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PAX Australia 2014: It’s A Wrap!

IT was a wild three-day extravaganza at PAX Australia 2014 where gaming culture was celebrated by all those who came. Darren Boon relays his experience as a non-gamer with his comprehensive coverage of PAX Australia 2014.

Celebrating and showing appreciation for gaming and the wider gaming industry, scores of gamers from Melbourne and interstate were drawn to this year’s massive gaming convention, PAX Australia 2014.

A wide variety of games from tabletop and consoles to retro machines and trading cards; the opportunity to try out a range of exciting video games from major studios and independent (indie) game developers; informative panel discussions about games and gaming culture as well as intricate and eye-catching cosplays characterised this year’s PAX Australia which was held at the convention’s new home – the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre.

Across the three-day event from October 31 to November 2, exhibitors from studios such as Ubisoft and Microsoft, games like League of Legends, gaming services such as Wargaming, various PC manufacturers as well as various schools offering courses in games development were present on the show floor.

Meld reporter, Darren Boon, trying out a game at the STEM exhibitors station. Photo: Julian Tay

Meld reporter, Darren Boon, trying out a game at the STEM exhibitors station. Photo: Julian Tay

With some fairly big name titles from major studios, PAX offered gamers the chance to preview some stellar-looking titles – a chance that was too good for many attendees to pass up with queues forming quickly around popular booths.

Indie game developers were not to be outdone. Crowds thronged the specially created indie games section and took an interest to the various indie games produced internationally and locally in Australia. Some of the interesting local indie games included Wave Wave, Expand and Framed.

Panel Discussions

The PAX Australia Diversity in Video Games panel. Photo: Julian Tay

The PAX Australia Diversity in Video Games panel. Photo: Julian Tay

While many were certainly keen to spend all their time mingling with exhibitors on the showfloor or playing the freeplay area, the broad schedule of panel discussions were a noteworthy highlight of the three-day event as many proved to be rather informative, and at times quite humorous.

At the ‘Play the Rainbow: Diversity in Video Games’ panel, which explored the types of characters that are seen in video games, panellists said that there are so many stories that can be told, and suggested video games could deviate from the main protagonist of the “straight white male dude who broods” to the applause of the audience in the room.

On the topic of seeing LGBT and minority characters respectfully integrated into games, panellists asserted a  ‘holistic approach’ be taken such as writing games with LGBT characters or minority characters where either LGBT or minority gamers who don’t identify with the “straight white male dude” could find something else where they can see themselves in. This in turn would inspire them to want to enter the gaming industry and create more diversity among characters who they can identify with.

The panel also highlighted the stereotype of transgendered characters in video games and hoped more of these characters would be written from a transgendered perspective.

Another panel ‘Everyone Games: Creating Inclusive Gaming Communities‘ touched on the role of ‘gaymers’ – gay people who like to play games and how they fit into the perceived gaming community of gay white males.

Speaking to Alice Clarke; freelance journalist, games reviewer and Herald Sun columnist. Photo: Julian Tay

Speaking to Alice and Karma Clarke, curators behind PAX’s Diversity Lounge.  Photo: Julian Tay

The panellists said communities for ‘gaymers’ exist not to segregate the ‘gaymers’ from other gamers, but for ‘gaymers’ to have a space to enjoy their games. They ‘gaymers’ community has also received support from the heterosexual community, the panellists said.

The panel also encouraged gamers to call out any form of bad behaviour or comments targeted at homosexuals and to advise those making those comments that such behaviour was unacceptable.

Reinforcing PAX Australia’s welcoming environment was the event’s initiative for a Diversity Lounge, created for LGBT people and their supporters to hang out and play games. Alice Clarke, co-curator of the lounge, said there were no reports of misbehaviour or trouble caused by attendees.

In other panels relating to game creation, panellists at the ‘You Can Make Games Too!‘ discussion stressed the importance of networking amongst the gaming community. Volunteering at game conferences to network with fellow game developers was emphasised as well as the importance of showing friends the games one creates in order to obtain useful criticism and feedback. Furthermore, speakers also made the point for developers to see through the completion of their all their projects in order to build a solid portfolio.

