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PAX Australia 2015 proved to be the best PAX Australia so far. My memories of PAX Australia 2015 mostly consist of drinking with industry people, meeting Paul Verhoeven, and being a panelist for the first time. Sadly, I won’t be able to attend PAX Australia 2016, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be helping you navigate the biggest convention of the year.

Travel

The closest international airport is the Melbourne International Airport, which is located in Tullamarine. To get to your hotel, you’re able to hire a taxi or rental car. However, there is a wonderful service called Skybus which operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week including public holidays. Skybus departs every 10 minutes and travels to the city centre.

PAX Australia will be held in the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, along the lovely Yarra River.

Melbourne has some great public transport and it got better for out-of-towners this year. Through Zone 1, there are free trams which won’t require a Myki card. The free travel zone is clearly marked and the tram conductors will announce when they approach the boundaries. Information about the free travel zone is available here, which has a downloadable map.

Hotels

PAX Australia has changed its date! Instead of being held over Halloween weekend and directly before the Melbourne cup, PAX Australia now goes from.Friday 4th, November to Sunday 6th, November.

This doesn’t mean hotels won’t be limited this close to both events, so if your accommodation hasn’t been sorted out, you should probably get on that. Look to combine your accommodation with your friends to save some money and keep the party going all weekend long.

If your hotel is booked and ready, confirm your details with them a week or two prior. Make sure you ask what time you can check in and what time they want you to check out. If it’s a late check in, you might be able to leave your luggage with your hotel and explore the city until your room is ready.

Tickets

At the time of writing, 3-Day passes are 98% sold! If you’re quick, you might be able to score the best value ticked for the weekend. International 3-Day passes are still available, if you’re coming from overseas, as well as Friday, Saturday and Sunday tickets still in supply. So if you miss out on the 3-Day combo pass, but still want to go all three days, maybe pick up the tickets now. You can grab those here and then you can pick them up at the convention on the day.

What to Wear

Melbourne is notorious for its insane weather. It’ll swing widely from blistering hot to brain-numbingly cold and every variation in between at the drop of a hat. Here are a few tips to plan your outfit accordingly.

Shirt: Your favourite nerdy t-shirt is going to be comfortable and easily customisable for the weather. You might even make a new friend if you display your fandom with pride.

Pants: Unless you’re a cosplayer, you have to wear pants. Luckily, you’ve got a couple of options for your leg traps:

  • Jeans are your obvious selection; comfortable and easy to move in.
  • Skirts if you’re keen. I’d suggest a maxi skirt so you’ve got a little more clothing to keep you warm in case the weather turns on you.
  • Leggings/Tights. A popular choice with retailers like Living Dead Clothing, Black Milk and KittyHawk Clothing having styles and fandoms a-plenty. Like jeans, they’ll be easy to move around in when you’re busting a move at the Just Dance! booth.

Jacket/Jumper: This is where you need to be smart. You want something that will keep you warm, but won’t be too bulky to carry around or put into backpack. Keep that in mind when packing your comfy as heck, but huge N7 jumper.

Shoes: Whatever isn’t going to make you want to amputate your feet after 20 minutes of walking around. There is going to be opportunities to sit down (panels, lunch, randomly sitting down on the floor refusing to move), but you’re going to be walking around a LOT. Pack some comfortable flats or some sneakers, but just make sure they’re broken in properly first. Nothing ruins your day like blisters the size of dollar coins. (take it from me!)

 

**NOTE TO COSPLAYERS**

Same rules apply to weather and stuff. Rug up so you don’t turn into a cos-popsicle.

PAX has some rules about what cosplay weapons you can and can’t bring into the convention. Information is available on the official website, and the Penny Arcade forums, but I’ll stick the guidelines here too:

All prop weapons brought to the show MUST be approved at the Info Booth as soon as you arrive. We will be looking for the following criteria:

  • It cannot fire any sort of projectile. (Nerf guns are only allowed if they have been deactivated and cannot fire.)
  • It cannot be an airsoft weapon. (Yes, even if it’s deactivated.)
  • It cannot be sharp or pointy enough to cut or pierce someone with moderate pressure. This includes all real swords, daggers and knives. It also includes ceramic blades, needles, syringes and anything that can pierce (for example, a Little Sister syringe made of wood would not be allowed)

 

Upon approval, your weapon and badge will be tagged and catalogued.

The organisers also say “Cosplaying attendees may be asked to alter or modify their costume if it is considered to be overtly sexual.” More information about this is available on the official PAX website, under the “Booth Babes” heading. These rules are to make sure that the event is enjoyable for everyone, since PAX is still a family event.

Cosplay is a huge part of these events, but please remember, cosplayers are people too. If you want a photo, ask the cosplayer first. Cosplayers are generally pretty happy to have photos with people and they appreciate it when people ask before taking a happy snap. If you admire the costume, let the cosplayer know if a polite and courteous way, but don’t touch anything without permission. You don’t know if the bit you’re about to touch is held on securely or not.

