Second days are so fraught with mediocrity. Who remembers the second day of school as the exciting time that it wasn’t? No, second days are relegated to the annals of our memories, pushed aside in favor of the exciting inaugural sights and sounds of novelty like the first, tastiest doughnut. No, second days don’t suck, they’re just under appreciated. The second day of PAX wasn’t any less good, hell naw, it was just as magical as the first, everyone was just a bit numb. Not us, though. No ho ho, we know how good day two of PAX was, and you best remember the value of the second day.
Yesterday was games day, but today was all about the other stuff. The biggest highlight of my day was a panel about the most important part of human civilisation: Science. Hosted by two Perth physics-buffs, the panel was entitled Science <3’s Videogames (a sentiment that is as charming as it is true), and explored the positive influence games in scientific endeavors. There were mentions of quantum computing games that work better than algorithms, explorations into the trials of refugees and paraplegics that started walking for no known reason! Sometimes we do what me must because we can, and to that end, I bought some very, very, very expensive dice (not for myself, thankfully).
Any self-respecting DnD lover knows the value of a premium set of dice. That said, there comes a point where stupidity overrules sensibility, and this was where Level Up Dice came in. Imagine a titanium d20 rolling across the table, the sound of hematite slowly leaning into a crit. Rare, strange precious stones crafted into elegant weapons of imagination. Yeah, look, I won’t say how much I paid, but simply put, the amount of care taken into how these dice were handled made me feel like these stones were worth the cost. So, with a solid dent in my bank account that will eventually be dinged out (she better pay me back!), there was one place to go.
Since PAX Aus started, I’ve never checked out the freeplay sections. They are huge. I didn’t realise how huge they were, but I assure you, they’re huge. Like, huger than a really huge thing made of humongounium. I’m sitting here, chilling with a bit of Android: Netrunner with a few random chill-goers, and it is delightful. Gone are the flashing lights and PR-bullshit, all in favor of some good ol’ gaming, perfect to distill the brain for another day of flashing lights, and Ubisoft’s booth. Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s an Epic Spell Wars table that demands my attention.
Last year, I met a senior member of Reed exhibitions (the event management company behind PAXAUS) while volunteering at a completely unrelated expo of their design, a mere two weeks after PAXAUS 2015. We both gushed over the atmosphere of PAXAUS 2015 and both lamented the distance between the show floor and the designated media room. The convention is still large enough that I put significant work into hatching an egg on Pokemon GO when walking from developer interviews on the show floor to theatres for panels today. Although, the media room is now by the entrance rather than hundreds of meters away from civilisation. My calves thank you, Bernadette. I am glad we were united in our discontent.
Also frequently united in their discontent (albeit in a tongue in cheek way) were “Pitch your game” panelists Josh Boggs, Paul Verhoeven, Kris Straub, and Kamina Vincent. It was an event which saw 40 audience members each pitch a 45 second hypothetical game idea. Despite warnings that no pitch was safe from real-world plagiarism, it soon became clear that the level of seriousness of this panel rated somewhere between vaguely bothered and non existent.
Many audience members went through rigorous questioning before their idea was met with a no – Josh Boggs pointed out a flaw in their x-factor style judging system. “The problem is that we’ve all assumed the Simon Cowell persona.” But some audience members dished out as good as they got. Witty repartee between panel members and audience members abounded, and some (see: most) game pitches quickly degenerated into sexual innuendos.
Some ideas were considered “quality” such as Eventual Pong, where it takes several days for the ball to reach the other paddle. Kris Straub questioned whether you would receive a notification on your phone when the ball was close to reaching your paddle. Wambulance, which involved paramedics intentionally injuring civilians so they could earn commission on ambulance trips. And there was corn-eating simulator VR (with unlockable, customisable corn skins, and power-ups like dentures). The winner, Eventual Pong, received a limited edition PAXAUS collectible pin.
I’d also like to give a quick shoutout to the woman who scored 200 on Bop It! During round 5 of the Omegathon. Though I suspect the standing ovation from 300 audience members in the main theater, and a place in the semi-final, might be recognition enough. Onward to day 3!
Normally, I spread my work load out over the three days of PAX, allowing myself some time to relax in between interviews and appointments. It’s a long convention, and it’s easy to burn out if you take on too much, too quickly. This year, I decided that Sunday would be the day that I relax, kick back, and take it easy. Of course, to make sure that I could actually do that and not miss anything, I’ve busted the ever loving crap out of my hump. Playing games, running interviews, chasing down PR reps and barely finding time to scratch myself.
The number of first-time developers in the PAX Rising area is amazing, even more-so when you consider the titles that they’ve got out on display. For all the crap that Unity receives, it has allowed some people to make some truly wonderful games. Wildfire was a magical, element-bending, stealth-adventure that had my interest hooked with just a few minutes of gameplay. It might’ve been a completely smooth experience, had I not killed the game by making it crash completely with what I was attempting to do. I revisited Blockpocalypse, spending my time making friends by throwing them into the rising lava. Not many people wanted to play with me afterwards, but I’m sure it was just because of my intimidating skills, and not at all because of my inevitable, unrelenting betrayals.
Betrayal was something of a theme of the day, in fact, as Goat Punks – a game about racing goats to the top of a narrow mountain – uses it as a main design aspect. People are less annoyed at your attempts to murder them when they’re also trying to do it to you, and so I felt much more in my element there. I moseyed on over to spend a fair amount of time with the Perth devs, of which there are many, and make my presence felt. Jacob Janerka, Paradigm developer and digital pimp, clued me into the ways of romancing duck people and offered to hook me up. Sam and Liam of BrambleLash fame are likely now at each others’ throats, a result of my probing questions about their comparative skill levels in their own game. I couldn’t even find Oscar Brittain – dude probably saw me coming and fled. I’ll have to hunt him down tomorrow.
However, the highlight of my day was the time I spent with The American Dream from Samurai Punk, creators of the game Screencheat. It’s less of a game and more of an experience, one that makes me wish I had the kind of money that allowed me to purchase a VR headset. It allows the player a glimpse into the world of what America could be like if they followed through to the logical conclusion point of performing all activities, in every aspect of life, with guns. Feeding your child? Use a gun. Working a factory job? Use a gun. Taking tour guide advice from a talking dog named Buddy Washington? For the love of God, use a gun. Talking dogs need a gun more than anything else.
As always, it’s impossible to describe in even fleeting detail all that I took in and experienced. I spoke with some amazing people, played some excellent games, and soaked up some good vibes from a wholly enthusiastic community of players. I’m sure that tomorrow will be the relaxing day I deserve for all my hard work, and I won’t immediately set out to create more work for myself upon setting foot into the expo floor. I mean, that would be just be nuts… Although… I wonder if the Warlock of Firetop Mountain guys will be free for a quick chat?
Author Note: special thanks to Caitlin Lee for providing some photographic help.