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PAX Aus 2023: Nintendo’s Return, Tabletop Adventures, and a Brush with Back Pocket!

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Rohan Elliott,Thomas Richards
| November 19, 2023
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PAX Australia 2023. The biggest gaming convention in Australia recently celebrated its ten-year anniversary. It’s a massive accomplishment for the PAX organisers, and Thomas Richards and I wanted to celebrate this anniversary by attending the show in person this year. We also thought it would be a great way to show off all the awesome indie games coming out of Australia to the Couch Soup community. Personally, I thought it would be as good an excuse as any to spend a week in Melbourne and play video games.

Of course, it wasn’t as easy as rocking up in Melbourne a day before the convention, all sunshine and rainbows… mainly because the Melbourne weather forgets what sunshine feels like three-quarters of the year. The first step was applying for the media pass and waiting nervously to hear back. Once we got the approval back, then came the press emails… my god, the emails. Thankfully, Thomas handled most of the articles, discussing all the press release items in the emails while I edited them and added in my two cents, which helped reduce the stress somewhat. Once all the pre-show build-up was done, all that was left was the anticipation, nerves, and excitement of the event itself. Queue a three-hour plane flight from sunny Western Australia to rainy, dull Melbourne, thinking about all the cool games I’d get the chance to play over three days.

Smash cut to three days later, and I’m collecting my media pass from the desk and entering PAX Aus 2023 as a fully-fledged media member. One of the perks of being media, apart from the sweet badge, was an hour early access to the show floor on Friday… which I promptly spent playing the new Super Mario Bros. Wonder (poorly) and standing in line for the Sonic Superstars while they were experiencing technical difficulties. While it was frustrating, after seeing the massive lines for both Nintendo and Sega over the three days, I was glad I got those out of the way early.

Meeting your hero is such an exciting experience

One misconception that I had about PAX going in was that there would be more than enough time to get everything done. At the end of day one, that still felt true. Then, over the next two days, I was swiftly dissuaded from that notion. A couple of panels, some filming, and recording for social media stuff, then all of a sudden, it’s half an hour before closing on the final day, and you’ve still got a list of games you want to check out. If you’re planning on covering PAX, I would recommend having more than two people so you can have people working on the social media side of things while others are getting clips, playing the games, and interviewing people.

My highlight of the convention? Well, it’s too hard to put it down to just one. Meeting a fellow Couch Soup contributor in the flesh was a nice moment after three and a bit years of Zoom meetings and emails. It was also a blast getting the opportunity to meet Peter Burns and Stephanie Bendixsen from Back Pocket (formerly Good Game) and being able to play so many awesome games and chat with the developers behind them. On a personal note, it’s always been a lifelong dream to write about video games and attend gaming conventions, and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to attend one.

It wasn’t all fun times in video game land. The pre-convention build-up was hectic, more so for Thomas, just to make sure we were covering everything in enough detail without short-changing anything. There was also a bit of anxiety during the events, making sure we were able to get everything we wanted while still having time to enjoy the event. Also, after a week of living off fast food, I cannot stand the sight of the golden arches.

Would I do it again? Absolutely.  

Of course, this is all coming from a wide eyed newbie of the convention scene, what would a stalwart veteran of the convention circuit think about all that which I found to be so exciting and shiny? Lucky for me, this wasn’t Tom’s first rodeo so let’s hear from the man himself…

Nintendo’s back with a wa-hah!

Tom: As a so-called veteran of PAX Aus, I already had an idea of what to expect on the show floor this year. After the relatively lackluster show last year, with the bigger publishers nowhere to be found, I was keen to see the return of Nintendo. I was also interested to see the ever-growing PAX Rising section, which is always filled with plenty of indie games. I also spent a decent amount of time in the tabletop area, which is always a fun time.

Starting with the exhibitors, I was excited to see Nintendo back at PAX Aus. In previous years, they’ve always gone extra with their booths, and this year was no exception. I loved what they did for Super Mario Bros. Wonder with a warp pipe and the giant wonder flower hanging above the booth, adding some much-appreciated charm. I also absolutely adored their section dedicated to the Pokémon Scarlet and Violet DLC, which was my favourite display of the entire show. There was also SEGA’s booth, which had Sonic Superstars and Like a Dragon Gaiden playable, which were both fun times. The rest of the show floor was pretty standard, with most of the usual suspects like Kings Comics and a bunch of PC companies present. All in all, The show floor was a step up from last year, and I can’t wait to see what they do next year!

The rivalry from the 90s felt reignited on the PAX show floor

The tabletop area has always been a part of PAX that I enjoy. I love going around and trying out different board and card games. This year, they even had a scavenger hunt where you collect stickers from playing various board games to win prizes. Unfortunately, I didn’t complete it in time, but it was still a fun experience, and I got to try a lot of games I wouldn’t have otherwise. I ended up going back to the Cardfight!! Vanguard booth after trying the game last year and ended up buying a booster box to get even more cards. Speaking of cards, I also tried out the Aethermon: Collect, which, while a bit confusing, has so many adorable monster cards that I just had to buy it as well.

Now, to the actual writing part, dear god, there was so much writing. As Rohan mentioned, there were a lot of emails and press releases leading up to the event. I’ll admit, I dreaded each new email as they came in because it meant another night was taken up with going over a press release and cobbling something together. It did get a little draining towards the end, but it was still ultimately a fun experience, even if I may think twice about doing it again.

It was fun to meet up with another contributor and collaborate in person for a change. I had gotten so used to online chats that I had forgotten what it was like to work together in person. While it was a bit stressful with some last-minute purchases just to get the tech to work, I’d love to have the opportunity again to work with fellow contributors.

PAX Aus 2023 was a step up from last year, and with the convention seemingly on its way back to the heights of pre-COVID time, I’m excited to see how the show will shape up next year.

Did you attend PAX Aus? Are you planning on attending PAX in 2024? What are you looking forward to the most? Let us know down in the comments below.

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