Hooked Gamers' PAX AUS adventure

Hooked Gamers' PAX AUS adventure


When the first non-US Penny Arcade Expo was announced, our Australian correspondent, William immediately put his hand up to take a look on behalf of the team here at Hooked Gamers. What did he think of the inaugural event?

The opening day of the show (being housed at the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds) started well. The sun was shining and the weather, apart from a gusty breeze, was wonderful. It was as if the gaming gods were shining down on the event. The expectant crowd was still piling in, anxious to see what was inside. After picking up my media pass and wandering past the throng of people waiting to get inside (the media pass didn’t have a heap of extra privileges from the standard pass, but getting in early on day one was a big plus), I headed over to the Expo Hall to see what PAX Aus was all about.

Upcoming ware
PAX Aus was about the big publishers showing their new and upcoming wares. Ubisoft was probably the winner in this regard with their large exhibit and hourly shows featuring the likes of Assassin’s Creed 4, Watch Dogs, Splinter Cell Blacklist and Rocksmith 2014. And of course they had all their dancers swinging their Wiimotes to tracks from Just Dance. Nintendo had a laid back feel with beanbag chairs scattered across the floor of their site for gamers to play the 3DS titles on show and to mingle with other 3DS gamers via Streetpass. There were also gamers playing some Nintendo favourites such as Pikmin and Super Mario World on the WiiU.

PAX Aus was about the other big displays. The huge tank set up in the middle of the room surrounded by lovely booth babes in the military regalia signified part of the unmissable World of Tanks exhibit. Combined with the two rows of competitive gaming PCs for attendees to face off against each other and you had one major exhibit. The screens and the PCs were only dwarfed by the Riot Games’ League of Legends exhibit. This was probably the loudest exhibit too, as the stage doubled for the Cosplay catwalk.

PAX Aus was also about Cosplay. There was the cast of Bioshock Infinite, there were Stormtroopers and Rebel pilots, there was Lara Croft, there was Handsome Jack and Claptrap, a number of scantily clad Moxxi’s, some Game of Thrones characters, I’m sure I saw a Doctor Who and there were heaps of superheroes and villains. I applaud them all for their courage, especially the scantily clad ladies on the final two days when the rain set in.

Indie devs
PAX Aus was about indie developers from down under, keen to show the world that they are just as inventive and innovative as anyone else. There was the PAX AUS Indie Showcase, displaying six quality games (some of which we’ve already reviewed on the site). But there were also other games in various stages of completion for PC and mobile devices. Each had swarms of gamers around them trying to see the latest innovation in gaming. A couple even had the Oculus Rift on display.

Virtual gaming
Speaking of which, PAX Aus was about the Oculus Rift and virtual reality gaming. Looking like a large pair of ski goggles, the Oculus Rift provides a wonderful virtual reality gameplay experience. It is lightweight, has full stereo 3D in high definition, and has precise headtracking, meaning that there is minimal blur when you move your head around quickly. Apart from the indie titles using it at the event (Wander looks amazing with it); Valve has given backing to it in the form of Team Fortress 2 support. The headset could definitely be the next gimmick in gaming and I could see a time when it could be combined with Microsoft’s Kinect or the Playstation Move to provide an even more realistic gaming experience. There are even plenty of non-gaming applications that it could be used for, such as medical or military training.

Non video
PAX Aus was also about non video gaming, with half a hall dedicated to Tabletop Gaming. Gamers of all ages playing Dungeons and Dragons and others were playing Magic: The Gathering card game. There was even a large Jenga game on display with challengers attempting to see how high they could go before it toppled over. There were also some old school pinball machines on display with a competition to see who could gain the highest score each day.

Panel shows
PAX Aus was also about the panel shows and the presentations from the likes of Ron Gilbert, Bioware’s Cameron Lee, Rooster Teeth’s Gus, Burnie and Jack as well as Penny Arcade’s own Gabe and Tycho. Microsoft also presented their Xbox One for the first time in Australia to the cheers of the huge audience in the main theatre. The games presented on stage looked great too, with Ryse: Son of Rome, Battlefield 4 and Killer Instinct getting some time before a montage of other games were shown including the next Halo. The shows were tough to get into, with attendees having to wait in line for hours depending on the shows. There were definitely more shows/panel discussions that I wanted to see, but it was literally impossible to see two consecutive shows as the lines were huge for some.

The people
But most of all, PAX Aus was about the people. There have been gaming events in Australia before, but none bigger than this. The organisers did an amazing job getting everything to run as smoothly as it did with so many people around. I’m pretty sure that with the huge amount of people attending, certain plans changed on the fly as the event continued. All the exhibitors were more than happy to show you their wares, despite having to do so for three days. The presentations and the panel shows were informative (the ones I attended anyway), once you got into them. And the attendees themselves were all pleasant and willing to have a chat with the person next in line to them. From my vantage point, the event was a huge success in all departments. I certainly hope the boys from Penny Arcade are willing to forgive the wintery conditions on day two and three (well, it is Winter in Melbourne) and decide they want to visit our shores again next year.