#PAXAUS – Day 3 – and scene

I’m not sure what it is about conferences.

They make me… want to do things.

Organise, lobby, create.

Today I feel like I wish I could enhance PAX and level it up into it’s next evolution. I’m not sure what that exactly looks like, but it probably involves some moderator training, a slightly broader net of topics, and maybe some workshops. It feels like PAX has a level of energy around it that is worth harnessing… for awesome.

Saturday I felt a pressing need to lobby politicians and try to help activists get their message across. There were so many people at panels passionate about changing pieces of their world, but obviously bewildered about how to go about it.

Friday, I just wanted to start a gaming cafe where people can play games over a meal. But that sounds like a great way to never have time for anything else ever again.

It’s a constant stream of inspiration and puzzle-pieces shifting around in my head.

And there is never enough time to think it all through to conclusions. I’m thinking I should give up some of my TV time in favour of writing time, lest these ideas end up indefinitely detained in the cage inside my brain.

Sadly, all of that is going to have to take a back-seat to my NaNoWriMo now; I have a 30 day deadline, and Tycho signed my messenger-bag with a “Godspeed” when I told him, and now it kinda feels like he is going to haunt me till the end of the month, and possibly beyond if I fail. I have to live up to his well-wish, or I’ll fail on two levels simultaneously.

Also, he has seemed possessed in the comics more of late, and I shouldn’t take any chances.

It was a great time, and I wish there were more of it. Even while it is exhausting. Or perhaps because of.

Thanks PAX, thanks crowd, thanks atmosphere.

And thanks Robert Khoo for picking Australia. That was cool of you.

How About a Digital Gaming Revolution, Mr. Turnbull?

PAX is a conference for gamers of all kinds, and geek culture more broadly.

But you wouldn’t have guessed it from the length of the room-overflowing queue leading into the session “Boss Level: Meet the Brains in Charge of the Aussie Games Industry”. The most political session at the conference. Scott Ludlam’s presence on the panel is always a dead give-away.

There were plenty of questions about how to change the status quo, how to make games a more serious part of the Australian economy, how to get taken seriously. And it sounds there is slow progress, but still…

…I feel frustrated on behalf of the panelists when people as “Tell us what we should do?” or “Tell us how we can get meaningful change?” As if permission to act is required. When in reality the best thing everyone can do is to put their best argument in the ear of their local politician. Nothing motivates politicians better than mountains of individual arguments, because they betray a level of passion for the subject.

The dirty little secret of politics is that the less effort you have to take to make your voice heard (copy-paste campaigning, or signature gathering), the more of it you need to carry the same weight as a dozen well-crafted personal messages. Effort counts, not volume. Effort in lobbying translates to effort to get politicians elected (or challenged).

I’m not a citizen. So I don’t get to vote. But I still have an argument to put forward from some simple facts that were incredibly easy to gather from the prompts of several speakers. So here is my bit for the cause.

Globally, the movie industry is worth about $90 billion this year (and climbing).

Globally, the music industry is worth about $27 billion this year (and declining).

Globally, the video games industry is worth about $114 billion this year (and rising rapidly).

Malcolm Turnbull talks a good game in support of the digital economy. Labor has thrown their support behind this message. Getting support for the software industry should be a slam dunk.

And based on current trends, next year the video games industry is going to be larger than the movie and music industries worldwide.

And game development studios have a much more direct path to access the global economy; we already do well in Australia considering the general lack of support the industry gets.

But in light of the numbers above do the movie and music industries get generous support, whilst the games industry gets absolutely none? Success in the latter will be a much bigger factor for the success of the Australian digital media industry than either of the first two.


Time to put money where the mouths are. How about extending some tax incentives into the industries of the future, and set Australia up to punch above its weight internationally?

Now, share this post with someone.

And then make contact with your local politician, and make your own argument why this matters for your career, your economic future, your passion. Because that’s how it is done.

Pax Australis

I got my tickets for PAX almost a year ago. Jumped in with both feet. I booked a room at my “usual” hotel for work travel well in advance as well.

Resting in our Room
Resting in our Room

The Grand is just across the river from the Melbourne Conference Centre; an easy 10 minute walk from our room to where all the fun is. I managed to get a nice room locked in early by using my frequent work visits for leverage… some of the front-desk staff greets me by name unprompted when I am around.

Bats(?) circling the Buildings
Bats(?) circling the Buildings

There were a couple of days for Abbey and I to settle in before PAX would start.

Entrance to PAX
Entrance to PAX

The Photojournalist

Since Abbey wasn’t going to cope with being on her feet all weekend, we managed to get a wheelchair for the occasion. Without she’d be dead to the world after an hour. With, she managed to get about 4-6 hours into each of the three days.

