#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.

#PAXAUS – Day 2

I tried to sleep in. I honestly did. But at 9:00am I was awake, despite the best curtains I have ever had in a hotel room. Even at noon, it feels like midnight in here; I had to sneak behind the curtains to confirm that the light bleeding along the edges wasn’t an illusion.

After discovering yesterday that running from session to session is not a great way to spend a day (and missing half of them anyway), I had quite dramatically cut back on my personal schedule.

But I wasn’t going to miss “Penny Arcade – Make a Strip!” even if Mike wasn’t available. Kris Straub was a great fill-in; although his art wasn’t entirely to my tastes as much as Mike’s he was a lot more personable and engaged with the Q&A portion of the event.

I am in awe of how open and vulnerable Jerry Holkins is prepared to make himself. I don’t know if it is partially a well-exercised act, but despite agonising over whether to reveal personal details about himself, he always comes through. He’s not afraid to just be himself. I wonder if that’s the secret sauce that makes the PAX con so great; the fact that it originates from geeks with a great attitude about life.

The Six Rules of PAX should be a model for Tech Cons.

Sometimes,… (often… (always)) his unflappable nature results in a blue tinge to proceedings. Q: “Invent and illustrate a new form of erotica” was Chekhov’ed delicately on the corner of the desk and eventually resulted in some delightful Vesperotica / bat erotica.

It is a delight just to listen to Jerry ad-lib and riff.

Next up, I had a political panel which included two lobbyists and one Scott Ludlam. Hearing him speak always reminds me that a quiet measured voice often garners more attention than a raised voice.

It was an incredibly packed session; the queue snaked around corners, and I think we ended up with slightly more people in the room than there technically should have been. But it’s all good. It is good to see that level of interest in activism; I am taking it as a sign of an interest to do something, rather than thinking it might have seemed an opportunity to roast a politician or perhaps gloat over other politicians not-present.

I have many thoughts on the topic of activism in the general sense. I need to find more time to think them through and write them out. Or do something constructive with them. But for now, the call-to-action I felt compelled to write will have to do.

I spent a brief period in an “Are Gamers Social?” session. As much as I was interested to find there are all kinds of geek spaces starting to show up in all the major cities, I think the panel was a bit un-structured and could have done with a bit more preparation. Or perhaps a better premise than a question with an obvious answer.

I left early.

The session on “Geek Culture/Identity: Exploring the Reality of ‘Fake’ Geeks” had a much better premise, a much better panel and a much better moderator than most of the sessions. I’m wondering if PAX should do more to prepare panel moderators for their duties, because it’s not as easy as just showing up with an idea and some guests.

What is a Fake geek… or what is even a Real geek. The panel didn’t really come to a solid conclusion, other than, almost any topic with passionate adherents could be considered geekery. And I don’t disagree. But then, maybe instead of spending a lot of time on the central question we could have moved on to the answer that everyone is a geek for something, and maybe we should all just pay more attention not to alienate those with geekery that we do not quite understand. In a stereotypical jocks-vs-geeks stand-off, aren’t both sides misunderstanding how similar they really are?

I would love for a panel to explore that point in more depth.

This was the point in the evening where the musical entertainment in the main hall proved more interesting than the sessions I had ticked off on my schedule. I ended up seeing some of the Doubleclicks’ work on-stage, and I enjoyed it greatly… especially their tabletop song was a work of art.

And the Axis of Awesome had a bit of a shaky start with feedback from the speakers, but they had some great bits, and ended incredibly strongly on a whirlwind tour through the musical landscape of the last decade based on a single four-chord progression. Music has never sounded more monotonous to me than it did for the last 5 minutes of their act. And surprisingly, that’s a compliment… I think.

We ended the evening late with a full room for the “Sex & The Modern Geek” session; who would have thought that’d draw a full room.

A great discussion, helped along by some various scholarly and thoughtful input from the panel. I think there was a certain level of discomfort in the room around a few of the topics raised, but overall a great audience. I wish there was more room for topics like this at PAX.

Acceptance comes from understanding. Understanding comes from exposure. Discomfort is part of the process of losing your discomfort.

It was a great session to end the day on.

The realisation there is only one more day left (and one that ends early at 6pm at that) makes me a little sad. There are certain conferences I could spend a great deal more time on if the constraints of life would only permit it. I don’t think I would enjoy every panel on the schedule, but I could certainly fit a few more days in.

Alas, time to rest so I can make the most of the last.

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 208 – MEL Now/Nov

I’m looking forward to seeing how well my new laptop-bag/pack will work out when used in anger.

I took it to Wet’n’Wild today where it did an excellent job at concealing many food-items inconspicuously. It’s a little too bulky to sit nice and upright in the locker, but flat on its back works well. It isn’t as large as it looks; that might just be the eye-popping orange.

Tomorrow morning I’ll take it in to work with my laptop and some shower stuff.

But then tomorrow evening it’ll get a quick re-pack for its first trip to Melbourne. If this works well it means one less bag to lug around, because it’d replace the messenger bag for my laptop on these trips. Maybe I’ll be less in need of a massage on my return. But to be safe I’ll make another booking for Friday anyway. Although I’m afraid she might try to relax my ITB again, which… isn’t relaxing.

I’ve also spent a chunk of this evening preparing for another Melbourne trip. One for personal reasons. One for reasons of PAX. I’ve never been to a proper Con of this nature, and I cannot wait to see what it’s like. Although I do have a lingering fear that this will inevitably lead to holidays to the US in the future. It’s still 9 months away, but the hotels may need sorting out sooner rather than later; it’s right before Melbourne Cup Day, which has a high likelihood of disrupting everything around the city. Best to be gone before that storm hits.