93 Made Games Managing Director, Sean Carroll, talks about his unexpected experiences at PAX Aus 2013 - the first Penny Arcade Expo held outside of the United States.
Warning: This article contains many “shout-outs” to the wonderful people that I met at PAX Aus.
Alright, I've been to plenty of expos and conventions over my time as both visitor and exhibitor and have learnt to generally ignore the hype coming from organisers. In all fairness, show conveners need to big note their expo; otherwise, who would bother to show up in the first place. This is what I thought PAX Aus would be like. The PAX Aus website was replete with event listings and exhibitor names but I was very ho-hum about the whole thing apart from the fact that I would get the chance to join some great people on the Indie Board Game Design Panel. I was so blasé that I booked a late flight out on the opening day of the expo and an early flight back on the closing day. Thus limiting my expo exposure to less than half of the time available.
[Cut to the PAX Aus Queue Room at 4:30pm on Day 1]
I strolled in and I was like, “OK, the Queue Room is bigger than most expos I've been to.” It was impressive; however. I didn't want to be hasty in judgement so I took some time to check out the other halls after getting my speaker pass. The pass came in very handy for jumping queues all weekend. I can't complain about a little rock star treatment.
[10 minutes later, cut to the Expo Hall]
I stepped through the front doors and looked out across a dimly-lit hall that was filled wall-to-wall with buzzing stands and towering wide screen displays offering the ultimate in PC and console gaming experiences. I thought, “Hmmmm, well, this is rather promising but I'm only a casual computer gamer. I like electronic games but I just don't get as much time to play as I used to.” Even so, I took some time to walk around and check out the latest games from local and overseas developers.
[20 minutes later, cut to The Big Top]
After walking past line after line of expo-goers queuing for hot food, seminars, DJ sets, special invitation events and so on, I reached The Big Top. This is where my cynicism was finally tipped over the edge. (It only took 30 minutes!) I peered across the vast expanse of The Big Top, which was populated with rows of modern consoles, costume-clad pop culture fanatics, herds of gamers with their heads down in their portable consoles, columns of tabletop gamers playing released and play-test versions of games, more hot food, retail stalls and, my personal favourite, retro consoles! I was in pop culture heaven... and I wasn't alone. The preliminary figures from the show conveners claim that there were at least 35,000 unique visitors to PAX Aus. That's more than half the current population of my home town.
For the next few hours I took in the whole experience as I ambled around The Big Top. Even though the expo was massive, I ran into some familiar faces, including Andrew Lum from Aetherworks. He was playing Magic against enthusiastic newbie Nicole, whilst her friend Ben watched on. Nicole almost demanded that I sit down and was all too accommodating when I asked if I could challenge her to a game or two. After conversing with Ben for a while, I found out that both he and Nicole were also Sydneysiders. The number of people venturing South for PAX Aus was quite astounding.
Time ran out for playing Magic as I had to dash to meet with the other panellists. I ran across to the board game free-play tables and was met with an extremely welcoming reception from Alex Dijk and Paul Nicholas from Blue Room Games, Wesley Lamont from RAEZ, Anthony Sweet from Handwritten Games and Thomas Eliot from Sixpence Games. We went through our game plan for the following day's panel, which didn't take long as everyone was extremely professional in nature and definitely new their game design theory and practice.
Everyone had to run off after the meeting so I took this opportunity to grab a snack and continue wandering around The Big Top. After filling my belly, I decided to settle down in the Retro Consoles area where I would spend the remainder of Day 1 playing old favourites such as Mega Man, Space Invaders and Batman (the 1989 movie version).
Day 2 was a bit more business-orientated as I caught up with industry luminaries such as Gerard How from Paradigm Infinitum Games, Christopher Badell and Adam Rebottaro from Greater Than Games, Dann May from Game Salute and Sol Green from EuroGameFest. Gerard and I discussed plans for a big Southeast Asian release of Monster Town, Zombie Viewpoint and the re-release of Viewpoint and Viewpoint Reflections.
I had a chance to try out some games seen in Australia for the first time but the clock was against me again as I had to hot-step it to my 6:30pm rendezvous with the Indie Board Game Design Panel. I won't harp on too much about the panel as the other guys prepared a video of the panel, which you can watch below. I will say, however, that imparting wisdom to up and coming game designers is one of the most enjoyable parts of being a game designer and publisher. I think Alex and Paul would say that having groupies cheer you on is also boast-worthy. Kudos Hannah!
After the panel, Melissa Rogerson from Boardgames Australia, organised a few tables for the panellists to demo our games. Once again, this was an awesome experience as I got to share Viewpoint with other gamers and got to know some more game designers in the process. A big wave goes out to Tom, Diran, Rebecca and Lachlan. Thanks for letting me win at least one of the games. A “heya” also goes out to Jeremy and David from LXG. I'm looking forward to seeing you next year in God's Own Country for some more gaming shenanigans.
The demos didn't stop there as I got to play-test Anthony Sweet's latest creation - Breakwater - until Day 2 closing time. I love the New Orleans voodoo/steam punk theme. This is going to be a great game so I recommend that everyone buy it. Be sure to buy Alex and Paul's game NinjitZoo, Tom's game Professor Pugnacious and Wez's game Gaeon as well.
With the business and panel out of the way, I squeezed in some time on Day 3 in the Expo Hall and The Big Top playing PC and console games and snapping up some bargains from the retail stalls. I said my goodbyes (rather see-you-laters) to Anthony and Wez as I made my way out of PAX Aus 2013.
Without a doubt, I will be back next year... and this time... I'm bringing reinforcements.
PAX Aus 2013 was the first Penny Arcade Expo held outside of the USA. Go to the PAX website for more information on all Penny Arcade Expos.
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