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Gaming fandom descends on PAX Australia 2019

15 Oct 2019
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Once again, the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre played host the Australian calendar’s biggest gaming extravaganza, PAX Australia 2019. From Friday 11th October to Sunday 13th, gamers from all walks of life congregated to see the latest offerings from major game publishers and small independents, alike.

Founded in in 2004 by Americans Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahilik, the first Penny Arcade Expo (named after the pair’s hugely successful web-based comic-book series) was held in Washington, and attended by just over 3000 people. There are now five PAX events each year, with PAX Australia being the only show held outside of the US.

The first Australian PAX was held in 2013 at the Melbourne Showgrounds. In 2014, PAX AUS moved to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, which has been the show’s home ever since. Last year PAX Australia partnered with EB Games to merge the gaming retailer’s own EB Expo, previously held in Sydney, into the PAX event.

Whilst the show is heavily focused on videogaming, there is a huge area dedicated to tabletop and card games, as well. Visitors wishing to escape the loud and hectic atmosphere of the main hall will find a bit of respite amongst the many tabletop game retailers and game areas.

This year, the show played host to all the top video game publishers and hardware manufacturers. Attendees were able to play many upcoming and recently released games and they could take a look at the latest kit from the likes of Intel, Alienware and Asus.

At the Xbox Australia booth fans could play a bit of the new Plants vs Zombies game, and Battle for Neighbourville as well as Sea of Thieves and a host of other titles. Xbox were also showing off CD Projekt RED’s anticipated Cyberpunk 2077.

Over at the PlayStation booth, players were cambering to get their hands on the upcoming Avengers game and Iron Man VR. Also on show was Call of Duty Modern Warfare and the upcoming Final Fantasy VII remake.

Nintendo were showing off Luigi’s Mansion 3 and the wonderful Super Mario Maker. Nintendo’s Switch is making inroads into gaming genres beyond the usual family-friend fayre that the company is renowned for. At PAX AUS 2019, lucky gamers got the chance to play Resident Evil 5 and the absolutely amazing-looking The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Complete Edition. If those two were too much for you, Nintendo was also demoing puzzler, Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD.

As with last year, Bethesda A/NZ kept the audience entertained in the queue hall, as they waited for the doors to open. This year it was a full-on Doom Eternal pyrotechnics show. At the Bethesda booth, gamers could actually get their hands on Doom Eternal well in advance of its November launch.

In their first appearance at PAX Australia, Koch Media brought with them a bumper selection of new and upcoming game for fans to check out. Top of my list was GRID, Codemasters’ latest iteration of their circuit racing series. They showed off Desperados III and the Destroy all Humans! remake. They also had a selection of peripherals on show, as well some items for sale. 

As you’d expect, queues for demoing AAA games were long. For the hardcore fan, an hour’s wait for ten minutes with an upcoming blockbuster is nothing. For those less enamoured for spending a weekend standing in line, the indie area, PAX Rising, offered gamers the opportunity to try out some amazing locally-produced games and have a chat with the people that developed them.

It wouldn’t be a PAX without panels. The show kicked with a keynote speech by David Gaider, formerly of Bioware, designer on Balder’s Gate 2 and writer on the Dragon Age series. Gaider announced his studio, Summerfall Studios’ new game, Chorus, at the show. This musical game is being crowdfunded on Fig and already has voice acting luminaries Troy Baker (The Last of Us) and Laura Baily (Gears 5) on board.

Throughout the weekend the venue’s many theatres played host to numerous diverse panels discussing everything from table-top roleplaying in an online to games in education. Heavy-hitters such as CD Projekt RED and Crystal Dynamics also held a number of theatre demo sessions for their upcoming games, Cyberpunk 2077 and Marvel Avengers.

Behind closed doors journalists got to see some a bit more of what we’ve all got to look forward to. I’m still sworn to secrecy on one of them. But I can say that Minecraft running on an NVIDIA RTX graphics card with ray-tracing turns a blocky, unrealistic game into a blocky but extremely, and bizarrely, realistic game that is going to blow minds when it comes out next year.

PAX Australia, as usual, was weird, wacky and rather hectic. But it was full of smiles on happy faces as the Australian gaming community came together to celebrate their hobbies.