Condor Theatre; 4:30pm – 5:30pm): Once again, I am a sucker for anything Legend of Zelda-themed. This panel will take an interesting angle by looking at religion in the Zelda series. I’m already fascinated by the concept. The panelists include a diverse range of designers and scholars who will be tackling the complicated subject, so if you want to join the conversation, don’t miss this one.
- Jackbox Party PAX (Albatross Theatre; 6:30pm – 7:30pm): The Jackbox games are always good for a laugh, especially at parties or large gatherings like PAX. You can usually find the Jackbox stage in the convention center, where random people can join and play while they take a break from the crowded exhibition hall. This year, PAX will have a panel playing the game, and it sounds like it will be hilarious. Panelists include Jerry Holkins, Kris Straub, Xavier Woods, Anna Prosser, and Aaron Bleyart. This will be a treat to watch.
- Not for Resale: A Video Game Story Documentary (Bobcat Theatre; 8:00pm – 10:00pm): Speaking of treats to watch, PAX will be screening the Not for Resale documentary, followed by a Q&A with the director and producers. If you’re unfamiliar with the documentary, it examines the state of physical media in gaming, following a number of independently owned video game stores across the U.S. and Canada. For those of you who grew up visiting game stores, this will be a bittersweet documentary to watch, as the future is uncertain for these vendors, but it will 100% be worth viewing.
- Supergiant in Concert (Main Theatre; 8:30pm – 11:30pm): This concert will be a real treat for Supergiant Games fans. They’re the creators behind games like Bastion, Transistor, Pyre, Hades, and more, and all of those games have amazing music and soundtracks in general. With that in mind, the Supergiant Orchestra has re-imagined those songs into a true master-class orchestral performance. Even if you’re not familiar with the games, the music alone is worth the trip up to the Main Theatre for this concert.
- Video Game Night (Cuttlefish Theatre; 9:30pm – 10:30pm): I won’t lie, I don’t know anything about “Video Game Night,” but the description made me laugh, and that’s enough to intrigue me. If I can glean anything from the name, I assume there will be video games to play. And it will be at night.
Recommended Saturday Shows
- Penny Arcade: Make a Strip! (Main Theatre; 11:00am – 12:30pm): This panel is similar to the Penny Arcade Q&A, but this time, Tycho/Jerry focuses on answering questions, while Gabe/Mike works on a Penny Arcade strip in front of the live audience. You can watch Mike masterfully draw up the newest strip on the big screen, and it’s always fascinating and fun. If you have any curiosity behind how the magic happens, I would check out this show to start your day.
- Beyond Pro: Your Future in Esports (Arachind Theatre; 12:00pm – 1:00pm): We’ve talked about building a career in the gaming industry and on YouTube, but what about in esports? This panel will go in-depth on the subject to help you understand how to shape a career in esports, beyond going pro. Learn about all the potential in this field right here!
- Small Game, Big World: Obsidian Explores Their Upcoming Game, Grounded (Dragonfly Theatre; 1:30pm – 2:30pm): Obsidian Entertainment has quite the resume, including hits like Fallout: New Vegas, Pillars of Eternity, Dungeon Siege III, and most recently, The Outer Worlds. If you’re a fan, you may have seen their new project with Xbox Game Studios: Grounded. This panel will walk you through the small but big world of the game, including some in-game footage. If you’re curious, check out the trailer below!
- 101 Things You Didn’t Know About PlatinumGames (Albatross Theatre; 2:00pm – 3:00pm): PlatinumGames is another studio with plenty of hits under its belt, including NieR: Automata, Bayonetta, Astral Chain, and more. This panel is shaping up to be a special gem, as Atsushi Inaba and Hideki Kamiya will actually be at PAX to talk about how they are working together and what they have planned for the future. As if that wasn’t sweet enough, attendees will receive a set of two The Wonderful 101: Remastered limited edition buttons to boot (though supplies are limited, so first come, first serve)!
- D&D Presents: T.O.R.C.H Live! (Main Theatre; 3:00pm – 4:30pm): As mentioned earlier, this show will be the premiere of Chris Perkins’s new roleplaying group, D&D Presents! Chris is one of the most well-known Dungeon Masters, as well as the Lead Story Designer of D&D at Wizards of the Coast. At this show, we’ll meet the members of T.O.R.C.H. as they take off on their first adventure in Neverwinter. The players are NateWantsToBattle, ShadyPenguinn, MicaBurton, and Anna Prosser.
- The PC Building Live Guide PAX East 2020 Edition (Condor Theatre; 4:30pm – 5:30pm): As someone who loves tech and gaming, I’ve always dreamed of building my own PC one day. But it’s not the easiest thing to get into. All the numbers and stats can seem like a completely different language to the uninitiated. Luckily, this PAX panel will cover all the basics of building a PC from scratch, with tips and tricks covering the best equipment to the nitty-gritty details for the experts.
