Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your game.
This was one of the changing overhead banners as you entered PAX AUS. And it was one that stuck with me. Being a fan of the 80’s TV series Cheers, it was immediately apparent where the entrance quote came from. And for me, walking into PAX AUS feels like walking down those famous stairs in Boston and into the bar. With this being my fourth journey to the event, there are beginning to be a few familiar faces, and you get the sense that a wonderful community has developed since the first PAX AUS back in 2013.
As I strolled into the Expo hall, the large publishers with their fancy advertising are like the large breweries. You immediately want to go up to Sam or Woody or Coach and ask for one their beers. Of course, in this case, each of the large publishers has brought along new varieties for you to try out. Ubisoft whet my taste buds with games such as For Honor, South Park: The Fractured But Whole, Steep,or Watch Dogs 2. Namco Bandai quenched my thirst with titles such as Tekken 7 and Final Fantasy XV. Playstation, Microsoft and Nintendo were also tempting me with their wares.
Trying something new
But, as has been the case with the last couple of years, I found myself moving about the PAX Rising areas, sampling the products from the smaller indie developers. They’re the sort of thing that you would ask Carla or Diane for at the bar, the fancy cocktail that has a number of elements mixed to form a wonderful concoction. Although they don’t have the same resources available to them as the big publishers, most are of a high quality despite being in various stages of completion. You can see our run-down on many of the indie games here.
The major theme for this year’s PAX AUS was definitely VR (Virtual Reality). Everyone from the major publishers down to the smaller indie developers seem focused on implementing VR into their games, or developing their games purely for VR in mind. With Playstation pushing their VR device, and Steam emphasising the Vive, developers have turned their attention to new and different ways in which to use the devices in gaming scenarios. Hardware and peripheral manufacturers such as ASUS and HyperX were also on show with their latest devices and were more than happy to hand out a few freebies to the patrons. Who doesn’t like free swag?
But there are always those who like to go old-school, and PAX AUS continues to cater for those would rather use a table to play their games. It’s like going back to your favourite aged whiskey after you’ve been shown the latest fruit-infused beer that the indie developers have been handing around. Magic the Gathering had a section where newcomers could learn the game, and other areas allowed people to try their hand at board and card games both new and old.
Dressing up for the occasion
Despite starting off a little slowly on Friday, there were some wonderful costumes on display over the weekend. Indeed, there were so many Overwatch characters strolling the grounds of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre you might have believed that BlizzCon was on at the same time (which it was, but in the US). There were heaps of comic book and anime characters and those who came dressed as their favourite video game characters.
Sit around chatting
After savouring the various tastes, it’s always good to sit down and relax. The Panels had some wild and wonderful content, with some feeling like you were sitting next to Cliff as he told you one of his unbelievable tales. For a little more action, you could have headed over to the PAX Arena and watch the tournaments, with some major professional e-sport competitions. Or check out the Omegathon, of which the final was contested for the first time by two females. There goes the stereotype gamer out the window.
Always glad you came
Whether you’re into traditional board and card games, video games, dressing up, listening to panels or checking out the latest gaming hardware and peripherals, the beauty of PAX AUS is that it has something for everyone. Whether you’re a disgruntled postal worker, a house painter or an uptight psychiatrist, there will be something that interests you. And like the bar in Cheers, you’re always welcomed warmly by those serving out the drinks. The other patrons are equally friendly, and if you chat enough with them, you’re sure to make a friendship that lasts a lifetime. I’m looking forward to the next chance I get to walk down those steps and enter with shouts of “Norm!”