Initially, I didn’t plan on writing about this. Video games are a newer passion of mine and there’s still so much I’m learning about the industry and culture surrounding it. I’ve gone to numerous conventions over the years, but PSX has more of an Expo structure. There are booths and set-ups ranging in sizes, but they all offer their own personal, hands-on experience. You won’t see towers of Funko Pops or get smacked by some cosplayer’s Overwatch wings here. Instead, you’ll walk through intricate displays that put you in the center of a game’s location, play exclusive demos for upcoming releases, and maybe take a 3D picture of yourself with Spider-Man. For this post, I’m going to focus on what it was like to actually be there. You can find news or recaps by far more knowledgeable people online, so I’m going to share things from my perspective as a newbie who left with their eyes wider than they were going in.
On Saturday morning, my friend and I lined up when doors opened at 10 AM, but it took a good hour for us to get inside. Thankfully, the Anaheim Convention Center was extremely organized with their line system and there were numerous security lines to keep the flow steady. One of the main reasons why I attended PSX was for The Last of Us and Uncharted presence. Both games are deeply important to me and I’ll be totally honest: I’m Naughty Dog trash. I love everything this company does and I have an endless amount of appreciation for Neil Druckmann. After checking out the Days Gone set-up (featuring hanging corpses, aggressive zombies, and a brown bear covered in barbed wire), my friend and I made our way to the Uncharted 10 year anniversary booth. Neil was checking out the display case with some of Nathan Drake’s props and I managed to snag a minute of his time. He was extremely gracious and kind during our brief exchange and signed my badge. I also somehow managed to make him laugh, so now I can cross that off my bucket list.
The Uncharted booth was insanely cool and such a treat for the die-hard fans. They recreated Nate’s attic full of goodies from Uncharted 4, and instead of walking through the room aimlessly, the staff had you complete a timed puzzle with 4-5 other people. 5 trivia questions on the sheet correlated with objects in the room, and nearly every prop had a tag attached with a single letter. If the group solved the puzzle (the code word was DRAKE–big surprise, right?) you were rewarded with one of the 35 collectable Playstation cards. The booth also had stations to play each game from the series, a display case featuring iconic treasures, and a green screen photo booth where you could dress up as the Drake brothers.
As I circled the entire convention floor (which probably took a good half hour), I ended up watching a lot of gameplay instead of waiting in line. Some of the lines were a bit too long for my patience, but I definitely wanted to experience Night in the Woods and Detroit: Become Human for myself. NitW‘s dreamy visuals caught my eye as I walked around the indie section, but it’s snappy dialogue really pulled me in once I sat down. Detroit‘s set-up, which was probably my favorite from the weekend, featured a Westworld-esque room full of androids against a white background ready to be purchased and taken out like human-sized Barbie dolls. I mainly signed up for the Detroit demo because of my friend’s interest, but I’m officially drinking the hype kool-aid now. During its 20 minute run, you had to navigate a hostage situation, with your success percentage going up or down depending on what choices you made. I feel a little burnt out on those decision based games, but it was cool to visually see how it affected my goal.
The only major downside to PSX were the autograph opportunities. They were a featured part of the event and the Playstation Twitter, blog, and app made it seem like everyone was able to get at least one. You booked the autograph by going onto their app, and at 1 PM on Saturday, they would be released to everybody. What they didn’t disclose was that only 200 slots were available per session. 200 is really nothing when you consider the thousands of people in attendance, and when I hit the booking button the moment the hour turned, they were already full. I was really disappointed, considering the Uncharted and TLOUII sessions were a huge reason why I went. So my advice for anyone going in the future: don’t go just for the autograph sessions! The difference between you and someone else getting it comes down to a sliver of a second. But I promise there are so many other cool things worth attending for. Luckily for me, I watched the Uncharted signing and Emily Rose, who plays Elena, ran over afterwards and signed a picture for me because she’s an actual sweetheart.
Which brings me to the best part of my weekend, the panels! All of them are conveniently available to stream live or watch later on YouTube, but you can’t beat the magic of actually being in the room. The Uncharted 10 year anniversary round-up, hosted by Greg Miller from Kinda Funny, featured all of the prominent actors from the series. Greg did a wonderful job keeping the panel balanced, light-hearted, and reflective without losing any focus. Most of the conversation focused on the early creative process, the fun challenges of motion capture, and how the series has affected the actors on a professional and personal level. Admittedly, I started crying towards the end when I realized how massive and influential Uncharted is. I’ll miss it so much, but I’m grateful they were given a platform to have one final discussion and that I got to be a fly on the wall for it.
