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I Missed Yoko Taro’s PAX East Panel Waiting For a Sandwich (A Tale of Convention Food Monopoly)

Originally Posted April 9, 2018 on TheYoungFolks.com

Now, we in The Young Folks staff had a wonderful time at PAX East Boston this year, and we met tons of amazing people; from media to designers, to cosplayers and fans, and we hope to attend more in the future and see these indie games grow to their rightful place in the world.

I don’t want to start our coverage off on a negative note, but I’ve got to get all of this off my chest. We need to talk about the “living conditions” at conventions like PAX East. My most anticipated event at this, my 5th Penny Arcade Expo, was the Saturday panel celebrating NieR Automata’s first anniversary of release. It was never set in stone, but it was very safe to assume attendees would be greeted by the game’s masked, enigmatic story director, Yoko Taro, as he was at the same event just last year following the game’s launch, but he is much more popular now than he was a year ago. To the surprise of some, he did arrive, translator in tow, and was joined by Square Enix producer Yosuke Saito, music composer Keiichi Okabe, and moderated by IGN’s Alana Pierce, and I ended up missing this wonderful assembly because I, without very specific plans for feeding myself over the weekend in general, was starving, and decided to trek outside of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center for some food that was not fried, stale or overpriced.

You see, PAX veterans often tell newcomers to the expo that one of the most essential things is to stay hydrated and bring snacks and food. Why bring snacks and food? Because, despite the fact that Boston has great take out and restauranting options, very few of them are in walking distance, and people generally have already spent an arm and a leg on hotels, cabs, and maybe even prefix parties with food and drink provided, plus saving cash for swag, and walking a mile for slightly better food is the trade-off for more time on the convention floor exploring booths and playing games.

For those casually visiting PAX East, especially for one or two days, this may not seem like a big deal. You come in, explore for a few hours, and head back for a drive home, to your apartment, to your commuter rail stop, what have you. But for those that are there for what is now a packed four whole days, some people get more cardio in than they do anywhere else all year, and not only does the food feel like it’s draining away life points, waiting in the lines for them, and then pulling out your credit card for 10 dollars on a pretzel and soda does so too. This is so well known by everyone that there are even t-shirts of the infamous BCEC turkey leg for sale at PAX’s own merch booth, with a stop sign through it. This is such a pervasive issue that I am the holder of a conspiracy theory that the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center opts to bribe restaurants or buy out buildings in the seaport area just to keep people from leaving the sweaty, cramped convention center full of hungry people.

Being at the convention as a member of the press, granted for my third year, I should know better. I stupidly spent more time plotting out my travel times, gameplay, and interview appointments and networking opportunities, over properly nurturing my stomach and body. Especially because I had a revolving door of people I was in communication with as the only person in our staff consistently at the expo all four days, and I wanted to prioritize making sure our staff was well prepared, and we were on point and courteous with our meetings of all the wonderful game developers and publishers for the weekend.

Then, Saturday came, the Day 3 grogginess of PAX East was here, and for the first time, it was not the last. The grogginess began to set in, especially coupled with the results of the Acer Predator party the night before where I was treated with a complimentary drink and a free case of optical subconjunctival hemorrhage the following morning. I felt like death on Saturday, but oh so determined to keep the ball rolling because our coverage plans were going so well, so far, for our more modest site. Truly proud, I was.

And then lunchtime hit, and the internal body clock of all attendees, like ants, followed their tummy grumbles and set off for food. Around 1 or 2 PM each day of PAX East, the crowds pack out the cafeteria to the brim, and even the few food trucks outside in the bitter Boston cold looked like the evacuation from Edoras to Helms Deep.


So, our little team thought it smart, myself included, after we wrapped our time playing Super Meat Boy Forever, to try venturing outside for some simple fix for food. I was under the impression that the NieR Automata panel would begin at 4 PM, and therefore I would head up to get in the line by 3 for a good photo op seat.

So around 2, we set out across the street to Jimmy Johns, which for those of you who don’t know, is literally just a cold cuts sandwich shop. Why Jimmy Johns? Because it’s supposed to be fast, it was protein, and none of us had ever actually eaten at one before.

Could we have gotten a quick cab to Boloco or Five Guys or South Station? Sure but we were on a budget, and I blew some good cab money the night before, sadly.

