It’s difficult to find events where you can make genuine, human connections. With all the flashy lights and media saturation at conventions, it’s not easy to talk heart to heart with the people behind the booth. PAX, however, is a special beast, where you can be swallowed into its Kaiju-like maw and meet an honest Pinocchio who’s never seen Monstro’s expo floor before. It’s the games that bring everyone together, but it’s the people that make PAX what it is. So, who better to run a panel than the people?
Everyone at PAX is a gamer. We’re all familiar with the ways developers evoke emotions through loot crates, but more genuine gameplay employs sneakier techniques. Most of us don’t sit down to critically analyse each component of a game and understand why it has been included, but that doesn’t mean you’re banned from the game analysis club. I went to “The 1st 10 Minutes: Catching and Holding a Player’s Interest,” expecting a cool series of observations from the guys onstage. They decided to flip the format and have us do the work for them.
Instead of a back and forth discussion with each other, Aaron and Tony decided to have the audience provide the critique. At first, I thought it was a little dumb to have us do the thing I came here to watch them do, but it made perfect sense. Who better to analyse games than gamers? So, analyse we did, and not just on any old games either.
Perhaps the coolest thing about the panel was getting a sneak peek at Hand of Fate 2… And having it judged by a room the size of a private Ed Sheeran concert. Talking about why The Dealer is present in a digital board game just wouldn’t be the same without audience members shouting oddly insightful thoughts. Moreover, a sample size of two doesn’t compare to a room full of people, so if the panelists wanted to gauge what was ‘average,’ they just took a show of hands. It was great to get a format that wanted the audience POV, especially for a critical perspective.
Anyway, I don’t have any photos from the panel, so, here’s an annoying carrot.
PAX is a unique event. Unlike at E3 or EB Expo (because apparently those two events are equivalent…), PAX has a heavy emphasis on independent games. Indie developers are given a platform to peddle their wares, and generate interest in their product. I’m the first to admit that indie games are my jam, bread and butter. The devs often seek to deliver a solid mechanic wrapped up in a quirky concept. The result are games which are both charming and innovative.
Interestingly, for many PAX attendees indie games are not the draw card. Pins are the draw card. People want pins. Seriously, pin collection is a massive thing. Two years ago I met a woman who travelled from Texas just to get the exclusive pins at PAX Aus. I have seen her at the event every year since. This year she was among thousands of attendees sporting PAX pins on their lanyards. Many were searching, always searching for more.
While watching a group of “pinny collectors” (even just writing that phrase makes me a bit queasy) scanning QR codes to further their quest for a pin. I thought to myself, “do I have the skills to become an exclusive pin hunter?” Challenge initiated. The easiest way to acquire a pin was to buy one. Pins could be bought at authorized pin dealers. Unfortunately, the PAX merchandise store had sold out of their must have pins on Friday (let’s just forget that I don’t want to spend money). Pins could also be earned by playing specific games and achieving high scores. Ain’t nobody got time (or the skill) for that…
So my only other option was to find pins. I heard whispers of a Mario Odyssey pin. Logic dictated that it would be available at the Nintendo exhibit. But the staff seemed evasive. Was there a pin? Maybe. Where could I find a hypothetical Mario Odyssey pin? Maybe that staff member. It was all very cloak and dagger. Given that earlier in the day the HyperX free giveaway almost resembled vision from Black Friday sales, I suspect the Nintendo staff did not want to be swamped by grabby PAX attendees.
And so my quest was complete just in time for the Omegathon and closing ceremony. Interesting panels, quirky indie games, expensive convention food, acquisition of an exclusive pin, and good company… I would call that a successful three days at PAX.
Okay, so, even if it’s not the moment all of you have been waiting for, it’s something I certainly have. Sony was kind enough to have brought along a Monster Hunter World (MHW) demo for the PAX Aus audiences to enjoy, which I did with gusto. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is probably the greatest thing to ever happen to the franchise.
I picked the hardest monster available because if you’ve only got fifteen minutes to play the game you might as well get the most out of it, right? The Anjanath was my target, a new monster for the series, and while it wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever fought it was still an exciting experience. The continuous world makes chasing fleeing monsters down a lot more intense, with mechanics adjusted for better fighting on-the-move. Secondary monsters are much more of a threat, chasing you for much longer and with more aggression than in previous games.
I’m unsure if this will be the case in the final game but the quests were available from your base camp in the questing areas. In my mind this is awesome, allowing hunters to stick around and harvest specific parts for longer periods. And the game looks amazing, having been developed specifically for console and PC. I can’t wait to see how classic monsters look in MHW, and what kind of crazy scenarios will be possible with the improvements to the mechanics.
We may not be getting Double-Cross any time soon (or, like, ever) but the future of Monster Hunter is looking brighter than ever. I am eagerly awaiting the beginning of next year because of MHW; this game will absolutely consume me, probably until the next PAX. I’m…. I’m okay with this. Well done, PAX Aus, you’ve made me a happy camper once again.