It’s that time of year again. The time of year that (most) writers of GameCloud are reminded that we do, in fact, live at the end of the Earth, as we make the long trek over to Melbourne for PAX Aus. Wall-to-wall friends, games, merch, and good times are pretty much always guaranteed at PAX, and this year was no different. There was a weird feeling in the air, however. Somehow, everything felt as exciting as the first year we came to PAX. It somehow felt more “fresh.” Perhaps it was the utter smorgasbord of new titles that covered the expo floor. Maybe it was because Nick and I got to attend our first dev party. It could even have been the presence of Monster Hunter World. We’ll never know for sure.
Look, it would have been Monster Hunter World, but I just didn’t get time to see it today, so you’ll just have to wait until tomorrow to read my gushing. Today’s highlight really was PAX Rising, the indie area of the expo floor that showcases the best games picked by PAX. (Not to be confused with the Indie Showcase, which is the same thing but in another spot.) There were a few returning titles to show off either their latest builds or finished works, but the floor was otherwise brimming with new titles.
There are some weird and wonderful things coming out of the indie community right now, with the strangest on display for all to see. Want to play a game where you creepily and repeatedly commit home invasions on your equally weird neighbour? Here you go. Keen for a game about a semi-sentient Roomba under the control of an AI barely keeping her mental shit together? You got it. How about an RPG that pays homage to everything 1990s while incorporating things like time travel, interdimensional corridors, and you fighting other space-time travelers? Too specific? NOPE.
I’m not just picking this because it was basically all I did today, either. It’s genuinely heartening to see so many new titles being developed in spite of the lack of government support. More than that, the “separation” between each state’s indie scene is very quickly disappearing, and a feeling of a country-wide community is growing in its place. PAX Aus has always been about community, first and foremost, and the Aussie gaming community feels stronger than ever. Besides, the dev party was really more of a “before PAX” thing. You had to be there.
After a year of waiting for hype to consume my life, it was easy to let PAX take me over. A resonant sense of elation washed through me as I saw the physical manifestations of a hundred logos flow into my perceptions, awash with capitalistic intent, but that’s not what PAX is about. My eyes careened towards the indie booths, filled with unusual and borderline insane creations. There, I found Necrobarista, a game that takes visual novel conventions and makes them… Palatable.
Not to diminish anyone’s opinions on visual novels, but I can’t stand their static nature. Because of this, they suck – it’s just that simple. Necrobarista, however, adopts something more akin to Kill la Kill than Hatoful Boyfriend, adopting lively animations and explorable environments that escape the trappings of most visual novels. Where you’d normally see a photo of your happy waifu, Necrobarista offers a series of cinematic animations, pulled together by an art style that is reminiscent of Suda51’s back catalogue. Perhaps I’m biased because it was the first game I saw today, but holy animes, this game looks RAD.
If there’s one word I’d use to describe the game, it’s stylish. Despite being implemented in a 3D engine, the cinematography and framing reeks of anime sensibilities, and while we joke about anime a lot, those directors know how to make a hype shot. Combine that with a more interactive format and you’ve got one hype Nick. Oh, and it’s about vampires who gamble for the last hours of each others lives or something. Dude, it’s hella anime, don’t question it, just roll with the madness.
No matter how much you prepare for PAX Aus, there is always something that will go wrong. It is how you deal with this expected unexpectedness that dictates whether your weekend is a success. In the case of my 2 hour flight delay and consequent 1AM arrival in Melbourne on Friday, I could only grit my teeth and wonder what the pilot meant when he announced that the delay was because they “couldn’t find the flight crew.” Uh… what?
One man we can all learn from is Rudeism. Instead of fighting it, he embraces the chaos. Rudeism is a streamer who turns everyday objects into video game controllers – everything from bananas and baguettes to broomsticks and Doritos. He played through Portal 2 using a cake. It’s a whacky approach to gaming that has earned Rudeism a swathe of followers online.
While the rest of the PAX Aus (see: the world) was watching Acqusitions Incorporated live (seriously, the theatre was at 30% capacity 3 hours before the show was due to begin), I decided to check out the PAX panel “Rudeism: Assuming Direct Control.”
In this panel, Rudeism was joined by competitive Overwatch streamer Oasis and Screenplay co-hosts Nich and Hex. They were each equipped with a Nerf gun that Rudeism had modified to be used as an Overwatch controller. Cue 15 minutes of practice with the controllers, featuring questions like “why does this button say ‘does not do anything’ on it?” and statements like “oh that’s why I was looking at your crotch!”
The next 45 minutes was a mishmash of accelerometer issues, thumbsticks falling off, and Nich whinging about the inverted controls. Hex’s ineptitude at first-person shooters, Oasis’ polite trash talk, and Nich’s heavy use of sarcasm complemented Rudeism’s enthusiasm and delighted everyone – almost as much as the quartet’s inability to hit an unmoving object. At one point, Rudeism was running around with a modified boxing glove, trying to 1v3 the others as Doomfist. No points for guessing whose corner the crowd were in.
Of course, my first day of PAX was filled with much more than just this panel – think every tabletop and competitive card game that exists right now, indie games, and eSports. But Rudeism’s panel is a good metaphor for PAX Aus as a whole – organised chaos that ultimately celebrates innovation, wit, comedy, and video games – and ultimately it was my highlight of day one PAX Aus.