Although I have attended PAX AUS since its inauguration back in 2013, I had never had a year of no physical PAX until the ‘lockdown era’. 2022 marks PAX AUS’ long anticipated return to Melbourne, and I know what you’re wondering, ‘Was it worth it’? Short answer – absolutely.
So many patrons were overflowing with happiness to be welcomed back to the place that they can call home for three days of the year. Prepped with comfy shoes and snacks, as soon as the clock hit 10am on the Friday, patrons were dashing over to their favourite booth at the Exhibitor Hall.
Granted, PAX AUS is much bigger than just the Exhibitor Hall, but at 10am on Day 1, the place to be is the showroom floor. The biggest game being showcased this year would be Sega’s Sonic Frontiers which will be released on November 8. However, the most dominant section of the showroom floor this year would be both the PAX Rising area in the Exhibitor Hall, filled with developer talent of the latest and greatest indie games. The other biggest section would be the Tabletop gaming area.
While Sonic Frontiers looked like a blast for the 20 minutes of it that you can play before time runs out, and Sonic was at the booth too and available to take a pic with, I spent a lot of my time in the PAX Rising area trying out many indie games that were in the public eye for the first time. The games that we tried or caught our eye included Toge Productions’ mysterious adventure A Space for the Unbound, Samurai Punk’s hilarious Justice Sucks which doesn’t suck and is actually great, Hojo Studio’s The Godfeather where you play as a pigeon with the goal of shitting on absolutely everyone, and magical visual novel Cactus Jam Games’ Every Hue of You.
If you’re a fan of collecting Penny Arcade pins, the newest challenge this year was the Pax Promenade Quest Pin where you had to eat at at two of the four participating restaurants which consisted of The Common Man, Meat Market with their pop-up Orbital Burger Bar complete with blue bun hot dogs and red burger buns, cocktail bar Plus 5, and Lego décor Thai restaurant BangPop. While I ate at BangPop and Meat Market’s Orbital Burger Bar, any choice is fine and I am hoping the that this quest comes back again next year, since it did encourage patrons to support the local businesses in the area. However, I believe this challenge was difficult for those only attending PAX for one day, as obtaining the pin required you to dine at two restaurants and there are only so many PAX hours in a single day.
Some other Penny Arcade pins you could earn included Creative Victoria’s GameMelbourne AR Activated Pin from the PAX Rising area when you played an indie game made in Melbourne, the Pinterstellar Chicken Pin which could only be obtained (if you didn’t preorder them with your PAX badge) via pin trading, and the Jackbox Games’ Junktopia Frog Pin which you could win if you won a round of Jackbox Party Pack 9, a game that the developers were previewing throughout the convention, which will be released on October 20.
If you love your PAX freebies, Hyper X were celebrating their 20th anniversary and were giving away heaps of goodies including some super cute duck keycaps, and we ended up getting the cutest little duckie with an Elvis Presley inspired hairdo. Indie game Bustin’ had t-shirts and toilet roll earrings to give away, Square Enix had a water bottle and shirt complete with a tote bag up for grabs provided you beat their Final Fantasy XIV bosses, Amazon Prime had their little smile logo pin to give away, and the Prime Video booth had pins for their original streaming content including Jack Ryan, The Boys, and their latest and greatest series The Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power, which had 6 of its own enamel pins to collect.
If you’re at PAX more for the community and experience, there are various competitions available to win a PAX medal, in the Tabletop area you can learn a new card game or board game (I ended up playing new card game ‘Yum Cha’ by Quokka Games, which I thoroughly enjoyed), there are opportunities to try miniature painting, and nostalgia trips are available via the Classic Gaming area with your favourite classic console. For more chilled-out vibes, there are beanbags available for you to relax in at the Handheld Lounge, right next to it – Jackbox, there’s also the Cosplay Lounge, and the PAX Together room for the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+ community.
If you’re more for panels, there are always some fantastic panels at PAX including the Australian exclusive Sea Shanties panel, the Jackbox panel, and this year I ended up attending a late-night spicy Mass Effect panel where the room hilariously and energetically discussed if you would ‘smash’ or ‘pass’ on certain Mass Effect characters available for romance in-game. There’s also Omegathon, a yearly competition where the best of the best are plucked from the PAX faithful badge holders to face off against each other in the ultimate knockout competition for gamers.
