Right after the high of GCAP, I attended PAX Australia, in all of its glory. The three days, spanning from October 30th to November 1st were epic, intense and tiring. However, it was the perfect end to the first official Melbourne Games Week.
Although I was exhausted from the week's events so far, I made it a point to get up early and head to PAX as soon as possible, in order to make it in time for the first talk, given by Warren Spector. I reached the convention centre around 9:15, and was glad that I did. Even though Warren's talk didn't commence until 10:30, people had already started lining up. Once inside the Main Theatre, I was not disappointed. Warren Spector enthusiastically talked of how games can approach narrative in an interesting way, that sets them apart from film. Using mechanics such as player choice and consequence, we are apart of the biggest medium of the 21st Century. Warren kept us engaged and on the edge of our seats from the entire hour. His enthusiasm for games was catching and the audience left with a sense of awe and excitement.
The next talk I sat in on was Microtalks: A Day in the Life of a Game Dev. The panelists, Michael Theiler, Ben Britten, Lauren Clinnick, Ariel Magnes, Matt Kelly and Simon Boxer were moderated by Jenn Sandercock. As a game developer myself, I found it interesting how these six people structured their day so differently. Each of the panelists shared their experiences and what works from them. From always looking at the big picture, to various organisation techniques that help the game dev process, the panelists provided a great insight to life as an independent developer.
Straight after Microtalks, I attended Aiming for Equality: Why Games Should Be For and By Everyone. Giselle Rosman did a great job moderating a diverse panel of developers, journalists and more. Kim Allom, Anna Irwin-Schutze, Mark Serrels, Clara Reeves and Morgan Jaffit discussed the importance of equality and most importantly, why it matters in video games. They stressed as an industry we should be making games for more people. By including women, people of colour and minority groups in games, more diverse people will be encouraged to join the games industry. For if you can see it, you can be it. The panel provided a comfortable and safe space to discuss this issue and I left feeling encouraged that these panelists were apart of the industry I love.
From there, I headed straight to the next talk, Who Cares about Female Protagonists. The panel was run by Jess McDonall and Emilie Poissenot, Mark Wilson, Lisy Kane and Nicole Stark were the panelists. This panel had a slightly tense feeling to it, that made me feel uncomfortable. It wasn't the fault of any of the panelists, but some of the questions asked created a tense atmosphere. Nonetheless, the panelists discussed some interesting aspects of female video game characters. They suggested that when making a game, gender balance should be discussed early on in development, and rather than defining a character by their gender, focus on the kind of story you want told, and built character development on that.
Finally, after four back to back talks I had a little time to myself to rest and recover. I stayed away from the convention centre for a bit, and was able to get some energy back. Before long it was time for the panel I was most excited for. Press X To Woo: Mature Relationships & Romance in Games, was undoubtedly my favourite talk of PAX. The panelists, Liam Esler, Snow McNally, Stephanie Moss and Lauren Clinnick were excellently moderated by Lucy Morris. Together they discussed the importance of romance in video games and why it matters. They provided a hashtag that the audience could engage with on Twitter. Using #PAXMance, the audience asked questions of the panelists and invited a serious engaging discussion regarding romance and love in games. The panelists encouraged more diversity of characters in games, and better responses from romanceble characters. Everyone agreed that Bioware are doing an excellent job of bringing romance to AAA video games, and there are many indie games that explore notions of romance and love. However as an industry we still have room to grow and include more diverse characters. Overall it was an amazing discussion that was the perfect end to my first day at PAX Australia.
Days 2 and 3 were very quiet in comparison to my first day at PAX. I spent less time listening to talks, and more time wondering around the exhibition floor and taking in the atmosphere. PAX was electric over the weekend. I found myself constantly wondering around the Indie Pavilion, checking out amazing local games made by small, creative studios. The Indie Pavilion inspired me. All of the games there were exceptional. I'm excited at the level of talent that Australia is able to demonstrate! It's amazing and I congratulate all of the studios that participated in the Indie Pavilion. I hope one day to be there myself!
One panel that I did manage to catch was Queer Geeks of Oz: The Games Up and Out. Presented by panellists Dylan Adler, Rachel Humphreys, Lauren Halstead, Jake-Derek Franklin, Sonja Hammer and Liam Esler, Queer Geeks of Oz was an inclusive talk that tackled major diversity issues in the industry and addressed what we can do to make games more inclusive. While the talk discussed some serious concerns, they managed to keep the vibe very light hearted, which allowed the audience to participate in the discussion without fear. It was a lovely atmosphere.
Other than wondering the show floor and catching talks, I managed to check out the Diversity Lounge. I loved the inclusive space that PAX were able to provide. It was a lovely area to take shelter from the busy exhibition halls. You were encouraged to stay, enjoy the games on offer and just enjoy yourself. Those running it were absolutely lovely and I'm so happy I got to experience it.
Finally, Sunday arrived. The last day of Melbourne Games Week. I came in a little later this day, with the intent of just enjoying my last day of PAX. I had no schedule and no obligations. Again I spent the majority of time in the Indie Pavilion. While there would be too many names to mention here, some of the games that I had the honour of enjoying were Polybridge, Western Press, Element, Assault Android Cactus, Agent A, Inflatality and Goat Punks. These games were creative and fun to play, and I encourage you all to check them out!
The last panel that I attended was The Anatomy of Story: Making Meaning & Interactive Narrative, run by Jane Cocks, Lois Spangler, Katie Gall, Emilie Poissenot and Katryna Starks. This talk was an evolution of the one that took place at GCAP earlier in the week. Some of the topics debated included wordless narrative, player created narrative and player agency within video game narrative. The intelligent debate that took place sparked an amazing session of questions asked by the audience. I was particularly happy hearing from those who were interested in getting into the industry as a writer.
PAX Australia was big, extravagant and overall amazing. I had an incredible time during Melbourne Games Week and I've left it inspired and craving even more knowledge than before. The video games industry in Melbourne is friendly, inspiring and inclusive. I feel incredibly privileged that I am apart of it. So here's to next year! It can only get better from here!