If you are a gamer, game designer, artist, graphic designer, publisher, retailer or distributor then the Australian Games Expo - Australia's premier tabletop gaming exposition - is the unmissable event of the year. The 93 Made Games team (Sean, Anthony and Julia) recounts their wonderful weekend in Canberra at the 2010 expo and highlights why it is such a great event.
Friday - Setup and Boardgames Australia Awards
We arrived at site of expo - Exhibition Park In Canberra (EPIC) - just after 9am. Expo coordinator, Phil Davies of Mind Games Albury gave us a tour of the expo hall and a run down of each of the exhibitors. The 93 Made Games booth was conveniently positioned in between Even Toys & Games (Australian distributor) and Crown & Andrews (Australian publisher).
Our interior design extraordinaire, Julia, whipped us into action as we setup our booth in quick time. Afterwards, we took the opportunity to check out the neighbouring hall which was hosting CanCon - Canberra's yearly gaming convention. The hall had gaming tables clustered as far as the eye could see. We hadn't been to CanCon for a few years and it looked like participation had more than doubled since our last visit.
After spending some time talking to booth operators at the expo and CanCon, we got prepared for the Boardgames Australia (BGA) awards being held that night. The awards are held to recognise excellence in game design and are judged in accordance with a range of guidelines such as enjoyment, originality and replayability. This year's and previous winners of the awards are listed on the BGA website. The awards night gave us and other designers/publishers an opportunity to mix and mingle with various industry representatives including the BGA crew, Giles from Rio Grande (US publisher) and Naomi from Elementaurs (Australian designer/publisher). The free drinks and food were an added bonus.
Saturday - Visitors from UoW and Learn About Play Forum
Day one - fun, fun, fun. We demonstrated Viewpoint all day to people new to the game and existing fans of the game. We also had a special visit from Barry and Jason from the University of Wollongong Gaming Club. We revealed our latest prototypes of Show'n'Go, Gladitorus Millennia and Viewpoint Reflections to Barry and Jason who were so enthusiastic about them that they wanted copies for their club as soon as possible. We also made sure that Barry and Jason received their very own Viewpoint t-shirts so they could be the envy of their gaming club.
Whilst Anthony and Sean continued to entertain the expo-goers and mingle with other exhibitors, Julia participated in a 'Learn About Play' forum convened by Melissa Rogerson from BGA. The forum had four main sessions - Learn Through Play (a presentation by Dr Wood Challenge Centre about lesson planning with games), The School Game Night (a presentation on boardgaming nights for community-building and fundraising for schools), Play Time (a hands-on session in which people got to play with the games presented during the two previous sessions) and a Round-Table Discussion (a discussion of the use of games in education).
Sunday - Protospiel and Viewpoint Tournament
Day two - games for me and you. Demonstrations of Viewpoint continued as Sean play-tested games at the Canberra Protospiel, which was organised by Richard Vickery from BGA. He discovered a space-based Euro/strategy game and an NRL Trivia game; the latter of which he somehow managed to win. He also demonstrated Show'n'Go and received valuable feedback from his play-test group. BGA plans to hold Protospiels throughout 2010 and beyond.
Sean also sat in on a talk on 'designing games and getting them published' by Craig Browne (inventor of Sorts for Kids - 2009 BGA Australian Game of the Year).
Meanwhile, Anthony ran the CanCon Viewpoint tournament as a precursor to the Viewpoint World Championships to be held in the second half of 2010. More qualification tournaments will be held around Australia and the world including those at Good Games stores up and down the Eastern seaboard. Check out the Viewpoint Leaderboard for a list of those who will receive free entry into the world championships. The prize pool and international representatives will be revealed later in the year.
Monday - Chill Out Day and Pack Up
Day three - you can't do that with a Wii. After two full-on days of demonstrations, workshops and seminars, we got to play some of the games from the other booths such as Elementaurs and Motus. Pack up began at around 2:30pm but not before the team and some fans got in a monster game of Viewpoint in which two decks were used with the objective being to reach 200 points. The dust settled after about 30 minutes with Shirley winning (again!), Ed, Claudia and Julia close behind and Sean lagging well below 100 points. Obviously, the game's designer needs to reassess his game play strategies for larger games.
The car was abuzz with energy on the trip back to Sydney after such a wonderful weekend where we got to meet so many nice people and play so many enjoyable games. To cap off the great weekend, the 93 Made Games oztag team scored its best result of the season that night - a draw!
2010 was the last year that the expo will be organised by Phil Davies. Phil started the expo in 2006 and it has been growing in attendance and stature ever since. The expo will be coordinated by Charles Bishop and Steve Rohan-Jones of O2C Solutions in 2011. Both Charles and Steve were at this year's expo and gave us plenty of their time to discuss how we think the expo can improve on its impressive roots. 93 Made Games would like to thank Phil for all of his time and effort in building up the expo and wish Charles and Steve all of the best for future expos.
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