Last weekend, AVCon was held at the Adelaide Convention Centre with a heady blend of anime and videogames.
The show has never attracted much in the way of Triple A games from the major Aussie publishers, so one of the largest spaces in the show has instead become dominated by the indie sector.
The Indie Games Room has been going on for 7 years, and this year, for the first time, the organisers had to make it a curated space due to the large number of submissions.
"The level of quality we had this year was great," said Brad Barrett, the Indie Games Room coordinator, while wandering through the main expo hall. "We had no specific criteria, but there were 90 applications so we had to figure out a way to cull it somehow."
The ‘room’ (it’s actually just a section of AVCon) ended up being 35 developers, almost all of them Aussie or Kiwi.
It’s bright, colourful and lively, with no segmented booths and just one long horseshoe path of games of varying size and scope. It’s considered one of the key attractions for atendees, so AVCon is able to give the selected developers space there free of charge – the only condition is that they show up in person themselves to showcase the game.
"Mean Greens and Slipstream GX both have someone based here," Barrett explains. "That’s the only requirement we really had for international developers. We really want to show off local talent."
Australia and New Zealand being as massively driven by the indie space as it is, there was little difficulty in sourcing games to show.
Barrett explains that he doesn’t want the Indie Games Room to grow too large just because it can, and that the two pillars he cleaves to are getting the highest quality indie games and making sure there is always a space for student games. The Indie Games Room started as a project by TAFE (technical college) students, so it’s an opportunity for commercial indies and budding student designers to have equal footing and central representation in an expo.
Both EB Expo and PAX Australia have made similar moves to hoist their indies to be in the main expo halls at their shows. The Indie Games Room is different in that it’s sort of a show-within-a-show. It’s still joined at the hip with AVCon, but is very much its own distinct brand.
The rest of the show includes huge numbers of tournaments across console and PC, a tabletop board game section, stage shows with featured guests (this year saw Chris Avellone from Obsidian make the trip), countless anime, comic book, manga and gaming school booths and of course the now-obligatory League of Legends on the big screen.
"I’m not ruling out international developers for next year," says Barrett. "As long as it doesn’t change that the room is still as approachable as possible. A lot of people who come in play mainstream, larger games and don’t think much about indies."
"We want them to feel like they can come in with no knowledge and be welcome there – having the developers there in person to talk them through it is a huge part of that."
AVCon saw 19’000 people through the door this year, up from 18’000 in 2013.