In New Zealand, there is only one annual pop culture convention and that is the Armageddon Expo. This is the closest we Kiwis get to having a convention the likes of Comic-Con International, Supanova, MCM London etc. However, our convention constitutes more than just pop culture; with gaming and cosplay being a huge focus as well. For this reason, Armageddon is usually packed full of different kinds of people with varying interests.
PAX Australia, is very much like the Melbourne equivalent of Armageddon except the entire convention is dedicated purely to video games, be it e-sports, streaming and a showcase of the latest games and technology. Having been to several Armageddons over the decades, I was thrilled to have been able to attend PAX and experience a different kind of convention, one dedicated to the nerdier side of me.
The convention was held across three days and having been granted media access, it was so exciting to be able to get a preview of the show floor before the crowds of people swarmed in. The convention, held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, was huge! Stretching across three very areas, the convention centre’s security was tight and ticket checks were done regularly to ensure that every attendee complied with the rules and regulations.
The three big names of the gaming industry certainly stood out most. Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo had a fairly large presence at the show and each showcased games that were currently on demand such as Gears of War 4 and The Last Guardian as well as popular titles such as The Legend of Zelda and Super Smash Bros. However, these console heavy hitters were given a run for their money by the giants of the PC gaming industry, the most prominent (in my books anyway) being HP Australia, who were showing off their newly released range of pro-gaming computers, the HP Omen, which not only performs well but looks stunning too. The one thing I predict is that the partnership between Xbox and HP will be a lucrative one, especially with Xbox’s new Play Anywhere concept, which allows players to automatically be able to play their video games on either their Xbox console or PC. As an owner of a HP Omen notebook, I’m extremely excited to test out its performance.
Noticeably, Twitch, the video streaming platform had a booth of their own, catered for their streamers who attended PAX in order to chat with their fans, boost Twitch’s name and stream content for their channels (many of whom were also guests panelists).
Numerous PC technology and peripherals were on display throughout the exhibition area, from Alienware and Lenovo to Razer and Steel Series with Intel making an appearance as well. It’s difficult to call out my favourite booth but Razer’s colourful gear stood out brilliantly, though Intel and Logitech garnered huge crowds by running live giveaways across all three days.
Interestingly, there were some anime featured in the show as well with Madman Entertainment and Hanabee both having a fairly average booth with items for sale. While slightly bizarre for anime to be featured in a gaming convention, I for one, am glad, as I got to buy some anime goodies.
Whilst showing off the latest in video games was central to the convention, there was a large section dedicated to e-sports, with professional gaming athletes in attendance to compete against one another in the PAX Arena, as well as showing off their skills at some of the other booths too.
The tabletop and board-gaming area provided a nice change of pace to the convention. Despite there being plenty of retailers, the main idea behind the tabletop area was to allow attendees to have fun, meet new people and play board games. With Wizards of the Coast’s Magic The Gathering having a large presence, I had requested a play and learn session in order to gain some knowledge into how the game works and how to play. My teacher, Joey, was incredible. He walked me through an entire game and taught me the basics, enough to allow me to win over a seasoned pro (who might have just let me win, but I’ll claim it anyway).
The highlight of the convention were certainly the panels. From Twitch streaming and video game reviews to collecting retro and vintage collectibles, there was a topic for everyone. Not only did I get to listen to influential speakers from Twitch, IGN and Gamespot, among others, but it was an incredible honour to have been in the presence of Larry Hyrb a.k.a Major Nelson, from Xbox, and hear his rousing speech about his journey from playing videogames to working with them. Personally, ‘Storytime with Major Nelson’ was the best part of PAX and truly inspired me.
While PAX brought out the top dogs in gaming, so too did it showcase the works of indie game developers. There were so many rad titles on show but the one that stood out most to me was Goblins of Elderstone, a city-builder indie game with a unique twist. I had the opportunity to chat with one of the developers who gave me a good run down of the game as well as the reasons behind the game’s creation. I’ve never been a city builder, strategy game fan, but listening to Gustav speak made the game very intriguing and one I’d like to try out. It was rather nice to know that the team are from New Zealand as well, which was great to hear. Us Kiwis need to stick together and support one another after all.
Being completely new to the PC gaming scene and with no knowledge of gaming peripherals, I am incredibly grateful to have had the chance to speak with the Marketing Manager of Razer, who gave me a great run through of all their products and what they offer in terms of both seasoned pro gamers and those completely new to gaming. Razer have definitely stepped up their game and while they largely support e-sports players and professional gamers with a varied, yet tailored, range of keyboards, mice and headsets, they also have a line which casual gamers are able to utilise and get the most out of their gaming experience. Razer has also kept up with the times and have brought out a broadcasting range for streamers. The Razer Stargazer webcam really caught my attention, especially with its ability to remove backgrounds without the need for a green screen set up!
All in all, PAX Australia 2016 was a spectacular and memorable experience. Not only did I get to meet a whole lot of new, amazing people, with the same interests, but I learnt so much as well. The panels gave me ideas to utilise for my personal endeavours as well as inspired me to keep up with this site and my goals for it. The convention was simply on another level, being dedicated almost exclusively to gaming, which was very different from Armageddon. The only thing I regret is not making it in to the full capacity ’30 years of The Legend of Zelda’ panel by Nintendo. Apart from that, PAX was amazing. I’m sad it’s over but am certainly looking forward to the next one. Here’s to next year!!