Sprites and Dice Goes to PAX East 2016

Five Different Perspectives, One Huge Event

Apr 29, 2016
Sprites and Dice Team PAX East 2016

How Do You Summarize Something like PAX?

It is a behemoth, a titan; a growing, mutating abomination as new trends in gaming evolve and change. A convention that was created in the hopes of appeasing gamers, instead of being one large press release for a closed group. An experiment that has exploded, spawning FOUR individual conventions over the course of a year, all about the US and even stretching to Australia.

PAX East 2016

It is an event in such demand that for the last year or two, the tickets for PAX East sell out in hours, if not minutes. 3-day passes are revered like gold, and trying to find a good hotel right in Boston becomes an Indiana Jones sort of quest if you wait too long to start.

We managed to get every single member of Sprites and Dice there this year. For some of us, this is our yearly escape, our way to get out of the day-in and day-out and recharge for three days. For others, it was their first time, a daunting adventure. Why do we like PAX? Why is it so special? Is it an event you should try to go to yourself? What's it like trying to go to an event like this, and also be a reporter at the same time?

Adam: A Stranger in a Strange Land

My impressions from PAX East come as a newcomer experiencing it for the first time. It's a wonderful feeling when you sit after roaming for so long that your feet have gone past hurting and into itching (?), and you are still long enough to feel the vibe and thrum of the convention around you. That in itself is an experience, let alone any of the myriad of things can keep you busy.


The Protomen are something you will either love, or confuse you utterly. I loved them.

I did what many would consider typical for a first-timer. I stood in a few lines, shopped around the booths at length, went to some of the concerts, played some demos, and politely asked for many photos of the brave cosplayers who walked the halls. Just like there's a game for everyone, I was struck that there is literally a way for anyone to experience PAX. Play how you like. Con how you like.

My favorites would probably be split pretty evenly between the concerts (Protomen especially), the bizarre Megagame Watch The Skies which I spent my entire Sunday playing, and playing some yet-unreleased demos. Especially with the demos, there was something very personal and delicate in the experience. They were incomplete, and yet here they were to touch and move around. One could really revel in their creation. I got that from everything I experience, like the gaming world was switched into high contrast. I have plenty to write about now, even without pressing for interviews like some of the others had - there's just so much content at everyone's fingertips, it's impossible not to find something new to enjoy.

Watch the Skies 1

Wyatt: Are Work And Play The Same Thing?

This year was different for me. Every year, PAX is a chance to try and challenge myself, to get more interviews, to strengthen my ability as a journalist. As many of our readers probably know by now, we started this website as an experiment without any training in what to expect. Every year, PAX East is a sort of gear check for us: can we get interviews with companies? How have previous developers reacted to our articles about them in the past? Do they even remember us?

Zoë and everyone has put so much work into our website change over in the last few months, and during this weekend, that work showed. Those of us who had come to PAX before nearly ran out of cards, and it’s a thrilling experience when an indie booth remembers you just by the name of your website. Friday was thrilling because I had the amazing chance to interview Chris Rippy, a Producer of Orcs Must Die: Unchained. Then, right after I was able to speak with Greg at Supergiant games about their new game Pyre. These are companies I’ve grown to love, and having the chance to interact with them directly reminds me as to why we created and worked so hard building up Sprites and Dice as a whole.

Pyre Preview 1 0

I also did something I always promise I’ll do at PAX, then fail: go to panels. Normally I catch just one as a last-ditch memory, but this time, I went to a half dozen. They range from things like interviews about a new game or movie (the Gearbox panel felt like filler, while the World of Warcraft movie panel was fun and insightful), to advice about getting into a particular field of gaming (something Zoë ate up this time), to just how games in general affect the lives of the people who play them.

For me, one of my favorites was an Ex-military member talking about what he learned about Resiliency and Stress. It seemed an odd leap from military PTSD struggles, but he had great advice about how to deal with day-in and day-out stress. He talked about how gaming - and the community of gamers – can and have come together in the past to help those struggling with internal demons. It’s things like this which give me such hope for the future.

