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REVIEW – PAX Aus

Didn't go? Want to relive the experience? Here's the review

So a lot of people always ask me what PAX Aus is like. Other people who have actually been like to gush at me, and it’s interesting, because despite both attending the same event we can both have wildly different experiences, because it’s such a huge convention that takes place over three days, with each day being hugely different from the last. So, thinking of that, I decided to take a look back at my personal PAX Aus experience. Will it differ much from yours? Or if you’ve never been, does it sound like the kind of thing that you want to see? Please come see it by the way. Please yell with me about video games.

Day 1 – Friday

I wake up at 7:30am because I have a cosplay to get into. I have given myself a ridiculous amount of time to get into it, because it’s the sort of cosplay that ideally you would have a friend with you to help you put it on, but I was alone. I still didn’t get it on properly. I think I actually broke it a little bit, but I’ll come back to that.

I head down to the convention centre, it’s almost 9am when I get there. Which is ideal, because media folks like myself get in at 9am for an extra hour to explore the floor before all hell is unleashed. Kind of literally, because next door in the Bethesda queue hall, it’s Doom themed and I am reliably informed there’s all kinds of pyrotechnics and cool shit going on over there, at which point I’m kind of mad I missed it. I want to make a point of noting that at no point over this weekend will I get to see it in person. I just see videos and second hand accounts and sigh wistfully.

Also I think Bethesda was giving out Fallout themed foam fingers? I’m not sure what I’m more disappointed about missing out on.

Anyway!

The floor, despite being a media only area at this point, is still bustling and full of life. But it’s also a little surreal compared to what I’m used to. Coming in at 10am, things are loud, you’re never the first in, so lines are already formed and noise is already overwhelming. But 9am, a lot of folks are still doing last minute setups. As I wander past the indie booths, I see a lot of testing, a lot of trying to get things running properly, there’s at least a couple of indies that aren’t even there yet.

But, all the same, I managed to find a few that were set up and I had an absolutely amazing time. ANZ developers are absolutely on fire at the moment, but that’s nothing new. There were so many amazing titles, which you can read about right here. The best part about this is that each station is occupied by the people behind the game, so you can ask a bunch of questions and get some really good, insightful answers. The other cool thing is that they’re all super excited to discuss their games! It’s a delight seeing their faces light up when you compliment various aspects and honestly? They deserve it. Every single game I played was on point.

Though, unfortunately, I only had so much time and there were so many games. I didn’t get to try them all. I still regret it. But, I had other things to see, other places to be. And also, I didn’t have any kind of bag to store all those business cards because wearing cosplay without a lot of storage is one of the worst mistakes you can make as a human being. Trust me.

And so, I pull myself away from the indies to take a quick look around the rest of the con floor. The big players are there, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo, Ubisoft, a bunch more. Plus hardware folks like Alienware and Intel right through to smaller folks Bluemouth. Basically, there’s everything you could imagine. The first walk round is used to formulate a plan of attack, scope out what kinds of games are on offer, who’s giving out free stuff, that kind of thing.

So, plan formulated, I went to check out a panel from a friend about Dungeons and Dragons in the digital age. Which is cool, because it offers insight into things I wouldn’t normally be interested in. And I think that’s the beauty of PAX, as primarily a games player, the world of tabletop is very foreign to me. But this is a convention that gives people the chance to learn about other types of gaming in a friendly environment, because everyone here is just as passionate as you are, and has so much knowledge to pass on.

Inspired, I decided to take a loop around the tabletop area. It’s always full of really cool things I absolutely don’t understand. There’s card games, tabletop games, everything you could imagine. There’s even opportunities to paint miniatures for free! As well as playing just about every game on offer! I wish I had the time to do this, honestly, but the motto of PAX Aus should be ‘everything happens so much’ because, once again, I had to go do other things.

The Diversity Lounge was calling my name, and so off I went. I was welcomed, but then, that’s the whole point of the area. To welcome you and offer up all kinds of advice and resources to folks that need them. Also, they gave me a really cool rainbow lanyard.

After another lap of the con floor, bag in hand to finally collect some business cards and misc. free stuff (Xbox gave me a really nice drink bottle among other things), the day was drawing to a close and I had a party to attend.

Bethesda ANZ was throwing an absolutely delightful Elder Scrolls 25th Anniversary shindig, and the food and drinks were free, and thus I couldn’t say no. Also, I just really love the Elder Scrolls. It also gave me the opportunity to chat to folks from all kinds of different backgrounds, like WomANZ, The First Church of the Holy Sweetroll and Tamriel Downunder. There’s a lot of passion here, too, and also a lot of free sliders and cider. And, of course, the Bethesda ANZ team and special guest Rich Lambert were absolutely lovely to chat to, as always.

Day 2 – Saturday

Exhausted from 12 hours of being in a stuff suit of armor on Friday, I still awoke at 7:30 because it’s time to do it all again. I find I can barely stand as I practically crawl out of bed to get into today’s cosplay, Borderlands themed, for the cosplay contest. I also have another panel this morning, a first for me in that I’m actually on it.

With that in mind, I’m still late, and frantically apologising to my fellow panel members as we all begin our setup and discussion. For reference, the panel was titled Developing Developments in Accessibility and Development. Also, I named it, so that’s cool. It was an amazing experience, discussing our personal journeys with accessibility in gaming and what the future of accessibility looks like. Also, the cool thing about these panels is the audience teaches you just as much as you (hopefully) teach them. There were a few questions and comments that absolutely blew my mind. For example, one visually impaired person commenting they use the term ‘computer games’ because ‘video games’ carries with it a connotation of being a visual-only space, when it’s not. Things that make me really think about what games mean to so many people.

But alas, I can’t stay for long, as I have to practically sprint down to the next panel, which is the Borderlands cosplay contest put together by the amazing 2K ANZ team. Also, sprinting in really big awkward boots is difficult and almost impossible. It sucks.

What didn’t suck was everyone’s amazing outfits. Borderlands cosplayers always seem to go really hard, perhaps because it’s such a striking visual style. But honestly, every cosplayer at PAX is amazing. I’m in a constant state of awe at the hard work everyone puts in.

We’re all ushered backstage and given the rundown of how it’ll work and I can feel the liquids in my body being replaced by a concoction of pure adrenaline, anxiety, and the swig of vodka I got from a fellow cosplayer who had sneakily hidden it in their outfit. What a genius.

In the end though it was all good fun. It was just as much fun hanging out as it was actually participating, and despite not winning anything, I think I won purely because I met so many cool people and also forced people to look at me and clap. That’s a win in my book.

After all’s said and done I get some lunch and spend some time people watching, inspired by cosplay, I want to just watch other peoples cosplay for a while. There’s a heck of a lot of good ones. Before heading back to the hotel I manage one more round of the con floor, buying a few things, picking up a few more free bits and pieces before heading back to collapse in a heap, figuring tomorrow I will take more photos, despite being exhausted and barely being able to stand.

Day 3 – Sunday

I straight up didn’t go. I could barely get out of bed. I still kind of regret it but I don’t think they would have taken kindly to me crawling around the con floor.

And yet, despite everything, I still wish I was there, doing it all again, playing every game, seeing everything I missed out on (there was. A lot I missed out on). But, alas, I have to wait another year.

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