Cosplay isn’t consent. Please don’t harass or assault cosplayers at events, as you could very well be escorted from the event and banned from returning.

It makes the day unpleasant for everyone.

Organising Your Weekend

This is going to be what makes your breaks your weekend. The great thing is that the PAX Australia schedule is released about a month before the event, so you’ve got plenty of time to plan where you need to be.

The Guidebook app will also come in handy. It’s available on Android, iOS, Windows and Blackberry so everyone is covered. The MCEC also has information available on their website about opening and closing times, plus maps of the centre. If you’re prone to getting lost like I am, having a copy of the map on your phone or a physical copy will save you. (Or just ask an Enforcer!)

My pick of things to do:

  • Check out Storytime with Major Nelson. Major Nelson has been an integral part of the Xbox landscape since 2003! You’ll also often see him in interviews at industry events, launches and other shows.

Mana/Health/Stamina

The most important thing about enjoying the weekend is making sure your stats are up. Making sure that you’re getting enough food and water through the day will guarantee that you’ll be able to experience all three days the way they were meant to be enjoyed.

The MCEC has a variety of food stalls around the place with sandwiches and snacks available, but this might be a little pricey. You can always pack your own snacks and lunch to save a little money (or give you more money to spend on con loot.)

PAX Australia also happens to be held along the Yarra River where the South Wharf Promenade boasts a collection of bars and restaurants for you to chill out during the weekend.

Your mental health is as important as your physical health. Take This are a non-profit charity which run the AFK Room at the PAX events in the US and this year, they bring the concept to Australia. From their website,

More than a quiet room, the Take This AFK Room is a safe space for people who need it, staffed with volunteers and clinicians who can answer questions and offer support for people who are stressed out. Some visitors simply need a break from the excitement and stimulation of a large event. Others seek conversation about mental health related issues.

The 4-2-1 rule is a great guide to keeping yourself alive during this monster weekend:

  • 4 hours sleep (it’s a LONG weekend.)
  • 2 square meals a day (actual meals, not snacks or something)
  • 1 decent shower WITH SOAP (for the sake of everyone)

Finally

Have fun. Take photos, meet people, go to panels, play games, eat, drink and be merry. That’s what these events are about.

If you’ve missed any important information, here’s some great advice on the “Safety & Security” page on the PAX website, which is linked through this article.

PAX Australia 2015 logoPAX Australia is in its third year this year and only proves to be bigger and better than previous years. Like always, I’m here to help you navigate through three days of video games, panels, cosplay and any extracurricular activities you might have planned.

For the uninformed, the Penny Arcade Expo (from the creators of the web-comic Penny Arcade) is a three day video game expo based on the popular PAX Prime, PAX East and PAX South events held each year in America. It brings developers from around Australia and across the globe and gives fans the opportunity to play new and upcoming games, and rub shoulders with those who make them.

It’s pretty boss.

Travel

The closest international airport is the Melbourne International Airport. To get to your hotel, you’re able to hire a taxi or rental car. However, there is a wonderful service called Skybus which operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week including public holidays. Skybus departs every 10 minutes and travels to the city centre.

PAX Australia will be held in the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, along the lovely Yarra River.

Melbourne has some great public transport and it got better for out-of-towners this year. Through Zone 1, there are free trams which won’t require a Myki card. The free travel zone is clearly marked and the tram conductors will announce when they approach the boundaries. Information about the free travel zone is available here, which has a downloadable map.

Hotels

PAX Australia is held Halloween weekend (Oct 30th – Nov 1st), which also happens to be the weekend before the Race That Stops the Nation™, the Melbourne Cup. Hotels will be limited this close to both events, so if your accommodation hasn’t been sorted out, you should probably get on that. Look to combine your accommodation with your friends to save some money and keep the party going all weekend long.

If your hotel is booked and ready, confirm your details with them a week or two prior. Make sure you ask what time you can check in and what time they want you to check out. If it’s a late check in, you might be able to leave your luggage with your hotel and explore the city until your room is ready.

Tickets

3-Day passes have sold out. International 3-Day passes are still available as well as Friday, Saturday and Sunday tickets. So if you missed out on the 3-Day combo pass, but still want to go all three days, maybe pick up the tickets now. You can grab those here.

What to Wear

Melbourne is notorious for its insane weather. It’ll swing widely from blistering hot to brain-numbingly cold and every variation in between at the drop of a hat. Here are a few tips to plan your outfit accordingly.

Shirt: Your favourite nerdy t-shirt is going to be comfortable and easily customisable for the weather. You might even make a new friend if you display your fandom with pride.

Pants: Unless you’re a cosplayer, you have to wear pants. Luckily, you’ve got a couple of options for your leg traps:

  • Jeans are your obvious selection; comfortable and easy to move in.
  • Skirts if you’re keen. I’d suggest a maxi skirt so you’ve got a little more clothing to keep you warm in case the weather turns on you.
  • A popular choice with retailers like Living Dead Clothing and Black Milk having styles and fandoms a-plenty. Like jeans, they’ll be easy to move around in when you’re busting a move at the Just Dance! booth.

