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A First-Time Con-Goer’s Experience at PAX Australia 2017

Gaming has been a part of my life since I gained consciousness. One of my earliest memories involved early afternoons of nothing but Bomberman on an SNES I begged my parents for. Despite my love for gaming, I have never involved myself with conventions and events until recently. Upon the invitation of a dear friend (who I met through video games!) I flew to Melbourne to attend PAX Australia 2017.  

PAX ran for three days, starting from Friday until the rest of the weekend and is open for most of the day (and night!).

It was a huge event, with so many things happening all at once. From hardware exhibitions to talks on plenty of topics surrounding video games.  

The experience was overwhelming.

Visual overload from the many booths with their bright, dazzling lights made it difficult to choose which to visit first. I eventually settled to go for the panels first, to listen in on the leading personalities of Australia’s gaming scene, and as well as notable international guests. 

The first panel I attended, straight out of the airport and into PAX, was Expanding Horizons: Exploring Open World Gaming. The panelist roster included David Gaider (who has long been one of my favorite game writers with his work on the Dragon Age series), as well as a few other veterans in the game industry.

The short panel could hardly cover the intricacies of how to effectively make an open world game live and breathe. But there was a gold mine of insights to be had when it finished. Particularly noteworthy was the importance of adding narrative to things as simple as fetch quests, in order to make these feel like less of a chore for players.  

Afterwards it was on to the exhibition hall where plenty of different companies were pitching their latest and greatest.

Nintendo had a booth for the massively popular Switch; and I got to spectate on a Splatoon tournament. Over at the Sony booth, a short wait in line brought us to a very secretive and exclusive sneak-peek of the new God of War with gameplay and story teases. 

PAX Australia 2017
Scenes from PAX AUS 2017

There was also a wide variety of interesting indie games being made in Australia showcased at the convention.

These had been quite popular, and therefore difficult to line-up for. But I was happy to watch other people play and found myself excited by quite a few of them. One in particular that stood out was Rumu, a narrative-driven adventure game with dazzling cyber-pastel aesthetics.  

Tucked away on a far corner of the convention was a room dedicated to XXX titles, featuring games such as Robert Yang’s homoerotic, social commentary games (free to play on Steam), the fun multiplayer Genital Jousting and Sims 4 decked out with the infamous WickedWhims mod.

On the hardware side, plenty of booths sold headsets at deeply discounted prices. I got my hands on a HyperX Cloud 2 which I’m quite happy about. I also got to try out HP’s offerings to the gaming market with Omen by playing a round of Overwatch. I lost terribly, but I got a neat little pin, so all’s good. 

Then there was the merchandise: plenty of board games, comic books and collectibles were on sale. I managed to stave off temptation for the Dark Souls board game. But I did take a hit on mystery shirts ($5 for a random shirt is a rewarding cheap thrill) and various pins.  

When things got too hectic, I went on over to the Diversity Lounge, which is exactly what it says on the tin.

The generous space felt warm and inviting and was equipped with laptops, Switches, PS4s and Xboxes to play some games. I had the chance to marvel at how bad I was at Mario Kart. It was a nice environment to take a break from the crush of attendees and just chill. 

Overall, the three day experience had been full of fun activities and interesting sights.

It might have been too overwhelming at first, especially at such a huge con, but it brimmed with that energy only found in spaces where a great number of people who love and enjoy what they did came together to enjoy. Definitely excited for next year, and hoping I could be able to attend again.

Did you attend PAX Australia 2017? Share us some of the things you liked best from the convention!

Hadley P. Ledgem
Non-binary and a writer of many naughty and scary things (sometimes both at the same time). Likes feels-y video games, and anime with the ambiguous label 'psychological'. Pretends to be a 1920's gangster with their dark jazz playlists. Find them on Twitter complaining about something random.

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