Queue to get in at 10am
Queue to get in at 10am

One of the benefits of being in a wheelchair appears to be that we got whisked into the Expo before the long long queues got the enter. “Press entry?”, “No, we’re not press”, “Today you are… *waves through*”.

As a result we got some shots of the Expo floor eerily quiet.
No visitors, just press.

The Panels

I got a lot of value out of the panels; some better than others, but none outright terrible. On topics of gaming, cosplay, equality, design and politics. Once again, being at a conference pulls at something inside me wanting to present. I’m going to have to do something with this drive.

Panel on playing female characters
Panel on playing female characters

I attended great panels on Winning Games and Losing Games. The panel on playing female characters had a brilliant mix of speakers, and I wish they had had more time to dig deeper. And I finished my last day with a panel by the producer of TableTop.

Cosplay Panel; Dave's cosplay was awesome
Cosplay Panel; Dave’s cosplay was awesome

The Playing

We played a few games along the way too. Formula E was an interesting spoof of Formula D.

Racing with Elephants
Racing with Elephants

We were also hunting for Pinny Arcade pins for Ab’s brother, and we were “forced” to play Magic the Gathering for one of them. We scored five starter decks in the process… yay freebies!

The Periphery

During five nights in Melbourne we had some opportunities to sample a few bits of the city as well. There was much more I wanted to show Abbey, but we ran out of time and energy before I got to it all.

Watching the Pigeon Roasters
Watching the Pigeon Roasters

The timing, every hour on the hour in the evening, didn’t seem favourable, but in the end we managed to get onto a bridge just in time for the spectacle. The big full blasts of fire were amazingly hot, even at 30 metres distance, even on an already hot evening.

Cookie the Scott
Cookie the Scott

You never quite know what you are going to find walking along the river in Melbourne. In this case, Cookie Monster was playing bagpipes for Halloween. Naturally. He had a few fragments of the Star Wars theme. It didn’t seem like he realised that’d be his best bet on this particular evening.

Water Creatures
Water Creatures

We had four delicious and decadent dinners… and one Nando’s failure that I’m going to pretend never happened. Dessert in the hotel is spectacular; the chocolate mousse comes with delicious slivers of pineapple drenches in delicious sweet nectar.

Chocolate Mousse++
Chocolate Mousse++

Friday night I also stumbled into a Tripod concert that was more fun than I was anticipating. I had heard their songs before, but I had forgotten how funny they are. It would also seem that the PAX audience got a lot more of their references… they had an incredibly funny song about character creation in Skyrim.


The People

Another must-see element of PAX is the Cosplay. I wasn’t sure how much to expect; I had expected perhaps a few people half-trying, a few handfuls of serious attempts, and maybe a “pro” or two.

I think about a quarter of the attendees was wearing some form of costume, even if it was just a cap with a Sims diamond attached. But there were so many more incredible outfits. I only captured a few, but there were hundreds of awesome characters.

The Pins

And then at the end of the weekend… emptiness…

Convention hall, empty as people get signatures
Convention hall, empty as people get signatures

And nothing but 41 pins to remember the event by.
Jerry (not me!) was very organised at the pin swap, and we got some help from the Penny Arcade staff picking good pins.

Pin collection
Pin collection

I think I want to do this again next year.
It never feels long enough.

Day 351 – I Want To Play A Game

15 – 100 Principles of Game Design

If you don’t know of the wealth of board games that exist beyond Risk, Stratego and Monopoly, you’re missing out on a lot of fun.

I have written about them often enough over the past year; almost every Wednesday some (variable) friends come over and we have some snacks, some dinner and some board games. Most of them have a strategic angle (the games), even when it’s just about building railway tracks. Some of them are collaborative. Some of them are really really tough.

It’s fun…

And inevitably it leads to making up of new house-rules and variants.
Or entirely new games essentially.
Continue reading Day 351 – I Want To Play A Game

Day 331 – I Don’t Wanna… Talk About It

35 – 101 Conversation Starters

I am a bit bemused that the domain “conversationstarters.com” exists. At all.
Talk about a niche market.

Please don’t head over to read the suggestions, because they are frankly not very good. I really don’t see how “Are you a saver or a spender?” is ever an appropriate ice breaker, unless you are at an accountancy convention.

I think there are better ways to approach a conversation than canned openers.
Continue reading Day 331 – I Don’t Wanna… Talk About It

Day 302 – Distractions

64 – The 100 best games of all time

I feel bloated and ready to burst, which means it must be a Wednesday night.

It’s so hard to resist the cheese and cider before dinner. Then it’s so hard to resist the Crust Pizza for dinner. I ate so much that there isn’t even room to think of dessert right now.