 

Jacket/Jumper: This is where you need to be smart. You want something that will keep you warm, but won’t be too bulky to carry around or put into backpack. Keep that in mind when packing your comfy as heck, but huge N7 jumper.

Shoes: Whatever isn’t going to make you want to amputate your feet after 20 minutes of walking around. There is going to be opportunities to sit down (panels, lunch, randomly sitting down on the floor refusing to move), but you’re going to be walking around a LOT.

(Day 1 last year I did nearly 25,000 steps.)

**NOTE TO COSPLAYERS**

Same rules apply to weather and stuff. Rug up so you don’t turn into a cos-popsicle.

PAX has some rules about what cosplay weapons you can and can’t bring into the convention. Information is available on the official website, and the Penny Arcade forums, but I’ll stick the guidelines here too:

All prop weapons brought to the show MUST be approved at the Info Booth as soon as you arrive. We will be looking for the following criteria:

  • It cannot fire any sort of projectile. (Nerf guns are only allowed if they have been deactivated and cannot fire.)
  • It cannot be an airsoft weapon. (Yes, even if it’s deactivated.)
  • It cannot be sharp or pointy enough to cut or pierce someone with moderate pressure. This includes all real swords, daggers and knives. It also includes ceramic blades, needles, syringes and anything that can pierce (for example, a Little Sister syringe made of wood would not be allowed)

Upon approval, your weapon and badge will be tagged and catalogued.

The organisers also say “Cosplaying attendees may be asked to alter or modify their costume if it is considered to be overtly sexual.” More information about this is available on the official PAX website, under the “Booth Babes” heading. These rules are to make sure that the event is enjoyable for everyone, since PAX is still a family event.

Cosplay is a huge part of these events, but please remember that cosplayers are people too. If you want a photo, ask the cosplayer first. Cosplayers are generally pretty happy to have photos with people and they appreciate it when people ask before taking a happy snap. If you admire the costume, let the cosplayer know if a polite and courteous way, but don’t touch anything without permission. You don’t know if the bit you’re about to touch is held on securely or not.

Cosplay isn’t consent. Please don’t harass or assault cosplayers at events. It makes the day unpleasant for everyone.

Organising Your Weekend

This is going to be what makes your breaks your weekend. The great thing is that the PAX Australia schedule is released about a month before the event, so you’ve got plenty of time to plan where you need to be.

The Guidebook app will also come in handy. It’s available on Android, iOS, Windows and Blackberry so everyone is covered. The MCEC also has information available on their website about opening and closing times, plus maps of the centre. If you’re prone to getting lost like I am, having a copy of the map on your phone or a physical copy will save you. (Or just ask an Enforcer!)

Mana/Health/Stamina

The most important thing about enjoying the weekend is making sure your stats are up. Making sure that you’re getting enough food and water through the day will guarantee that you’ll be able to experience all three days the way they were meant to be enjoyed.

The MCEC has a variety of food stalls around the place with sandwiches and snacks available, but this might be a little pricey. You can always pack your own snacks and lunch to save a little money (or give you more money to spend on con loot.)

PAX Australia also happens to be held along the Yarra River where the South Wharf Promenade boasts a collection of bars and restaurants for you to chill out during the weekend.

Your mental health is as important as your physical health. Take This are a non-profit charity which run the AFK Room at the PAX events in the US and this year, they bring the concept to Australia. From their website,

More than a quiet room, the Take This AFK Room is a safe space for people who need it, staffed with volunteers and clinicians who can answer questions and offer support for people who are stressed out. Some visitors simply need a break from the excitement and stimulation of a large event. Others seek conversation about mental health related issues.

Overall, observe the 4-2-1 rule:

  • 4 hours sleep (it’s a LONG weekend.)
  • 2 square meals a day (actual meals, not snacks or something)
  • 1 decent shower WITH SOAP (for the sake of everyone)

Finally

Have fun. Take photos, meet people, go to panels, play games, eat, drink and be merry. That’s what these events are about.

The sad reality of things is that it’s the day after PAX and PPD (Post-PAX Depression) has already set in. I woke up this morning with a bit of a broken heart because I couldn’t take the 20 minute walk from my hotel to the Convention Centre and hang out with the coolest people I know.

So, in a vain attempt to combat the PPD blues, I thought I’d do my write up of the weekend and the mind-blowing things that happened.

The major change between 2013 and 2014 was the venue. For those who couldn’t attend PAX Aus 2013, it was held at the Showgrounds in Melbourne. Because of the more “outdoorsy” venue, moving between theatres and halls could be troublesome. Forgiveable, considering it was the FIRST PAX being held in Australia the organisers listened to the complaints and moved the event to the MCEC.

Such room.

Much success.

Wow.

