If convention attendance was a marathon, the morning of PAX day three would be “The Wall.” And it would be easy to believe that we have hit the wall. This morning, Paddy sent out a message saying “I’m dead freaking tired,” and I almost left the hotel wearing two different shoes. Nick, however, must have filled his luggage with epinephrine. Inspired by Nick’s resolve, and with the allure of eSports finals, last minute interviews, one-of-a-kind panels, and sweet, sweet merch, we hit the wall and punched right through it. The final book in any trilogy is always the best one. So, get excited for our day three highlights package! Yes, I can also think of a dozen exceptions to that statement, but let’s just ignore those…
Being an old-hand at this PAX reporting fandango (second year qualifies as seasoned, no?), I knew that day 3 would require a daily highlight cum wrap-up of some description. And, for a split second, I entertained the idea of being creative with the phrase “wrap-up”. What if I just sent my editor a gif of the PAX logo being wrapped up like a Xmas present? Or what if I wrote a rap about all the eSports on show this weekend? Or, you know, what if I wanted to keep my job?
What probably inspired that moment of insanity (or genius depending on whether you would appreciate a rift-off) was the creativity demonstrated by the indie devs at this year’s PAX. When you’re surrounded by so many innovative thinkers and their creations, it’s easy to get caught up in the (three days worth of) moment. And some of those amazing creations will be discussed in our group “Best of PAX” article in the coming days.
But today, like the rest of PAX, my highlights go to three panels/events. The first was the “Medical Mythbusters take on games!” panel, which saw 5 licensed surgeons deconstructing the activities of video game characters. They talked about what would happen to them if they were subject to the limitations of real life human anatomy. It was a weirdly entertaining mix of comedy, and morbid anecdotes, from emergency ward physicians. Upon watching Jacob take a leap of faith from the Big Ben bell tower in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, the panel pondered whether assassins have work cover, or if they would be covered by the NHS. On the the topic of Sub Zero’s “Spine Rip” fatality from Mortal Kombat 1, after much debate, it was agreed that there was one accurate aspect – it would be fatal.
The second entertaining panel held today was the “Dragon Friends” live session, which saw six well-known Australian comedians sit down to play Dungeons and Dragons with a distinctly Aussie sense of humour. Dungeon master Dave Harmon summed up the nature of the event when he sarcastically thanked player Ben Jenkins for “turning this exotic tourney of champions quest into an RSL meat raffle.” There were almost as many beers cracked as there were jokes, and there were times when both the players, and audience members, were left in stitches. Somehow the group finished their quest, albeit in an unconventional way.
But by far the most anticipated event (and rightly so) at any PAX is the Omegathon grand final. Played in the main theater to a packed house, this live contest featured the two remaining Omegathon competitors. They had already spent the weekend battling through a series of seemingly random games like Uno, Raskulls, and Bop It!. The final round had them going head to head in a first to 10 kills, best of 3, Cowbots and Aliens on the HTC vive. I somehow found myself sitting in the front row of the theater, middle section, alongside PAX founders and staff members. We, and the hundreds of other attendees, cheered, shouted, held our breaths, and felt the tension as player “Bannerfall” took the deciding game 10-7, winning a trip to the PAX of her choice. We felt the force of the flames as they erupted from the stage, while the Final Countdown blasted from its speakers, and Gabe and Tycho signaled the end of PAX Aus with a mic drop, exiting stage left. What a glorious way to end PAXAUS. I’ll be back next year, I hope you’re there too. *mic drop*
The sun sets on PAX Australia for another year, the ending of the third day always being such a bittersweet time. There’s still so many games I would have liked to have seen, and others still that I wish I’d spent more time with than I had. With an incredible and extensive smorgasbord of tabletop and videogames on display in the expo hall, I only had a chance to see but one panel throughout the entire con. Alas, all good things must come to an end, and if PAX hadn’t ended today then my feet may well have crumbled altogether. Some much needed rest shall be had before the flood of interviews starts hitting the site.
I really did try to spend today relaxing, simply soaking up the atmosphere of the event, and taking time to play some games rather than analyse them for potential questions. I wandered over to the Classic Console Freeplay area, reveling in some Alex Kidd, Bomberman, and F-Zero X, as well as drooling over things I’d long forgotten that I wanted. Walking around the Tabletop gaming floor gave me pause for thought on whether I wanted some sweet DnD models and gear, or food this year. I even made time to go through some of the larger publisher booths, however, aside from having a go at wrenching out the Master Sword, there wasn’t a great deal that interested me, personally.
All that said, I just had to speak with the guys from Tin Man Games about Warlock of Firetop Mountain; an amazing adaptation of the book, and a delightful dev team. As it stands, I spent just as much time having a casual chat with developers as I did playing their games. I’ve said it a bunch already over the last few days, but I just cannot overstate how incredible the PAX Rising area was this year. It was so encouraging to see how far along the Australian independent development scene has come, and even greater was seeing the role that Perth developers have had in helping that along.
And so it’s time to make the long slog back to Perth, bags stuffed with merch, my games library just a little bit larger, and my sights set on the great new games that the next year holds!
And on the third day, Nick found himself in quite the quandary. See, my previous adventures in VR have left me lacking a sense of where the medium could go. Now, thanks to a game called Kept, I almost-kinda-semi-quasi-ishly get realities of a virtual nature. The game was, as all poignant moments stem from, an indie title that takes the physicality of VR and pushes it into the land of puzzles. There was a strong Myst vibe from both the gameplay and visuals, and almost (note that word) convinced me that VR could really be going places. Still, you couldn’t sit down in the game, and there’s nothing I like quite as much as sitting down.
Perhaps a strange highlight of my day was talking to a chair vendor booth, ZQRacing. See, I like sitting down, some might even say I love sitting down, like an alligator in The Nile. The important thing to note here is that sitting requires a place to sit, and being elevated from the ground is as important as it is integral to the whole experience. Chairs are an elegant solution to an otherwise incomprehensible issue, not unlike the construction of the Taj Mahal. ZQ chairs, much like most modern technology, takes this elegant solution, iterates upon it, and creates a flawless receptacle for ones buttocks. Yeah, I liked them, and I’m probably gonna buy one.
Anyway, back to video games, there was a game that one of the local Perth devs was so animate about that I had to try it. Sky Noon was created by students from Torrens University’s Media Design School, and involves jumping around at breakneck speed while shooting others off the level. I sucked at it, but hot damn if I didn’t love every second of it. The surprising thing was the quality of the product, especially compared to other games at the show which weren’t even made by students. The game easily held its own against the likes of more veteran games from previous years, even eclipsing them in some ways. Let this be proof that New Zealand is rad as hell.
So, with PAX over and done with, I’m left with the sinking feeling that it’ll be another year before I’m welcomed home into the air conditioned annals of nerd-dom once more. However, I’m also filled with an alarming enthusiasm to go do a whole bunch of other stuff. Make a game, write an album, write a book, anything that might lend itself to furthering my geekiness. There were so any panels to inspire – totally hypothetically, of course – even the laziest writer to slap himself in the face, grab a bottle of Yamazaki 12yo, and bust out a fantasy novel to rival Tolkien’s works. Which – also 100% hypothetically – will be coming out sometime next year. Or something. GG PAX. You broke my cynicism. GG.
Author Note: special thanks to Caitlin Lee for providing some photographic help.