The Perth scene is one of those hidden industries, quietly making some amazing stuff without much exposure. We have such a wide variety of games being made, and the Perth Games Festival is all about putting them in one spot for all to see. We got board games, video games, and even a few live-action games, all crammed into one building and let loose on the curious public. After last year, I was hyped for some great games, and PGF delivered before I even walked inside.
Out by the entrance were a handful of games that were as fun as they were unconventional. Anyone who’s been to any Perth gaming event has probably seen Wesley Lamont’s ludicrous COGZ, with tiles the size of your forearm entertaining anyone waiting in line. On the other side was a handful of SK Games’ signature cabinets, as well as FTI’s showing of Magnetise Me, a live-action game where players needed to pull their limbs together and move around for top scores. Once I stepped inside, the games just kept on coming, and the variation didn’t stop.
Upon entering the sweet, air-conditioned hall, I was immediately greeted by everything from tabletop to educational games. On the left were Halfling Heist and (a more appropriately sized) COGZ, both open for play for whoever wanted to give them a go. On the right was CoderDojo, showing off who they were and how they got kids interested in coding with games. Then there was Nekograms, a game about stretching cats, and Bramblelash, a multiplayer brawler with a unique joining mechanic. It was a similar story upstairs, with students sharing the same space as more experienced developers.
One of the interesting things that PGF did this year was spread everyone out, so no one type of game was shoved into a corner and ignored. Games like Blocaganda, a politically themed board game about blocking your opponent’s moves, was situated next to the Central Institute of Technology stand, showcasing what students had made for their course. VR games like Valiant, a medieval arena game, was next to mobile games like Gunspell, a strange mix of RPG and puzzle game that was unlike anything I’d seen before. It made for a diverse mix of games wherever you went, and there was always something interesting to see.
There were plenty of games that were relatively unknown, even by Perth standards, but they were all interesting additions to the event. One game I hadn’t heard of before was Long Live The Empire, a turn-based game reminiscent of Civ 5, and it was awesome to see something like it coming out of Perth. There was also Arbalest 3035, an Asteroids-inspired multiplayer game that I know through Playup Perth, but I doubt many other people had heard of it. With such a wide variety of games on show, the quality of games being made here is impressive.
The thing about the local scene is that you come across games that you would never expect from such a small, isolated place. Games like Birdened, a retro-style platformer that plays amazingly well, and Mr Nibbles forever, a simple and addictive little mobile game, both surprised me at how good the games that are coming out of Perth is. Even smaller games, like the top-down zombie shoot-em-up, Final Days, were of a surprisingly high standard. It was a fantastic selection on show, and the panels I went to were just as good.
It wouldn’t be a festival without panels to go to, and the ones I attended had a lot of useful information to share. The topics ranged from narrative design to getting into making games, and the panellists supplied plenty of interesting banter to keep me interested. There were game makers to people that had fallen into games, and they all had something interesting to say. If you were after a bit of learning to complement a day of game playing, the panels could accommodate.
The big thing I took away from the whole day was a sense of togetherness, and that Perth is a pretty rad place to be. It seems that our isolation has only brought us more together, and you got the sense that everyone at the event was supporting one another. It was a great event, and despite over 2000 people walking through the doors, there was always something to try out. For such a quiet industry, it sure puts on a hell of a show.