If the “geek shall inherit the Earth” then PAX is where they divvy up the loot.
As an expo, it is a huge opportunity to try new games, find new talent, and “mingle with your people.” Trust me–I have plenty of new finds to +1 your geek status.
But as a social hub? It’s a whole other level.
This was my first time at a PAX (Penny Arcade eXpo, for the noobs). They’re a big thing in the U.S. So big, they had to expand to Australia. And don’t think the Australian version would be some kind of PAX Lite. It was massive, with all the same big names you would see in the Northern Hemisphere. My minions on the floor said the Australian version is more approachable and family friendly–like a big community hug.
PAX Aus has found its new home at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. And yes–they spread across both centers, taking up every spare inch they can get. The exhibitors staked out the Main Hall, vying for space but in neat sections to encourage the flow. I almost laughed at the organized chaos–in fact, I think a few of the Enforcers (aka volunteers) seemed to enjoy sending people in “grand tour” directions to ensure you did see everything. And no-one seemed to mind too much.
The one thing I loved about the layout was the division between video games and tabletop. It was a physical divider–a retro gaming lounge area, with bean bags and old old consoles, even pinball machines.
When the noise and lights from Fallout 4 became too much (and it did… many times), you could easily escape to a few original treats on the Atari. I saw many spawnlings receiving a full-on schooling from their geeky parents–“What are you talking about? These Stunt Car Racer graphics were awesome when I was your age!!”
The organizers are totally aware of the impact this expo has on patrons. So much, they even provided their own AFK room (Away From Keyboard). If at any time someone became overwhelmed, they could escape to the AFK room and talk it out with qualified counselors and psychologists. It had squishy toys, bean bags, coloring books, and plenty of water. Feedback on the room was hugely positive; maybe a dozen or so people seriously needed the help over the week with about a hundred or so dropping in and receiving general benefit. Just by being there and being available was a huge relief for some.
See, there’s that theme again: approachable.
Now I know there were still a few big names with the big screens and the big noise–I know they are advertising with a specific hype, but it really came across as over-compensating at times. It was often a relief to see others be more personal with their brand identity. Nintendo, for example, had a fantastic layout. They stayed true to their branding: stick with their favorite characters on the panels, camouflaging their MA15+ area behind an inconspicuous mural, even providing a cute little fake garden to
hide your spawnlings in while you play delight the children. Nintendo knows they have the “family friendly” brand and they were playing that card beautifully. I heard one story of a PR minion helping out a mum by walking the baby around that garden I mentioned. No big deal–just family friendly. That’s EG smart, right there. 😉
Disney Infinity was another stand out on the spawnling front–they had a brilliant art display in the middle of their stall. You could see examples of how the artists conceptualized the characters into playable figures. Many spawnlings were attracted to this wall, sharing a bonding moment with parents over their favorite characters before moving on together to the consoles. Nice one, Disney. I thought I was converting my spawnling to memories of the past, when really you are bringing me into your consumer projections for the future. Damn you.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a true geek experience if you couldn’t see these same characters come to life in cosplay. To be fair, I was looking for any and all examples of EG Parenting with spawnlings in cosplay. There were plenty of Links and Ash/Pokémon. My favorite was not a spawnling, but a woman who was stealing the hearts of spawnlings everywhere! Check out the puppetry!! Seriously–all she needed to do was tell the spawnlings how her dragon loves chocolate and she would have raked in BUCKET LOADS!!
Here a few more montages of cosplay:
Now, if you’re wondering where my game reviews are, fear not–I’ve split my review into three parts: General Review (which you have almost finished), Video Games Review, and Tabletop Review. Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow. And don’t forget to comment about your own highlights! The cosplay! The games!! The FOOD!!! No, seriously. One vendor had salted caramel-filled doughnuts… *drool*
* All opinions and reviews stated above are solely belonging to Evil Genius Mum; She received no endorsement from exhibitors or expo organizers. However, for future reference–EG Mum will accept chocolate, small nation states, and a 24-hour nanny/cleaner/cook service that allows her to sleep in every Sunday for the rest of her natural life. In that order.