I’m not afraid to call it: My year’s highlight will be PAX Aus 2022. As geek event reviewers and writers, we’re not supposed to have favorites, but PAX Aus is definitely high on the list. It’s not purely because of the geekiness nor the absolute saturation of gaming goodness. There is also something extra about Melbourne during this time of year. If you have ever considered visiting Melbourne (Australia), Melbourne International Gaming Week (MIGW) is an ideal time to do it. The infamous laneway culture is even more vibrant, with a sense of history and adventure weaving its way through the streets. PAX Aus is always the highlight, but give yourself a few extra days in Melbourne and make it a very geeky getaway for the whole family.
PAX Aus 2022
Let’s start with the obvious. PAX Aus is the biggest drawcard for any gaming fans in Australia, New Zealand, South East Asia, and really anyone with the frequent flyer points to make the trek this far. Yours truly will be making the trip from Sydney, and this year I am bringing the Evil Genius Family to show exactly how family-friendly it can be. The last time PAX Aus that was live and in person was 2019. And I am so unbelievably excited for PAX Aus 2022
PAX Aus 2022 is a 3-day event on Friday, October 7, Saturday, October 8, and Sunday, October 9. If you’re hoping to simply rock up, both the 3-day passes and Saturday passes are sold out. Last time I checked, Friday and Sunday were both at 70% capacity, so you might be lucky. The event is held at the Melbourne Convention Centre on the Yarra River in South Wharf. It’s a gorgeous location, on the edge of the CBD, and fairly close to everything.
These Are a Few of My Favorite Things
PAX Aus is the only PAX event outside the USA, and while there are definitely some Aussie vibes, they also remain loyal to their PAX branding. The Exhibition Hall is a major feature of the event, showcasing both video games and tabletop games, new and old. This is the opportunity for new developers to showcase their stuff, indie developers to get noticed, and those tried-and-true games to show why they are so evergreen. Personally, I love PAX Rising and PAX Aus Indie Showcase. Some of my favorite games have started here, including Unpacking and Necrobarista. This year, I’m already excited to check out the co-op dungeon crawler Under the Tavern and a city-building game titled Before We Leave.
In the tabletop arena, it’s a bit harder to pick out some early favorites. I prefer to wander around the tables and get a vibe for the games. There are a couple of newish ones to look for, including Yum Cha. One place I am definitely stopping by is Level Up Dice. It would seem we have at least one dice goblin in the family, and Level Up Dice has some of the best dice storage I have seen anywhere. I love the natural wood and smooth snap-shut mechanism.
See Evil Genius Mum Live at PAX Aus 2022
Even with all of these games and goodies, I’ll tell you a secret: I’m really there for the panels. I have learned so much from the panels at PAX Aus—from the importance of diversity to the use of soundtracks, and the difficulty of achieving a truly engaging narrative. When I was asked to participate in my first panel, I was so excited to be an active part of this amazing event. If you are attending PAX Aus 2022 next week, come over and check out my new panel for this year, Gameschooling: It’s More Than Lockdown Learning at Home. It’s in the Galah Theatre at 12:00 pm on Saturday 8 October. I’m sharing the limelight with a great team of geeky parents sharing their own unique views on the benefits of gameschooling, how they used gaming during lockdown learning, and what they are doing now.
One final tip for those attending PAX Aus 2022. When the Exhibition Hall becomes a little overwhelming, as can happen to many of us over the weekend, there are plenty of opportunities to take a break from it all. Throughout the Centre are various AFK rooms, Console Lounges, Paint-n-Take tables, and little hidden nooks near stairwells to sit and hide. There is also plenty of green space just outside the center so you can touch the grass and ground yourself again. I have taken advantage of this many times.
Melbourne’s Laneway Culture
Outside of PAX Aus, Melbourne offers a lot to keep you entertained. It is one of those marvelous cities where you can travel as a geek and geek out about travel. The heart of the CBD is this dynamic blend of history and culture, with beautiful heritage buildings like the Royal Arcade and the original Royal Exhibition Building. (It’s a little outside the CBD in Carlton.) Hidden within the city streets is the Melbourne Laneway Culture, a warren of tight paths and alleyways filled with cafes, street art, and various other surprises.
