PAX Aus 2022 was a homecoming that felt distinctly different

A lot has changed in the last three years. When PAX Aus 2019 was held at Melbourne’s MCEC, it was a boisterous event filled with tantalizing game previews and showcases from top game publishers like Sony, Bethesda, Bandai Namco, Nintendo and Blizzard. None of these names were present for PAX Aus 2022 – and while the show felt more sparse without them, their absence revealed something eminently more important: it’s the people that make PAX so great.

Ever since the coronavirus pandemic forced everyone to stay home, the gaming world has transformed to a wild degree. Game previews, once considered exclusive, are slowly becoming available to everyone – via Steam Demos, early access or open beta. All of this is now happening online, at the request of a publisher, and not in a living room or behind closed doors. Meeting in person no longer has value from this point of view – but the games are now more freely accessible, to everyone, regardless of distance or monetary barriers.

Games are for everyone, not just those who are able to physically move around a showroom.

This learning changed the nature of in-person meetings in profound ways. This has made events like PAX Aus not redundant per se, but rather more optional, especially for those who don’t want to risk catching coronavirus in the midst of a group of mostly unmasked bodies. This has made game previews less special, especially when half of the PAX Aus lounge demos and PAX Rising segments are too available for easily accessible play on Steam.

Instead of this draw, PAX found its true and just goal: back home.

Image: PAX Aus/ReedPop

For three long days in October, Melbourne’s MCEC transformed into a gathering of buddies, like-minded individuals brought together by the weird and wonderful world of video games. In every corner of the room, you could see people gathering around some campfires – playing board games, trading pins and discussing their finds on the living room.

The table portion of the MCEC (the second main room) was pumping every minute of the show. People brought their own board games and sat down to play with friends and strangers. Exhibitors showcased the latest games and unveiled demo versions of upcoming dormant hits – Steam, Yum Cha, Aethermon: Tower of Darkness, Pixel Star: Frontier, and The score Among them. In every corner were bright, watchful eyes. Excited faces – young, old.

It was the first experience of PAX for some people. It was a comeback for many others – and while it was certainly differentthe charm of the event was still evident in every crowded corner and in every part of the exhibition hall.

Instead of big publishers, people have found rare opportunities to explore indie games, made locally in Australia or overseas, and talk to their creators. Great demos for Tempopo, the godfather and To cook drew crowds – so much so that it was a long wait to get a hands-on preview. In PAX Rising, the biggest changes have been felt.

aus pax games 2022
Image: To cookBattleBrew Productions

The popularity of locally made Australian games has never been higher, and that was reflected in the crowded stands, and weary developers nearly lost their footing. I mistakenly thought that Sunday afternoon would be a quieter time to explore the upcoming games – and was quickly proven wrong by the crowds which remained strong even until the final moments of PAX Aus 2022 on Sunday. .

Everywhere you looked there were people playing together, talking together. Ask questions, learn more about the games. The Massive Monster booth, where Worship of the Lamb showed, was still busy – and usually visited by a Lamb cosplayer or two. On the road, Devolver Digital entertained an equally enthusiastic crowd with non-exclusive demos for anger foot and Gunbrella.

The lack of exclusivity didn’t matter – playing these games was a chance to sit back, relax, meet new people and chat with the developers.

Beyond the showroom, this easy comfort was seen on full display, in living rooms where people discussed cosplay, content creation, or their favorite games. The outer limits of the MCEC were littered with people playing multiplayer titles together – jack box and just dance being comeback hits. There’s something so pure about watching people dance in public without caring what other people think.

Among like-minded people, shame does not exist.

In the heights of the MCEC, an array of panels took place – each populated by an enthusiastic and excitable audience. The GamesHub team (myself and Edmund) even participated in our very own well-attended panel, The Dark Underbelly of The Simswhich filled the room sims enthusiasts eager to share their knowledge and expertise.

Only in a space like PAX can people come together in this way – to share stories, learn more, and find their passion through games. After three years cloistered in houses and apartments, it was wonderful to see that these communities were still thriving.

Much was made of the lack of major publishers at the event and the fact that the show was less crowded than in the past. But that was never really the goal of PAX. Sure, playing with new trinkets is fun, and people love getting their hands on the latest games, but after three years of change, the feeling of unity on the living room floor was far more valuable than spending time cloistered in a game booth.

Coming home can mean many things. At PAX Aus 2022, it was come back – to travel to a beloved place and find it as kind and welcoming as it has ever been. People are what make PAX great – and they were certainly there in force for this year’s show.

About Cedric Lloyd

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