Shortly before PAX Australia (PAXAus) started, a stroke of luck saw me in Singapore at the same time as the inaugural GameStart conference. GameStart 2014 was set up by some local industry professionals aiming to fill a gap in South-East Asia. They’d managed to attract a reasonable number of recognisable names and entry was only S$8.50 (about US$6.60) so it was worth at least a look.
Limited to one room at the SunTec Convention Centre, GameStart packed a lot in. Sony was a very large and visible presence while Xbox was notable by its near-complete absence – it only appeared because Namco Bandai had some Xbox Ones set up. And as for Nintendo… if they were there, they were well hidden.
I was there for a few hours on the afternoon of Day One. As is common with these kind of events, you see the cosplayers long before you actually reach the convention. Cosplay was a big feature at GameStart – there were many people dressed up to a very high standard. It was an interesting experience being an outsider because I saw a lot of outfits that were unknown to me. And I wasn’t even there on cosplay competition day!
And yes, there were booth babes, which felt like a weird throwback at an otherwise professional event.
I didn’t stop to play anything at GameStart, instead watching other people tackle games like Bloodborne, Evolve, Final Fantasy HD something-or-other and a number of other titles. The exhibition floor was very busy, meaning that available game stations were few and far between. Some games were located in age-restricted rooms where you couldn’t see them from the floor; I wasn’t in the mood to wait the hour plus to get into these areas.
While I was there the Main Stage was showing off Freedom Wars, where Producer Junichi Yoshizawa was translated into english while he played and promoted the game. To be completely honest, the watching crowd didn’t seem that excited by Freedom Wars and watching two battles versus big-bag-of-hitpoint monsters.
In contrast, some of the Street Fighter battles that were on large screens elsewhere were getting a lot of shouts and cheers around them. It probably didn’t help that the Main Stage displays kept cutting in and out during the demonstration, but Freedom Wars came away looking very average.
Apparently panel sessions were also being held on the Main Stage, but I’ve got no idea how that would happen given the rest of the noise at GameStart. You can see some of the recordings of GameStart here.
Apart from a few issues getting through the crowd (people stopping to watch screens bottlenecked traffic at some points) it was an enjoyable gaming event and served as a great entrée to PAXAus. The atmosphere was very dynamic and at a time when GamerGate was casting a long shadow elsewhere, it certainly wasn’t being felt in Singapore on that day.
GameStart appears to have been pretty well attended, so let’s hope it survives its birth and only gets bigger next year.