Still, it’s important to turn off your active brain sometimes, and just have fun. The Friday night concerts melted off my face, and has always been a huge bonding moment for my friends and I in the past. This year, I was able to have my brother come with me, and thanks to growing up, I don’t get a lot of time with him anymore. Going to concerts and trying out new games together was worth waiting on lines for. Games that I tried? There are so damn many I would want to choose as my favorite. Pyre takes the cake, but I also had a blast learning Gruff, a card game about mutant goat herding. I worked out some time for just myself to go to the Behemoth booth and play the full demo of Pit People, because turn-based games are my guilty pleasure. Monacles and Monsters co-op was just simply fun, and I finally had a chance to try Overwatch well as get totally wrecked by the other team.

One of the great things about a convention is trying new things, and that's what I got out of it this time. The best surprise? The League of Legends Riftwalk. It was a long, long line, but I sat on it with my brother and two of my groomsmen. Lots of cosplay and cool people, and inside the folks at Riot games tried something new. Instead of showing off a game, they showed off it's lore, and tried to give you an experience in the process. It worked, and some of the pictures I got I'm going to be enjoying for years to come.

Dana: Interviews and Strange Metaphors

Seeing people you know at PAX is weird. I saw the owner of our local games store there. I didn't say hi. I saw a guy I knew in highschool. I didn't say hi. I saw a dude in a fursuit, and I definitely didn't say hi.

"Conventions make you feel connected to the community as a whole, like a cell in a larger, nerdier, body."

I did spend all my time hustling. I'm down a whole bunch of business cards. I enjoyed talking to the developers of all these crazy games, and my favorite was chatting with the Swen Vincke, head Developer of Larian studios. I got to ask him why the Bracchus Rex fight in Divinity: Original Sin was so hard. Thats not the sort of thing you can do on Twitter, I'll tell you that much for free. It brings up the question: who am I? I'm just a guy. These developers are important people who do real things and I'm some schmuck who thinks his dumb opinions are better than yours, dear reader, so I'm just going to inject them directly into your brain via this website.

Accept my offering of sweet opinion nectar, that it may nourish you and make you less awful.

Gruff PAX East

I also got to sacrifice mutating goats to hurt Wyatt, so that's good.

This was my second time going to PAX East. I go to PAX because I love you, the reader. You, who is reading this right now (Call me). If you get the chance to go to PAX, or Gencon, or any of these huge conventions, you really should do it. It makes you feel very connected to the community as a whole, part of something larger than yourself. Sort of like a cell in a larger, nerdier, body. Just try not to be a gross cell, like a rectum cell, or something.

Zoë: Panels and Indie Games

This year's PAX taught me that I have a lot to learn about being a professional in this industry, but I'm proud of how strongly we came in this year. Having new email addresses with the Sprites and Dice domain was HUGE for getting people to take us seriously as press, and our redesign did wonders for making people take us more seriously. (Remember what the old site looked like? No? Good.) I made a ton of unexpected connections on Sunday just by sliding my way into conversations and making small talk. Even if those connections don't go anywhere business-wise, it was a TON of fun meeting new people. I loved getting to see people I've met in years past, and it was especially validating when developers remembered my name. PAX conversations fuel me like nothing else, and I feel like I'll be riding this wave of confidence for a little while.

Like Wyatt, I made more of a point to go to more panels this year, going to one every day. I took copious notes at "You're a Games Journalist! Now What?" (you can read my recap here) and "Personal Brand: Marketing Yourself". The act of frantically trying to capture interesting quotes was extremely rewarding. Even though we're still essentially beginners that do this for the passion of it, it was great to know I was already doing some things right based on the advice they were giving. Of course, I still have a ton to learn, but now I have an idea of where I'm headed next. While it feels a little weird to be writing articles about advice I should be learning from myself, I hope they're useful to anyone out there who missed out on attending.

I don't mean to blather on about the business side of things, though. While I certainly saw less games this year than in the past, what I did play did not disappoint. In the realm of metroidvanias, I had a blast with both Flinthook and Skytorn, which both sported some solid controls and excellent pixel art. I was most surprised to find that Flinthook is actually more roguelike than metroidvania in the grand scheme of things, but I'll get into that more in my upcoming article.

