Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Snapshot of PAXAUS 2014

It's been a while since the weekend that was PAXAUS 2014. For those who don't know, it's a convention for all things games and game related. It only began last year, and this year it outdid itself at the Melbourne Convention Centre.

The excitement of PAXAUS for me lies in the almost festive and carnival like feel as you walk through the waiting hall and enter the garishly lit cavern that is the Expo hall. Brands blazed in bright spotlights, booths manned by developers, screens set up with demos. All these things induce head twitches left and right, as my body is swept along the aisles between booths. Too much to see and gape at. Isolated cases of surprise overwhelming body odour, that leave you cramping and gasping.

I don't know if you can, but I hope you will feel from my photos a little of the vast crowds that flock here for 3 days of the year.

There were many attempts this year to convert me into a LoLizen? LoLinite? LoLicon? with gifts of free codes. Cards against humanity proved so popular that they sold out of the base game on the Friday, with all expansions completely gone before the end of the convention. That in a nutshell friends is a snapshot of what the expo hall is like.

My favourites from the Expo Hall were in the ANZ Indie area.

Nippy Cats a nifty cute game, where you play as the ominous finger in control of a bag of catnip. Your role is to keep as many cats entertained for as long as possible without letting any of them get their claws into your little pouch. The challenge comes in the shape of little kitties zooming about on screen. You need to have an excellent spatial awareness and quick reflexes. Needless to say I have some of the first and none of the latter.

Merchants and Mercenaries is a PC game that is described to me as a cross between Settlers of Catan and Civilization. As I've never actually played Civilisation, I can't comment on that description. The game objectives is upgrade your little province faster than the other players and build a castle, then hold it for a certain period of time to win. How you go about upgrading your town is your own problem. You can mine, chop wood, farm, etc. and then go interact with the local market. What you sell or buy affects the prices in the near future, I think this phenomenon is called economics...

I managed to break it a few times, but it felt like it had a lot of promise and I actually enjoyed creating my own little land and messing with the other comp players.

This was the first year I attended panels. The ones I was lucky to make it to were well organised with short wait times, with a good variety of speakers. The Dragon Age one went right over my head, but I managed to grab some shut eye to charge up for the next few hours of PAX. Whilst the Cosplaying Celebrities panel started out very interesting with insight into the Cosplaying world that was all new to me. But towards the end the awkward audience questions became tedious and repetitive.

Through the Expo Hall, you'll find yourself in wide open spaces that is the Freeplay area. There is the huddle of the BYO PCs, the fences that separate the freeplay consolers, the retro gamers, and freeplay PC gamers, from the Boardgamers. As you enter the Board game and Minatures area, your parched soul is allowed to roam free among the rows upon rows of immaculately chic black draped tables. The Board game library is the shining gem is this oasis.

This is where the majority of my time at PAX was spent. Borrow any game that is available, and make yourself comfortable for the next few hours.

We met up with our board game group and tried out every game that we had ever had a burning desire to buy. The sort of games that we would have snatched up and paid good rent money for, if it wasn't for the slivers of our brain that also controlled things like budgeting and the judgement of food unfit for consumption.

Some board game highlights were, Kings of New York. Similar to Kings of Tokyo, but not different enough to justify purchasing. Stone Age plays like the Euro game Agricola but the art is beautiful, and the design of the map is a gorgeous exercise in, well, design. One Night Ultimate Werewolf plays like a version of the time old Mafia game, but on speed and fuelled by laughter. Camel Up is hilarious as well, with everyone making stupid bets on the best camel race of the previous previous last week!

I love the generous nature of fellow board gamers. Those who offered to teach us the rules of new games, those who were so happy to share what they love to play and why. Board gamers are such a social and easy going bunch. We are all poor together with our fortunes not in bonds and stocks, but in board games.

There's so much more to say, but I think this has been enough to trick... I mean, fool... I mean, persuade you to attend next years PAX. :)

It is exhausting and your feet ache, and you will get a headache, but it's all worth it.

I leave you with the cosplays I enjoyed. Either because the guy in the medieval armour reminded me of the game that doesn't take itself too seriously, Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, or just cause. Thank you to the cosplayers who let me photograph them.

Disclaimer: I was not paid or bribed in any form to endorse any of these games. I attended PAXAUS as a member of the Public and I write this piece as a reflection of my own personal experience of the event.