My PAX East 2020 Experience

Another PAX is complete, and I have that strange empty feeling left over, as always. After four days of being around thousands of others who love gaming as much as I do, going back to normal life is jarring, to say the least. But it is always a fantastic experience, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s convention.

To reminisce a bit, I thought it would be fun to put together my highlights of attending PAX East 2020. Without further ado, here they are!

Day 1: Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Baldur’s Gate 3

My first day of PAX started off with a bang. Since less people tend to go on Thursday, I got right in—no waiting in line or anything. From there, I immediately hit the expo hall to check out the booths. The first thing that caught my eye was the Fuser booth, which had an absolutely massive statue above a DJ table, massive speakers on both sides.

The Fuser Booth at PAX

If you’re unfamiliar with Fuser, it’s the new game from Harmonix, the developers behind Rock Band. They created an amazing experience with their booth, with music pumping out the entire show.

While I was transfixed by the Fuser booth, I couldn’t let it distract me. I actually had a goal in mind. I beelined it for the Nintendo booth, aiming to get in line for a My Nintendo check-in spot. If you’re unfamiliar, My Nintendo is essentially the modern Nintendo Club. When you buy games, you can register them through your My Nintendo account to gain coins, which you can then use to get cool stuff, like exclusive wallpapers or discounts on other games.

For PAX East, Nintendo actually had some exclusive offers for My Nintendo members, including a free pin featuring Isabelle and a “Warp Pass” to play the Animal Crossing: New Horizons demo. With this in mind, I set off on my mission to get to the Nintendo booth and take advantage of these perks.

When I arrived, 10 minutes after the expo hall opened, all the lines for the Nintendo booth were capped. The line to play the demo, the line to get a free pin, the line to take photos in the booth, and the line for their merch store were all full and closed. When I saw this, my heart dropped into my stomach, but all was not lost…the “Warp Pass” would allow me to skip the line for the Animal Crossing demo later that day, and luckily, the free pins didn’t run out of stock, so I was able to grab one in the afternoon.

Isabelle Pin from the Nintendo booth

I am a HUGE Animal Crossing fan, so the Nintendo booth was a real treat. They had Isabelle, Tom Nook, and even K.K. Slider to take pictures with. And the booth itself was amazing—they recreated the game in real life, with trees and a full-on campsite. Even the river and beach were animated with lifelike water effects. It was incredible and inspired a smile every time I walked by.

Top Down View of Animal Crossing Booth
Isabelle Mascot from Animal Crossing

But the real highlight of my first day was playing the Animal Crossing: New Horizons demo. Unfortunately, they didn’t allow you to play single player (I’m not really sure how that would even work for a game like Animal Crossing…), but it was still really cool. A Nintendo representative was the “leader” of the group, which consisted of three other players testing out the demo. We ran around the island and explored some of the new features, switching from one leader to the next.

The biggest takeaways for me were the HD graphics, the art style, and the customizability. They have poured their hearts into making this game feel delightful, relaxing, and personalized. I am beyond excited to get my hands on it. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been this hyped for a Nintendo Switch game since Breath of the Wild (though, Super Mario Odyssey and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate come close).

Animal Crossing Booth at PAX East 2020
Screenshot from Animal Crossing: New Horizons Demo

Another highlight of the day was the Larian Studios panel, revealing the world’s first look at Baldur’s Gate 3 gameplay. They didn’t mess around: They spent 1.5 hours playing the game, and it was incredible. The opening cinematic alone got me incredibly hyped.

I grew up with the Baldur Gate games, and I recently became infatuated with the Divinity series, so this is a match made in heaven for me. While some are disappointed the visuals don’t look like the older Baldur’s Gate games, I actually really love them. I feel like it will bring the series into the modern era, and if you want to play top down, you can click a button and enter that mode.

It was also amazing to see the D&D 5E combat system come to life in this game. There were so many neat tricks they pulled in the gameplay that have me excited to experiment when the game eventually comes out. It sounds like they are aiming to at least get the game out to fans in early access this year.

Larian Studios also had an amazing booth, complete with a full castle and a mindflayer.

Larian Studios Booth from PAX

After that, I attended a panel called: “Full-Time YouTube: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” which featured Arlo, Shesez from Boundary Break, Andrew from Beta64, Mike Pixley of Treesicle and Bonsai Pop, and Jirard the Completionist. It was a fascinating conversation, and it was very cool to see all of them on the same panel sharing their experiences on the platform.

Full-Time YouTube Panel at PAX

In short, PAX started off at an almost impossible-to-beat height. But the next two days had a lot in store.

