I’m back home in Brisbane and back to work after a great time at GX Australia in Sydney last weekend. As conventions go, it was rather small (though that was expected, this being the first one), but it was still a great experience none the less and I was ecstatic to show The Eyes of Ara to so many new people.
The most striking thing about the con was how overwhelmingly friendly and inviting the atmosphere was. I put this down to both the size of the con and the effort of the organisers to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment. Firstly, unlike larger conventions whose massive crowds can make socializing in the expo hall difficult, GX’s smaller numbers meant it was easy to have an engaging conversation with anyone on the show floor. Secondly, the GX staff went to great lengths to ensure the convention was a friendly and inclusive space for everyone and the LGBTQ community in particular. The end result was everyone who attended seemed to be having a really great time, always willing to engage in friendly conversation.
I spent the entire two days on my booth, so I didn’t get to see any of the panels or speak to any of the amazing guests, but I did get to show The Eyes of Ara to a lot of new people (and that after all, was the point). I’m pleased to say that everyone who played the game seemed to really enjoy it and I got some really great feedback. In fact, despite the demo being about fifteen minutes long on average (the quickest I saw it done was seven minutes) which is on the lengthy side as far as convention demos go, almost everyone who sat down to play it were captivated enough to see it through to the end. One person even remarked upon finishing it that they didn’t realise just how long they were on it. I can think of no higher praise for a fifteen minute convention demo than “I didn’t realise I was on it for so long!” :)
I am glad that everyone had a good time playing the game. The Eyes of Ara is the culmination of nearly three years of hard work, so it is wonderful to see people enjoying it first hand. It makes the whole enterprise worthwhile, and I feel like I’m the game is living up to what I envision it to be.
Of course, the weekend wasn’t without its glitches. Getting down to Sydney from Brisbane involved a two-day drive each way with a car loaded with computers, displays, banners, fold-up tables, a TV and all manner of other things. I got off to a bad start while packing the car the night before when I dropped and smashed my phone, rendering it useless. Hours before a week-long roadtrip is not the best timing to lose such an important piece of portable tech, but a desperate plea to Facebook and the generosity of several friends later I found myself in possession of an old iPhone. It featured a cracked and broken screen that made reading it nigh on impossible (I took a gamble with the proofreading of every Tweet I posted during the show) - but at least it “worked”, which is more than I could say for my poor phone.
The drive itself was actually pretty good, with clear weather and very little traffic I arrived in Newcastle with enough hours of daylight left to enjoy a swim at the beach. A relaxing end to a long drive… until I managed to step on a shard of glass on the way back to the car. I left hoping that this would be the end of my bad luck for the weekend.
Thankfully it was, and the final drive into Sydney, the convention, and the drive home went off mostly without incident. I say mostly because players on Saturday discovered a game-halting bug that had been introduced into the demo by changes I made to it the week prior (to make a puzzle play more smoothly no less). I thought that I had playtested it enough to catch all the bugs... apparently not. Luckily, while the bug did halt gameplay, it only did so on a single puzzle and only when using one particular means of interaction. Using and alternative means would allow the player to resume play, and players who used the alternative means by default never experienced it at all. So the bug was more of a nuisance than anything serious, and I was able to fix it Sunday morning before the expo opened for day two, but let that be a lesson to me for future conventions: thoroughly playtest all changes, no matter how benign they may seem.
That thankfully was the last glitch for the weekend, and all in all, between the show, the people, and the numerous after parties it was a most enjoyable experience. I hope to see GX Australia continue to grow in the years to come. Conventions like this are important for the growth of the games industry and gaming culture in general. Increased diversity within the gaming community can only lead to better and richer games, and a larger and more inclusive community. So I was proud to support the GX Australia Kickstarter in its endeavour to create a safe space where everyone could feel welcome.
I’d like to thank Liam and Joshua, as well as all of the other organisers and volunteers for all of their hard work in making the event possible. I was great to be a part of and I hope it continues to be a beacon of inclusiveness and diversity in the years to come.