Flinthook PAX East 2016 Preview

The hookshot was by far the most fun part of the Flinthook demo.

Speaking of roguelikes, Deathstate was back this year after a successful launch on Steam, with loads more items and characters to play as. Across the way was Ruiner at the Devolver Digital booth, and it was as beautiful and difficult as I expected. Granted, it was so hard that most con goers couldn't even finish the demo, but that makes me even more eager for the game's release.

On the multiplayer front, my friends and I found ourselves coming back to the booth for Last Fight multiple times throughout the weekend. It's a four player brawler that reminds me very much of Power Stone, and I can't wait to start playing it with my roommates when it comes out next month.

Finally, the most unexpected thing I ended up doing this year was the IGN party on Saturday night. I generally try to stay within the convention center to get my money's worth for my badges, but I've wanted to go to a PAX party for years and it was finally time. It was insanity. The party took place at the Royale in Boston. For some reason, I was under the impression that this would be a bar that was bought out and filled with demo kiosks for Battleborn. However, my friends and I quickly learned that The Royale is one of the biggest clubs in Boston, and this was no demo event. We arrived at 10PM to a line that went on further than we could see, populated by about 10% con goers and 90% drunk locals looking to party. We didn't let that discourage us, though, and by 11PM we were let in to the biggest club any of us had ever seen before, free drink ticket in hand. We danced, we laughed, and we got to chat with Anthony Carboni about how awesome his trip to Japan was.

Oh, and we watched a polar bear break it down on stage. 10/10, would party with IGN again.

There's so much more I'd like to talk about here, but I'll save some room for the other guys. Expect to see more of me on the site than usual in the next few months, and follow my Twitter if you want to catch any of my one-off thoughts about the weekend!

Eric: Games, Friends, and Rock and Roll

To tell the truth, I wasn’t really feeling the convention high on the first day. I wandered around the expo hall, saw some cool stuff, played a few games, the usual. It was fun, but something was missing.

Friday night’s concert more than fixed that. A face-melting speedrun of Ninja Gaiden by Bit Brigade, nerdcore rapper nonpareil MC Frontalot, and the post-apocalyptic rock-opera experience that is The Protomen kicked me out of my funk.

Drunk Quest PAX East

Hot Pockets, chicken fingers, and Drinking Quest.

Saturday was awesome, even though the crowds were often too thick to walk through. I played in a sealed tournament of the My Little Pony CCG that used the recently updated rules and, though I was way behind the times and only won one match, I really enjoyed it. I spent the second half of the day learning a few new games and made a couple of small purchases. I got some great interviews in. Most of us skipped the Saturday concert and returned to our hotel for some gaming and a couple of drinks, something we hadn't usually done. Of course, thanks to the game, hilarity was had...

Sunday was my big shopping day, as you should: that's often when sellers start to discount their games just a little more. A couple hundred dollars later, I’ve got a whole lot of new toys to play with.

We had a lot of fun, and we’ve also got a lot of new things to talk about. Stay tuned!

Eric's PAX East 2016 Swag

Here are some of the articles you might have to look forward to.

Something For Everyone

A PAX event is large enough that you can bring a dozen friends to it, and every single one is probably going to have a different experience. Some of us didn’t even see each other on the show floor the entire weekend, thanks to the sheer size. At the end of the day however, there is something at the expo that was meant for just you to go have a good time with.

You can promise yourself you are going to go visit your favorite company’s booth, and instead find yourself wandering the Indie Megabooth, sitting down to multiple demos for three hours straight. You might say this is the year you go to every concert, but instead, find yourself going to an after-PAX party being hosted by a developer. PAX is chaotic and packed and filled with things you've never heard of, and you are going to end up doing something you at first didn't expect. Let it happen. Maybe the point of one of these things is just to remind you, as a gamer, that you aren't just part of some small group of friends, but a network of people who all want the same thing: fun.

PAX East 2016 End

It's worth it to go every year, and some of us can't wait for the next one. For now though... it's time to write these articles, and it's time to catch up on sleep. Until next time.

Wyatt Krause

Editor-in-chief, Co-founder