The Last of Us Part II discussion followed a half hour later. Troy Baker (Joel) and Ashley Johnson (Ellie) opened with a stripped down cover of “The Wayfaring Stranger” in character, its lyrical content adding even more fuel to the speculation fire. Comedian and moderator Hannah Hart got the popular questions out of the way, but as expected, most of them were carefully dodged. The main cast, alongside Neil Druckmann and writer Halley Gross, focused on discussing the grim second trailer recently shown at Paris Games Week. I don’t know why, but I’m seriously obsessed with the siblings. I think they’re escaping a religious cult, which is totally my thing. Hannah did a great job maintaining a conversation about a game that can’t really be talked about, but we at least found out more about the setting and theme for Part II. For now, I’ll be re-watching those trailers on a weekly basis and counting down the days until E3 2018.
Overall, I was impressed with PSX and would definitely attend again. Aside from the booths and panels, there was also an opportunity to collect cards and unlock rewards on the app, some of which included free Playstation themes. The official merchandise area also had a lot to offer and it was refreshing to see feminine and more gender-neutral clothing. The prices were actually decent, too: $25 for most shirts, $50-$60 for sweaters, and there were even some really nice outdoor gear like insulated jackets. Nothing here felt cheesy or forced, and you can tell that Playstation actually cares about what their merchandise looks like. Oh, and I never really felt bored, either. You can sit and watch people play trivia, have your picture taken at countless booths, grab something to eat, or go for a walk outside since re-entry was very easy. There’s always something to do.
Hopefully this gives some insight as to what you can expect at PSX, but if any of you have questions, please let me know. I can’t wait to be back in California for SDCC next year!
CONVENTION CENTER RATING
- Location: 10/10. The Anaheim Convention Center is honestly really beautiful. It’s also surrounded by every type of hotel imaginable and was really easy to find a restaurant or drugstore within walking distance. Getting a shuttle from the hotel back to LAX was also easy and affordable.
- Parking: ?/10. I didn’t drive, but I also didn’t see a parking ramp or anything next to the convention center, so I’m not sure what the overall situation is like.
- Accessibility: 10/10. Again, it’s hard for me to give this a confident rating because I only encountered one person in a wheelchair. However, the convention was really spacious and I don’t think anyone with a disability would have an issue getting around.
- Cleanliness: 10/10. This place was spotless, but most of the booths didn’t allow food or drinks and anyone under 18 wasn’t allowed, which probably helped.
- Bathrooms: 10/10. Probably the best bathrooms I’ve seen at a convention and majority of the time, a custodian was always in the room to fix up the stalls and counters.
- Staff: 10/10. Probably the friendliest and knowledgable staff I’ve come across. I don’t know if they were all volunteers or paid, but they all seemed to actually care about making sure you had a good time.
- Food: 7/10. I ordered a macchiato from inside the venue and got some weird, foamy latte thing instead. There are a lot of food options within the venue, but I recommend going into the hotel connected to the venue. They have chains like Baja Fresh and Starbucks without the convention surcharge. Being vegan usually means I’m packing my own meals, but I’m glad I didn’t have to worry about that here.
PLAYSTATION EXPERIENCE RATING
- Guests: 10/10. Again, from my perspective of being a shameless Uncharted and TLOU fangirl, it was nearly overwhelming sitting in the same room as the directors, writers, and actors who made these games come to life. It would’ve been cool to meet some of them, but I get that direct fan interaction isn’t a part of PSX.
- Panels: 9/10. The panels were arguably the highlight of my weekend and I like that they were all professionally ran since some fan panels can be a little awkward or underwhelming. It would’ve been cool to see a little more, though. I think there were less than 10 panels altogether.
- Content: 8/10. It’s hard for me to judge this year’s content since I haven’t really paid attention before this, but I was overall impressed with what I saw. However, a lot of things people were expecting to see here had already been shared overseas at Paris Games Week, so a lot of the suspense was gone.
- Organization: 8/10. My rating isn’t perfect because of the whole autograph fiasco. However, the rest of the event was ran pretty smoothly, which seems to be a huge upgrade from previous years.
- Affordability: 8/10. Early bird badges were $65 and my roundtrip flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles was $185. $40 to pay for a roundtrip shuttle to the hotel in Anaheim, but my friend was very awesome and covered the hotel expense. I think the convention was worth it, but you will definitely save a lot more if you pay for everything when it’s first announced.
- Staff: 10/10. Staff was incredibly nice, patient, and actually knew what they were talking about.