By Sarah Knight
In 2004, the gaming webcomic company Penny Arcade decided that gamers needed an exhibition that rivaled that of comic books or animae, and it was right. When it staged its first exhibition in Bellevue, Washington, some 4500 people came out.
Almost 10 years later, the international gaming exhibition will be held for the first time outside the America with Melbourne hosting the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) in July this year and next year. For gamers all throughout Australia, it’s a sign of the rise of the gaming culture.
“Gaming culture in Australia is the mutual understanding between Aussie gamers to support each other and the games we play,” says Josh Edwards. “Everyone is trying to do their best to support the scene.” Josh, 23, is the marketing manager at BenQ, a leading provider of networked digital devices in Australia; he is also Counter-Strike national champion and Battlefield 3 world champion as part of ‘Team Immunity’.
Josh competes in games professionally and when he has a spare moment, he watches live stream computer games. Getting involved in the gaming culture is as simple as turning on the computer and joining a game online or for others, getting together around a table with some friends and playing tabletop.
Noah Hodge, a third year psychology student, spends much of his recreational time meeting up with a group of friends to play Rolemaster, an ‘old school’ role-playing game in the style of Dungeons and Dragons.
“Table top gaming, compared to computer gaming, is that the scope is infinite, the possibilities are endless and not limited by software,” says Noah, who got involved in gaming initially through computer-based games like Warcraft and Runescape.
The appearance of PAX in Melbourne gives Australian gamers the opportunity to take part in an international gaming culture. “It’s very exciting to know that the gaming culture in Australia is being recognised and appreciated,” Noah says.
For Josh and Noah, gaming is about having fun and challenging oneself, either through one’s mind or skill.
“I’m the type of person who always needs something to work towards, and gaming slowly became part of that,” Josh says. “I love the competitive side and the drive it takes to try to be the best.”
According to a study conducted by Bond University, 95 per cent of Australian households with children own a gaming console and this number rises year after year. Similarly, visitor numbers at PAX have risen from 4,500 in 2004 to over 70,000 people in 2012.
“Melbourne has a long history of supporting the games scene, through showcasing cultural game exhibits to supporting world renowned game developers. Holding PAX in Melbourne is the perfect fit for our show,” says Robert Khoo, president of Penny Arcade.
Whether it’s for a social get together or for the competition, gaming in Australia is growing. “The culture that has risen in Australia is developing international recognition and having PAX held in Melbourne proves this,” Noah says.