Debs tells us a tale of her adventures at the first ever PAX Australia held in Melbourne. What was there? What did she like or dislike? Find out below.
It’s been two weeks since PAX Australia hit, and even though my brain is a little foggy thanks to the following bout of the dreaded “PAX Pox”, the fun I had at Australia’s first Penny Arcade Expo still lingers in my mind.
As a Melbourne local, I’ve been to other locally held geek events such as the Supanova Pop Culture expo, and the recently held Oz Comic-Con, both of which tour Australia with different guests and showcases. Unfortunately, both are severely lacking in the gaming department. So when the opportunity arose to check-out an event that focused on the gaming community, I was pretty ecstatic. Games? Showcased for moi? Yes please!
That is… if you could get in the door. As expected, there were lines and crowds everywhere. Aside from the obvious difficulty at getting into the venue itself, everywhere I went lines and crowds wound around the pavilions and temporary corridors while attendees patiently waited to check out panels and preview games and hardware. Popular panels included “BioWare Journeys Down Under”, “Inside Borderlands” and “State of Play: Competitive Gaming and eSports in Australia”, though I’ve yet to hear about a poor turnout to any of the panels presented. Meanwhile, guests such as Penny Arcade icons Gabe (Mike) & Tycho (Jerry), as well as regular visitors to the ol’ down under, Roosterteeth folk Burnie Burns, Gus Sorola and Jack Pattillo, whisked fans into signing frenzies.
In the exhibition pavillion where attendees could actually get hands on with the latest games and gear – or merely look in the case of Microsoft’s Xbox One – crowds swarmed what was arguably the most prominent booth of the whole expo. Riot showcased their ever-popular League of Legends game, hosting an impressive cosplay competition as well as the Oceanic Season 3 Championship finals on the main stage for a AU$40,000 prize pool. Definitely couldn’t squeeze past the tense and cheering spectators then.
Coming a close second was the Pokemon Australian National Championships, with the winner earning a place at the World Championships held in Canada. Players were chosen from Adelaide, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne competitions to battle it out on the big-screen. Meanwhile, spectators camped out on comfy couches to watch beloved Pokemon duke it out for Pokemon Master glory.
For those not in the competitive spirit, there was still plenty to check out. Hardware giants such as Steelseries held public Counter Strike: Global Offensive mini-tourneys versus sponsored Team Immunity, while Alienware showcased newly unveiled gaming laptop range to eager gamers. Astro Gaming demoed their increasingly popular headsets to the masses, while the mover-and-shakers at Oculus Rift showed gamers the future of gaming with their amazing technology. I was surprised that, given the range of hardware being shown off, peripheral giants Razer weren’t in amongst the crowds to show off their fancy green gear, or Nvidia preaching their new handheld, the Shield, to the crowds. Perhaps next year…
In the meantime, gamers were previewing titles such as Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell Blacklist with a little bit of Spies versus Mercs and Just Dance. Halfbrick were raking in more souls to their highly addictive games including new title, Colossatron: Massive World Threat, while just around the corner, in a darkened square booth, mature gamers circled the Saints Row IV preview booth, hoping to get a peek at the controversial game. Konami and Sega both turned up to show gamers new Ninja Gaiden, Dynasty Warriors and Rome: Total War respectively. Even Nintendo let fans push through to demo Super Mario 3D World, Zelda: A Link Between Worlds and Pikmin 3 – though during the Pokemon Championship battles this was pretty much a suicide run.
Some Australian Indie developers had a chance to showcase their specific works, too. Antichamber, Black Annex, Duet, Fractured Soul, Influx and Macguffin’s Curse all got the special treatment, and stood proud and tall next to the bigger companies in gaming. Educators at the Academy of Interactive Entertainment, JMC Academy and Swinburne University were set up nearby to catch those feeling a little more than motivated by the indies to contribute to the industry themselves.
It was easy to feel a little overwhelmed with the nonstop crowds, and the organizers of PAX Australia were kind enough to provide some chillout areas. The number of folks camping out in the table-top area was staggering. If they weren’t playing Magic: The Gathering and other card games, Risk, Settlers of Catan or one other of the host of board games freely available for attendees to borrow, they were lounging on couches getting 3DS streetpasses from everyone who came through the doors. I personally couldn’t keep up with my streetpasses, regardless of how hard I tried. However, if you were missing out on some serious one-on-one time with the PC, the folks over at Respawn LAN set up a PC gaming area plus Bring Your Own Computer section for the truly hardcore. Rows upon rows of still gamers lit up with the gentle glow of their computer screen was always a nice sight to end the day.
Throughout my whole PAX experience, the worst I heard was that the BioWare panel should’ve been held in a bigger room. For an event whose tickets sold out months beforehand, I honestly was a little surprised at the never-ending lines. Being told that I had to consider lining up at least an hour before a panel I wanted to see seemed kinda crazy, especially when it felt like there was always something to see, or fellow gamers from across Australia to finally meet! Funnily enough, with all the craziness I still didn’t get to meet everyone – a sentiment I’m sure was felt across the board. But at the end of the day it seems like an expo without people lining up somewhere means that you’ve done something wrong.
PAX Australia 2014? I’ll be there. And hopefully to future events. With the EB Games Expo and PAX Aus now being regular events to hit Australian shores, I’m glad that video games are finally getting a mainstage to cater to the demanding masses. It brings the Aussie gaming community together even more. Really, it’s about bloody time!