Field Trip: PAX Unplugged

Now that it has been a full week since PAX Unplugged started so now is a good time to recap the event, right? I got the opportunity to go with a little bit of luck and the help of Twitter and instead of just attending the con, I was working it, which turned out to be a fascinating experience, especially since it was my first board game convention.

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So PAX Unplugged is held in Philadelphia, which is the furthest I have traveled to a convention. The overall journey to get there wasn’t so bad, and finding my way around Philly got easier once I figured out how to get from hotel to convention center. Plus walking through Christmas Villages and past Macy’s holiday windows was a bonus for sure. The only place that was a little weird to navigate was the convention center itself, with signs not in the best places ever. But the enforcers were helpful with directions so it wasn’t too bad.

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The majority of my purpose at PAX was working with Weird Giraffe Games at their booth demoing and pitching games. I had the pleasure of showing off Fire in the Library, which is a press your luck game that had it’s Kickstarter earlier this year and had limited copies for sale at PAX. This was the first time I got to work with the game, and I was so happy to be demoing this particular game all weekend.

It was also cool to check out future games coming from Weird Giraffe Games like Dreams of Tomorrow, which also had it’s Kickstarter end recently and is available for preorder. It’s interesting to get to see games before any kind of release.

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So while I wasn’t working the booth, I wandered the expo hall a bit and also went to a few panels. Honestly, this was one of the few cons where I didn’t pack my schedule and try to do a whole lot, probably because my decision to go was a little last minute and my priority was working the booth so I actually didn’t in-depth decide on things to see and do until Friday morning at the con. But I did go and see a few panels, which were quite enjoyable.

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The first panel I went to was the Take This panel about welcoming others, meaning diverse groups of people, to the table, focusing on roleplaying tables but I found it to be helpful outside of that as well. I always enjoy going to the mental health focused panels at cons, and I am very much for what Take This does, so this panel was already set up to be a good one for me. And it definitely lived up to my expectations.

Another panel I went to was the Unconventional Tabletop Games panel, which had people who push the boundaries of board games to make truly unique experiences. For me, the most interesting part was hearing about what they made, from edible games to games with a crafting mechanic to mega games with over 30 people playing together.

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The last panel I went to was the Executive Women in Tabletop panel, which had a table full of women who are at the top of their fields in the tabletop industry. Women in the industry panels are also ones I enjoy going to, and this was a very fun and informative panel not just about being a woman working in tabletop, but also being an executive in tabletop.

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One of my highlights though was getting to see Fire in the Library sell out and see how many people were excited and interested in the game and I had a hand it doing that. Working a booth is not something I ever thought I would do, so getting to do so and watch something be so successful is pretty cool.

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Now like many other cons, I came back with swag of some kind. I actually kept it pretty light because the holidays already hurt my bank account as is. So I only brought back 2 games, one being Fire in the Library since I backed it on Kickstarter I could pick it up early and Go Nuts for Donuts, a game I have had my eye on for a while as a game I could easily play with my family during the holidays. I also got a PAX Unplugged shirt and a Take This pin that I plan to wear at future cons and supports Take This.

My biggest takeaways from PAX Unplugged is that it was a pretty great first board game convention because it wasn’t too stressful to attend and figure things out and that the other attendees are all super nice and friendly. Honestly, these were the nicest people I have had to interact at a con, and it was always fun to watch people playing games in free spaces or in the lines for panels. It was just a lot of open and proud joy for gaming, so I’d happily return to PAX Unplugged.

Are you planning on attending any conventions soon? Let me know which ones with a comment!

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