But seriously, the new venue is a major improvement. While the queueing is still an “issue” (tens of thousands of people trying to get into one place? THERE’S GOING TO BE A LINE.), the larger theatres and rooms made sure that if you waited in line, you were going to get a seat. It was a great improvement over last year.

Friday.

keynote edit

Pete Hines – Meat Shield

Friday was Rade-Sim day. By that, I mean that I was in civvies with a plumbob headband. My take on “casual cosplay”. Friday was spent exploring the convention, meeting people and attending panels. The first two I checked out were the Keynote (hosted by Pete Hines) and the Q&A by the ever hustlin’ Mike and Jerry, creators of Penny Arcade. Pete Hines had an insightful look into what PR in video games industry is like. His keynote was full of stories from his career and all the ways that Bethesda has grown. Oh, and horse armour.

The format for the Q&A was different to last year and I’m thankful for that. Robert Khoo picked out questions from The Internet for Mike and Jerry to answer, and were categorised by the type of question that was asked. Red envelopes were for more “serious” questions and white envelopes for “light-hearted” questions. A running joke of the panel was that white envelopes were a lucky dip of serious and light-hearted questions. But it meant that some guy couldn’t go on for 10 minutes about his telescope (check out the Q&A from last year) and bore everyone to death.

I got to spend time hanging out with my friend Tehkella (who writes good shit. Check it). She lives far away, which makes me sad but PAX brings us together. Which is what PAX is really all about.

With that major block of panels out of the way, I checked out the rest of the expo. The first place I headed was to was the Walk-Thru Walls booth to see the guys there. I met them last year and they’re cool kids. They also let me review for them, so that’s awesome. Then begun the wandering.

Wandering around the Xbox booth, through to the Cards Against Humanity area and just… around. I got lost in the expo hall. Listening to outrageously loud dance music, wondering how the fuck you get an enormous tank into the middle of a expo hall (no, seriously. Magic?) and just admiring all the fantastic cosplay. I’d managed to kill a few hours, but I hadn’t destroyed enough minutes to make it to the next panel. Cue the return home to my hotel and a quick costume change for my next panel. Little did I know, the next panel would be the highlight of my… month? Year? Probably writing career.

The panel was “The Realities of Writing About Games.” 5 people were about to destroy the dreams of a theatre full of people. It was a learning experience about what the people I want to work for want in your work. I found out I need to improve a bunch of my skills. But the best was yet to come.

The highlight for my PAX weekend was meeting Mark Serrels. He’s the editor for Kotaku AU and porridge enthusiast. I got to tell him about how he messaged me after an article (and subsequent comments) about some horrible shit at E3 and told me that I shouldn’t listen to the horrible people and keep going. This is something that has stuck with me through everything. This industry isn’t kind, but knowing someone believes in you is something to cling to, especially in the desperate times.

I told him this at the end of the panel, and he was just gobsmacked. Or, I think he was. But apparently I’d struck a chord with him because he wrote about me in a Kotaku article. [ insert fangirling here. ]

Everything after that was just… a bonus.

Saturday.

Cosplay day 1. I spent the morning wandering again, but this time dressed as a buzzaxe-wielding psycho. Had a few photos taken, screamed about poop at the top of my lungs (worth it!) and just doing normal con junk.

I decided to head off to a panel about Fake Nerds, featuring my friend Jimmy and hosted by my friend Jessica. Unfortunately, Jess’s schedule was all screwy and she couldn’t attend. But the panel was fantastic and by the packed room, it was clearly a hot topic.

Walking home after the panel, I hit the post-spring carnival race crowd full of drunks and then found one who couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Pro-tip to everyone reading this: Don’t call the cosplayer wielding a buzzaxe fat. The temptation to smack your face with it is NEARLY overwhelming.

Saturday night made up for drunk, asshole guy because I got to hang out with some friends at a really creepy restaurant and a really cool bar. Lots of drinking and impromptu karaoke.

Sunday

Whee~ Sunday! Sunday was the day I was looking forward to. After a late night and a VERY early morning, I headed to my friend’s hotel room so we could get into our Borderlands gear and go to the Gearbox panel.

After a superb Gearbox panel (free games, woo!) and a huge Borderlands cosplay group photo, we headed off to the Gearbox signing and got to meet the Gearbox crew and a photo with Randy Pitchford.

groupAfter that, we stopped at the Smithe booth so Maya could drop her bag off for work later and photos at the Xbox booth and 2K booth in front of their “Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel” wall panel… thing and trying to find the massive cosplay group shot. There were like… 60 of us at least in this photo and that was just the people who’d found out about it in various Facebook groups or word of mouth.

I met people I’ve been stalking heavily investigating on Facebook and take photos with them and scream about meat bicycles and junk. It’s the most amazing feeling to growl “I LIKE MY LOOT LIKE I LIKE MY BABY STEAKS… RAAAAAARE” with another dude and immediately become friends because of it.

