PAX Melbourne, otherwise known as Penny Arcade Expo, is a three-day gaming festival that celebrates video games, arcade games and tabletop games. It is an opportunity for indie developers and large publishers to share their upcoming games with the media and gamers alike.
The only event of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, gaming fans travel from all over Australia, and even internationally to attend this annual gaming expo in Melbourne.
My Poppet contributor Melissa Gaggiano is a gaming and pop culture fan, so I sent her off to PAX Melbourne to be My Poppet’s roving reporter for the weekend.
Melissa’s PAX Highlights
For the uninitiated, wandering into PAX can overwhelm the senses. There is just so much going on. In addition to the gaming stands in the main hall, there are also a multitude of contests and panels in the theaters.
The panels span discussion from the frivolous like “We Rate Video Games Dogs”, to serious topics on video game ethics. With so much on it may seem hard to know which way to go or where to even start at an event as big as this.
Sensory overload is an issue for me. But once I was inside the main expo hall (after getting over my initial people anxiety), I panned the space I was in and let the visual and audio wash over me. After a minute I gauged my sensory confusion to be 4/10, that was a level I could cope with.
I am a casual gamer, a fact that would cast me off as nothing more than a bit of navel fluff in some circles. The casualness of my gaming is a choice and due in part to my enjoyment of a multitude of pursuits, including crafting, designing, reading, writing and dancing in the living room.
As a gamer I was drawn to PAX for two reasons – to check out the hard-working developers, and the cosplay action.
PAX Melbourne – Meeting the Developers
Gaming developers and publishers, both national and international had a presence at PAX Melbourne. I was most interested to check out the home-grown talent. Here is what caught my eye:
With Tin Man Games I discoursed with a digital parrot and disappeared into a VR game for the first time in my life. Amazingly I didn’t come out with a headache or needing a puke bucket. I played Table of Tales, a VR tabletop swashbuckling adventure game on the high seas. Having grown up on The Goonies the attic setting of this game, mixed with the interactive tabletop, talking parrot and scripted humor, this game had me at ‘talking parrot’. This game will have a planned release on Playstation Store in 2019.
Smash Byte Games, appeared at PAX as part of the AIE Incubator program, with their imaginative take of a snow day, and you’re the snow person. Aptly titled – Snow Mercy. Snow Mercy is a friendly looking multiplayer battlefield. Yes, I am quite aware that I just used ‘friendly’ and ‘battlefield’ in the same sentence. Moving on… this game invites you to build up your snow fort by collecting supplies and alternatively pester your friends with snow fights. The game continues refinement and is well on the way toward a 2019 launch.
Where the Snow Settles, by Tasmanian gaming developer Myriad opens with Aurelia, a girl setting out beyond her village hoping to find her missing sister. A journey and snow! I’m sensing a theme to the games that have caught my eye at PAX Melbourne. I have a romanticised notion about snow, so this game is already scoring points, with its changing snowy landscape. The game’s cute quality is balanced with a moody atmosphere and subtle colour palette. This game is both an external and introspective journey. The release date is for Where the Snow Settles is TBA.
US Developer, Devolver Digital, have come out with Gris, a symbolic journey of loss. The game, though a somewhat reminiscent of such games as Journey and Old Man’s Journey, stands on it’s own, with it’s uniquely animated sequencing. Imagine opening a concept art book or stepping into a lowbrow city gallery and finding the prints coming to life. This game will come out on Nintendo Switch and PC in December this year. I can hardly wait.
PAX Melbourne – The Cosplay Contest
I was in two very different head-spaces about being in the audience of a cosplay contest. Firstly I was quite excited. But also, I was wondering if the show was going to make me cringe. Thankfully my excitement was on the mark, and while there were some cringe-worthy moments in the contest. It was all done in a hilariously good way. The MC was engaging and helped the most nervous of competing cosplayers bring out their inner goddess/warrior/soul collector.
Melissa’s Expo Survival Guide
There are several keys to surviving any kind of expo. I’ve given you some of my tips to help you enjoy and get the most out of any conference, expo or event like Comic-Con:
1. Make a Plan
First check the schedule of events. Expos will provide a schedule on their websites. So before you head out, write a list of the events that most interest you, noting time and location.
2. Get a Map
Know the lay of the land. Get ye a map! Upon arrival at the expo, casually walk around. It’ll be a lot less intimidating once you know the placement of the theaters and stands you most want to visit. And just as important, is knowing where the loos and dining areas are.
3. Set a realistic Schedule
There may be a real lot of mini events you want to do, but the reality is you will burn out very easily, if you try to do it all. With no Time-Turner or magical stamina elixirs in your inventory, you must plan your expo adventure carefully. If you can do it plan two or more visits to the expo – after all, it is there for three days. When the theater events are back-to-back, or indeed overlapping be prepared to cut something from your itinerary; Unless, you don’t mind stampeding through the corridor and taking out a cosplay War Hammer party in your wake, in your mad attempt to have it all.
4. Take a Break
Know your limitations: It is not unusual for expo goers to be there all day, every day. But as we are talking about gamers who will easily spend an entire day grinding their way through a beloved game, I would say they have exceptional endurance for going long hours. Not me, though. Again reminder – casual gamer here! I know my physical limitations for any one activity and that is two hours. So that is what I work with. Listen to your body, customize your expo experience to your endurance levels and you will have a better time.
5. Take some Snacks
No expo is complete without a food hall. But after blowing your spending money on an expo pass, the mouth-watering fried chips might be beyond your budget. I recommend bringing your own bottle of water, an apple and a sandwich. Keep those energy levels up and stay hydrated. You’ll last longer and you will not be responsible for the halitosis parting the crowds.
Melissa is a multi-passionate artist and writer, with an interest in pop culture. She is a regular craft project contributor to My Poppet MAKES.