With an event with as much reputation as the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), for it to be held in another country for the first time ever was going to be a big deal, no matter where it would be.
Nobody really knew what to expect as they walked onto the Melbourne Showgrounds on a cold Friday morning. But by the end of the massive 3 days of the first PAX Australia, I felt they delivered on as much as they could. While there were a few downsides, I felt my experience with the show and the expo in general was full of memorable and unforgettable experiences. Here’s a run-down of what I liked and disliked in an easy to read Pro/Con list! If you would like to get a broader view then check the video above.
JOHANN SEBASTIAN JOUST! Seriously, this game is so much fun. We had a great time jumping in again and again, vying for which Progress Bar member would come out the victor. Usually it was none of us but we still had fun none the less. Eddie has even picked up a copy of the game with 4 PlayStation Move remotes to use at his house and it’s still amazing to play.
There was such a welcoming atmosphere throughout our entire stay in Melbourne. Walking into the Melbourne Showgrounds, you were greeted with a big sign that had “Welcome Home” splashed across it. Even beforehand when we were flying down from Brisbane, it was great to see so many groups with either their 3DS’ out or wearing Rooster Teeth clothing. I think there was more gaming talk on that flight than everything else.
There was such a variety of games! Even with the giant Indie section in the main expo hall, there was still tons of stuff to do. With the big booths from Wargaming, Riot Games and Ubisoft also taking up a lot of floor space, it was a little hard to move around at times, but I got to try my hand at a ton of games that I really enjoyed (and a few I didn’t enjoy so much).
The Big Top itself was a massive hit with all the people that were there. I absolutely loved the idea of something that could really bring a sense of community to an expo. With food and sectioned areas dedicated to just playing games of all varieties, it felt like a giant family sitting down and having a great time. Just sitting back, relaxing and playing games with both friends and strangers in a welcoming environment. The idea that someone could pick up a board game that they have never seen before, take a sign with them saying “Newbie’s Welcome” and be inundated with people ready to play within minutes was something that you can’t find anywhere else.
Streetpasses for all the Nintendo people out there! I seriously had not seen so many 3DS’ since Supanova a couple of years ago. Everyone had their 3DS’ out just collecting puzzle pieces or trying out the new games in lines while they waited for panels or food. Unfortunately I thought it would be great idea to take my Vita instead so I could finish Persona 4, and I missed out on what could have become. It really shows the power of the whole Streetpass idea and why it’s one of the best things Nintendo has done. I’m pretty sure Eddie picked up Burnie and Gus from Rooster Teeth! So that’s cool.
Enforcers! As much as I hated the name they were given, it was a surprise that most of these dudes were so friendly. They kept everyone safe and out of harm’s way the entire show. I only encountered a couple that were in any way angry or using their power over others but it was Sunday afternoon and by that point it was time for some much needed sleep. They were just like other patrons, but with cool shirts and sometimes kilts.
Even though I only got into 2 panels, 1 of them being a Media only Q&A and the other being the “Why so Serious?” panel, the wide variety of topics just blew me away. The panel topics that were showcased ranged from serious to hilarious creativity, and it was great to see that people were really interested and still had a great time. Once people were in the panel, nobody complained about the lines or the weather because they knew they were all there for the same reason. The range of panels catered to just about every taste you could want out of a gaming exhibition, and I look forward to them trying to top what they had this year.
Oh and the Massive tank that was brought in by Wargaming. Seriously I mean It was a functioning tank… Enough said.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT! The whole system in Melbourne wasn’t ready for something as big as the influx that PAX Australia brought. There were only a few, limited trains coming in and out of Melbourne Showgrounds and they were at strange times that meant people had to stand in the rain and wait for up to 30minutes before getting pushed against the walls of the train as everyone tried to squeeze on. Let’s just say a lot of people had to get really familiar with one another if they were going to make it to the next stop. Also the trams were always heavily crowded with PAX goers, but that was to be expected too, especially around the 5 or 6pm timeframe.
So many lines. Lines for food, games, panels and not to mention just getting in to the expo. They were everywhere. Sure it was something to be expected, but I just didn’t expect them to be so long. It was great to hear how people spent their time waiting in line. We were told that a bunch of small beach balls were thrown into the crowd, and people made up a game where they would bounce the ball across the queue and see and many bounces they got, which passed the time a little quicker.
While the panels were great, the problem was there wasn’t a lot of space to accommodate the amount of people interested in what was to be shown. I know in particular the panels for the Borderlands and Bioware talks were so long, people were lining up two hours in advance, with a lot of people being turned away. With the “Why So Serious?” panel, I had to line up for an hour and a half to get in and we were just lucky that the undercover walk ways were there to keep us sheltered from the rain. Hopefully with a venue change next year we won’t see this problem be as much of an issue.
For a first time show it was extremely well put together. The worst part was when the show ended on that Sunday night. We trudged off back to reality and leave behind all the great friends we had made. It felt like home as soon as you set foot on the the Melbourne Showgrounds and that atmosphere was there right until the very end. I thoroughly enjoyed my first PAX and cannot wait for the 2014 show back in Melbourne. Congratulations to everyone who organised helped out and made PAX Australia the show it was. See you all next year!