PAX Australia is one of those things that you wonder about what it’ll be like and have all these expectations and then when you get there, you see a sign that says “Welcome home” and that’s what it feels like. It’s home. There are 30,000 cousins in this family who enjoy the same stuff you do and you all bond over that, it’s the best feeling ever.

 

paxaus-590x535

Last year, I made a post about preparing for the upcoming PAX Australia convention. I drew on knowledge I’d gathered from other events I’d been to, and asked people who’d been to PAX cons in the US for advice. All my research still didn’t prepare me for just how massive those three days are! Now that I have some firsthand experience, I’m hoping that Survival Guide 2.0 helps new attendees and seasoned con veterans prepare for the event.

Hotels

With PAX Australia being just over two months away, getting any last minute accommodation sorted out would probably be a good idea. Hotels near the area would fill up fast, so look for ones near public transport (see below) for an easy commute. If you’ve already got your accommodation organised, call your hotel/motel/etc about a week before to confirm your booking and check in times. Some places have late arrival times, so knowing what time you can dump your luggage is going to be handy. Make plans if you’ve got some time to kill before you can get into your room.

Travel to/from PAX

The closest airport to the event is Melbourne International Airport. As well as having rental car and taxi options for your convenience, there’s also the Skybus which travels to the city centre from the airport every 10 minutes. The timetable and routes are available here.

This year, PAX is being held at the Melbourne Convention and Entertainment Centre (MCEC), which has five paid car parks scattered around close-by. These car parks are owned by Wilson and can get kinda pricy. ($12 an hour pricy) Carpool if you’re driving and split the cost. As the MCEC is a major convention centre, taxis ($$$), trams, trains and busses are all available and will have a stop close to the centre. Investing in a Myki and having credit loaded on to it will save you time and stress. Check (and double check) routes from where you are to where you need to be.

Getting lost sucks.

Getting lost in an unfamiliar city sucks more.

Tickets

Tickets for the event have sold like hotcakes. 3-day passes are sold out, as are Saturday day passes. International 3-day passes (for those of you flying into the country) are still available, as well as Friday and Sunday day passes.

What to wear

Enjoying yourself is key at events like this, but Melbourne is notorious for its temperamental weather. To avoid some of the PAX Plague, you’ll need to dress and pack accordingly. (Edit: A commentator on Twitter mentioned that when it rains, it pours in Melbourne. Take an umbrella or one of those $2 ponchos.)

Shirts: T-shirts are always comfortable and you’re bound to have a few favourite nerdy shirts lying around.

Pants: Jeans will keep you warm while you’re outside but aren’t going to overheat you while you’re inside. Let’s face it, you’re going to be doing lots of different activities (walking, sitting, gaming) and you’re going to need something that moves with your body. If you wanna wear skinny jeans, you might find they’re a little difficult unless they’re a day old or so.

Jumpers/Jackets: This is where things get difficult. A warm jacket is great for when you’re waiting for transport outside or outside the event, but they can be bulky. Try for something that you’re not going to be bothered carrying around with you all day and night. If you can put it in a bag (or tie it), the better. Same with any accessories like scarves and beanies. Any extra bulk is extra weight that you’re going to have with you the whole day.

Shoes: Whatever you know you can walk in for 8+ hours. It varies from person to person.

Note to Cosplayers:

Cosplayers, remember a jacket at least or layer up so you don’t fall into the same trap I did the first time I cosplayed Black Canary and end up with some kind of death plague because you didn’t dress appropriately.

PAX has some rules about what cosplay weapons you can and can’t bring into the convention. Information is available on the official website, and the Penny Arcade forums.

The organisers also say “Cosplaying attendees may be asked to alter or modify their costume if it is considered to be overtly sexual.” More information about this is available on the official PAX website, under the “Booth Babes” heading. These rules are to make sure that the event is enjoyable for everyone, since PAX is still a family event.

Planning ahead

Planning can be what makes or breaks your weekend. Last year, one of the few complaints people had with the convention was the size of some panels and how long the queues were. Deciding what, who and where you want is going to give you a fighting chance at seeing everything you want. The schedule is available here.

The Guidebook app was a miracle last year and I’m expecting the same this year. It’s available on Android, iOS, Windows and Blackberry so everyone is covered. The MCEC website also has a map of the area, which can help plan where you want to meet up with friends. Edit: PAX released their map of the event, available here.

 

Keeping Fed/Watered

The days will be VERY long and it’s important to keep your energy up.  Keeping yourself fed and watered is going to make sure you’re going to have the energy to get through the day. Make sure you’ve got a bottle of water in your bag so you’ve got something to sip other than energy drink and Coke is going to make sure you’re always hydrated. Lunch and snacks are going to be your major issue.

Either bring food with you, or bring some money for the stuff that the cafes that the MCEC is going to have available. Having cash on hand is going to come in handy for the whole event, but having it with you to buy a quick bite is going to save you bank fees and a lot of time.

