by Zoe Tomaras
“Imagine being able to go anywhere in the universe, and be anyone you want to be. It’s all at people’s fingertips through gaming if only they would see beyond their prejudices and open their eyes,” says Sarah Micaleff, 25, a gamer from Kenthurst.
Sarah believes the negative stereotypes attached to gaming shouldn’t be an issue any more as games are becoming such an enormous social phenomenon. This was evident by the large number of gamers who attended the EB Expo at Sydney Olympic Park in October.
Competing with the concert of pop sensation One Direction, as well as the NRL grand final, which were both at Sydney Olympic Park that same weekend, it could be assumed that attendance at the EB Games Expo would be a low priority to most Sydneysiders – until almost 38,000 people flooded the Sydney Showground to get their gaming fix.
Daniel Martello, 22, of North Richmond, a staff member who worked on the customer-service ‘mothership’ at the EB Expo, believes the stereotyping of gamers has to stop.
“The stigma attached to people who play video games is still strong. The belief that a gamer is someone who hides indoors all day, has few friends and lacks social skills is completely unfounded,” he says.
The Expo was split into five sessions – daylight and twilight sessions on Friday and Saturday, and a special family day on Sunday. A large arena was used to showcase footage for new games, and there were fireworks each night.
The main attraction was being able to play large titles before their release date, as well as the new generation consoles Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The attractions also included many social activities, such as Just Dance competitions on a lighted dance floor, a range of competitive racing games, as well as interactive Q & As with various celebrities from the gaming industry.
Daniel agrees these socially interactive mediums counteract the negative assumptions about a gamer’s social life. “People come from all over Australia to go to events such as the FIFA tournament, while many others attend panels and communicate with the developers of their favourite game series.”
Anthony Minton, 30, Rostering and Staff Manager at the Expo, says grouping gamers into categories such as age and gender is no longer necessary. “Gaming has come a long way in the past decade to reach every type of person. It is now a pastime for all age groups.”
The cosplay competition also drew an enormous crowd. ‘Cosplay’ is a Japanese term meaning ‘costume play’, and is an expressive visual art form. Cosplayers dress up as their favourite characters from any form of popular culture, but for this event, most dressed specifically as game characters. Some compete in competitions, and some dress up for pure enjoyment. Many cosplayers spend their day posing for photographs and responding to compliments.
Duchess Sakura, 26, of Blacktown, says, “I love the way cosplaying makes me feel. I gain confidence and feel in my element. Everyone knew who my character was, which shows how well-known games have become. Mostly, I love the friendships I form while doing it.”
She feels that judgemental attitudes about cosplaying are in the past. “I have friends who are regular Joes with regular jobs, and they love dressing up. It’s not restricted,” she says.
The Expo concluded with a closing ceremony including an ‘EB Parade’, which brought the gaming community together for one last final hurrah. Sponsored race cars drove through the crowd, and celebrity game-reviewers Bajo and Hex, from television show Good Game, waved from their convertible. Children took advantage of the cars slowing down, and ran to get autographs.
EB Games staff were also involved, and they filled the air with bubbles, dressed up as game characters, and carried enormous helium-filled balloons through the crowd.
Sarah Micaleff sees the event in an incredibly positive light for the Australian gaming community. “The EB Expo is a chance for gamers to be at the forefront of the changes in their world, and to be with a group of like-minded individuals. It is a place for gamers to call home.”