PAX Aus - Possibly the most awesome thing ever

Over the weekend I flew down to Melbourne for the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) - A gaming exhibition spanning 3 days with many thousands of gamers, cosplayers and geeks in attendance from around the globe. This expo marked the first ever PAX (PAX Aus) in Australia, and definitely won't be the last. I can't fully explain just how awesome the expo was, but I'll give it a good go.

Day 1

We arrived at the expo on day 1 about half an hour after the gates officially opened, and we realised our mistake instantly. The outside area around the queue was packed, and we were all slowly moved inside like cattle in a line.

Once inside we were free to roam around and check out what PAX had in-store for us. The Melbourne Showgrounds is a decent sized area, and PAX had the big top and a massive hall to contain the majority of its stalls and freeplay areas. The big top held the larger merch store, console freeplay, tabletop games, retro gaming, some food dispersal units and a handheld lounge (essentially a sea of beanbags and power cables).

I really liked the look of the retro gaming area they had - The assortment of old consoles was quite varied and seemed to be very popular. I had a hard time getting a turn, but ended up playing Rayman on the Atari Jaguar. They even had a copy of R-Type, which I used to play on the original gameboy:

pax retro 1

And some others:

pax retro 2

pax retro 3

PAX XP

An XP 'game' was present at PAX Aus wherein players with mobile devices could scan QR codes to reveal sections of a word puzzle:

pax xp

We were instantly addicted by the idea, and began searching for QR codes when we could find no room in the queues for panels on the first day. Every major area (Retro games, Tabletop, the theatres etc.) had a PAX sign that would contain a QR code for scanning. The PAX app revealed parts of the puzzle corresponding to the scanned code. We managed to get 11 of 12 of the codes, but never end up finding the last one. This revealed enough of the message for us to solve it, and it read "A few Roos loose in the top paddock."

By being able to recite the message to some enforcers at an info booth, they would give the player a prize. We believe the first 10 people were awarded medals, but by the time I cracked the code I was given a little Rubik's cube (which I love, don't get me wrong):

pax cube

Our search continued throughout the 3 days, which included attempted bribery of fellow PAX-goers and re-scanning the damn things.

Day 2

The queues... I dread to think just how much time was spent queuing for things over the weekend. Here's the queue at the ATM:

pax atm queue

Which ended up being about a 30 minute wait for some cash - I blame the merch store situated directly behind me in this photo.

Although many hours were spent sitting and playing Gamers Vs. Evil and PAA 3, which were awesome, I feel that the queue time was completely justified (aside from the ATM). Everything we queued for and saw was great - The panelists were entertaining and intriguing, and I can't even begin to explain just how amazingly awesome the Penny Arcade guys are. I've followed PA for quite a long time now, but I can honestly say I never realised just how great the personalities behind the comics are.

pax signature

We managed to meet Jerry on the first day as he was walking the length of the showgrounds. He was surrounded by fans, us included, signing and taking pictures. A huge amount of fan-boy-ism passed over us when we met him, and I'm sure that only other PAX'ers will understand this sensation.

We met Mike on the Saturday (2nd day) in the Expo hall, just wandering around and presumably taking it all in. Mike had no crowd around him, which I am sure was nothing to do with his level of fame, but purely because he is perhaps not as easily recognisable as Jerry. We met him, shook his hand and managed a signature (and a pin-trade with my mate). The entire trip, all of its costs and all of the queues were validated at that exact moment - Meeting the guys that invented Penny Arcade was definitely the highlight of the weekend.

The Live Drawing

We'd lined up early on the Saturday (a couple of hours before the gates opened) to ensure a spot in the main theatre for the live drawing of a PA comic. The queue for the panel filled the entire queue hall:

pax queue hall

We ended up getting a great seat at the front of the theatre:

pax panel stage

The panel was great, and was the first time we really got to listen to the PA guys speak. Jerry entertained the audience whilst Mike drew the panels. Jerry kicked off the event by writing a few lines:

pax panel text

Mike then got in to drawing the panels:

pax panel 1

pax panel 2

pax panel 3

The whole experience was awesome to watch, and has definitely increased my appreciation of the comics they create. I'm finding myself increasingly intoxicated by everything Penny Arcade - I've caught the fever!

Day 3

Day 3 was spent recoiling from the enjoyment of the first 2, and we spent a lot of time just looking around, eating and chilling in the handheld lounge. We also caught the Xbox One panel:

pax xbox one panel

I was quite surprised by the presentation, as I'd gone in with zero expectations of the device. The new Xbox is still an ugly thing, misshapen by misunderstandings of the gaming culture it's being sold to. It still has a lot of other problems, but the technology around it is quite impressive. The new Kinect is visually more powerful, and its accuracy and resolution have increased tenfold. I even like the controller, which is a big deal since I've hated all of the previous ones.

Regardless, I'll be buying a PS4 for sure.

The 3rd day finished up with the closing ceremony - another event we queued for for a substantial amount of time. After Jerry and Mike spoke for a bit, they ended the PA expo with an hour-long game of Jenga to find the Omegathon winner:

pax jenga

The game was intense - I haven't seen football fans cry this loud. Thousands of fellow geeks and gaming enthusiasts screaming at each pull of a block.

I must reiterate the fact that I am unable to fully express just how great the PAX experience was - You really need to be there to understand. No other expo or event has the personal touch that PAX brings. I can guarantee that I'll be seeing each and every one of the attendees of the 2013 PAX in 2014 like a family get-together.