The south wharf promenade along the Yarra River has a great selection of bars and restaurants for you to grab a bite to eat during the day. Melbourne is famous for its bar scene, with some of the best places to eat and drink being in the city. PAX have organised a discount for PAX attendees with the owners and licensees of the venues!

Edit: A friend mentioned the 4-2-1 rule.

4 hours sleep (it’s a LONG weekend.)

2 square meals a day (actual meals, not snacks or something)

1 decent shower (for the sake of everyone)

Finally

Remember, have fun! That’s what is most important. There’s tonnes to do over the weekend in and around the event itself so be on the look out for cool stuff to do so enjoy the weekend.

PAX-Australia-is-in-Melbourne-next-July-1091663

It’s almost here! The first (hopefully annual) Penny Arcade Expo in our lovely Australia and I thought I’d share some tips and tricks that I’ve learnt from going to conventions (see: one) and things I’ve learnt from others. So let’s start at the beginning, shall we? (more…)

The website is celebrating it’s 7th birthday this year! Thank you to everyone who reads, shares, comments, and subscribes to this crazy little website; you make it worth it. And a big thank you to the companies who provide me the sweet toys and games I get to review – it’s great to be working with companies who believe in building a community with smaller sites.

Since going solo and hosting my site, I’ve been using the same look and it’s starting to look a little dated. I’m in the process of redesigning things and giving Rade’s Gamer Diaries a new look, a new logo, and a whole new feel.

Over the next few months, you’ll start to see those changes appear. Firstly, I’m branching into topics outside of gaming which are going to include cosplay and convention guides, announcements, and rundowns – you probably noticed my Convention Calendar post a few months back, which ties in nicely with the PAX guides I write every year.

A new review series called “And now for something completely different” is going to be introduced later this year with these reviews focusing on non-gaming tech. I’ve already got something lined up for it, so keep your eyes open for that. (Yes, I’m a huge Monty Python fan)

I’m also going to start streaming on my Twitch channel a lot more and be more alive (so to speak) than ever before.

There’s also going to be a huge overhaul of the website as far as design goes. Like I mentioned earlier, we’re getting a little long in the tooth, so it’s a fantastic time to bring in a new look. I don’t have an exact time frame on this, but it’s happening I swear.

All this should happen before the end of the year, so we’re going to be hitting the ground hard and fast to get everything into place. If you’ve got any suggestions on what you’d like to see, hit me up on Facebook or leave a comment below. Again, thank you for making the last 7 years awesome. Let’s make the next 7 even better.

Pre-built computers for gaming weren’t always a viable option for your hardcore gamer – they just didn’t have the power to run your favourite games. And if you weren’t confident enough to build your own PC, you probably didn’t want to sink some of your hard-earned cash into a puzzle that can go wrong.

Happily, pre-built gaming PC’s are now becoming reliable for gamers who want a “set it and forget it” option. ASUS’s ROG G20CB is a great looking computer, with the power to back it up – and it’s VR Compatible.

I don’t know what I was expecting when it arrived at my house. Was it going to be a huge tower like my gaming rig? Would it be a tiny case, filled to the brim with processing power? Despite the enormous packing box, it was actually somewhere in between.

While the ROG G20CB 9.5L tower matches the aesthetics that the previous ASUS ROG items I’ve reviewed, it’s definitely something special. It looks aerodynamic, masculine and stealthy – which isn’t my jam. But the front panel has twin colour-changing LEDs hidden behind an alien ruins-esque design when the PC is running. It was an odd match to the rather angular edges on the case, but it was a nice thing to catch your eye mid-gaming session.

Around the back you’ve a variety of 2.0 and 3.0 USB ports to ensure the quickest data transfer and enough room for all your peripherals. Alongside a HDMI-out port (more on this later), LAN port, a Kensington Lock (so people don’t run off with your computer at a LAN) and 7.1 audio.

Under the hood, the ROG G20CB I got to play with has an Intel i7 Processor, NVIDIA GeForce GTX1080 8GB, 8GB DDR4 RAM with room to expand up to 32GB RAM and two hard drives (1TB SATA 7200RPM and 512GB SSD). All this hardware makes for a really nice computer.

All of that works together to bring one of the more impressive features for the G20CB. My review computer came with an Oculus Rift headset for some VR gaming goodness.

I’ve played with VR in the past at PAX and it wasn’t the best experience. The Oculus dev kits were awful in hindsight and didn’t sit well with my migraine-prone brain. Luckily, the retail kits are a marked improvement. To really test out the playability of the Oculus, I invited around a few friends to enjoy some games and drinks, and it was definitely a great night. The selection of games I had to pick from wasn’t huge (early access games aren’t my jam), but I’d managed to pick a few winners and the ROG G20CB handled them perfectly. “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes” was great fun in VR, when you’ve got four people sharing one set of instructions and screaming conflicting things at you.

@kristyyleighh’s boyfriend is being mindfucked by Oculus

A video posted by Rade (@gamer_rade) on

But one game “Emily Wants to Play”, was the most fun to play with the Oculus headset. The horror survival game is based around creepy dolls and jump scares. I’d show you the footage of my boyfriend noping the hell on out of there but the footage seems to have disappeared…

Creepy, right?

