If you’ve not heard of PAX and what it is by now I suggest that you get started by reading Greg’s PAX 2015 Overview, which will give you the low down on all the juicy goss’. For those that prefer the TL:DR however, PAX is Australia’s largest gaming convention, held annually in Melbourne, Australia. PAX is a celebration of video games, tabletop games and their surrounding culture. A place for fans, developers and anyone inbetween to share their love for games.
This year was a new experience for me. Instead of going as an attendee – as I have done in the past – I went as a speaker, as part of a panel discussing the ins and outs of the crossover culture surrounding video and tabletop games, organised by Another Dungeon’s very own Dave Haldane. Having not been to PAX since 2013 (the first year it was held in Australia) this PAX had a notably different vibe. Aside from the convention being entirely indoors (a good choice for anyone familiar with Melbourne’s infamous weather), the audience felt more open, as if everyone knew what they were there for and what to expect. The vibe in the air was that of a giant family coming together to share in a common passion, something I have never felt amongst so many people before.
I was most excited to experience the other side of the crowd this time around, the side of being a content creator, rather than player and aspiring developer. Having worked in the video game industry professionally for the last few years, I’ve not been able to help but felt rather disconnected from the audiences consuming the games I have worked on. PAX however, was the perfect opportunity to get amongst the consumers and fellow developers and really connect.
Friday was spent mostly roaming the floor, with a great deal of my time invested in the indie pavilion, thoroughly questioning developers and getting my hands on their interactive experiences. Some of the best games to be seen reside in this area at events such as PAX and I can’t stress how important it is that you expose yourself to ‘indie’ projects if you get the chance. Who knows, maybe you’ll find something you adore!
My top picks from the indie section are:
- Poly Bridge – by Dry Cactus
- Armello – by League of Geeks
- Torque Burnout – by League of Monkeys
- Defect – by Three Phase Interactive
- Screencheat – by Samurai Punk
Friday afternoon saw the panel take place in which we weren’t sure what to expect. As I was walking to the theatre I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a large gathering of people waiting in line! This translated to a great experience as a speaker due to the clearly passionate and enthusiastic audience, made even more evident by the very thought out questions towards the end.
During our panel we discussed the parallels of video and tabletop games, the crossover of their audiences as well as the recent blending of the mediums to create new player experiences. The crew on the panel was great and because we loved the dynamic so much, we will be doing a podcast on the topic soon to gauge what kind of interest there may be for more regular content.
Friday night consisted of drinking and networking amongst developers, which was a great experience and, for those looking to enter the industry, I can’t stress how much you will get out of social events surrounding gaming events.
Saturday was entirely reserved for interviews and more official visits to booths and exhibits. I spent a while with Deakin Motion Labs, a company that bridges the gap between art, research and technology to create awesome media based in augmented reality, virtual reality, performing arts, pre-visualisation, animation and motion capture services. Deakin Motion Lab have worked on a number of notable projects (the 2014 film I Frankenstein) and clients such as Thooeys, Toyota, Abbotts and Big Ant Studios.
While at their booth I was placed on a chair below a number of cameras and given an occulus rift, as well as a pair of gloves with motion tracking markers attached to them. During the demonstration I was shown a scene from the perspective of an astronaut leaving a space station for the void of space. While the directional movement of my character was on rails, I was able to move my hands around and see them in front of my VR face. While this experience was somewhat limited by the size of the booth, I felt it was a great taste of the potential of the motion lab’s technology and expertise.
Having just completed work with Opera Victoria on their recent production of The Flying Dutchman for which Deakin Motion Lab created the 3D elements of the show, from the preview I glimpsed I was quite impressed by the blending of mediums and I am particularly excited to see more of their work. Another Dungeon have been invited to visit motion labs workspace for a longer form demonstration which we will of course be featuring a recap of in the coming months.
Saturday afternoon and evening I spent at a number of panels dealing with the topic of diversity in games industry and games culture. Needless to say, diversity is an incredibly important topic of discussion and one I personally feel very strongly about. Whether it be gender or sexual orientation, racial or simply the representation of minority groups in games I was very pleased to see such a broad gathering of people at PAX. The continued conversations around the topic of diversity will only help expose and make people more aware of the issues we face as a society together in coming years.
As a brief aside, if you also care about diversity in games, there is a wonderful project currently on Kickstarter called GX Australia, which is a gaming event tailored to those in the queer community, but completely open and welcoming to people from all walks of life. This event is taking place in Sydney on the 27th and 28th of February 2016 and is very deserving of your support! Myself and my business partner will be there exhibiting a tabletop card game, so if you do manage to attend feel free to drop by our booth!
Sunday I decided to take a rest day and lend my pass to another local developer that hadn’t secured a ticket. Although there was perhaps more to see, I had seen the bulk of what I was interested in and sorely needed a relaxing day before the ‘Megadev’ party on Sunday evening.
Sunday evening brought around ‘Megadev’, a developer tailored party for all those that attended Melbourne International Games Week. This attracted a great crowd of developers, many Melbourne and Australian based devs were in attendance, but also spotted throughout the crowd were a number of international developers such as Hi-Rez, the developers of ‘SMITE’ a competitive MOBA and Tony Cocculuzzi the lead developer of Cup Head.
In all, PAX Aus 2015 was a roaring success, both for myself personally and for the Australian game scene. Attendees were treated with the biggest upcoming AAA and indie games while developers had a great opportunity to share their work and knowledge. PAX Aus is cementing itself as the premiere Australian gaming culture event more solidly each passing year and if this year was anything to go buy, 2016 will only be better again.