On PAX & The People You Meet

2019 marks the sixth year the Penny Arcade Expo has come to Melbourne, forming a major part of Melbourne International Games Week, itself a celebration of local game development. There’s always a lot of reasons to come to PAX, which many people outside of Victoria (and Australia) do, but for me, it’s always been more of a social thing.

I’ve always viewed the draw of PAX as because it’s so big of a event in uniting all sorts of people interested in the medium, it’s the Super Smash Bros Ultimate of events: everyone is here. People covering games, people making games (both tabletop and video), people who like watching people play games, that sort of thing. PAX is a convention ultimately about people as much as it is about games.

I’m relatively sociable both in person and online, so part of the fun is wandering the show floor and seeing people you know and trying to catch up as best you can, or potentially meeting new people you’ve never had much experience with. Putting Twitter profile pictures to actual faces is a satisfying game in itself, and it still never feels normal to say to people that you’re mutual followers.

Because PAX is so populated, it can be a lot to take in and nearly impossible to cover at times, at worst overhwhelming. Moving around on the crowded show floor ranks pretty low amongst my favourite PAX experiences, enough that I beg for the PC parts manufacturers that cause such crowd jams to take over the second hall of MCEC exclusively to themselves. But without the crowds, you miss some genuinely heartfelt moments that you otherwise wouldn’t get.

During some downtime wandering the halls, I spotted people catching up for what had to be the first time in person or the first time in a while, and they were genuinely excited to be in each other’s presence. Moments like these are small and hard to catch, but when you caught a glimpse of them, it provided a genuine moment of sincerity that elevated a pretty extraordinary weekend.

I’m reminded of one of the more specific interactions I’ve had at a past PAX Australia. On the last day of the 2013 expo, I decided to lineup with the punters to see what the experience was like. I ended up being in the queue room with a group of Americans that travelled from the US all the way to the Melbourne Showgrounds, taking advantage of the international passes that PAX offer.

We started chatting, and the question of why someone would travel all the way from the US (I want to say they were from Seattle, but I honestly can’t remember) to suburban Melbourne was brought up. It was the allure of PAX, having done several of the US events in the past, that was enough to draw them overseas and into a country they’d never stepped foot in before.

I didn’t quite understand it at the time, but six years and several PAX’s later, I understand it better. There’s a positive and powerful vibe about the event and the people that come to it that make it such a memorable, transformative event. You want to be a part of it, or at least be around it, because you never quite know what will happen.

Very few events I’ve been involved with or gone along to have had that same vibe. It envelopes you in such a way that you can’t help but drink it in. And for the most part? I’m glad I did.

When he’s not meeting people in person, Jamie’s meeting people online across all social channels at @jamiemgalea