This computer isn’t without its faults however. In larger computers, you either have a small, external power supply (think laptop size) or it’s contained within the computer itself. Because the ASUS ROG G20CB case is quite slim and small, the power supply is external and it’s huge. The G20CB power supply unit actually has two separate power supplies to power this beast (180W + 230W). If it was my regular computer, I’d be concerned about it getting quite warm under my desk.

Another issue I had was setting up the Oculus. The computer has 2 HDMI ports; one on the motherboard and one on the GPU – but the one on the GPU comes disabled. This isn’t a huge issue if you only need one HDMI port, or know how to reenable the port on your GPU, but if you’re a “set it and forget it” kind of person (no shame in your game) and you did buy this to use a VR headset, it could become a bit of a pain. This isn’t necessarily an issue with the computer, but I hate finding these things out after the fact and having to waste time fixing a problem that shouldn’t be an issue in the first place.

Consumers may have trouble with the investment needed with the ROG G20CB. The computer I got to test will set you back a cool AUD$3999 – that’s no small amount of cash to part with. The ROG G20CB has been designed to age well and not need as frequent hardware upgrades as your homebrew computer, thus the larger than usual price tag. Again, you’re paying for the “set it and forget it” PC option. If you can get past the price hurdle, this computer would be an investment that I think would make the most hardcore gamers happy.

The last issue I had was a total user fault: It took me 20 minutes, some adult supervision, and a Google search to figure out how I turn it on. As I mentioned above, the front panel of the computer has an intricate design which disguises the power button quite well. I was worried I’d have to email my friends at Asus and tell them I couldn’t review the computer they’d sent me because I couldn’t figure out how it worked! It’s actually quite embarrassing for someone who does this for a living…

The Asus ROG G20CB is a big investment for any gamer, but with a variety of specifications available through the website, you’re able to get the best bang for your buck. While the issues I had were minor (and mostly my fault),it’s still a great computer if you’re just looking for a computer that’s going to stand up to the best games for the next few years without showing its age. It’s sleek, small, and portable. It made a great PC to have attached to our TV in our loungeroom, and would make a great PC for any study or gaming den.

Listen @asusau, my cat has claimed the G20CB as her own. I can’t send it back without her.

A photo posted by Rade (@gamer_rade) on

N.B: Dates used in this piece are from the 2016 year and may not be the dates these conventions are held during 2017. All care has been taken to try and confirm these dates with organisers, but let’s be honest, they won’t let me announce their conventions for them!

The Australian convention scene is well and truly coming into its own. Compared to 10 years ago, or even five years ago, you’ve got an incredible variety of conventions to satisfy your hunger for geekdom. If you’re anything like me and totally unprepared for the upcoming con season, check out this handy-dandy guide!

January – Nothing good happens in January. For the cosplayers, we’re all a bit too heavy to fit into our costumes after the Christmas / New Year’s period. For regular attendees, save some money for the mayhem that’s coming through the rest of the year.

FebuaryRTX Australia is back for its second year. If you missed my not-so-great review of RTX Sydney 2016, I said that the convention was plagued with problems from air-conditioning (or a lack thereof), VIP ticketing issues and an awkward venue. This year, RTX Australia is christening the brand spanking new Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, right on Darling Harbour. This will hopefully clear up all the logistical issues I had.

March – Perth kicks its con season off with two conventions in March. Oz Comic-Con starts its national tour with a myriad of guests yet to be announced. Oz Comic-Con is a great cosplay convention for beginners and more advanced hobbyists alike with the Australian Championships of Cosplay choosing one winner from each state to compete in the national competition. The Championship helps choose the Australian contender for the ‘Quest for the Crown’ – an international cosplay competition.

The first Anime Festival of the year is also being held in Perth.  The newly annual national event, hosted by Madman, brings cosplay, concerts and anime culture to convention goers. It’s a refreshing change from regular conventions which focus primarily on a catch-all pop culture scene. AnimeFest is anime/manga specific and unites fans from all fandoms in one area. Madman will also be hosting their prestigious Madman National Cosplay Championship with contestants being picked from states around the nation.

The incredibly talented AmenoKitarou (A.K Wirru) is a frequent guest at the convention and successfully competed in the competition, placing 2nd back in 2013 and being crowned Champion in 2010 and 2014 with his stunning Odin cosplay.

April – If you’re a fan of pop culture, then April is the month for you! Supanova starts its national tour in the Gold Coast, with Melbourne following the weekend after. Supanova is another great convention if you’re new to the scene with an easy-going feel and wide selection of international guests. It’s also a great place to check out your local cosplay scene, with many cosplayers bringing out their costumes for people to oogle. The trick with Supanova (and Oz Comic-Con) is that their tours are done in different segments. Melbourne and Gold Coast usually experience different guests to Sydney, Adelaide, and Perth; but this is entirely reliant on guests schedules. I’d recommend hitting up the “Supa-Star Guests” page on the Supanova website to see where your favourite celebs will be. Holiday to the Gold Coast, anyone?