Day 2: D&D and a Video Game Documentary

During day one, I spent a lot of time just scoping out the expo hall and all the magnificent merch available. Naturally, I thought about what I really wanted over night and went back to unload my wallet to all types of different vendors on day two. After running around and spending all my money, I was glad to see my schedule packed full with stuff to sit and watch.

First up was a Q&A with the crew from D&D Presents: T.O.R.C.H. This is a new D&D group featuring Chris Perkins as the Dungeon Master. It was really cool to see the team explain what we could expect from the full session (which I’ll get to on day three!). I loved the vibe of the group, and I’m excited to see Chris Perkins lead this new project.

D&D Presents: T.O.R.C.H. Logo

After that, I went to another D&D-themed panel featuring the cast and crew of the Acquisitions Incorporated “C” Team. This Q&A was a little different than your usual, hosting ridiculous questions that the “C” Team would answer as their characters. It was hilarious, and it was also a treat to see the group interact outside the game. I laughed a ton throughout the show!

I ended my night with a special screen of the documentary, Not for Resale: A Video Game Story Documentary. If you’ve never seen the film, it’s about independently owned video game stores specializing in used media. It explores the future of these establishments and discusses how digital is overtaking physical in modern times.

If you love retro gaming, I highly recommend checking out this film. It’s short and quirky, with a lot of emotion, and it’s a celebration of physical media. Check out the trailer below:

Day 3: Even More D&D, Platinum Games, and What’s Good Games

On Saturday, I was prepared to wait in line for a while, because it’s always much busier than the previous days, but I actually got in bright and early with no trouble. Honestly, the convention seemed less packed than usual, and I think it’s likely due to the coronavirus scare. When Sony announced it was skipping PAX, I’m sure that turned away a lot of people or confirmed their fears of the danger. But I will give props to the convention center staff—this was the cleanest convention I’ve ever been to. They had cleaning wipes and hand sanitizer everywhere, and the staff was constantly wiping down handrails.

Anyway, my third day started off with the always hilarious Penny Arcade duo, Tycho and Gabe, aka Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik. Each morning, they hosted a Q&A, but on this day, they held their “Let’s Make a Strip” panel. Mike drew up a comic while Jerry answered ridiculous questions, and it was so funny. It was a great beginning of my Saturday, and if you want to check out the actual comic, you can do so here.

Mike and Jerry of Penny Arcade

After that, I went to a panel featuring Atsushi Inaba and Hideki Kamiya of Platinum Games. It was seriously mindblowing to see the two of them in person. They discussed their plans for the future, and it sounds like they have a LOT in store.

Immediately after the Platinum Games panel was the live session of D&D Presents: T.O.R.C.H. The show was only an hour and a half, so it was interesting to see that they are doing shorter segments for this series. It was a great show all around, and I really like the chemistry of the new group. And most of all, it was fantastic to see Chris Perkins back in the DM chair.

Also of note, it was Chris Perkins’s birthday, a rare event since it falls on February 29, a leap day!

Chris Perkins acting as DM

Next up was the What’s Good Games podcast panel, which was a lot of fun, too. They talked through some of their favorite games on the show floor, including some I had never even heard of or saw. The room was full of energy, too, so it was a great time, and a perfect way to transition into the last show of my Saturday night: Acquisitions Incorporated.

Acquisitions Incorporated is my favorite D&D group, and it is always worth seeing if you attend PAX. Mike took over from Jeremy Crawford at PAX East 2020, and it was hilarious. He themed the entire session after The Mandalorian. It was just as crazy as you’d expect, and it created some truly unforgettable moments. By the end, I was in tears laughing and completely exhausted, as this marked the finale of my PAX weekend. I decided to skip out on Sunday this year, but I thoroughly enjoyed my three days there. It was worth every penny!

Jerry and Morgan Webb of Acq Inc

A PAX to Remember

I’ll never forget these highlights from PAX East 2020, but there was so much more at the convention I enjoyed. Here are some more pictures I took at the show:

PAX East Entrance
A warm welcome to PAX East 2020.
Pokemon Booth at PAX
This is a top-down view of the Pokemon Sword and Shield booth at PAX East 2020. It was the first thing everybody saw upon entrance!
Crypt of the Necrodancer Statue at PAX
An awesome Crypt of the Necrodancer full-sized statue.
Magic the Gathering Booth at PAX
This Magic the Gathering booth looked super cool.
A View of Boston from PAX.
And here is a lovely view of the Boston skyline from the convention center.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at PAX East 2020. There was so much to see and do, and it went by way too fast. I am already looking forward to next year!

Did you go to PAX East 2020? If so, what did you enjoy the most? Let us know in the comments!

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