The Game Expo 2023: A Promising Start for Melbourne’s Newest Community Gaming Convention
I had the pleasure of attending the first iteration of ‘The Game Expo’ (affectionately called TGX) in Melbourne as a content creator. I was keen to attend an event that was community driven and brand new for the Melbourne gaming community.
I knew full well it was likely going to be a smaller event, so my expectations weren’t that it was going to be a huge event like the much beloved PAX Australia which is hosted every year at the same venue – the Melbourne convention and exhibition centre – which sees up to 80,000 fans through its doors but I knew it’d be a smaller, intimate event and I was excited nonetheless.
And I was right! It was a small event, but you could tell it was created with passion and honestly it was refreshing attending a smaller event with ample networking opportunities rather than feeling rushed and claustrophobic at other events. I know a standard attendee may feel like there wasn’t much to do, but from my perspective I definitely spent my time doing all there was to offer.
There was an Artist Alley which was bustling both days, offering a variety of game and pop-culture inspired merchandise, tabletop gaming accessories and apparel. In my opinion, this inclusion was a great way to include the community and support artists at the event. Artist Alleys are unfortunately lacking at other events like PAX, but it seems that TGX’s inclusion of the Artist Alley has influenced another convention – as shortly after TGX’s conclusion, Dreamhack Melbourne (which is running in April) announced an Artist Alley.
There was a scavenger hunt where you had to collect different stamps from around the convention, and once you found 6 stamps you could then spin a wheel and win a prize. This was great, I walked away with a TGX water bottle that sits proudly on my desk. This inclusion was a great way to incentivize guests to really see everything on offer, rather than pacing the halls and not interacting with many people. With this scavenger hunt, I played retro games, tabletop games (I tried my hand at ‘Secret Hitler’ and did very well!), visited the freeplay areas and more.
Elegant Skeleton were on site doing research – in the form of an intensely difficult trivia game played through a website, that led my band of friends into staring at our phones at lunch trying to collaborate to answer questions about tabletop and video games, including very obscure ones. And we prevailed, topping the leaderboard for the weekend.
TGX had some great cosplaying events over the two days; the level of talent on the stage during the cosplay competition was wild, and I’m so glad to see TGX supporting cosplayers.
One of the highlights for me was being part of a panel on stage for the Zombies Love Bacon (ZLB) Podcast. Although there were no volunteers initially on hand to oversee the panel, we were able to get assistance once I requested it. Hopefully next year with more volunteers, they won’t be spread so thinly.
However, the event lacked a strong indie game presence, which was disappointing. This is something that could be improved in future editions of TGX. at PAX I tend to spend a lot of time with the indie game developers, so I’m hoping TGX will also have more onboard in the future so I don’t need to wait until October to see what the Australian indie games industry is producing!
I’m extremely happy with how they supported content creators and media at the event – the inclusion of the VIP lounge for networking and relaxing was great, and served free drinks and snacks.
As a first-time event, TGX faced some challenges in communicating its purpose and offerings. Many attendees expected it to be a PAX-like experience, but it was more focused on competitive gaming and LAN events. This focus was not well-communicated leading up to the event, causing confusion among attendees.
To improve future editions of TGX, better marketing and communication about the event’s focus should be prioritised. Emphasising the aspects that worked well this year, such as the cosplay crowd and the LAN vibe, would be beneficial.
Additionally, featuring more events and on-floor competitions with a wider variety of games would help draw a larger audience. Encouraging Australian indie developers to participate could also enhance the event, as their presence was minimal this year.
Overall, The Game Expo 2023 was a surprisingly enjoyable first-year convention. While not perfect, it provided a solid foundation for future editions to build upon. With better communication and a stronger focus on the event’s unique offerings, TGX has the potential to become a staple in Melbourne’s gaming convention scene.