COVID-19 may have made it impossible to attend a physical EGX expo this year but that didn’t stop the organisers from putting on an event. From 12 to 20 September 2020, they joined forces with the PAX team to give us the opportunity to attend PAX X EGX online.
The aim was to ‘transcend the physical aspects of gaming events’ and enable us all to ‘celebrate nine days of around-the-clock content with a worldwide community of gamers and no-one will judge you if you turn up in your pants’. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t take up that last suggestion, seeing as PAX X EGX took place during the same time as working at home and attending various conference calls. But I did some time to check out the website and see what was going on.
The ‘show floor’ was essentially the hub of the event and from here, you could navigate your way around the ‘stands’. Clicking on a publisher or developer’s name took you to a page displaying a list of the titles being promoted and you could then dig deeper for trailers, screenshots and occasionally demos. Also available were sections for live streams including panel discussions, tournaments and interviews – and let’s not forget about the obligatory merchandise which seems to come with every expo.
There were two main trends I noticed very quickly while scanning through the games on display. First was that that least one of the same words appeared in almost every other description: ‘unforgiving’, ‘platformer’, ‘roguelike’ or ‘Metroidvania’. Not great news for an adventure fan like me but it made sense when I thought about it in the context of the current state of the world. The lockdown seems to have encouraged many gamers to seek out more challenging titles to keep them occupied through all that extra time.
The second trend I picked up on was how many of the games were currently available. This is something I’ve taken issue with during previous expos: some analysis before Rezzed in 2019 revealed that over 45% of the games due to be at there had already been displayed at the show since 2017 or could be purchased beforehand. It feels as though these events are changing from something where new studios and individual creators can share what they’re working on to events which are essentially a flashier version of the Steam storefront.
That’s not to say I didn’t come across a few gems though. I wasn’t sure what I was going to make of Paradise Lost by PolyAmorous initially, because I don’t usually enjoy storylines involving the World Wars or Nazi Germany; but I got sucked into this post-apocalyptic adventure and added it to my wishlist immediately after playing the demo. Narrative puzzler Fire Tonight by Reptoid Games was added straight away after completing the preview too, because I loved the early 1990s vibe from the art-style and soundtrack.
Perhaps the most intriguing title I came across was Finders, Keepers by Alex Francois. It’s a pixelated story about a hike through an ancient woodland told through a mobile phone dating app called fyndr/keepr – which sounds totally strange but really works, so I’m looking forward to finding out more. The Boy in the Book by a team of four people also piqued by interest; it tells the true story of the discovery of a lost diary hidden inside a Choose Your Own Adventure book and the attempt to unravel its many mysteries.
Besides finding out about new games, the highlight of EGX for me is usually the developer sessions. The PAX X EGX organisers made sure that this was still a core element of their event despite it moving online, and livestreams took place continuously throughout the nine days. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to watch much of them while they were taking place thanks to those pesky conference calls mentioned above – but I’m hoping to be able to catch up on the videos this week and see what I missed.
Although PAX X EGX was a good experience and I managed to add a few upcoming titles to my wishlist, I missed this year’s physical expo. The website said that it was designed to be ‘everything you love about your favourite gaming events, minus the queues, expensive food and the need to fork out on a hotel’ but the digital shows just can’t capture that buzz of being at a real expo. Hopefully the situation next year will be different, and I’ll be able to see some of you guys at EGX expo in the real world.
Did you get a chance to check out any of the titles on display at PAX X EGX? If so, what are your recommendations?
PAX X EGX 2020 photo gallery