- What’s Good Games Live! at PAX East (Bobcat Theatre; 5:00pm – 6:00pm): I didn’t know anything about the What’s Good Games podcast until I went to their live panel at PAX last year, and I had a great time. Long story short, the cast of the podcast includes Andrea Rene, Brittney Brombacher, and Kristine Steimer but includes guests fairly often, all of whom have extensive experience in the gaming industry. Not only do they have some interesting insights, but their banter is hilarious, so if you want a good laugh, you should check out their panel.
- Magic: The Gathering: The Show (Cuttlefish Theatre; 7:00pm – 8:00pm): This is another show that I know nothing about, but it sounds so ridiculous that it might just be a must-see. The panel is described as a fully improvised theatrical performance that turns Magic: The Gathering into an “unforgettable comedy experience.” It sounds absolutely crazy, and I am 100% in. If you’re a fan of the card game, it might be worth checking out how they interpret it in live-action form for a laugh.
- Acquisitions Incorporated Live! (Main Theatre; 8:00pm – 11:00pm): The best way to end your busy day at PAX is with Acquisitions Incorporated. If you’re unfamiliar with the show, it’s essentially a long-running D&D campaign started by Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, the creators of Penny Arcade. The show has been running for over 10 years, but don’t let that stop you from checking it out. At the beginning of each, they play an animated recap of the previous episode to catch you up on recent events, but you can really jump in anywhere and have a good time. I started watching about 5 years ago, and now, I am fully obsessed. You’ll feel right at home in the audience—just shout “Green Flame” and chant “Blood, blood, blood,” every time you hear the words said on stage.
Recommended Sunday Shows
- Am I Geek Enough? Fxmale and NB Experiences in Gaming Spaces (Condor Theatre; 12:00pm – 1:00pm): One of the greatest parts about PAX is the sense of community it fosters, which everyone should be allowed to experience. This panel will focus on equality for women in gaming and navigating geek and gaming spaces when you feel like you don’t belong. I think this will be one of the most insightful panels to attend at PAX, and it will only help spread inclusivity for future gamers.
- Acquisitions Incorporated: The “C” Team Live! (Main Theatre; 1:00pm – 3:00pm): If you like Acquisitions Incorporated and want more, then you definitely need to check out The “C” Team if you haven’t already. This D&D campaign is run by Jerry Holkins, and it further deepens the lore of the Acq. Inc. universe. Some claim this is even the “better show!” If you love D&D, you should check out this live campaign for sure. Jerry’s descriptions alone are worth it.
- The Most Influential Video Games of the Past Decade (Arachnid Theatre; 3:00pm – 4:00pm): It’s 2020, which means we’re at the close of a century of gaming. It’s crazy to think back and remember all the innovative games released in the last 10 years. To mark the occasion, The Geek Generation podcast is holding a panel to discuss the most influential video games in this time period. It’s worth going just to hear the discussion and reminisce about your favorite games from the 2010s.
- Using Your Love of Gaming in a Non-Gaming Career (Condor Theatre; 4:30pm – 5:30pm): While the panels about getting into the gaming industry are great, they’re not super applicable to other industries. Many of us attendees work in completely different fields and want to keep gaming as a hobby, not a career. That’s why I think this panel concept is fascinating—it takes some learnings from the hobby and applies them to the real world. There should be some cool tricks to learn here.
- Omegathon Top Secret Final Round (Main Theatre; 5:30pm – 6:30pm): The Omegathon’s final round is also the last event of PAX East. Even if you didn’t see every round of the Omegathon (or any), it’s the perfect way to end the convention. If you’re like me, you’ll drearily wander up to the Main Theatre at the end of the day and sit down to watch the finale. It’s always fun to see what the final game will be, too—they’ve had some excellent choices in the past. Round out your PAX East 2020 with the final round of the Omegathon tournament, and then bid a fond farewell. Until next year!
That’s Not All!
While the panels and shows are great, there’s also a TON of stuff to see in the expo hall. Some PAX goers spend all their time bouncing from booth to booth.
My only advice here is to choose wisely—there’s only so much time in the day, and you won’t be able to see everything! Here is a list of the games on the show floor, as well as some of the booths in the Tabletop Area. A few must-see booths for me are: Larian Studios (if you can’t tell, I love isometric RPGs, so their booth is like heaven), Wyrmwood Gaming (they have top-notch quality tabletop gaming gear, like dice trays and towers), and Level Up Dice (I somehow always leave PAX with more dice than I’ll ever need).
If you’re heading to PAX East this year, start planning your schedule now, and fill it up with some of these must-see events! You won’t regret it. You can find the full schedule here, which includes tournaments (not covered here) and all other events taking place, as well as a map and list of all the booths in the expo hall here.
If you’re looking for some logistic advice for PAX, I recommend checking out the PAX East 2020 Survival Guide I put together—it will help you have a smooth, fun, and worry-free experience. And don’t forget, Ben and I will be attending this year, so keep an eye out for our followup posts if you want to hear how it went. We’re both very excited!
Is there anything we missed here? If so, let us know what you’d recommend in the comments!