This idea of demonstrating faith in one’s product and having the confidence to show it to their friends and colleagues was also reinforced at the ‘Aussie Indie Showcase Panel‘ which featured the developers behind PAX Australia’s Indie Showcase games: Airscape, Assault Android Cactus, Gunscape, Screencheat, Expand and Wave Wave.

One piece of advice they imparted on budding games developers was to consider the platform their game would be developed for. While reaching a wide audience was certainly important, understanding the platform on which the game can be supported, and the best effect that platform can achieve for one’s game, was paramount to a game’s success.

Australian Indie Showcase games at PAX Aus. Photo: Julian Tay

Australian Indie Showcase games at PAX Aus. Photo: Julian Tay

Finally, ‘The Importance of Diverse Skillsets When Making Games’ panel highlighted the games industry need for range of skills outside of computing and coding such as creating music.

The panel was rather hesitant about the effects of schools that teach gaming. Despite acknowledging the advantages schools provide students – such as granting them access to tools and networking opportunities – speakers also feared it could lead to a factory-like situation where schools churn out graduates in a cookie-cutter fashion. They also advised students to take on a minor in addition to the major to increase the breadth and depth of knowledge they could bring to games development.

Also, in hiring a game developer, the most important skill panellists felt was “game literacy” – to be able to analyse games and distinguish between what is good or bad, or what works or doesn’t in a game.

With compelling and engaging discourse across each of the panels represented at PAX, there was certainly something of merit and value that could be gained from attending these panels. Proving to be an advantageous experience for gaming students and those embedded in gaming culture, PAX demonstrated that its panels were equally attractive as the games strewn across its show floor.

Cosplayers

Interviewing The Joker and Harley Quinn cosplayers. Photo: Julian Tay

Interviewing The Joker and Harley Quinn cosplayers. Watch out for Shaun! Photo: Julian Tay

Of course, what pop culture is complete without the inclusion of roving cosplayers?

One of the main highlights of PAX came down to its colourful cast of cosplayers who came decked out in vibrant, detailed costumes. Nailing their characters down to a tee, cosplayers were admired by attendants and photographers who made sure to lavish attention on them everywhere they went!

The dedication cosplayers demonstrated towards their craft was amazing and impressive. One cosplayer told Meld he had taken three years to construct his outfit and had driven from Brisbane to Melbourne for PAX while some cosplayers took months just to create and put their outfits together.

A truly incredible effort from all the cosplayers who attended this year’s event, check out the full cosplay photo coverage below.

Final Thoughts

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Overall, PAX was a fun and enriching experience for the attendees. And given the announcement that PAX Australia will be staying in Melbourne for the next five years, it will no doubt draw even larger crowds when it returns next year.

On a personal note, the PAX experience was eye-opening for someone like myself who has almost zilch interest and skills in gaming. Gaming is a foreign language to me.

However, I did have a fun trying out a few games from indie developers, had a bit of fun dancing with Nintendo’s Wii U, and reminiscing over the games of yesteryears.

But what really impressed and inspired me weren’t just the games itself but the spirit and effort behind the games as shared during the panel discussions and some of game developers Meld interviewed. This spirit and effort do not just apply to working on creating games. The very spirit is universal in whatever we venture in, be it journalism, law, medicine, accountancy, art/design, culinary – to dare to dream, to have a dream, to work towards and actualise that dream!

On a side note, if there are any game developers reading this piece, can you please create a game for law students to learn and enjoy too?

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  1. Did you get invited or did you pay? Please state the costs. Oh and are you going to come to Taste festival this year?

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Meld Magazine was incorporated as an independent not-for-profit media outlet in September 2008 to reach out to international students in Melbourne, and provide students the opportunity to gain real work experience.

Many international students live in or around the city because of the proximity to their colleges and universities, and that was where we decided to focus our efforts first. Many of us live, work and study locally too. Our editorial team is made of both local and international students, and it has worked to our advantage in providing local content in every sense of the word.

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