Last week, for three days, the Melbourne Convention Centre played host to PAX Australia 2014- a game expo with a difference. I was there taking in the sights and sounds of what is probably Australasia’s greatest festival of gaming culture.
Born from the video gaming-related online comic-strip by Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins the Penny Arcade eXpos have traditionally only been held in the US. The US hosts three PAX shows a year, PAX Prime in Washington (the show’s original location), PAX East in Boston and for the first time this year, PAX South in San Antonio. Last year’s Melbourne show was the first PAX to be held out of the US.
Unlike most gaming expos, PAX Australia accommodated fans from every corner of game playing, including card games like Magic the Gathering, traditional role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, tabletop war-gaming and board games such as The Settlers of Catan.
Retro gaming also had a huge presence at the show with a massive free-play area packed with machines from Xbox 360s to vintage Atari 2600s. There was also a whole area with bean-bags for visitors to chill out and play their own hand-held consoles. There where also areas for PC LAN matches and modern console tournaments.
Of course, the large video game publishers were present, with lots of them showing off new games for the first time In Australasia. Ubisoft had their Assassin’s Creed Unity playable for the first time in this part of the world, ahead of its launch next week. Bethesda were demoing their upcoming online multiplayer game, BattleCry, again for the first time in Australasia. EA Games were there with Dragon Age: Inquisition, playable for fans, and also regular live demo presentations with the game’s developers from Bioware.
Traditionally, PAX shows have a strong focus on indie games and PAX Australia was no exception. There was a huge ANZ Indie area showcasing the work of local developers including kiwi outfit Frogshark showing of their odd physics-based combat game, Swordy.
Even Microsoft got in on the indie action with some of their top ID@Xbox games like Ori and the Blind Forest and Never Alone standing shoulder to shoulder on the Xbox booth alongside Forza Horizons 2, Halo Master Chief Collection and Sunset Overdrive.
Hugely popular outfits like World of Tanks publisher Wargaming.net and the fantasy multiplayer online battle arena game, League of Legends had massive stands with professionally commentated tournaments and shows all weekend.
Local PC component vendors and international peripheral manufacturers such as Razor, Logitec and Tesoro were showing off (and giving away) some of the latest tech available for hardcore PC gamers.
PAX is as much about the culture of gaming as it is about the games themselves. Over the show’s three days numerous panel discussion were held with local and international guest speakers discussing aspects of the games industry from storytelling to writing game reviews.
The was a huge amount of cosplayers roaming the show floors and posing for photos, as well as turning heads as they wandered out of the Convention Centre and into the city. Organised cosplay groups were also as the show, including the local Mandalorian Merc Star Wars Costume Club.
PAX Australia 2014 was three days of gaming mayhem in a picturesque setting on the bank of the Yarra River, in the beautiful city of Melbourne. It’s independent and gaming culture focus making it a very different experience to the likes of the big E3 show in LA and Sydney’s EB Expo.
And the good news is that PAX Australia will be back next year. So, if you are a keen gamer it’s well worth a trip to Melbourne for a look.