Published on August 20th, 2013 | by Muse Shake1
A very retrospective on PaxAus
To give a fair review of this convention I have to first lead with several disclaimers. I was lucky enough to not pay a cent for my trip to PaxAus, I received sponsorship form an awesome (naturally I would think so) local start up Dev team and as media I was allowed entry in to the venue for free. Bias being what it is as much as I can feel as though I see the con through objective eyes, there is every chance that without even realising it, I do not. This can however be said of anyone, a die hard Penny Arcade fan would probably be far more entranced by the con than the casual web comic browser such as myself. Further more anyone coming from interstate has the benefit of also being in a new city, one of my favourite in Australia to add to the excitement.
Melbourne is the next level of my disclaimer, as I do adore the city that my own desperately tries to mimic. It is a city filled with art, several geek and game merch .stores, delicious food, and krispy kreams – which are the kryptonite of pretty much any Perthite. That being said she was far from a kind mistress, as within a day of entering her (hurr hurr) I found myself quite sick, and not long after had my wallet stolen. In a less sick and upset mindset I found a silver lining to being pick pocketed, as the inundation of offers to lend money from people I’d only met once or twice was heart warming even in the Melbourne weather. Not only that, but my wallet was of a one Mr Bruce Wayne and it is in his true nature that he should be where crime is, and in a place that was literally almost called Batman. He defended my back pocket dearly, and disappeared without a trace. Perhaps not the wallet my back pocket deserved, but the one it needed.
On to the convention itself!
For those that aren’t aware of a Penny Arcade Expo it is pretty much an indie con. Sure often there are other larger devs and producers involved but for the most part they give a voice to the little guys, so it’s an amazing place to have your eyes opened to what smaller devs are doing, less likely is it you’ll find out more on that dog from the new COD game. The layout of PaxAus consisted of two large exhibition rooms at opposite ends of an outdoor hallway with entrances to theatre rooms for panels in between. One hall contained a rather great array of food at not incredibly bad prices (for a con) along with a free play area, where you can throw pretty much any game in to a console and play, some retro gaming, board games, and of course Magic: The Gathering.
This area went largely overlooked by me for the first day of PAX as walking through the brisk corridor was difficult in my flu brained state. Standing was hard too though so it doesn’t really say much for whether or not it was actually a trial. Once I finally did make my way down there I was very impressed, this seemed to embody what PAX was supposed to be: Heaps of people playing all kinds of games together, in an oversized room, with a truck apparently selling burgers with extra baby in them. Being able to simply sit down with friends, and re-learn how to play magic was one of my favourite experiences PAX could offer me, however again this could have been largely due to the ‘sitting down’ part.
The opposing exhibition area is where all the ‘action’ was happening. A room full of video games with a giant tank smack bang in the middle of it thanks to wargaming. Nearly half the room was dedicated to indie devs where you could talk to the people who made the games, as well has have a hands on experience with something that you may not normally stumble upon. Because they make the games the genuine excitement around these booths is unbeatable and more than a little contagious. Something else these booths really highlighted to me is that as much as people laugh and scoff at the ‘casual’ ipad gamer, tablets area a really big deal to our gaming world and we really need to accept this. The opportunities and accessibility that these new mediums provide to indie devs is making garage game makers in to big deals, and I for one welcome our new overlords.
The main floors were a complete delight – Free play with your friends, great indie titles such as TownCraft, Black Annex, and Freedom Fall to test, and even some interactive crazy with Johan Sebastian Joust and the oculus rift. My only real gripe with PAX has absolutely nothing to do with any of this.
Panels. PaxAUS had an amazing array of panels on that were guaranteed to interest a broad variety of geeks and gamers. Anything from panels on geeky parenting, to chatting to the guys from Gearbox were available for your viewing pleasure. Or were they? I didn’t end up making it to any panels due to the lines. They were well organised, so it doesn’t feel like it’s anyone’s fault per say, as just the venues simply weren’t big enough and the crowd so eager. Many panels were full several hours before they were due to begin, and for someone who is trying to see as much of PAX as possible it really becomes a question of ‘is it worth it?’. For me and my inability to stand ‘no’ won out, but even the panels I genuinely did try to get to were simply not options to me. Bigger rooms next time please PAX, or some kind of system that doesn’t force people to wait and thus miss so much of your wonderful convention.
The Penny Arcade Expo makes a lot of promises and as much as they boys behind it have proved to be dickheads more than once in their career, generally their hearts seem to be in the right place. In that vein they have a strong stance against booth babes at their cons – or at least I thought they did.
Both Wargaming and I believe Sienheiser had troops of booth babes in attendance. I was genuinely shocked, though I almost feel stupid for being so now, to not expect booth babes at a con is apparently just not right, and PaxAus was sadly not the exception I was hoping for. At the press interview when questioned about the ‘slip up’ they stated that apparently they made some of them put tockings on, which apparently makes it better. I was surprised at the seeming inability for Penny Arcade to enforce their own rules, stating that it’s something they still need to teach the community and not everyone gets it. I don’t really understand why not asking the girls to leave and keeping their integrity and promises apparently was not an option. Then again Wargaming seems to have more money and power than what I suppose most are comfortable arguing against, but this is from the event that turned back EA.
Pax really doesn’t try to be anything it’s not. They’re not an anime or cosplay convention so you won’t find much of that, they’re a games show with an indie flavour and a play with your fellow geek attitude. It’s friendly, it’s casual, and it can definitely be a lot of fun. The let down of the booth babes is a personal disappointment, and I can understand that it certainly wouldn’t effect everyone’s experience at the show, so I’ll try to play that down, however the panels are something that I was not alone in being burnt by. I’m not mad, nor do I think it’s a ‘demand money back’ problem, just a lesson to be learnt, from an overall quite excellent first con in Australia.
til next year PaxAUS