Lachlan's misadventures in games programming

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

PAX Aus Part 1 - Panels

11/04/2014 11:20:00 pm Posted by Lachlan 3 comments

I have spent the last weekend (being 31 October, 1 November and 2 November 2014) at PAX Aus. This is an overly long post, so I'm going to break it into probably 3 parts.

If you have never heard of PAX, PAX (Penny Arcade Expo) is a huge gaming convention run by the guys who make Penny Arcade. PAX started in US, and has since expanded to include 3 conventions spread over the US, and a convention in Melbourne, Australia. PAX Aus only started last year. PAX is specifically a gaming convention for all types of games. It has exhibits and playing areas for Computer Games, Console Games, Board Games, Collectable Card Games, Miniature War Games and Role-playing games (both Pen and Paper and Live Action), It has a series of talks over the weekend by influential personalities in the gaming industry and people with interesting things to discuss.

It was a fantastic and wonderful weekend. I want to spend some time and discuss what some of the highlights of the convention were for me. I also want to discuss a little about identity as a gamer and why I am so sad for PAX Aus to be finished.

Over my weekend I attended 5 talks and panels. I saw the first Q&A with Mike and Jerry (the creators of Penny Arcade) and the Draw a Comic! with Mike and Jerry. As was expected, both were absolutely hilarious. As was less expected, both were so encouragingly gracious about how successful PAX was in Australia and how they are able to do what they do as profession. Mike and Jerry are, for all intents and purposes, the rock stars that attend PAX and accordingly enter with huge flashing lights and the speakers blaring 'Every Day I'm Hustling'. 

I attended a DIY Indie Games Panel featuring a group of indie game designers who have extensive experience doing everything themselves. For me particularly, it was fantastic to discover the Melbourne based interactive composer Maize Wallin. It opened my eyes a bit on perhaps where I should be more focusing my game efforts in the future, given my extensive experience as a musician. If you are interested in interactive sound and music installations, I would encourage you to check out her website. I really hope to having an ongoing conversation with her.

I attended a Game Design Live! workshop with another group of local designers and Ron Gilbert (of Monkey Island fame). The talk was certainly interesting, but was a little let down by the ultimate choice of design as per the fate of a series of unlucky D20 rolls that, if in a game of D&D would likely result in the entire party being hung, drawn, quartered, cursed and doomed to eternal damnation. The task was to write a design document for a Ant-Themed Bureaucracy Game, starring a Hotel Receptionist and the theme of Hope. Some parts of the design process were enlightening, but the end design document is likely to be unusable. It is to be released to be freely available, and I will link to it when I find it.

The final panel I attended was a fascinating discussion on spirituality in videogames. It featured Jason Imms, Mark Serrels, Patrick Stafford and Nathan Cocks. It started with the byline 'Why do all religious-themed video games suck so badly'? Some of the conclusions reached seem to be aimed around the fact the religious-themed games seem to have the intent to teach and convert rather then being good art. Examples were drawn from historical (non video game) art as part of a discussion whether both were possible. There was also an extensive discussion on how effective spiritual themes can be as part of a game - whether specific to a faith, or at least discussing religious themes. The examples included Journey (which I have unfortunately not played). I might try to digitise my notes on this talk at a later date and continue the discussion a little more.

I would be really interested to hear any thoughts that you have on the subject - feel welcome to comment on them or send me an email to Also - feel welcome to share your experiences with PAX: I'd love to hear about it.

Coming in Part 2 - The games I played and saw. Find Part 2 here.


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