What I love about PAX is how inclusive it is. No one is judged for who they are and what they wear. There are Penny Arcade pins available that can display your pronouns and even the bathrooms are changed to be gender neutral, something I believe more events should do. With PAX AUS returning for the first time in 3 years, everything seemed familiar, welcoming, and I lost count of the sheer number of beaming smiles I could see throughout the self-imposed long weekend. I also love how easy it is to make friends with others at the event. You could be the most awkward duck and there would be someone there who would understand and be on the same wavelength as you. When I went to certain events alone, I never ended up being alone as someone would end up chatting to me and befriending me. It was all so genuine and effortless.
Communities were even gathering in droves in their own areas, the cosplayers mostly in a certain foyer where they could get professional photos taken, or outside where they could pose with a background appropriate to their costume. If you’re keen for your self-made cosplay, you can always enter the cosplay competition. Seeing the cosplayers scattered around the event felt so wholesome and considering there was barely any cosplay at the very first PAX AUS, we’ve honestly come a long way. My favourite cosplay of the event that I saw was a lovely guy dressed as a Pokémon trainer fisherman, complete with a net full of Magikarp – that even moved and vibrated like real fish when you tapped it!
My only criticism would be the Twitch booth which went against everything inclusive that PAX stands for. The booth, more like a glass box with a shameless ‘Twitch Zoo’ title on the outside ignored all patrons and shunned away many that attempted to curiously enter. They weren’t showcasing anything and instead were an elitist box only permitting Twitch Partners to enter. While this isn’t the first time Twitch has been at PAX, it has never been like this and a booth like this, hell, attitude like this has no place at PAX. The whole idea around it broke my heart.
I’m not a hater of Twitch, in fact, I stream on Twitch. I still love streaming; however, the demands of the site haven’t allowed me time as of late. For the duration of our ‘lockdown era’, Twitch was my solace where I could befriend people around the world and have people help me with my games if I got stuck. I’ve made many friends on the platform, some even friends for life. During my streaming time, I even wrangled my community to get together to raise $4365.00 AUD over 10 days for Defeat MSA Down Under to fight against Multiple System Atrophy, a rare rapidly progressing neurodegenerative disorder that took my father’s life.
Circling back to my mention of the Twitch booth, there was nothing warm, welcoming, and inclusive about it. It frustrated me because we’re so against segregation in general, we want inclusivity and equality, and PAX prides itself on how inclusive it is. And yet, there it was as a Twitch booth, privileged separation in the middle of the PAX showroom floor. I hope that we never have a booth like this again. I suppose Twitch can do what they want with their own convention, but this kind of negative energy does not belong at PAX. At all.
PAX AUS 2022 came and went so quickly. It was only a moment ago we were welcoming people back and the next thing you know, you’re saying goodbye. The power of PAX also transcends its 3-day event in Australia. The week before, I had met two brothers at the end of an Eskimo Joe concert and from briefly talking to them and knowing that they were visiting from overseas, I soon discovered that one of them was an Omegathon winner from PAX East 2020 in the United States and his prize was to attend PAX AUS. While time and place may be perchance, PAX is no coincidence. That’s how inclusive and wonderful PAX AUS is and should be. Naturally, we became fast friends because of our common love of PAX and met up frequently during the event as well. I daresay, I think I have some friends to visit in Detroit now.
While the showroom floor may have been roomier than most years, this was forgivable as you don’t only come to PAX for the big console exhibitors and game developers. Nobody does. You come for the fun times, the friendships, the reunions, the community, and to witness the happiest time of the year.
Not only has this wonderful event finally returned to Melbourne, Australia, but once again, like every PAX AUS, I have tried incredible upcoming games that I cannot wait to play when fully released, have sweet freebie trinkets to commemorate my experience, and have made new friends – hopefully more friends for life. PAX AUS 2022 was a success and I cannot wait until PAX AUS returns next year for its 10th anniversary in Australia.
For more information and ticketing on next year’s event, visit:
Photography by Grant Alexander.