PAX Australia 2015: the greatest gaming show in Australasia?
My apologies for the late write-up, but it’s taken me the best part of a week to recover from what was, without a doubt, the highlight of my gaming calendar, PAX Australia 2015.
Over three days, from 30st October to 1nd of November, an eclectic band of gamers from all over the world descended on the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre for an all-encompassing festival of gaming. From upcoming Triple-A titles like Fallout 4 and indie hits Like Ascent: The Space Game, through to Dungeon & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering, PAX Australia 2015 celebrated gaming across all its forms.
With hundreds of panels with local and international gaming celebrities discussing everything from LARPing to geek parenting, there was never a dull moment. The show opened with a keynote speech from gaming industry veteran and creator of Deus Ex, Warren Spector, who explained the importance of game developers giving the player freedom to be the author of their own experience.
Spector’s words resonated with me as I watched Avalanche Studios’ Roland Lesterlin and Omar Shakir take to the stage and demonstrate some of the buffoonery that players can undertake in their upcoming Just Cause 3. Only a few days prior I’d shared some time with them playing the game, cumulating in a dead goat being dragged off into the distance by a passing car. Good times. Lesterlin and Shakir’s stage presence was fantastic, to the point that if they ever stop making games (which I hope they don’t), they could do very well as a comedy double-act.
The huge PAX Rising indie area was packed with gamers all keen to try out the vast array of titles on offer. Sydney-based developers, Flat Earth Games were showing off Objects in Space, a space trading game with a difference. Inspired more by Silent Service than Elite, the space craft in Objects in Space are piloted more like submarines than fighter jets. At the show, Flat Earth were demonstrating some home-made control panels that players can build themselves to augment their experience. Impressive stuff and exactly what PAX is all about.
Continuing the PAX tradition, many patrons arrived dressed as their favourite characters, creating what must be the region’s biggest yearly gathering of cosplayers. From Constantine to Cloud Strife, there were an amazing array of costumes that fans have clearly put a lot of work into.
As well as a huge free-play area where gamers could sit a play some of the latest video games, a massive retro-gaming area catered for those seeking a bit of nostalgia or to step back to time when the sprite was king. Joining rows of old console set-ups were a range of pinball tables and arcade cabinets, including a Time Crisis machine that I wouldn’t mind in my study!
Major PC hardware brands like Alienware, Logitech and Razer were at the show with their latest kit. Alienware were showing off their new Steam Boxes and also had the guys from Zero Latency showing off their Alienware-powered VR experience (which was amazing).
Australian PC parts people MSY and MWave were on hand offering advice to would-be system builders and taking orders for new bespoke systems. They had a vast array of equipment on show from huge monitors to the latest kit from nVidia.
But PAX isn’t just about video gaming. Tabletop and card gaming was also well represented, with major competitions being played all weekend. Visitors could partake in free miniature painting sessions and try out new traditional games. There were demonstrations of cult favourites like Star Wars X-Wing and Warhammer 30K. Dozens of stalls catering for all gaming taste meant it was easy for anyone to take the fun home.
It’s a testament to geek culture that amazing events like PAX Australia 2015 exist. To see thousands of gaming fans (in all its forms) from all walks of life enjoying such a lavishly laid on show was an amazing experience and one that I can recommend.