This past weekend was the first PAX East, and I’ll admit up front this comic/post is just a super long sheer unadulterated gushy post of love for this convention. PAX is the Penny Arcade Expo which is a gaming convention created by the popular webcomic Penny Arcade.

First things first, just getting the badges in the mail weeks before the convention is nice because I’ve know the hell of anime convention registration or pre-registration and the lines required to get through it all. Not only that, but they enclosed a Charlie Card with the badges! Charlie Cards are the mass transit cards of Boston and they’re not as easy to get as Metrocards in NYC so this was a super awesome touch.

I’ve basically been talking to my friends all weekend about what makes PAX so awesome, but what it really boils down to are the people, and the atmosphere set by the environment cultivated by Mike and Jerry the creators of Penny Arcade.

First of all, this convention runs like butter and is the most well organized convention I’ve ever been to. Partly I think this is because of the money that it must take to run a convention like this that allows for very visible signage and stuff like the mobile expo hud. They actually made a mobile phone site with a list of all the events and the ability to checkbox panels and make your own itinerary.

Beyond these things though the heart of the show really are the enforcers who are the volunteers who help run the convention. There must’ve been at least a dozen enforcers per panel always making sure people line up in the right place, keeping the people in line informed of what the situation is and also cutting off the line when the panel was full.

I was two of the people in line at the Bill Amend panel who didn’t get to ask their questions and one enforcer apologized profusely for this which was greatly appreciated. Really when you get treated this well it just makes you super happy and want to be nice to others around you.

My assumption is that they give the enforcers some sort of pep talk that shows how much they appreciate their work and how they want to see the convention run. The other aspect I think is that since this convention is the ultimate geek convention that Mike & Jerry wanted to make there must be some sense of obligation and a desire to not disappoint these guys who made this great convention for the geek community.

Nearly all the panels I went to were interesting and well run with microphones for all the right people and also good video coverage on screens for the larger ones. I’m used to going to a convention and having at best one or two really sticking out, but in this case the majority were well worth lining up an hour before for.

But more than anything, the atmosphere and sense of community cannot be overstated. I’ve attended lots of anime conventions as an attendee and as exhibitor and the difference between those conventions and PAX is night and day. The most recent anime cons I attended I was realizing the convention was best for hanging out with your small group of friends because generally the rest of the people at the convention were insufferable spazzes and flakes.