Geek and gaming conventions are pretty magical places.
RTX doesn’t have same energy as that of a PAX. It’s a different vibe, cruder, in line with the kind of scatological humour Rooster Teeth excels at. These attendees are rowdier, less patient and a great deal snarkier than your average PAX-goer. This is not to suggest that they are unpleasant, nothing could be further from the truth. On the whole, everyone I met and spoke to was very warm, friendly and having the time of their life. But they worship a group of people known for endlessly busting each other’s balls and so it doesn’t come as a surprise to find that their fanbase deals in the same.
What this means is that the show’s primary focus is on the talent moreso than the games on the show floor. The thing is, there’s only so many people at Rooster Teeth so panel planning must present a serious challenge. Highlights included the Founding Fathers panel which saw Rooster Teeth veteran Joel Heyman loot free beer from an audience member (in what was apparently an amusing but nevertheless flagrant violation of the venue’s rules regarding liquor), the extremely candid Day 5 panel on the highs and lows of creating Rooster Teeth’s first dramatic web series when comedy was really the only thing the company knew how to do, and Funhaus Live which proved definitively that the Funhaus team can take even the most shambolic hour of freeform entertainment and still pack out a room to the degree that the line to get in had to be cut off two hours prior to the panel actually starting.
While this year’s show, its first in Sydney’s brand new International Convention Center (and, as I understand it, among the first shows held at the recently-opened center as well), featured two substantial theatres for panels, few were about anything that didn’t directly involve Rooster Teeth themselves. The Diversity in Games panel, which featured GX Australia coordinator Liam Esler, was one of a few to do its own thing, and while Esler and his fellow panelists (including Lee Flores and Jennifer Scheurle) gave it their all, they were ultimately only given a bit over half an hour of stage time at the end of the show’s first day to voice their opinions on a topic every one of them have been championing fiercely for years now. Thankfully, GX Australia 2017 isn’t too far away and they’ll have a second-year convention of their own, dedicated to doing just that, in the very near future.
The third theatre for panels and live shows was, funnily enough, in the Expo Hall. The reason for this wasn’t initially clear to me until I realised there was premium seating for (I believe and please correct me if I’m wrong) VIP ticket holders and everyone else had to stand. And stand we did, for this was the stage where the great and mighty Hideo Kojima, the event’s headline guest, was genially grilled by Kinda Funny’s Greg Miller for two hours. I did hear punters around me grumbling that such a long panel was held in the standing-room-only Expo Hall over one of the actual theatres, but the overall feeling in the crowd was one of reverence. Few left the scrum during the panel and those who did found their abandoned positions swallowed up instantly as people leapt at the opportunity to get a bit closer.
The Expo Hall itself, while a solid booth parade in its own right, was a little more open-plan than something like PAX’s miniature city of light and sound. I don’t mean for this comparison to read as derogatory. On the contrary, it was nice to be able to make my way around an Expo Hall without feeling the need to throw elbows for some personal space. Nintendo did a roaring trade with their Switch focused booth and Microsoft was happy to show off their upcoming Halo Wars 2. VR abounded but it was the indies that were, as ever, the true highlight. Getting to catch up with indie developers is my favourite part of any games-centric con and RTX Sydney didn’t disappoint.
It’s a very strange thing to spend a weekend surrounded by a pop culture phenomenon with which you are not intimately familiar. It did leave a lasting impression, however — I’ve since subscribed to both The Know and Funhaus in the last few days where, previously, I was so focused on my own work that I didn’t know about the great work they were doing. Everywhere I went, I found people in t-shirts for programs I’d never heard of, people in lines trading in-jokes and boisterously insulting one another other in the style of their convention hosts. As with anything from Rooster Teeth, this constant hazing is entirely congenial — there was no malice behind any of it, everyone was legitimately happy to be there and to be around each other.
The move to the ICC has proved to be a rousing success, giving the RTX Sydney not only the room it needed to expand but room for it to grow next year as well. I look forward to seeing where the show can go from here, and the weird new directions it will find itself moving in. Thanks for the laughs, RTX Sydney. I’ll be back.