UPDATE: Fixed some stuff and talked more about panels!
Well I’m back home after a mega weekend at the inaugural PAX Australia. I had a bunch of fun but am tired as hell.
All in all, PAX was pretty great. A bunch of things to do and see, and it went okay for the first time in Australia. There were definite teething problems but they were reactive and listened to criticisms.
I went to PAX wanting to see a lot of panels. At least two a day. I managed to get to half of that, and none of the ones I had in my schedule as “must see”. I got to:
- Thugs and Magicians: Deconstructing a Cut-scene with Plastic Wax: I went to this with a friend just on a lark. I didn’t know that they had made my one of my most favourite game trailers of all time. Shame they ran out of time.
- Not Fair? Then Grow Some Ovaries and DO Something About it!: I think I was expecting something different from “the ovaries talk” but the guidebook was fairly clear. Really interesting life talk by Epona Schweer, although she needed to minimize the “I’m not a great public speaker” jokes as it directly contradicted her main point of being how you project yourself. She dealt with a bipolar crowd quite well.
- Pitch Your Game Idea: Hilarious panel where people gave elevator pitches for silly games. A few people were worrying, but overall it was a riot. The winner basically pitched a less serious Castle Doctrine with a better gameplay loop, though I don’t think many people picked that up. I did like the guy who suggested a Google Glass ARG where you meet new people and socialize by going on “MMO raids” to museums, pubs and parks.
I was really disappointed to not get to the Good Game or any of the Penny Arcade panels. Even a dinky RPG panel was standing room only one hour before the presentation.
If you missed the Borderlands 2 panel, GameSpot AU has you covered.
- MC Frontalot. Seeing MC Frontalot live, and getting to have a chat with him the next day. An upstanding fellow who put on a good show despite a smaller turnout and venue problems.
- Cosplayers. The cosplayers put in an amazing effort. A great variety of well-made ones, a few inspired ones (the Wii fit girl was great), and a general respect for all of them. Mad props to the people in less warm ones that endured the cold and the rain. I didn’t see any particularly creepy guys chasing cosplayers, which I hope was indicative.
- Responsiveness of the organizers. When it was rainy, there were extra tents up for outside areas. They kept lines consistent. They listened to and acknowledged issues. Which is great for a first time out. Next year will be interesting.
- The Enforcers. Goddamn. Wrangling lines and grumpy people, entertaining people, standing in the cold and wet, keeping things moving and even dealing with some weirdos – these guys were the heart and soul of PAX. I wanted to shout so many of them beers.
- Board game area. Loads of people had an absolute blast getting a new board game and playing it with their friends or folks just wandering by. It’d be nice if it were separated from the board game competitions and the Magic the Gathering fanatics, but meh.
- The audience. People were having fun and having fun with each other. I hardly saw any actual nastiness like cutting in lines, stealing or breaking stuff, being a meanie, or trying to ruin other people’s time.
- Indie representation. A really big chunk of the Expo Hall was devoted to indie games. An also sizable chunk was devoted to universities that offered game or art development courses, which was cool.
- Panels. Every panel routinely had a full line an hour before the actual event. I got to one panel a day but had scheduled for at least double that. @PAXAus_Lines helped a bunch, but occasionally missed a beat. There was one big room (hardly used), two small ones and one tiny one. Not a huge number of panels on, and when there was, you’d typically be too late to get a place in the crazy early line.
- Swag bags. These were really uninspiring. I had heard legend about all the neat stuff in them. It was more bag than swag. You got a free small pack of Magic cards, some stickers and a bunch of advertising. Then again, there were bugger all big industry leaders there (only Microsoft and Nintendo), and they were really feeling the gig out.
- Industry players. No EA, Sony, Valve, Blizzard, Rockstar, 2K… hell, not even Zynga. Maybe it was just the first year and they didn’t want to risk it, but a bunch of these companies have Australian branches or are like 30% Australian (I’m looking at you, Valve). Not super-inspiring for interest in Australian gamers.
- Xbone. As with the previous point, I’m glad that someone big rocked up, but Microsoft just can’t stop making mis-steps with the Xbox One. Their display for Friday is down in the gallery below. On Saturday there was a small sign, and on Sunday (the last day) there was an actual Xbox One for you to crouch down and gawk at. Terrible. Meanwhile they had literally wall-shuddering demonstrations that were one of the few panels that weren’t full. No-one seems to respect the Xbox One, and Microsoft didn’t really help that in Australia at their one big chance to.
- Booth babes. Sennheiser had a photo booth with women dressed like sexy cops. What’s that got to do with headphones? No idea. World of Tanks had an assortment of ladies in little red dresses with an army cap and jacket, which was less exploitative than Sennheiser, but still not great. Apparently the Penny Arcade crew told them about the “no booth babes” policy and they said, “Yep sure. Gotcha” and organized booth babes anyway.
- Competitions. There were apparently a bunch of competitions on, including the Omegathon, but there was no buzz about it. If there were Magic competitions going on, I didn’t stumble across them. League of Legends did it’s usual insane rowdy thing, but even that was badly placed (there were heaps of people, which impinged on the rest of the expo hall, but then the expo hall impinged on them as well).
- PC area. The PC lan and Bring Your Own Computer areas were away from everything else, and were fairly underwhelming. PC hardware had a strong showing in the expo hall, though.
Thanks heaps and heaps to the cosplayers who let me take photos of their absolutely rad outfits. I wish my phone/camera skills were worthy of your fantastic efforts.
In the end…
Overall it was a great three days, even with the first-time woes. Food was tasty if unhealthy, and fairly reasonably priced for a captive audience – I expected much more exorbitant prices. Same with the merch, which surprised me greatly. I bought many t-shirts, as did everyone who came.
I used the weekend to talk to random folks and get photos of cosplayers, which was tricky for a shy and overly polite guy like me. Everyone was really friendly and accommodating, so I think I leveled up in my geek skills. Next year promises to be great, now that we all know what we’re in for and how to make it a fun time. But for now, I think it’s time to sleep and rest my sore, sore feet.