PAX East 2011 was awesome.

I have a handy comparison of con styles on hand. I just attended the RSA Conference 2011. I dearly loved RSA but it was a death march. Up at 6am, slog through the rain, be there by 8-8:15am, try to hit as many talks and keynotes and paper presentations as possible, cram in visiting booths and talking to relevant vendors, try to socialize, maybe eat in there somewhere. Do something eveningish, collapse, rinse, repeat. It was a great experience but dear God it was painful.

PAX East is the antithesis of the track-and-talk-and-demonstration-based conventions. It has no real set schedule. Instead it has a huge number of things to do. Want to attend a talk? There are talks. Want to go to an evening concert? There are super cool evening concerts.* Want to play a game? What kind? Many companies run tabletop and boardgame full demos. You can check boardgames out of the library. The console freeplay rooms were huge this year for those looking to play an XBox or 360 game. There was Rock Band and Dance Central. The EXPO floor was enormous and full of playable demos and swag. I really enjoy the loose, not really terribly planned nature of PAX East. It doesn’t feel like a convention. It feels like a huge party where 65,000 of your best friends show up to talk about games and play games and generally hang out together in the bonding of love over all things games.

And this year we spent PAX East meeting new people. My twitter follow list exploded. We had great talks over in the RPG area. We played board games. We played the Leverage RPG. We went to dinner with new people and had a great time. This is what I loved this year: the socialization. Gaming people! Comic book people! Random Internet famous people! We went to only one talk, and it was on Geek Parenting. We were interviewed for a documentary as geek parents. We watched the Old Republic trailer. I played Marvel vs. Capcom 3 in the console freeplay room until my hand nearly fell off — and then found the Gauntlet upright and that had to be played. It was a moral imperative.

Save one detail,** the move to the bigger conference center was a massive upgrade. No more crowding in the hallways trying to get somewhere. The EXPO area was cavernous. I’m still not certain we saw everything there — but we saw lots and lots of cool stuff. The tabletop area, crammed into a few small rooms last year, was huge with lots and lots and lots of tables. It even had halfway decent con food that didn’t kill any of us. We even liked the hotel.

I could pick it apart day by day and item by item, and may do so, but suffice to say right now: PAX East is huge fun and highly recommended for anyone who can get themselves to Boston.

We’re totally going next year. April 7-9th. Be there.

* We did the concerts last year to the exclusion of many other things so we did the other things this year.
** Not enough beanbags to crash in.