For a venue so synonymous with hosting music acts, basketball, netball and of course, tennis, Melbourne Park this time was dominated, 25,000 strong with cosplay, eSports competitions, visual art, trivia, bring-your-own-computer setups and much more for DreamHack 2023. If this one, giant venue dedicated to gamer-related content doesn’t convince you of the immense impact that video games have had on the Australian population recently, I don’t know what else will.
An Ever So Colourful Entrance
Spread out over 3 days at Rod Laver Arena and its surrounding buildings, the first thing I noticed was the Just Dance setup (because, of course) and the amazing art shops on display. Featuring all sorts of gamer and pop culture-themed drawings and paintings to discover, its spot was perfectly set up for a category that’s often notoriously overlooked by event-goers. One artist’s work in particular quickly caught my eye—and many others—with his Japanese, calligraphy-inspired drawings that popped right out of the picture.
A few steps past this area was the CS: GO arena, where teams of 5 battled it out for supremacy with some huge cash prizes for those who participated in the Sunday finals. I’m not the most interested in the whole eSports craze, but you could just feel the infectious energy in the room whenever a big shot or play was made.
A Touch of Japanese Culture
One competition that did take up (a little too much) of my attention though was the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournament. I legitimately sat through the entire Final 32 phase on Saturday for 3 hours and I have absolutely no regrets. None. The technical skills on display were incredible and it was simply so much fun cheering along with the crowd whenever a fighter got clean spiked or comboed from 0% to the edge of the screen—just like Team Rocket blasting off again. To top things off, they played the whole event in Squad Strike with randomised characters, meaning that competitors had to battle with fighters they’re not intimately familiar with. A pure joy to witness.
Those who are fans of Trash Taste definitely had a wicked weekend too. Not only did they host a live podcast recording on Friday night, but they also held a meet & greet on Saturday that had people lining up near the magnificent Rainbow Road pathway for over an hour to participate. They even erected a Japanese-themed pop-up cafe with group photos of the boys, alongside some other food vendors like From Scratch Pizza and Mr. Miyagi with their famous Miyagi Fried Chicken—a serious KFC contender.
Easily one of the most jolly moments of DreamHack 2023 was the Cosplay Competition on Saturday. A presenter, dressed up as Shionne from Tales of Arise (no, not the one from Kingdom Hearts) would call upon contestants one by one and extensively describe how they constructed the outfits, who the person was and how they got into the cosplay scene. I did notice several contestants walking around during the day, though seeing all these people represent various characters from Destiny to Xenoblade Chronicles on stage with all the bright lights and fanfare was very, very amusing.
To cap off the Friday and Saturday nights, DJs and musicians from around Australia kicked on till 10:00pm after all the events and booths had closed down for the day. Mashd N Kutcher played their signature ‘Get on the Beers’ style tunes, while Daft Punk cover band, Discovery laid down some of the duo’s biggest hits at Rod Laver Arena. It did take some time for people to start gathering in, but once the momentum got going, people were quite keen for a good ol’ boogie—myself included. I’ll gladly watch all three Twilight movies if we can get live music happening at each and every Aussie gaming expo. Here’s to another awesome DreamHack!