Could we have gone to Burger King? Sure, but the line would have been just as long, the food would have been even slower, and it’s not real food. Also, we were pretty beat from being on our feet the entire morning, and that BK is nearly a mile down D Street.

Also, considering the only other inexpensive, non sit down options outside the convention center within a mile of walking was a Dunkin Donuts up the block, and that was 75% of the rest of my food intake over the weekend, well, Jimmy John’s it was.

We thought it would be a seemingly shorter line too, at least until we got inside, where the sandwich shop was revealed to barely have standing room more than 6 feet wide and looped all the way around the far right end of the restaurant, and back towards the register right in front of the door. Not only that, but the madness of confusion came when people started whining and getting snippy about getting inside to wait in line when it was discovered those of us who had ordered (which was about 45 minutes following our initial arrival) had to hang about on the right side of the restaurant even still to await our orders. The staff just carried on like normal instead of directing customers to the left side with plenty of space and bringing sandwiches that were ready over to that end. Nope, that would have been way too challenging.

Then they ran out of bread.

And instead of taking initiative to ask folks at the register if they’d opt for the wheat bread instead of the white sub roll, they waited until they bummed around for a few minutes waiting for more of the white bread to bake. So the manager got the ball rolling asking incoming orders if they’d opt for wheat or instead wait an additional 5 minutes inside of this fluster club of a crowd that was clearly creating a fire hazard for well over 2 hours.

I wasn’t even looking at the time, or my schedule, when I got back into the convention. All I wanted to do was sit down and eat this mediocre sandwich.

Then, as I moved back in the direction of the media room with my co-editor, Ryan, which was just beyond the Albatross Theater on the second floor of the expo, he read out to me from one of the screens showing the PAX LINES Twitter account graphics, “Neir Automata, 91% full.”

I snapped out of a bloodshot, roast beef comatose haze and thought that was impossible. The panel was at 4, I should still have time, I thought. No, the screen did in fact show, 3:30 as the time for the beginning of the panel. I checked my Google Calendar, scrolled my on-screen widget down barely a centimeter, and nearly had a heart attack. I had it scheduled for 3:30 myself, on my own itinerary, and somehow just completely forgot. This was no joke. It was 3:19, and, I kid you not, a quarter of a mile around the other side of the second floor of the expo, and I can only describe my feeling at that moment as a fraction of the sullen disappointment that Peter Jackson did in the mess of a production that was The Hobbit trilogy.

As I approach the corner of the hallway of the Albatross Theater, a PAX Enforcer barricades us, instructing that we could not continue…. requesting we wait to cross until the sea of people, signifying the most attended panel all year for Penny Arcade Expo, made their way inside the theater.

We asked if we could at least just get by to the media room. He offered to escort us to the room, like a couple of clowns on parade beside volatile drones to our left… and I had a chance to slip into the crowd as we walked by. I didn’t. I modestly, and sadly, walked away.

Defeated, I later found out the news that producers were excited for more games in the Neir series, and that Yoko Taro went full, meme style, bananas, as we love him for doing so, just in the room next door.

We also discovered later on that Taro’s conversation topics went as such:

-Called out the producer how he uses his role to hit on women.

-Asked that same man what his favorite American food was and got the answer “Your Hershey bar right there.”

-Asked the moderator (IGN’s Alannah Pierce) how much Square Enix paid for the 8.9 score they gave Automata.


And, the real icing on the roast beef cake:


Look, this is no fault of Jimmy Johns, a lot of this falls on my incompetency, a lapse in judgment. But I’m just saying, if we had some broader food options for an expo that has had 80,000+ people in attendance, and is growing every year, you would think this would stop being a problem after 8 years of hosting this particular expo, and 7 at this very same location.

Anyway, by the end of the day, I was really feeling like I wanted to eat a live fish, delete my save data and let someone else go to the GD Burger King.

Next time, we’ll just order Domino’s to the media room and hope IGN doesn’t eat it and tell us it was 10/10.

Anyway, please check back with us this week as we’ll be posting content about No More Heroes, Night in the Woods, Super Meat Boy Forever, Guacamelee! 2, Banner Saga 3, 20XX and so many more from our weekend at PAX East 2018!

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