PAX Australia 2013 Review

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It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like a regular gamer. There comes a point where you’re so inundated with information and opportunity, surrounded on all sides by opinion and industry shenanigans that you completely forget that gaming is something that can be observed. While my thoughts are normally swirling with ideas concerning the minutiae of Dante and Vergil’s relationship, how developers don’t seem to understand how caring works, or why it is that I’ve ‘damaged my brand’ by writing for free at paid publications (more to come on that note), entering PAX baptised me in the shallow waters of not giving a shit. I was here to observe games being enjoyed, to try out the best indies had to offer us, play some Magic and revel in a community I could call my own.

Cosplay

There was once a time I had a full head of hair, otherwise known as ‘The Glory Days’. During this time, I attended a Supanova dressed up as Zack Fair, because Zack Fair is bad-arse and I’m not white or blonde enough to dress up as Cloud Strife. After a few photos had been taken and after the millionth whisper of ‘is that Zack Fair? Wow he’s so much hotter in real life!’ had been uttered, I’d realised that I loved being the source of other peoples entertainment.

Had I known DC’s Daniel Walker at that time, I’m pretty sure I’d have gotten so far into cosplay by now I would have the occasional surgery to ensure that I took on the features of the characters I was representing. But I didn’t, and while his Psycho costume put the simple outfits DC donned to shame, I know I wore mine with an overwhelming sense of enjoyment.

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While it’s true I couldn’t see out of the mask (I cosplayed as Jacket from Hotline Miami), and only had the soundtrack of my increasingly labored breathing to listen to, it felt amazing to physically represent something that gamers loved and knew. Also, I scared a kid with my elephant mask, and that was hella funny, especially when I followed him on the show floor. I will forever live in his memory as a nightmare, and I can ask for no greater honour.

Panels

So as much as I liked being baptised in not caring, it would have been nice to be baptised and also get the special treatment that accompanies having to or being paid to give a shit. Media couldn’t skip lines, and I’m basically allergic to waiting, so my panel attendance was minimal. Having said that, the lines impressed me to no end.

For a community that writers dismiss on a consistent basis (due to the obnoxious few and not the silent many), the amount of people wanting to sit down and listen to those actually knowledgeable and pertinent to games and the industry gave me hope. Not for humanity or out of gratitude that people weren’t spouting inane nonsense – hope for the development of gaming on a new level, an intellectual level that includes philosophy, debate and the chance to appreciate and understand gaming as a mechanical art.

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It may come as a surprise, but the panel I’m most upset that I missed (that I will watch as soon as it’s available) was the panel on competitive gaming. I have an immense amount of respect for the scene, and wish I could contribute more to it.

Tabletop

Video games and tabletop games are, to me, like cakes and meth. One is a sweet release, and the other creates a never ending cycle of addiction which threatens to leave me broke, alone and unloved. I crave tabletop gaming. Warhammer, 40k, Warmachine, Magic the Gathering – these are the hobbies of my personal destruction, which will doubtlessly leave me swapping tricks under bridges to get me some booster packs.

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Under the high-roofed Big Top lay table after table, each one offering a haven to those who see a tablecloth as a place to bring their imagination to life. For those out there who have never played a table-top game and are curious, you owe it to yourself to sit down and play a game of anything. I don’t know what it is about the scene or the community, but people are always, always happy to walk you through the steps. After a while, you begin to realise that nearly all table-top games are the physical representation of music – the cold, mathematical side of your brain savouring the consistent pour of numbers, statistics and chance, while your creative side gets overpowered by the sheer force of the battle taking place in your head.

So yeah it was pretty sweet.

Classic Console

And who could forget the retro gaming section which was hosted by our very good friends over at retrodomination.com? Certainly not me!

If Nintendo has proven anything, it’s that nostalgia is a palpable force. Not just for sales, but for culture, for self-identification, and for fun. The amount of gamers who dropped by the retro gaming section just to relive the days when ‘multiplayer’ translated to ‘bean bags, a can of coke and two controllers’ was enough to make me hate the present.

Don’t get me wrong, being called a noob online has its charm, but playing Mario Kart and shoving your friend off their chair to gain an advantage is one of the best feelings around. For me, the combination of pure gaming bliss of retro and my fanatical adoration of tabletop made the show feel as though it was made just for me, and just for people like me. Bear hugs for everyone!

Everything Else

For what it’s worth, I never had a single problem with any enforcer, though I secretly fantasised about having a confrontation with one that ended with ‘Forgive me if I don’t find a virgin in a kilt to command the height of my respect’ or something equally as derisive. Fantasy will be the death of me.

Food and drink were overpriced, as to be expected, only I’d just gotten back from the USA where you can’t charge four (read it, FOUR) dollars for a single bottle of water. Seriously, what the hell? Four dollars? You know what I can get in a bakery for four dollars!? Hell, for like, fifty bucks, I could walk out of a bakery with enough bread and sugar to give myself and my dog diabetes. Man, I wish PAX Aus had a regular priced bakery, I really do.

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It was cold there, as in ‘I sure hope my testicles don’t get frostbite’ cold, and that has now lead to nearly all of the DC crew getting PAX Plague, which I seemed to have avoided. This is most likely due to the fact that I was covered in PAX Mould, which, as even the most common mayfly knows, is the only preventative.

Transport was a bitch. I never want to relive that ever again.

The Verdict

PAX Australia was a fun experience. I liked being, for the lack of a better term, a non-industry plebian, so I could enjoy the fun from their perspective. Bring on PAX Aus 2014, and a reasonably priced bakery!
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