DreamHack Melbourne Has Brought A Bigger And More Diverse Show For 2024

Don't let your dreams be dreams.

Walking back through the doors at Rod Laver in 2024 as a regular at past DreamHack Melbourne events, the energy is already tangibly different. Despite being on its third go around, it almost feels like a fresh start with a broader focus and much, much more than just esports – especially if you’re a veteran or budding content creator. Head of product for the event, Ben Green, was eager to stress that last point as soon as we walked in the door bright and early on Friday morning, declaring that content creators were easily as important to DreamHack as esports. There’s a reason this year’s Creator Lounge has gone from a capacity of 20 to around 350.

It’s immediate as soon as the crowds start to filter in that this isn’t just a weekend to go watch your favourite teams play League or CS2 – though there’s obviously plenty of opportunity to do that with the ESL Challenger going off all weekend and the LCO Grand Final on Sunday – this is a true gaming festival. Cosplay, tabletop gaming, LARP, expos and giveaways, arcade machines, LAN, speedrunning, dancing, it’s all been gathered here into one spot and in celebration of both the folks who create and the communities that rally around them.

And “creators” means artists too, with a huge focus in on supporting local artists in a number of ways. Walking around the arena, the work of timtamart can be seen welcoming attendees into the venue, offering direction to all of the fun activities and generally adding some great local flavour. Artist Alley’s had a massive upgrade too with a massive increase in floor space and nearly 100 artists displaying and selling their work. The event had also made it clear early doors that AI art was out, making it easy to know what you’re seeing and taking home hasn’t been cooked up by nefarious means. Traipsing through Artist Alley with a friend on the first day, I can’t count on two hands the number of times I exclaimed, “Wait, there’s more?!” as we rounded each turn.

The halls of Rod Laver and its surrounds simply feel busier and more full this year overall. Where I can recall a good amount of downtime just doing laps of bare walkways in previous iterations where the arenas – and the event as a whole – were more dedicated to competitive gaming, there’s almost no excuse this time to not be engaging in something. The decision to move the “expo” of PC and hardware brand booths, collectible shopping and of course fridges full of free Monster Energy, into the floor space of Rod Laver Arena feels like the right call as well. Sharing space with the streaming and content creation areas in the Centrepiece building made for a lot of crossover of noise and crowds that didn’t really work, and the vendors in the expo have taken the opportunity to really dial up their loudspeakers and RGB lighting to take advantage. The arcade/bar area that precedes it is a nice spot to hang out, as well.

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Easily my favourite feature of the expo thus far though, is something tucked away at the very back of Centrepiece, behind all of the speedrunning and PC gaming, behind the streaming booths and tabletop games. Last year, this exact spot held an enormous Monster Energy booth complete with a cacophony of noise and lights. This year, it couldn’t be further from that, as a dedicated “Cozy Corner” (we’ll talk about the spelling later, DreamHack). Here, you’ll find beanbags aplenty along with bookshelves, an on-site coffee shop and a small setup that some people were playing Stardew Valley on. Others had brought their handhelds, or were just sitting, sipping and soaking in the quiet. If I could’ve spent all day there, I very much would’ve. Every busy gaming convention needs a Cozy Cosy Corner.

It doesn’t end when the arena doors shut at 7PM, either. Once again bringing that true “festival” vibe, DreamHack Melbourne 2024 has already given us some pretty special after-hours events. Friday night saw the return of the Trash Taste Tour, a hit last year that came off the back of the podcast’s other activities in Australia but this year was orchestrated entirely for DreamHack. And then tonight’s entertainment is set to bring us a national first with the hololive production x DreamHack Melbourne 2024: Down Under concert, the biggest 3D concert in the southern hemisphere thus far. I don’t know about you, and maybe you’re one of the dedicated fans that bought a guaranteed spot, but I’m going to be heading over nice and early to make sure I don’t miss a seat in this one.

And look, perhaps you’ve attended yesterday and/or today and know all of this already, or perhaps you’d held out this long and now you’re hovering over a single day pass for tomorrow. There’s still a heap of exciting stuff to check out even if you missed the first two days – Sunday’s 11AM panel on the links between gaming/streaming and mental health sounds hugely important, and that’s followed by what should be an excellent turnout in the Extreme Cosplay Gathering Qualifier. There’s also a huge “DreamHack Trivia Extravaganza” presented by the wonderful Ben Sorensen, if you’re up for it. I’m a punter like anyone else, and not here to sell tickets, but certainly if you’re curious to see what DreamHack is bringing to Melbourne this year and for many years to come you can find them right here and get in on the tail end.

Most of all, and it’s something that rings true every year and at all of these events no matter the content, DreamHack Melbourne has been a wonderful source of companionship and community for those lucky enough to attend. Whether supporting your favourite creators and watching them in panels or out in the thick of it making content, cheering on your favourite players, going to cosplay meetups, buying locally-made art or just enjoying the weekend with friends, DreamHack 2024 has easily been the most diverse and welcoming line-up of activities for gamers and creators of all kinds. Here’s to the years ahead!