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PAX Survival Guide: What do I see?

Hint: One day will never be enough

PAX Aus 2019 draws ever closer and as a result, I am filled increasingly with a sense of anxiety and excitement in equal parts. And, of course, it means it’s time for another instalment of the PAX Survival Guide, what you need to know if you’re heading to your first PAX, your third PAX, or if you’re a time traveller from the future attending your 100th PAX 2019 because you just really specifically like this year.

When anyone asks me what to see at PAX Aus, I generally use this video to respond:

So, needless to say, there’s both a lot to do and a lot to see. So much so that seeing it all in one day is almost impossible unless you are a master of meticulous planning. Even going all three days, you still have to have a solid plan and a good idea of exactly what you want to see and do, lest you walk away from the experience realising you totally forgot to look at that one thing you wanted to look at.

I can’t make your plan for you, but I can give you an idea of what’s at PAX Aus if you’re new to it or need a bit of a refresher, so you can get an idea of how to plan your day(s).

Get the Pax app!

First thing’s first. Get the PAX app. For old-school PAX Aus fans, PAX Aus no longer has its own unique app and is instead absorbed into the larger PAX app. But, fear not, it still has all the same features you’ve come to know and love.

The PAX app is a complete list of panels throughout the day, plus tournaments and the like. You can view each item, see what it’s about, and then choose whether or not to add it to your schedule along with an alarm to alert you before the event happens. It’s super handy as a way to plan out your panels and see what other panels are on offer, all from your phone/tablet/smart fridge/whatever.

It’ll also host the PAX XP event, a cool scavenger hunt style event that’ll scan hidden QR codes through the convention for a fun surprise. Though the details for this year are, as of the time of writing, unreleased. The app itself is also incomplete at the time of writing, so if you download it, keep checking regularly for a full schedule.

Panels

The panels at PAX Aus are hugely different from any other convention, and this is something I wish I knew coming into it for the first time. PAX Aus panels are lead by industry professionals from here and abroad from every sector of the games industry, other panels are lead by fans or people knowledgeable in their fields, with everything from tabletop to behind the scenes looks at your favourite games and how they’re put together.

I highly recommend checking out the full schedule, but each panel is unique and they run throughout the entire day, from 10:30 am right through to midnight long after the convention floor has closed. The easiest way to explain panels is to take a look at the schedule and click on anything that appeals to you.

Whether you want to learn something, have a bit of a laugh, or learn something while having a bit of a laugh, the panels are amazing. Also, a good way to rest your feet for an hour if you’re exhausted.

The AFK Room

Is PAX a little too extreme for you? A little too hectic, too loud, too many people, and you just need somewhere to cool off for a while? There’s a multitude of reasons why PAX can be a little full on to any individual, and sometimes you just need a bit of a break.

The Take This AFK Room is designed to allow folks to take a moment away, chill out, regroup, and get that much-needed relaxation. The room is usually a ways away from the floor, meaning it’s nice and quiet. It’s also full of mental health resources if you need a little bit of extra support, volunteers who can tell you all about the things the room offer, as well as some relaxation activities. Usually, these are colouring sheets or handheld consoles (with headphones), though it can change from year to year.

It’s definitely worth checking out even if you don’t think you need it. You might just be surprised.

Diversity Lounge

The Diversity Lounge is a PAX mainstay and is dedicated to welcoming people from all walks of life, across every background, together to play games, talk about games, and engage in activities about games. It’s a little bit of everything.

They hold their own panels and events throughout the day, with introductions to tabletop games, talks about developing games with diversity in mind, and various stalls with information on diverse game initiatives in Australia. It’s an amazing space that’s great to chill out in, and also, full of opportunities to win some cool swag.

I won a pair of Just Dance sunnies once. I shall treasure them always.

NEXT Exhibit

The NEXT Exhibit was set up to showcase indie developers worldwide who may otherwise not get their games seen. Dedicated to showing off underrepresented developers, this is an AMAZING thing to check out. Especially this year, there will be talks across all three days from the developers of the games on show so you can learn a little more about what’s gone into creating these amazing games. The titles on offer this year are:

Unpacking – Witch Beam
Best Friend Forever – Starcolt
Continental Drift – Haraiva
Dollhouse – Olivia Haines

Jackbox

Whether you’re a Jackbox veteran or you’ve never played before, PAX Aus Jackbox sessions are amazing to take part in. Every year, the latest Jackbox is put up on a screen on the panel side of the building, there are a few beanbags strewn around, and from there you can sit down, take a load off, load up jackbox.tv and join in the fun.

Speedruns

Relatively new to PAX Aus, the speedrun stage is a thing of beauty. Running different games throughout the day, watch Australia’s best speedrunners gather together to show off what they can do, playing through some of your favourite games as fast as humanly possible. And then some.

Handheld Lounge

The handheld lounge is a dedicated handheld area, full of comfy beanbags you can chill out on while you bring your Switch, 3DS or Nokia N-Gage. It’s up to you! But I recommend bringing something you can enjoy with other people, make a few new friends.

VR Lounge

Has VR always been something you’ve wanted to try, but you’ve never had the opportunity? Check it out here! Please don’t get motion sick all over the place though! And be prepared for a bit of a wait, there’s only so many VR things and a lot of people who want to try it. But the wait is worth it because there are not just headsets, but companies bring along full VR setups including those cool things you can walk around on. It’s amazing. Or, so I hear, but I never waited in line long enough.

Indie games

I’m trying to avoid mentioning too much about the con floor because you’re going to be spending most of your time here anyway. But listen, play indie games. There’s a lot, they’re Australian, and we need to support our industry. But most of all, they’re all really, really good. The consistency of quality year on year is amazing. Please play these games.

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