PAX Aus & Melbourne International Games Week | October 2022 | Recommendations
PAX Aus returned in full swing this year for its first in-person event in two years! After a world-leading record of lengthy lockdowns in Melbourne, it’s difficult to describe exactly how moving it was to be greeted with a warm “Welcome Home” as I reconnected with my IRL gaming community for the first time in a long time.
In previous years, PAX badges have sold like hotcakes from the moment they’ve been available, but this year felt somewhat subdued in comparison. This isn’t necessarily a reflection of the convention itself, however. In its two-year absence, myself and many local gamers have simply fallen out of the habit of PAX, and many of us simply missed the announcements leading up to the event.
I didn’t even realise it was back on in-person this year until someone alerted me to the fact that Melbourne International Games Week (MIGW) had already started. As a local games journalist and twitch streamer, I figured this was something I should get involved in and I’m glad I jumped into it when I did, even if I was a little late to the party.
Unfortunately, I missed out on the majority of MIGW events prior to PAX, including the opening Freeplay Parallels 2022 event, which is a yearly indie games festival that showcases local talent. If you want to see a round-up of the highlights from this year, you can check out this article by GamesHub.
What I did get to experience, however, is the opening day of PAX Aus 2022, which was more than enough to reinvigorate my interest and enthusiasm for the local games industry in Melbourne, and give me plenty of ideas on how I want to grow as a game critic and content creator.
PAX AUS 2022
“PAX Aus is a celebration of gaming and gaming culture featuring thought-provoking panels, an expo hall filled with publishers and independent studios, game demos, musical performances, tournaments, and an experience unlike any other.– PAX Aus website
Held across three full days and all under one roof, PAX offers the community the opportunity to meet with old friends, make new ones, interact with game developers, publishers and brands, and get hands-on with everything they love about gaming.”
Held this year at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, PAX Aus featured a smorgasbord of game-related activities, including an Expo Hall, handheld lounge, board games library, and more!
As a shy shut-in whose crowd anxiety has only gotten worse over the past couple of years, my biggest concern going in to PAX was the large number of attendees and the confined space in which we were destined to gather. I’d been to the Crunchyroll Expo only a few weeks prior, and my main critique of this event was the overselling of tickets and lack of accessibility regarding space and seating.
Thankfully, the organisers of PAX essentially took over the entire exhibition centre for the duration of the convention, meaning it was easy for con-goers to enter and exit at will, without having to re-queue, or even be barred for re-entering at all.
There were also a variety of quiet spaces to retreat to when the noise and crowds became overwhelming, and I could easily get some natural light and fresh air whenever I wanted. Plus, there was plenty of seating, including benches, tables and chairs, and even bean bags in the handheld lounge.
In short, the event was deliberately designed to be accessible for people with varying needs and requirements, and the layout was thoughtfully planned to allow for attendees to enjoy the convention at their own pace.
Next year, I’ll be aiming to attend for all three days, as I didn’t feel that one day was enough to fully appreciate everything PAX had to offer. Even after taking many snack and seating breaks, I was worn out by late afternoon, which isn’t too surprising, considering I’m out of practice (and out of shape!) after not having attended events like this for years.
Still, if my largest complaint is that I wish I could have attended more, then that speaks to the success of this year’s PAX Aus. From the moment I left, I was looking forward to PAX Aus 2023, so I’ll be sure to stay organised for next year and make the most out of everything the convention has to offer!
I mentioned in my review of Crunchyroll Expo 2022 that I loved the food trucks and variety of options for snacks and beverages. PAX had a similar array of food trucks available, as well as the in-built cafeteria, and some other assorted stalls, including a pub, pizzeria, and a pretzel stand from which I happily devoured a chocolate-sprinkled pretzel while gathering my bearings when I first arrived.
Even though I brought my own water bottle – and I highly recommend taking regular snack and water breaks while you’re at a convention – I couldn’t resist the bubble tea truck! I had a strawberry fruit tea that was perfect for drinking on the go, and I loved it so much I’ve actually kept the cup to re-use when I make my own bubble tea at home.
But onto non-food related praise, my favourite part of PAX was definitely PAX Rising. When I first entered the expo hall, I was greeted by scores of indie games with free demos to try. The developers were standing at their booths, ready to tell you about their work, and their passion was contagious.
Since PAX is technically part of Melbourne International Games Week (MIGW), it makes sense to highlight local games in particular. I was happy to see whole sections of PAX dedicated to games made by studios in New Zealand, Tasmania, and Melbourne, which made it all the easier to connect with local developers and their works.
Retreats from the Crowds
By the end of the day, I was pretty worn out from wandering around and exploring all the features PAX had to offer, which is when I came to fully appreciate the Handheld Lounge. It was located next to a DJ booth, so I wouldn’t necessarily describe it as a “quiet” area, but it was nonetheless a relief to sit down in a comfy bean bag, pop in my noise cancelling headphones, and let my phone recharge via the free power station.
