Published on August 1st, 2013 | by Albert Art0
GAMING | PAX Australia 1.0
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Now that the dust has settled on Australia’s first ever Penny Arcade Expo (July 19-21), lets take a look back at PAX Aus 1.0 — what was good, what was bad, and how it stacks up to PAX Prime.
Is the Australian version of PAX worth a flight to the land down under?
Hands down, Penny Arcade Expo has something for every gamer. Whether you’re in Australia, Seattle, or Boston, the folks at Penny Arcade always deliver a fun, memorable weekend of gaming festivities fine-tuned since the first PAX debuting in 2004 in Bellevue, WA. (For the record I’ve been attending PAX since 2005). With everything from console, PC, and table top gaming, to panels, tournaments, and freebies — PAX is a quintessential gaming festival.
Melbourne Showgrounds, Expo Hall
First time expo goers travelling to PAX Australia will no doubt be impressed by the sights and sounds of the show. The avid PAX-goer might think otherwise.
For a debut show, PAX Australia is a pretty impressive entry. With a significant turnout, and full schedule of events, there wasn’t a lack of things to do. However, as is the case with any debut show/expo/festival, this event may not have had all the biggest names in the business headlining, but what it lacked in spectacle, makes up for it with local content.
- A focus on Australian game developers and the Australia gaming community. The amount of indie devs in attendance was impressive, and the games showcased were a creative and quirky bunch. The true spirit of independent games, and Australians showcased were creme of the crop.
- Australian musical guests. A nice change from the usual suspects of PAX Prime, the Aussie musical guests included chiptune artists 7bit Hero, and Soundbytes, with favorites MC Frontalot, and Protomen.
- Variety of local Food vendors inside the Expo grounds. This was a welcome surprise, as every gamer gets hungry for something more than your regular fast food. Melbourne is known for it’s food, and coffee culture, so it was great to see that brought into the expo. Unlike say PAX Prime, where the obligatory food court options and restaurants in the immediate convention area get old fast — (Gameworks, again?! TapHouse, again? Subway, again?). Welcoming the local food and coffee vendors at PAX was a pretty good hipster move by the show organizers, especially considering, the inconvenient location of the Showgrounds.
There’s a lot to see and do during the show, which is great, but you will always find yourself queuing for something. It might be as simple as getting cash from the machine, or waiting in line for food. The line ups at PAX Australia however, seemed especially painful than your average PAX, and is probably because of the venue.
- 1-2 hours in your precious expo schedule eaten up while queuing up for a panel, or presentation. Long queues for the ATM , for the food, for the bathroom, (if you managed to find the bathroom/porto potty). Queuing for the exhibit hall, and queuing IN the exhibit hall for game demos. Being denied entry to see a panel because the room is “At Capacity.” Is it really the fault of the attendee for not lining up 2 hours ahead of time?
- An Expo Hall experience that lacks the ‘umph’ of PAX Prime. When there’s a laser tag game taking up a good chunk of exhibit space, you ask yourself is this just filler? It could be that some possible guests, and exhibitors just ended up going to San Diego Comic Con instead, which happens the same weekend.
- Queuing for the tram to get to Melbourne Showgrounds, and queuing to leave the Melbourne Showgrounds.
- The inconveniences of the disjointed venue. Having to walk outside to get to another area of the expo. We’re gamers, we don’t want to go outside.
For anyone attending PAX Australia, the weather, and public transit are big factors that really shouldn’t be ignored.
- The weather. It’s definitely something unavoidable but worth mentioning. If you choose to go to PAX Australia and you’re flying from the other side of the equator, prepare for Melbourne’s windy, rainy, and cold winter. Heck even Sydney has better weather than Melbourne in winter time.
Prepare to wait for the tram, in the rain.
- The Public Transit local Tram. The Melbourne Showgrounds is not conveniently located in a CDB or downtown city core. It’s inconveniently situated in a suburb far from hotels, and hostels, that requires the use of a slow moving, rickety overcrowded tram system, which you have to catch on the street. In the rain. Yet, that didn’t stop people from attending PAX., BUT surely, should getting to PAX be so inefficient?
- The Venue. Currently, the venue at the Melbourne Showgrounds is a indoor/outdoor complex connected by tents, on a pseudo farm ground. Not exactly the ideal convention venue. It’s combination of layout, and capacity, are annoying, and not suitable for an event this size.
- Travel for out-of-towners, getting to Melbourne. Wouldn’t it easier if PAX Aus was held in Sydney?
Is PAX Australia for you?
PAX Australia is as unique as the city and country it’s hosted in. It’s very much for locals, as well as visitors, and for the odd gamer who saved up some cash to travel to the land down under. If you’re someone above the equator and would rather spend a few days out of your summer in winter playing games and socializing with other gamers in a not-so traditional venue, Melbourne is the place. But really, you could just wait a few weeks, and head over to PAX Prime.
It will be interesting to see PAX Australia progress in future shows.