Since 2010, The Boy and I have had the tradition of visiting Boston in the Spring to attend PAX East.
For those of you who don’t know, it’s the Penny Arcade Expo – it’s three wondrous days of nerd glory with exclusive access to upcoming video games, from indie mobile start-up companies to the really big names like Rockstar, Bethesda and Ubisoft.
This past weekend marked our fourth year attending (we had tickets for 2011, but were unable to attend due to being in the hospital and all that inconvenient stuff) and it was definitely a different experience than before. It’s always a fun time, I absolutely LOVE Boston and love being in Boston, but every year PAX sells more tickets without expanding their space. At the risk of sounding super hipster, I will go ahead and say that the first year, before everyone knew about it, was by far the best.
It’s become very commercialized, with sponsers having their own booths and they seem to be less organized with each passing year, which results in a lot of capping lines and 4 hour waits if you decide to get into one of those lines. Who wants to spend 4 hours waiting to play ONE game? The first year we attended PAX, the longest we waited was 2 hours – and that was to play Red Dead Redemption, a highly anticipated game in the industry. If Red Dead Redemption were there this year, we wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere near it.
The only upside to it being so incredibly packed was that we spent a lot of time in the Indie section of the hall and got to test some great, upcoming games from smaller developers. It was still a good time, just definitely not the best year we’ve had there. That being said, outside of the convention – it was one of my favorite experiences of the city of Boston itself! We usually end up staying in the Back Bay area, which is lovely, but this year we stayed in the North End – the Little Italy of Boston.
I have never seen so many Italian restaurants on one street, including two pastry shops across the street from each other who are apparently engaged in some sort of cannoli feud. And it is a very historical section of the city. We ate and drank at some taverns built in the 1700s, we saw Paul Revere’s house. We took a few walks at night just to explore the area and there were times you’d turn a corner and if you just removed the cars parked on the cobblestone streets, you’d feel you were transported back to the 18th century.
The atmosphere was so beautiful there. I took a nap before dinner one evening and awoke to the lulling ambient noises of diners on a warm evening, the soft glow of the lamplight peeking through the blinds and soothing Italian melodies drifting up from an accordion player beneath my window.
I don’t think we’ll be attending the convention next year, as it’ll be cutting it very close to the wedding, but the next time we’re in Boston my vote will definitely be to stay in the North End again. And this time I’ll have to pick my side in the cannoli war.