Heading to your first-ever PAX Aus this year? Not sure what to expect or where you need to go? Have no fear. Kotaku Australia has been to the show every year since it first landed in Aus back in 2013, and we’ve learned a thing or two in that time.
How to PAX
First things first: find out about the show! PAX Australia is a three-day video game convention. It’s held annually at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre across one weekend in October. The first day of the show is always a Friday and continues over the following Saturday and Sunday. Doors usually open after 8 a.m. so people can collect badges and start lining up. You will need to wear your badge at all times while you are inside the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre! This will grant you access to panels and the Expo Hall floor. Lost badges cannot be replaced, so be very careful with them!
The Convention and Exhibition Centre are two separate buildings
When we talk about the Melbourne Convention And Exhibition Centre (or MCEC) we’re talking about the whole, gigantic complex.
However, here’s something not out-of-towners might not know: the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre are two separate buildings joined by several walkways along the main thoroughfare. The Exhibition Centre is the largest of the two buildings and is the gigantic building where you’ll find the Expo Hall and Tabletop sections. The NBN Theatre is hidden away upstairs near the check-in desks. The best way to enter the Exhibition Centre is from Spencer St, opposite Crown and South Bank.
The Convention Centre is a slightly smaller building full of theatres — this is where almost all the panels are held. The Convention Centre comprises the larger Main, Quokka and Wombat Theatres on the ground floor and the smaller Kookaburra, Galah and Fruitbat Theatres on Level 2.
You can also find smaller rooms and exhibits up on Level 2, like the Indigitech room, the Cosplay Lounge, the Meet & Greet area and the incredible, unmissable Rock Band room.
Many panel theatres are named according to the floor they’re on
PAX Aus’ organisers are a funny bunch. A tradition the show has maintained since its first year at the MCEC in 2014 is (as you saw in the point above) naming its theatres after native Australian fauna. But there’s a method to the madness, and understanding it is a bit of a cheat code for getting around the show.
Theatres on the ground floor are named for animals that live on the ground, which is why the Wombat Theatre is right in front of you when you enter the Convention Centre from the Expo side. On the upper floors, you’ll find theatres named for animals that can fly or live in the trees — historically, we’ve had the Fruitbat and Kookaburra theatres So there you go! A shortcut! If you look at your guide and you see your next panel is in the Kookaburra Theatre, you’ll know right away that you need to head upstairs.
The corollary to this, of course, is that not all theatres are named for animals! Some aren’t even in the Convention Centre! Take the Dropbear Theatre, for instance! This year, the Dopbear Theatre is upstairs from the South Bank end of the Exhibition Centre complex. Make a left as you come in the front doors and look for the big staircase.
You’ll be walking a lot. Wear comfortable shoes, expect exercise, and pack light.
I don’t know if you know this, but the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre is big. Really big. And PAX Aus consumes a huge amount of it. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes, because you’ll be putting in thousands and thousands of steps across the weekend. Keep your clothes light and comfortable, but make sure you have a jumper for when you need to go outside. The weather in Melbourne is famously variable, but inside the MCEC, comfort is king. And hey: bring deodorant! You’ll be doing a lot of walking, and it can get hot with so many people in the centre! Give your pits a spritz from time to time and help keep the convention smelling rosy. As most convention goers will know, these things are all common sense, best practice ideas, but they bear repeating!
Bring your own bottle of water and refill it often
The MCEC has plenty of stations for refilling water bottles, and you should absolutely bring one of your own. One of the biggest unforced errors a PAX rookie can make is paying extortionate convention prices for a bottle of water (and they’ll be worse in 2023, thanks Cost Of Living Crisis). Drink water often — with all the walking you’ll be doing, you’re going to need to keep your fluids up.
And no, slamming three Red Bulls is not a substitute for a bottle of water.
Download the PAX App on your phone before you get to the Convention Centre
Be prepared! Make sure you have the PAX app installed and set up on your phone before you arrive at the MCEC. The PAX app contains information on every single event happening at the show across all three days and will help you better plan your weekend. Build your own schedule, set up reminders and flag your favourite panels or things you think might be interesting. There’s also a map of the MCEC so you can better get your bearings. Find it on iOS here or Android here.
Always know where your badge is
We mentioned this already, but it bears repeating: One of the major bummers of the PAX convention is that there is no such thing as a replacement badge. Upon arrival at the show, you are issued a badge to wear on a lanyard around your neck, and there it must stay the entire time you are at the event. Single-day passes will only grant you entry to panels and the Expo Hall on their respective days. Three-day passes will get you in all weekend long. Losing your badge is a bit like losing cash out of your wallet: it cannot be replaced. Always, always, ALWAYS know where your badge is. If you take it off for any reason, put it in your bag or secure it in your pocket.
You’ll see many people milling around at PAX Aus dressed in yellow shirts. Sometimes these people will be standing guard, sometimes they’ll be directing foot traffic, or managing lines, or just keeping people entertained as they make their way around the show. These beautiful people are the Enforcers, and they are your new best friends at PAX Aus. If you have a question, like where to find a specific theatre or where you can find a tap to refill your water bottle, ask an Enforcer. If you’re lost and aren’t sure where you’ve wound up, ask an Enforcer. If you’re in distress, need help, or are feeling ill, grab an Enforcer. Despite their authoritative name, the Enforcers are caring, friendly people, and they make the show go round. There’s an army of them on-site at all times throughout the show, so just look around — there’ll always be someone in a telltale yellow shirt nearby.
There’s an AFK Room available if you need it
The AFK Room is a fixture of the PAX Aus experience, a quiet space just off the Expo Hall for people who might need a place to take a breather. It’s the perfect spot for a break if you struggle with anxiety or find the sensory blast of loud noises and bright lights to be a bit much. There’s always someone on hand in the room who can look after you if you’re not feeling 100%. PAX is for everyone, and that means we look out for everyone.
The PAX Together Lounge
If you’re a queer person heading along to PAX Aus for the first time and you aren’t quite sure where to find your people, look no further than the PAX Together Lounge. A staple of PAX conventions for many years, the PAX Together Lounge (formerly the Diversity Lounge) is where you’ll find games, developers, panels, and discussions centred on the queer experience. Ask for Alice, and tell her we sent you — she’ll take very good care of you.
If you aren’t leaving the CBD, the trams are free (to a point)
For those of you visiting Melbourne from out of town, there’s every chance that catching the tram from your hotel to the MCEC won’t cost you anything — up to a certain point. The Melbourne CBD is a free tram zone, and the outer edges of this zone are clearly marked. Just outside this zone? The MCEC. Because of course it is. Therefore, your best bet will be to take the tram to Stop 124 near Batman Park on Flinders St, hop off the tram, and walk over the bridge to the MCEC. You can find the full Free Tram Zone map right here.
For most people staying in the city, this strategy should be able to get you to and from PAX without it costing you a cent. You won’t even need to buy a Myki card — just use the PTV Melbourne or Tramtracker apps on your phone to find the correct line(s), hop on the tram, and go.
The city is full of PAX-adjacent events
The benefit of holding an event like PAX in a city like Melbourne is that there’s a ton on around it. We’re packed with gamer bars (like Bartronica, Fortress Melbourne, and others), there are arcades, and other events and parties happening all over town. Our good mates over at GamesHub have an excellent guide to making the most of your time in Melbourne during the show. Definitely check that out.
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