Two weeks on: reflecting on Dreamhack Melbourne 2024

Dreamhack Melbourne 2024: Not quite complete yet, but pretty mature for its age.
Dreamhack Melbourne 2024

Dreamhack Melbourne 2024 was the first time the convention has taken more steps forward than it has backward. The event’s focus has always been esports, but in previous years it gave few reasons for a core gaming audience – or even pop-culture fans – to attend.

Dreamhack Melbourne, and Melbourne Esports Open before it, tried to draw non-esports fans with pre-release game demos and freeplay areas. More recently, there’s been an emphasis on the artist alley, cosplay competitions, and providing a platform for content creators at all levels. Content creators are used to getting access to an event for coverage, but this year they felt almost as central to Dreamhack Melbourne as you’d expect at TwitchCon or Vidcon. 

While a lot on offer at this year’s event felt familiar to gaming creator Sarina after last year, she welcomed the greater participation for creators at the event.

“A lot more creators are coming, and it’s not [just] the big creators that are doing the meet and greets – like it’s everyone,” she said. “It’s more accessible because people are getting given that access, whereas they didn’t have it before.”

>Sarina Bruno, Dreamhack
Image: Jack Crnjanin

She also felt that the event team had taken feedback from previous events and improved almost every aspect for this year, saying, “The creator lounge is really cool. It was a bit smaller, and there wasn’t as much [last year], so you can tell there’s been, like, a woman’s touch added in certain spaces, especially the artist alley.”

While Dreamhack in Sweden began in the mid-90’s as a LAN party, Dreamhack Melbourne’s emphasis on big esports leagues like Counterstrike and League of Legends meant the Bring Your Own Computer (BYOC) section at times felt like an afterthought.

After awkwardly sitting behind the Main Stage last year in Rod Laver Area, it’s settled back into a (mostly) quiet corner behind the Freeplay area and Speedrunning stage, only accessible to those with a BYOC ticket. 

A number of those tickets this year were purchased by CRANK, an NDIS coaching service that focuses on gaming and pop-culture communities. One of CRANK’s coaches, Elijah, said the experience had helped build the crew’s confidence at an event that otherwise might be quite overwhelming.

>Dreamhack 2024 - Elijah
Image: Jack Crnjanin

“They’ve had a very fun time playing in tournaments, winning prizes. Just having the experience of playing in a tournament in a safe environment brings those kind of anxiety barriers down,” he said.

“One of our crew is playing Rocket League at the moment. He’s gotten very far, and this is his first ever tournament. He’s in, like, the top 1000 players of Rocket League. He’s here with his mum for a bit of support, and that’s going to give him the confidence […] to participate in larger tournaments.”

Read: DreamHack Melbourne is returning with exciting news for aspiring cosplayers

There could’ve been much more on offer for students and young people at this year’s event, though. While there was a “Student Day” present in the program schedule, it didn’t go far enough. If students are choosing to attend an event like Dreamhack, there’s a good chance they’d understand the basics. 

>Dreamhack 2024
Image: Jack Crnjanin

Dreamhack Melbourne 2022 was the first time the event had a student day, and at the time, Ben Green from ESL Australia hoped students would continue to be a big part of the event.

“I would love a Friday of a Dreamhack to be the biggest day of a Dreamhack, because it’s just full of school kids, and they’re coming to panels and they’re learning about things,” he said in 2022.

“And at the end of the day, we have the finals for a school esports tournament. I think that would be really awesome. It’s hard – we have a lot going on. I would love to be able to say, hey, we can hit all of grassroots, we can hit all of schools… The reality is, like, where we are at the moment, it’s about as good as we could do.”

After two weeks of reflection, it’s safe to say that Dreamhack Melbourne 2024 has come a long way since 2022, and even further since Melbourne Esports Open in 2018. With a new sense of maturity and stability about the event, it’s exciting to imagine how next year’s event will draw attendees, while continuing to show off the best of Australian esports.

Jack Crnjanin is a freelance writer, photographer, video producer, and radio presenter who probably should travel to places that aren’t Japan more often. Feel free to live vicariously through their Instagram shenanigans @crinjworthy.