I had a great game of Ticket To Ride tonight; the losing score was a healthy 120-something, I won with 3 points shy of 200. It’s definitely my personal best. And then I got over-confident for Carcassonne; I thought I had Ken trumped with my farming, but the significance of a few of his final moves had escaped me. I should have paid more attention, but I’m blaming his strategic “cooking” for my loss.

Wednesdays are definitely a great way to forget everything that is weighing on my mind in the middle of the week. Sadly I bet my mind will be mulling again by the time it hits the pillow. Soon now. Because I’m very tired, and I doubt I’ll get enough sleep yet.

Day 288 – Gluttony and Other Joys

78 – 100 TIPS TO SLIM

Tip 1 – do not have Wednesdays like I do.

Seriously, don’t.

On Wednesdays, friends gather in the evening… we have snacks… we eat dinner… we play boardgames… and we talk. We always eat too much like we’re trying to win a competition.

We had some nice raspberries, various cheeses, Pringles and chocolate to get us started today. For three people. (We never know beforehand how large the group gets; anywhere from 3 to 6 is typical).

And then I “cooked” by ordering Thai food on Menulog. I think there are two more dinners left over in the fridge, but even then, I have such a hard time not eating more when the food is so tasty. The Massaman Curry was tender and delicious. The Chicken/Cashew-something-or-other Curry almost as much so.

As I sat watching Ken and Abbey finish their dinner, I felt bloated bordering on sick. Occupational hazard. Now I’m just afraid to step on the scales before I go to bed.

If I don’t weigh myself, I don’t really weigh anything, do I?

Day 250 – Shouldered Burdens

I’m glad the state I woke up in was not indicative of the remainder of the day to come. I’ve gone from extremely uncomfortable, to almost bearable. If I don’t move my neck too fast and sit nice and upright I could almost fool myself into believing everything is fine.

I will however be a good boy and take it easy a little while longer. I’m itching to get back to the gym, but if anything Saturday has shown how fragile this recover is so far.

Today I’ve kept to easy tasks. My main accomplishment for the day was to clear off my entire desk and re-organise my technology so that it all fits nicely. Now I just need to get rid of the QNAP TS-409 that has done faithful duty for 7+ years. Even though it was in no way failing, it was no longer living up to my needs and expectations.

The 870 PRO so far is doing a great job at impressing. I’ve installed the latest version of Plex on it, as well as on my laptop and my phone. And I’ve started ripping some of my media onto the drive to have a play with it. I’m impressed with how slick the integration and interfaces have become. Last time I considered Plex was 2-3 years ago, and I moved on to XBMC for the living room. It probably was the right choice at the time, but now… this is so much better.

I can’t go too far overboard with the ripping yet though, because I only have about 3TB of usable space in the 870 at the moment. I purposely only got the bare essentials space-wise so that I can wait out any price-drop in 4TB drives later this year when the 5TB models will finally arrive. Once that happens I should be able to load up the 870 and start filling 28TB of storage with all our media for instant-on access from all our devices. It amazes me a little how long it has taken for this particular future to arrive in a ready-to-go product.

I guess with all the tech-stuff out of the way, I can get back to making a dent in my reading; Ice and Fire has waited for my return for too long, and I have a Matthew O’Reilly waiting for me since Christmas. I am current with all my Podcasts at the moment, except for one Nerdist that I paused because they were going into Bioshock Infinity spoilers… which is the other area I need to re-invest some time in; I have a truckload of games waiting for my attention. I’m only halfway through Bioshock I. And that’s the only embarrassment I’m prepared to admit to right now.

Oh god, and software development.
I have long in-depth posts that have been rattling through my brain for too long.
And an intense itch in my fingers to make a dent in my Web Development projects.

My next break is over Easter.
I think I should plan to stay home and Do Things.

Day 204 – Catan Again

We used to play Catan a lot on Wednesdays.
It has been a while.

Plain Settlers
Plain Settlers

We used to play it with All The Expansions, because if X is a good thing, then All-The-X is even better. It plays a lot quicker when you’ve just got 3 players and the base set only.

It was fun.
But I won, so I might be biased.

Now my brain needs to switch off.
(It may already have… goodnight)

Oh, also… for the observant… we had to improvise on the robber because for some reason the shrink-wrapped box came without the appropriate piece. The role of the robber was played by a nice black nail polish for the occasion.

Day 193 – Storming Guests

My evening today consisted of a low-key birthday party.

It had excellent pizza (Crust.)
It had excellent games (Cards Against Humanity, and Dominion.)
It had green vanilla cake (don’t ask.)

Stormtrooper Greets Guests with Light Sabre (Van Gogh)
Stormtrooper Greets Guests with Light Sabre (Van Gogh)

It had a Storm Trooper greeting the arriving guests… as well as the poor pizza delivery guy who seemed reasonably unfazed by this turn of events.