I’m heading to Caledonian Lane this year to see the street art, including inspirations from the gaming community itself. The laneway is located across from Fortress Melbourne, a gamers paradise, offering video games, pinball arcades, tabletop, and a full dining and bar experience. Fortress Melbourne will also feature at PAX Aus, showcasing their upcoming Sydney experience. EG Family will be visiting the Tavern for dinner beforehand, so stay tuned for our family-friendly review.
Melbourne as a Playable City
Thanks to its geeky charm, Melbourne was recently added to the Playable City movement. Starting in Bristol in 2012, the Playable City movement is a creative response to structured urban environments, nurturing the relationship between function and fun for the people who live and work there. Many “smart cities” have developed ways to guide people through a city with minimal friction and interruption, giving a sense of greater efficiency. However, mental health advocates and human behavior specialists have been advocating for the need to encourage downtime to slow down and enjoy our surroundings at leisure. One of the most effective and entertaining ways to do this is to incite PLAY in our surroundings.
During MIGW (the week leading up to PAX Aus), Playable City Melbourne is hosting a symposium to promote and celebrate the many ways Melbourne shares its gaming culture with the public. There are physical play areas, such as a parkour parklet in Malvern, Footscray, and Brunswick. On Clarendon St (approximately a 20-minute walk from PAX Aus), you can find the Clarendon Street Arcade. It features five (5) arcade cabinets designed by artists, game developers, academics, students, and First Nations People to form a playable “trail” along Clarendon Street.
There are also games to help you explore Melbourne at your own pace—and you don’t even have to be IN Melbourne to play them. (Although, it is more fun that way.) Eastern Market Murder was released at PAX Aus 2021 when Melbourne was still experiencing COVID lockdowns and PAX Aus was an online event. It is an augmented reality game to play on your mobile device in Melbourne or anywhere else worldwide. The game itself is a narrative murder mystery, taking you on a tour to various locations around Melbourne for clues in a real-life mystery from 1899. This is your game if you love true crime podcasts. You can read my full review from last year here. The AR is a perfect mechanism for using real buildings in Melbourne and connecting them to critical moments in the case. Quite the unique way to take a 90-minute walking tour through Melbourne.
Is Melbourne Really a Family-Friendly Holiday?
Without a doubt, it is absolutely a family-friendly holiday! Just like any city, Melbourne has plenty to show off to visitors of all ages. Visiting during MIGW and PAX Aus adds some extra shine for those of us geek-centric. Here are some more highlights on the EG Travel List for Melbourne:
- ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image): Located in Fed Square, this is Australia’s national museum of screen culture. If you’re a fan of film, TV, video games, and art in general, this place should be top of your list.
- Melbourne Museum: Featuring a newly renovated children’s gallery, families will love the tactile hands-on nature of the museum. My fave is the Dinosaur Walk, including the opportunity to dig around in the discovery garden play area.
- Queen Victoria Markets: I remember visiting these markets at least once a month when I was a kid. They have grown even more over the years and are still one of the most explorative venues for discovering all types of food! Melbourne is a culturally diverse city, and food is always a guaranteed way to bring people together. I’m looking forward to chatting with some stall operators and picking up new recipes to share with the kids.
- Scienceworks: It’s an interactive museum focused on science! Scienceworks is the lovechild of Melbourne’s innovation and technology industry, with displays designed to encourage experimentation and the ultimate science question “But WHY?” They WANT you to touch the exhibits. They WANT you to play here. And if you can get a ticket for the Planetarium on Friday night, you might win best parent of the year.
If you are heading to Melbourne for PAX Aus 2022, keep an eye out for my lab coat and say hi! You can also find me at the gameschooling panel on Saturday or doing some tabletop demos with Let’s Play Games. You know, the usual PAX things. Also, stay tuned for the upcoming reviews and highlights over the next few weeks.