Man, people really love games. Even with the AFL grand final, Awesome Arts Festival, RFLAN and a hundred different school holiday events, over 1600 people filled the town hall. It was even raining, which is like a meteorite shower to your average Perthian. But, hey, people really love games, and what we got from the festival was a lot more entertaining than dudes in jocks running around an oval. PGF may not have been as exceptional as last year, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t have a smashing time.
The first thing I noticed when I got inside was that panels had moved to the new library. In years prior, trying to hear what panellists were saying was as hopeful as finding a good album from Limp Bizkit (I’ll give you a head start: it’s not Cold Cobra). This time around, the acoustic weren’t drowned up by the howling of whatever was happening on the show floor. Moving panels out of the hall also allowed the mature games to hide away from the innocent youths, but this didn’t stop the younguns from getting in.
Mature games tend to be labelled as such because they’re not appropriate for people under, like, 10, but there were a lot of people below that threshold in the mature area. If you’re going to have mature games, it tends to be a good idea to enforce an age limit so that parents can leave their kid unattended and not worry about them seeing inappropriate content. While last year’s ‘mature area’ was a complete disaster, this year’s solution still needed tweaking. As for the games, well, it’s a little complicated.
The quality of games shown at expos like these continually blows my mind, unless, of course, they don’t. For the most part, the games were pretty awesome, like Vectonic and Screen Pirates. Then some games felt like no one had bothered to check how developed they were before being shown off. I won’t name names, but there were a couple that blew my mind with how early in development they were. If this were Playup Perth, that would be okay, but at a public-facing event like this? Not the time, guys.
There was also a strange number of absent games. Offpeak Games were a no-show, the Ludocity display stopped before it even started, and the Playup Perth selection was lacklustre, to say the least. The Ludocity one I can understand (rain makes for less than fun times), but did no one think to make plans in case one of the devs couldn’t make it? No spare laptop with a sneaky build on a USB just in case? These were a handful of games, though, and the majority were fantastic examples of what Perth could pull off.
The layout on the show floor was a smattering of student showcases, in-development games and even a few finished ones. You could find AR experiments from Sandbox Software sitting right next to Codex of Victory, a 4X that I drooled over from just looking at it. Thwart Geo, a fast-paced and devilishly addictive game, would be just opposite Cogz, a board game that’s a Perth classic at this point. The variety of games was brilliant, and while some of the admin issues brought down the event for me, the decluttering made it a much nicer atmosphere to walk around in.
Normally, expos like PGF are lines, lines and more lines, sometimes with the occasionally blocked path. This year, because the games were more spread out, even with the rain forcing a few indoors, the logistical nightmare of last year stayed in the past. There was an awkward emptiness just in front of the stage, but it’s better to have too much room than too little, right? Oh, and whoever had the bright idea to put chairs at the back of the hall was a genius, I think all the parents who attended will agree.
While a few things brought the event down, it was still a great show to attend. The diversity and overall quality of games on show were fantastic, and while there were a few exceptions, the games spoke to the high-quality of the local scene. The relaxed atmosphere was a nice change from the usual expo feel of lines everywhere, and the panels were put somewhere that made sense this time around. Hopefully next year will iron out the rest of the kinks, but for now, this would do.