PAX West, a celebration of all gaming-related things on the West Coast, is in full swing. Attendees go to watch panels about their favorite games, listen to press announcements from their favorite game makers, meet their biggest idols. And, when they leave, there’s nothing left to show for the experience except an assortment of promotional swag items, celebrating brands, games, guilds, and, perhaps most importantly, memories.
It’s no secret that people love freebies, and game makers who care about their communities offer all kinds of things to entice people to demo their products and to make their dedicated fans love them even more. But at a convention like PAX, it can be tough to navigate the scene and figure out what’s for grabs from a favorite brand or company.
However, a Redditor named MegaFerret777 is helping PAX West attendees from all over make the most of their swag experience. Like the dungeon maps in the The Legend of Zelda, the PAX West Swag Map makes it easier to track down exactly what attendees want to find and help them navigate through the chaos.
The Genesis of the Swag Map
“Going off of my experience from PAX East 2017, I wanted to go about East 2018 a bit differently,” he told TheGamer over Discord chat. “I remembered how cool some of the free stuff was that I didn't get my hands on, and thought of how to keep track of that sort of thing for my personal use. I decided to share my work with r/PAX in case anyone else was into swag collecting as much as I was.”
MegaFerret777 then made several additional PAX swag guides, including a map for PAX South 2019 and a list for PAX Australia 2018.
But, it wasn’t until this year’s PAX East, which took place in March, that he began to realize just how much reach his maps had within the community.
“When I posted the swag map for East 2019 in the Pax Community Discord, I started getting messages saying ‘Hey, I noticed someone posted your swag map in the Facebook group.’ It was then that I found that about 100 people had seen my work, and some have used it at their trip to East that year,” MegaFerret777 said. “At that point, I realized I had a big impact on the community.”
It’s obvious that he works hard on the maps, requiring crowdsourced submissions to include verification that support the claims. This typically comes from official sources, such as Tweets or blog posts from brands’ official accounts. He then fashions these into an easy-to-navigate map format.
Unfortunately, the wider reach of the maps and accompanying lists have also subjected these documents to trolling from at least one anonymous viewer, who accessed and deleted the 2019 PAX East swag list. In its place, the user inserted an image of Ice_Poseidon, a controversial IRL streaming personality.
MegaFerret777 has indicated that, should this happen again, he’ll have to make the collaborative spreadsheet into a view-only document, limiting viewers’ abilities to add their own updates.
But that doesn't appear to have been an issue this time around.
“Swag Hunter” Culture, PAX West and Beyond
As of today, MegaFerret777 says there are about 40 people looking at the PAX West Swag Map at any given time. The accompanying list currently names more than 60 unique items.
The maps are of obvious interest to “swag hunters,” a term used to define a subculture dedicated to collecting the coolest and rarest swag. But even casual gaming fans can make great use of the maps as well, leveraging it to track down unique goodies from their favorite brands and development companies.
He suggests that part of the appeal is that PAX swag is generally limited in nature, and it’s not always easy for the brands themselves to discern a true fan from a person who just wants a free item.
“Oftentimes, the stuff given out at conventions never sees the light of day after the con,” he said. “This way, swag is guaranteed to be given to people that actually want it, as opposed to being thrown in the way of regular attendees when they're trying to go about their PAX experience. In short, to swag hunters, it's a cool item from a booth you like. To everyone else, it's shameless advertising.”
And, as one might expect, the swag map master also has his personal favorites as well.