I've been playing way too much Fire Emblem Heroes, so for my post this week I thought I'd write up my experience working at PAX East. I imagine my experience wasn't much different from other people's, but maybe some people will find it interesting.

I suppose my story begins with responding to a posting on a popular job site. The advertisement named the specific video game company, which is large, extremely well known, and had one of the biggest booths there (apparently they posted on Craigslist as well). Apparently it's not uncommon for companies to supplement their regular staff with temps. I responded on a whim. I'd been to PAX East before, and honestly am not that into conventions (I still don't quite see the appeal of waiting for hours in line to play a game that's coming out in a couple of weeks anyway.) Anyway, I had to write up a few sentences about my interest and also submit a resume. My actual day job is completely unrelated to working a booth at PAX, but I guess I was convincing enough about both having social skills and also knowing a lot about video games, and so I got a call from the recruiter pretty soon afterwards (I think the next day).

The recruiter basically just verified that I would be available for all three days, that I had authorization to be employed, and that I lived nearby. I then had to fill out a fair amount of paperwork online, and I still hadn't heard details about where and when I was supposed to show up even a couple of days before the Friday of PAX. The recruiter said I was definitely on the list of staff, but he didn't get the info until basically the day before PAX started.

I was instructed on what to wear and to show up on Friday promptly at 7:45 in the morning. The instructions were, understandably, super serious about showing up on time, so I actually got there half an hour early. They had given me the name of the person to meet, but they didn't say anything about what he looked like, where to find him, or what his phone number was. I didn't want to text the recruiter since based on his phone number I assumed he lived on the West Coast, so I wandered around until after 8:00 before finally texting him, and then I finally met up with the guy I was supposed to meet.

From there I got in line to get in with the other staff and temps (typical metal detector setup), and then finally we were in. They gave us some time to drop off our stuff in the staff room, get a staff shirt, and check out the games they would be showing. The assignments of the games each person was going to be demoing was fairly random. I have broad tastes in general and didn't have any strong preferences, but I was happy with the game I was assigned. There was another guy who was going to be demoing the same game as I, and one of the regular staff told us a bit about the game and why the demo was for that particular section of the game, but that was pretty much the extent of our training. Neither of us knew anything about the game, which was a sequel to a game that we also didn't know anything about, but it turns out that wasn't a problem because no one asked us about it. (This was better than nothing, I suppose, because the guy at the neighboring station didn't get any guidance whatsoever.)

The doors opened for the media at 9 and for the rest of the crowd at 10, and from there it was a non-stop stream of people trying out the game. We got two 15-minute breaks and a half hour for lunch (they got us sandwiches the first day, which were actually pretty good, and also free snacks and drinks). Manning the station was pretty easy. Our instructions were to kick people off the demos if other people were waiting, and I gave people roughly 15 minutes with the game, which seemed plenty (and people were free to come back for another round if they wanted). One snag was that people saved over what was supposed to be the demo's actual start point, but this wasn't too big a deal since there was a lot of stuff to check out in the game no matter where you started, and the game wasn't overly difficult even at those later stages.

The day was pretty uneventful, and the game was interesting enough that I didn't mind watching a hundred people playing it. The 15-minute breaks were too short to do much other than walk to the bathroom and back, although I did get to see a bit more of the main floor on my lunch break. Things ended promptly at 6, although there was an event for exhibitors soon after with free booze and some snacks. I walked around more of the floor then, although the line for the drinks was long and I was pretty tired from having gotten up early and standing all day so I didn't stick around.

I'd recovered enough by Saturday morning that I was ready for another day (although for Saturday we only had to arrive at 9:15 with the doors opening at 10). The guy I was working with on Friday apparently had a foot problem from standing so long the previous day, and he was replaced by another guy. The guy from the neighboring station was sick of his game, and I was happy to trade spots. I'd done some research on both games the previous night, although it took some time watching people playing for me to figure out what would give them the best experience with the game. Otherwise Saturday was more of the same, although my game was far less popular than the game I'd demoed on Friday. This was actually fine by me as I didn't have to spend nearly as much mental power keeping track of how long everyone had been playing, since there was rarely much of a line.

After the doors closed on Saturday I met up with some friends at the handheld lounge and hung out, and also swung by the free console play rooms a bit. I was starting to feel sick, but I thought it was just from being tired from being on my feet all day. It wasn't until I got home that I got really sick, and what followed was a bad bout of food poisoning and one of the worst 24 hours I've experienced in a very long time. Most likely it was from the food we had for lunch, although I'm not sure if anyone else got sick. In any case, I texted both the recruiter and the main point of contact at the booth and apologized profusely for not being able to work Sunday. The booth guy was sympathetic and understanding, and when I asked him about it on Monday he told me they hadn't been able to get a replacement in, but the other two guys were able to cover for me. (Sundays are less packed than the other days anyway, but I still feel bad for making extra work for the others. Sorry, guys! I owe ya one!)

All in all this was a fun experience, and one that I would be happy to do again. It's probably not great for people who just want a free ticket to PAX, but as someone who enjoys being surrounded by fellow video game lovers this was a pretty painless way for me to soak in the atmosphere of PAX, check out some cool cosplay, and get paid playing some games for a weekend. And who knows, maybe I'll even wind up back again next year! ;)

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