PAX Australia kicks off in Melbourne in just under a week, running November 4th to 6th. The fourth for Australia this will in fact be my seventh PAX in attendance! I’ve been very fortunate to attend the show overseas and have watched it continue to grow larger and become more extravagant with each outing. It’s done this but always remained true to its original focus in being a convention constructed around it’s public attendees made for the people. It’s my favourite show to attend and without a doubt one of Australia’s largest now utilising the entire Melbourne Convention Centre end to end.
Being so large trying to navigate your way through it all over three days, or even worse – just one, can be a little daunting. To help I’ve put together a list of tips, tricks and information that I think is of use to any attendee, be it your first or seventh time round.
So here it is, my “10 things to get you through PAX Australia 2016” list!
#1 Plan your show!
Like any successful venture planning is that annoying thing most people hate to do but then when they’re inside a burning building with no fire exits, wish they had spent more time doing. Tackling PAX Australia is no different, well, except it’s not a burning building, it’s a gaming convention. But you knew that already.
Everyone is attending PAX with different goals in mind. Some simply want to play in the table-top area, others are panel-addicts jumping from one to another end to end. Whatever your goal is my advice is to spend some time getting yourself familiar with not only where everything is but when everything is on.
Thankfully the good folk behind PAX have a great set of resources available to help you plan your show well ahead of time.
The full schedule of panels is available online at the PAX website however I suggest you download the Guidebook app instead. The app allows you to favourite and sort panels and events of interest producing a timetable for your day.
Maps of the events are available to download now too. These too are in the Guidebook app however printing one out and having it handy is never a bad idea.
Lastly if you are leaving it all to the last minute PAX provide printed show guides on the day filled with all of the above and more. Be sure to grab one as a souvenir and another to write and scribble in if that’s the case!
#2 Bring a battery pack phone charger
Your phone will die. Your DS will die. You will run around cursing the soul of cuthulu and tell yourself that you’re fine with only 12% at 1pm in the afternoon. You’re lying to yourself.
There are vending machines that sell battery packs at the convention centre and a few power-points hidden about the place but don’t rely on them bring your own and assure yourself of an anxiety free day in doing so.
#3 Buy your merch early
Yes carrying stuff around is a pain in the ass but missing out on that one item you really wanted because it’s sold out is even worse.
The merch sells out quickly! Figure out what you want now by visiting this link and grab it as soon as you can.
There’s also a cloak room hidden around near the South Wharf entrance of the Melbourne Convention Centre. So if you buy a whole bunch of stuff and don’t want to carry it around there may be space in there to store it!
#4 Follow the various PAX twitter accounts
While the show is in full swing things can sometimes change ever so slightly so it’s best to have your finger on the pulse via Twitter. The PAX staff do a phenomenal job keeping everyone informed and up to date with exactly where things are at via a series of Twitter accounts.
- @paxaus – The main Twitter account for the show. Expect updates to its progress, sightings of celebrity guests, competitions and general information to be found here.
- @paxaus_lines – A running commentary of the length of lines to various talks and performances. If you’re unsure whether or not there’s any point in running to the other end of the convention centre to queue up for a panel this account will tell you if needn’t bother or not.
- @paxaus_tt – All things table-top happening at PAX Aus. One of the largest and most important areas of the show needs its own Twitter account just to keep you abreast of everything that’s happening in the great TT hall.
#5 The Enforcers are the best friends you never knew you had
Scary name, amazing people.
All volunteers, Enforcers are a long standing PAX tradition present at every iteration of the show around the world.
If you’re lost, unsure of where something is or just want to know the time – find someone wearing a bright yellow (or green perhaps this year) t-shirt that has “ENFORCER” emblazoned across it and they’ll gladly help you out.
#6 Come for the triple A’s; spend time with the indies
Yes the Expo Hall will have huge, booming stands from PlayStation, Microsoft, Sony, Ubisoft and others just overflowing with rich, sweet, sweet gooey gaming goodness but pry yourself away and check out the “PAX Rising” areas.
PAX has a proud tradition of showcasing some of the best talent in indie-game development on the show floor. It’s in this area you’ll have the opportunity to speak to the small teams behind some of the most exciting and most innovative titles soon to hit the market.
I’ve spent an entire day wandering between the small stalls each developer is allocated and barely seen a third of all them as well as I’ve wanted to. Some of them are not much more than an idea hurriedly brought to life to showcase and gather input from you the attendee in the hopes of it becoming so much more.
It’s in this area, in years gone by, you may come across “Fez”, “Super Meat Boy” or “That Dragon, Cancer” for the first time.
#7 Queue wisely
Not going to lie, there are a lot of queues to be found at any PAX. Whether you’re wanting to get hands-on with the latest gaming release or attending one Tycho & Gabe’s infamous Penny Arcade Q&A panels you will most likely at some point be in a queue.
There is an entire hall dedicated to a single queue line. If you’re going to anything that queue’s here be prepared for a wait and do so knowing that it may mean you miss out on seeing something else. It’s a hard reality of any convention.
Playing Dead Rising, a highly anticipated title on show a Microsoft’s Xbox booth this year is likely to incur a stiff penalty eating into your free time while you queue for an hour or more.
Be smart, focus on the things you can’t see anywhere else, are most passionate about and perhaps won’t be released in a few weeks time.
#8 Get outside
Outside?! Pfffft, what are you, crazy?! I know, it sounds it right but hear me out. The convention can at times be a little overwhelming. There are a lot of people mulling about the place and sometimes that can be a little much.
Thankfully your badge does a lot more than just entitle you to stuffy convention halls with overpriced junk food. Flash your badge at many of the restaurants and cafes in-front of the convention centre and receive a handy 10% off your purchase. Boatbuilders Yard, Munich Bar, General Assembly and more! That’s pretty awesome. Plus you’ll get some Vitamin D, probably a little H2O from the skies – being Melbourne after all – and some fresh air!
PAX Australia also has an incredible little area they call the “AFK room”. It’s a space where if you feel overwhelmed or uneasy you’re free to go to and speak to someone or simply relax. It’s a positive mind-space that is an amazing initiative by the show organisers.
#9 Go to a panel
It stupidly wasn’t until my third PAX that I finally stepped into a panel (not including the opening “Story time”, which this year is being done by Xbox’s Major Nelson BTW). There are so many amazing panels run by super smart, friendly people with approachable panelists it’s almost a crime not to attend at least one. Even if you have no intention of going to a panel do yourself a favour and flick through the list and I guarantee you’ll find at least one that has something you find interesting.
Personally I like to go to the smaller ones. They feel like a big discussion with friends and as a freelance writer they’ve been a great source of information and guidance to me over the years. It’s a great opportunity to ask questions and meet experts in their fields all working in this crazy world of entertainment we call gaming.
#10 Enjoy yourself
Yeah, yeah, total cliche I know but it’s important.
PAX has always been about the people. Unlike other major conventions around the world it exists entirely for you. It’s a show that brings some of the most exciting gaming companies and people from all over the world together for a few days.
Make the most of it because before you know it it’ll all be over and it’s a long wait to the next one!
And if you should see a funny guy that does magic tricks and has a haircut that sort of makes the word ‘haircut’ seem like an oxymoron then say hello and thanks because it’s likely that’s Guy “Yug” Blomberg. He’s the main man behind organising PAX Australia and he very kindly let me interview him just before PAX Australia last year. Thanks Yug!