A festival such as PAX can be a wonderful event; it is a celebration of Geekdom in most of its forms. PAXAus was no exception with enthusiasts descending on the Melbourne showgrounds, many dressed in cosplay outfits, many more with bulging eyes taking in all that was on offer.
The two main expo halls showcased plenty of content. The Bigtop arena hosted electronic gaming in the form of consoles to share and hand-held gaming in a huge bean-bag laden area.
Behind the beeps and boops of the electronic fun plenty of smiling faces were setting up and playing a multitude of board, card and miniature games. Magic the Gathering still dominating after more than twenty years in the business.
In the other main expo hall it was time to concentrate on video-games . Nintendo, Ubisoft, Riot Games and Wargaming.net dominated the booth landscape, both visually and aurally.
There was also plenty of hardware on show, from choice in the latest driving simulators, audio head gear and processing power through to the supposed future of gaming; the Oculus Rift, the latest in 3D virtual reality head gear that can either be mind-blowing or stomach churning, depending on your constitution.
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The general word-on-the street was one of overwhelming positiveness. Despite the at times gloomy weather there were smiles on all attendee’s faces as the made there way between pavilions.
People loved the festival atmosphere generated by the multi-venue site, the amount of content on offer and the abundance of enthusiastic cosplay examples.
There were problems with the panel theatres with many people missing out on desired sessions simply due to capacity in rooms on offer. Unfortunately it was a simple fact that some of the popular panels not located in the larger Main Theatre drew crowds that would have filled the room more than twice over.
On the upside, the Enforcers, those volunteer organisers dressed in yellow were some of the most happy, well informed and sensible folks around. The Enforcers were great at directing people, keeping lines orderly and letting people know what their chances were of seeing a particular panel prior to the doors opening. It made the disappointment of missing a session bearable.
In their media Q&A session early on Sunday, Mike Krahulik(Gabe) and Jerry Holkins(Tycho) there were some obvious questions asked. Why Australia over, say the UK, for the first ever offshore PAX?
The straight forward answer was that Australians are ace! In responding to a Penny Arcade poll, the spike in enthusiasm from a country somewhat down on population yet high on passion was too hard for Mike and Jerry to ignore. Australian fans obviously were hankering for a festival such as this, and in many places around the world PAX would have just been another big geek orientated show, not so in Australia.
Why Melbourne then? Again, support from the local state government was one of the major reasons, as was the prevalence of so many video-game development studios. As Holkins pointed out at one point, Melbourne’s similarity and yet at the same time cultural difference to Seattle was another factor in targeting Melbourne as the new outlet of PAX.
Will PAXAus stay in Melbourne?
From Thursday night when the Game Developers Association of Australia hosted an opening event it was obvious that a venue such as the ShowGrounds might struggle to contain 30,000 fans over three days. These fears were not realised except in the aforementioned panel theatre sessions. There were lines for attractions such as playing Saints Row IV or trying the Occulus Rift, but these would be an issue no matter the venue.
Instead eyes turned towards the yet to be fully completed Melbourne Convention Centre, or another Australian city for subsequent PAXAus events.
So start lining up for next year’s tickets, chances are the dates will be moved, and possibly, ever so slightly, the venue also, however based on the triumphal success of the first iteration, PAXAus will be back in 2014.