Another great way I found to take a break from the crowds was by attending one of the panels. There were a lot of panels on this year, including several career-oriented options designed for those wishing to enter the games industry. These panels were also livestreamed on the various PAX AUS Twitch accounts, meaning anyone could hop on and watch, even without attending the rest of the convention.
I didn’t get to spend too much time in the tabletop games area, but for those who like board games, card games, and roleplaying games, there was plenty to get involved in. GMs and players alike could sign up to play one-shot sessions in a variety of settings and systems, and local creators of board and card games had demos on offer, much like the PAX Rising section.
There was something at PAX for everyone, no matter your preferred platform, genre, or play style. I couldn’t try everything, but between PAX and the Steam showcase for Melbourne International Games Week, I did discover a few new and upcoming titles that I wanted to showcase here.
Some I had already heard of, but most were unknown to me until MIGW. If you’re curious to see my highlights, here are my personal favourites from MIGW and PAX Aus 2022…
Cult of the Lamb
Cult of the Lamb took the gaming community by storm, so it’s no surprise that MIGW snapped up the opportunity to promote such a successful and renowned local game.
I recently played it on Twitch, and even though the gameplay is more involved than the typical visual novels I’m used to, I had a lot of fun experimenting with the different cult-based mechanics and slashing my way through the dungeons.
For gamers who prefer narrative over strategy, you should know that the story is still fairly pronounced throughout the game. Furthermore, the difficulty is adjustable, including an easy mode that lets you basically steamroll the fights, allowing players to focus on the more casual parts of the game, without the stress of dungeon crawling.
Plus, if you’re like me and you’re a sucker for that endearing intersection of creepy and cute, then you’ll love the atmosphere and aesthetic of Cult of the Lamb. The art and music come together to create an immersive world that I find truly enjoyable to play in, so I recommend checking it out if anything I’ve said has peaked your interest.
☆ Game Name: Cult of the Lamb
☆ Developers: Massive Monster
☆ Publishers: Devolver Digital
☆ Platforms: Steam, GOG, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PS4/PS5
☆ Genres: Horror, Dark Comedy, Roguelike, Action
☆ More info: Website, Twitter, Discord, Reddit, TikTok
Every Hue of You
Every Hue of You is an upcoming visual novel that caught my eye during the Steam showcase and I was excited to see it had a booth at PAX! Visual novel fans often lament the lack of attention and support our preferred genre receives in the mainstream gaming space, so it was great to see some representation at such a large event.
While there’s no explicit romance in Every Hue of You, the story still focuses on emotions and interpersonal connections, making it a great pick for otome fans who want to explore a little outside the realm of the standard fare. I’m definitely keeping an eye on this one, and I’ve wishlisted it on Steam to make sure I don’t miss out on any future updates or announcements.
The Many Deaths of Lily Kosen
At PAX, I had the opportunity to chat with the lovely booth team for The Many Deaths of Lily Kosen, a horror visual novel by Too Many Teeth. If you’re a fan of horror and dark comedy, it’s worth checking out this upcoming title. They haven’t launched their Kickstarter yet, but you can still save it now to be notified when the campaign does get going and follow the team on social media in the meantime.
☆ Game Name: The Many Deaths of Lily Kosen
☆ Developers: Too Many Teeth
☆ Publishers: Too Many Teeth
☆ Platforms: Steam, itch.io
☆ Genres: Horror, Visual Novel
☆ More info: Kickstarter, Twitter, Website, Instagram, Facebook
Primordials Legends: Hollow Hero
Primordials Legends: Hollow Hero is an action-adventure game featuring an anthropomorphic wombat heroine named Brunt. I absolutely love the concept for this game, and the art style is stunning! I was hoping to find some games with quintessentially-aussie themes, and a wombat protagonist definitely fits the bill. I’ve wishlisted it on Steam, and I’m looking forward to hearing more updates as development progresses.
A Halloween Valentine
If you like music and video games, then you may want to take a look at A Halloween Valentine, a rhythm adventure game by Things for Humans, featuring music by pop artist Monster Mansion. The art style is fun and vibrant, and I saw this game popping up everywhere across Melbourne International Games Week, so it’s definitely a title to keep an eye on. Currently, it’s available to wishlist on Steam, and you can follow Monster Mansion on Twitter for more updates.
Another local game with Australian themes is Miska, a narrative-driven, park restoration game. If you’re a fan of relaxing games with loveable characters and compelling stories, then Miska may be the game for you. There was something heart warming about listening to the familiar sounds of Australian birds as I explored this demo, and it was an easy decision to pop this one on my Steam wishlist.
~☆ Patrons ☆~
SSR – Tarranga
SSR – Caroline
SSR – Meghan Hadley
SR – Teryarel
SR – Fitzroy
SR – Tein
R – Vilicus
R – Salla Räisänen
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