Sadly, nothing was really announced at RTX Australia this year, so this wrap up will be more about the convention as a whole and whether or not it was worth the time/money. I will touch on the Good, The Bad and everything in between.
Rooster Teeth is a name that few in the Pop Culture scene don’t know, showing truly just how far a few little goofy clips on the internet can blow up to gigantic proportions. From the wildly successful Red vs. Blue series, Rooster Teeth continued to grow and now produce truckloads of original content each year including animated series like RWBY, gameplay and commentary like Funhaus and Achievement Hunter, and now their first feature film, Lazer Team.
Half a decade ago, RTX was born from a small gathering of fans to an expo attended by thousands of patrons and exhibitors alike. With panels, stage shows, games, stalls and celebrities, RTX became a convention for the masses. And now with the Rooster Teeth crew looking to sail past their American border and bring RTX Internationally, Australia was the very lucky choice for the first expo outside of the USA.
The weekend started with a riveting keynote speech from local Aussie gaming icon Hex (co-host of Good Game), touching on the ups and downs of the gaming community in relation to how others see gaming, gaming in Australia and how women are seen in the industry. Following this the RTX festivities were underway.
Having attended quite a number of ‘First Time’ expos and conventions (and even playing a part in starting one), I’ve gained a lot of insight into how these proceedings go and benchmarks on how the expo went as a whole. And for the most part it was good, but let’s look at the negatives first.
Addressing the elephant in the room for all those in attendance, heat was a major issue. This was less the fault of RTX and more the venue chosen to host the event. From the moment you stepped through the doors, you knew it was going to be a sweaty day. While Australian Technology Park is a beautiful piece of history and heritage in its own right, it lacks conventional means of ventilation and air conditioning. Combine this with thousands of patrons, electronics and cooking equipment, the end result was a hot, sweaty and smelly experience for most. Dehydration was a real issue, and water was kept behind what was usually a long line and an excessive price tag.
While lines were long, there was rarely a moment where you did not feel like it was moving. This was true for most lines except for signings, and while most people would be fine waiting to get an autograph from someone they admire, it’s a different story when you wait for a long time and get no signature. There was very little regulation to the signing process, with some more exuberant patrons taking up more time than others. As a panel approached featuring the guest signing, the organisers cracked down and sped the process up, but it was too little too late. This left many people who had waited for 1-2 hours and had made the cut off point for signing miss the signature they waited so patiently for. People criticise other conventions for being so strict, but there is a reason they are that way.
The last big issue was the stage shows- not for their content, but for their timing and general arrangement. There was a severe lack of seating unless you held a VIP pass- an oversight which left an abundance of off-limit,unused seats. People were not happy being forced to stand or sit on hard concrete floors even if they arrived long before a panel or show was set to begin, with heat doing nothing but exacerbate everything. And due to the pacing of the event, with little to no gap between shows on main stage and those in other panel rooms, it would mean cutting out panels you would otherwise be happy to watch, and for those you made it to, you wouldn’t be sitting. The couple I sat next to during the keynote and first panels did not move the entire day. One person was even sitting over to the side of the main stage watching the live stream on a tablet so as to avoid the crowd.
But despite the bad notes, the expo was still a great and enjoyable day, and for a first-timer expo in Australia, it was pretty damn good for what it was. For starters, there were silver linings to most bad notes. While things were overly hot and sweaty for all people attending, everyone was still in high spirits for the majority of the experience (the exception being mostly toward the lack of seating). And as said before, despite being riddled with queues, you weren’t waiting in line for most instances.
While obtaining signatures via provided means may have been difficult, the Rooster Teeth staff and guests for the expo were more than happy to stop and sign something, or snap a selfie while between panels, and were found on the show floor or entering/exiting the green room. I myself managed to get a picture this way with one of my personal role models, Freddie Wong. Even Gus, godfather of RTX, was stopped by fans on the way to the green room and happily stood there for hours to give back to the fans (volunteers even came to help moderate the line).
A lot of thought was put into the partners’ contributions to the show. Part of the show floor was dedicated to indie game developers, with friendly exhibitors happy to accommodate patrons and let them try their games. Without Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo present to cast their ruley shadows over the convention, this gave indie developers their chance to shine. I got to try my hand at a few that will probably lead to a purchase on my part, including a sci-fi twist on the old arcade shooter game style called Super Mutant Alien Assault (currently in early access on Steam), as well as a game called Objects in Space, which played a lot like old DOS and early Windows titles from when I was young, and had a very cool control panel built specifically for the game and brought for the show. Like Silent Hunter from the 90’s, you were charged with monitoring control panels for a space ship and navigating the galaxy, trading items and trying not to be blown up by space pirates.
Despite having a very tight schedule that didn’t allow for much movement between panels, the actual content of the panels was great, too. Bringing a plethora of content with them, the RTX panelists knew how to put on a show. All shows on the main stage could easily be heard and seen from a great distance and entailed the same antics and humor found in their online productions. The stage also featured several PC setups and screens behind each chair, allowing for the Let’s Play segments to still be enjoyable for people watching and allow them to follow specific people. Also, partnership with Twitch provided them with access to involve fans not able to attend the expo, as all main stage panels were streamed live on Twitch, and many panelists took Q&A from Twitter feeds for the expo.
Finally, Littered throughout the expo were various stalls setup by vendors. Rooster Teeth setup a standard con booth selling merch from all of their popular series while Bathesda setup a fallout inspired food truck as well as a Doom inspired bar for the over 18’s. Hanabee, partner of the show, also had a presence selling new release DVDs and Blurays and advertising the upcoming series they have newly aquired and will be releasing later this year. Other exhibiters were littered here and there selling all forms of nerd gear, from LARPing foam weaponry to board games and figurines. I spent more than I intended to…
All in all, the convention was a lot of fun. Yes, it may have been hot and sweaty, but the atmosphere was one of fun and excitement. RTX has also now confirmed that they will be returning next year and be hosted in the International Convention Centre once its renovation is completed in Darling Harbour (which will hopefully lay to rest the humidity issues present this year). I had a great time and look forward to doing it all again next year.
Event Review by Pat Braithwaite