ONE of the most significant Australian gaming events of the year brought thousands of gamers to Melbourne over the past weekend, giving them an exclusive chance to get hands-on with the latest games, admire cosplay, and discuss all things gaming.
PAX (Penny Arcade Expo) 2018 was held at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre from October 26-28 and can best be described as the closet thing Australia has to the massive E3 expo held annually in Los Angeles.
PAX Australia event director Jono Whyman said there were more than 200 exhibitors at the Melbourne event this year, ranging from AAA game publishers to indie developers, PC and console brands, tabletop game makers, gaming schools and top tier tech hardware brands.
While the organisers declined to provide attendance figures, they did say it was the most successful event in the six years since PAX started in Australia.
“This year featured over 140 panels — the most we ever had for PAX and the show floor alone took up over 30,000 sqm; panel sessions were held over 8 theatres which hold more than 5,00 attendees,” Mr Whyman said.
He said part of the event’s popularity was its community focus and commitment to celebrating and embracing diversity among fans.
“PAX is an opportunity for the entire community to come together and share their passion for gaming — everything we do is for the fans and to celebrate gaming culture,” he said.
Mr Whyman said there had been many highlights from the event, with keynote speaker Rhianna Pratchett, daughter of the late author Sir Terry Pratchett, being high on the list.
“Our charity auction this year drove more than 300 per cent increase in donations compared to 2017 and the Red Cross Blood Drive in conjunction with Blizzard signed up over 500 donors,” he said.
There was a strong indie game element at PAX 2018, with more than 80 independent game developers from Australia and overseas present alongside established AAA studios including Bethesda, Microsoft and Ubisoft.
The 2018 charity auction this year drove more than 300 per cent increase in donations compared to 2017, he said.
West Gippsland-based gamer Dave Brown made the trip to PAX with his wife and said his primary interest was checking out the event in person, seeing some of the upcoming games, and getting to try Virtual Reality for the first time.
“The highlights for us included PlayStation VR and Astrobot Rescue Mission — I had a lot of fun with the short demo I had, and Days Gone is looking pretty spectacular too,” he said.
“Being a PlayStation fan their booth set up was great, plenty to check out, and the heritage wall was fantastic.”
Possibly indicating the event becoming a victim of its own success, a number of attendees — including Mr Brown — reported huge crowds and queues at the event.
“Friday was pretty good crowd wise and wasn’t super busy, but the queue to get in was enormous — I waited in the queue close to 40 minutes after opening before getting on the floor,” he said.
“Saturday was much worse queue wise, and the crowd was massive. Once on the floor it was wall to wall people, if you wanted to play something like say Resident Evil 2 Remastered from memory it was around a two hour wait for maybe a 20 minute demo.
“A couple of people I spoke to bought Saturday passes hoping to try something out; they were able to try one thing because of the people and queues.”
He said all and all he and his wife had “an OK time”, but elected not to go back on the Sunday.
“We had both had enough of the people, the pushing and shoving. It wasn’t over the top, but we certainly noticed it — and we had played what we wanted also,” he said.
“I wanted to try the Days Gone demo again, but they opened it up for bookings which had to be made through the PlayStation Experience app — and as soon as they opened for bookings they were filled instantly.”
While the queues and crowds were certainly noticeable, there was also a strong Cosplay contingent at the expo, with some superb costumes on display covering everything from gaming to anime to general pop culture.
Tabletop gaming, in a section called “PAX Unplugged” proved very popular as well, tying in with the continuing resurgence of board games and pen-and-paper role-playing games generally.
Representing one of the few chances for Australian gamers to get hands-on experience with latest and yet-to-be released games it’s no surprise the event continues to grow in popularity — and the website promises a 2019 return, no doubt to the delight of many.