May – With the weather starting to cool down, May slows down in the cold with Comic Gong dominating the calendar month. Comic Gong is a one-day event in Woollongong, south of Sydney. While the event sounds small, it definitely packs a big punch with well-known Sydney cosplayers regularly attending the event. If you’re keen to dip your toes into the convention scene, and you’re in the area, Comic Gong might just be the one for you.

June – Supanova swings into Sydney and Perth in June. Sydney Supanova is arguably the biggest Supanova in the tour and often attracts a very enthusiastic crowd of fans and cosplayers alike. The Artists Alley is always a delight to hit up if you’re keen on lightening your wallet a little.

Madman brings their Animefest to Brisbane early in June. Another round of the Championship will discover the Queensland contender for the cosplay crown.

July – First off the rank is Haven Expo, held in sunny Mackay, Queensland. A big event for a lot of cosplayers – they’re already announcing their guests who include Californian Lyz Brickley and Aussie cosplayer Yeliz Cosplay. Both women are incredibly talented artists and you’ve probably seen their work in various areas of the internet.

AvCon is a standalone convention held in Adelaide and it’s definitely on the list for a lot of con-goers. AvCon covers anime, gaming, and cosplay so that all your needs are covered, as well as holding a variety of different competitions for cosplay, lolita, digital media, and speed running. AvCon is a unique convention specifically for Adelaide fans and it’s on my convention bucket list.

Oz Comic-Con hits up Melbourne in early July, too.

August – August brings you Sydney SMASH. SMASH is definitely one of the more relaxed conventions. With a focus on anime and manga, SMASH combines cosplay, workshops, and a great museum-esque collection of Gundam to keep you entertained for hours. SMASH is held at Rosehill Gardens, near Parramatta, which can be a bit awkward to get to, but it’s definitely worth it if you’re interested.

September – September is Oz-Comic Con month, with the tour coming to both Brisbane and Sydney. If you’ve avoided Oz Comic-Con Sydney in the past because of the location, they’re now going to be gracing the halls of the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre. Brisbane always attracts great crowds and equally great cosplay. Recently, Oz Comic-Con reviewed their props policy to make it easier for cosplayers to add more detail to their costumes, as long as it’s within reason.

October – October brings EB Expo to Sydney at Olympic Park. EB Expo has a trade-show feel that’s open to the public. Last year was a disappointing year for EB Expo, with a strange layout and an unenthusiastic crowd. Hopefully EB bring some new and exciting things to their expo this year.

November – November is the biggest month in the convention calendar. Supanova finishes their national tour in Brisbane and Adelaide – we’ll find out who wins the chance to compete in the cosplay championship. The 2016 winner Henchwench is competing this year to hopefully keep the crown that Major Sam bought home in 2015.

Madman are also finishing their short tour in Melbourne. We’ll find out who wins the Madman National Cosplay Competition. It’s another competition that always manages to bring some spectacular talent to the stage.

PAX Australia returns to Melbourne for its 5th year. This is my biggest convention of the year, and a lot of my friends feel the same. The 3-day event seems to be the time when everyone blows off steam and just relaxes – or as much as the gaming/cosplay/nerd community can relax in an energized city like Melbourne. In 2015, I had the pleasure of being on a panel with some of my wonderful friends, met some new friends, hung out with some awesome cosplayers, and to got to attend some really cool parties. PAX Australia weekend is the weekend that the whole industry just seems to bring it.

December – Nope, con season is over. I mean, where else are we going to find time to get fat for January.

Over the last few months, I’ve had people coming to me for advice about wanting to break into the video games industry as a reviewer or journalist. To be entirely honest, I’m not sure I’ve actually gotten into the industry yet but I’ll give you whatever advice I can give. I’ve also asked friends who work in journalism or video games about what advice they’d give people, so that’s thrown in too.

“Video Games Journalism”

Let’s be honest with each other, there aren’t that many legitimate journalists in the video games industry. Not traditional journalists, anyway. A lot of what video games journalism is these days is regurgitating media releases and reporting on rumours. Doing legitimate journalistic work is pretty hard to come by, it’s more editorial work. Not that there work isn’t out there, but it’s probably being done already. You’ll need to prove yourself.

So, the advice I’ve got:

                On writing

It sounds simple enough, but depending on where you want to get into, your writing style needs to suit that style of publication. Read previous reviews of the publication you want to write for and get a feeling of their style. Having a range of writing styles is a great thing to have in your arsenal as a writer.

Write about anything and everything, it’s the only way to improve this utmost vital skill. Find press releases and rewrite them, write fake news stories about the characters in games, write reviews on everything you’ve used, played, seen or read. Start yourself a blog and put your opinions out into the world. You’ll get a range of people looking at your stuff and they’re going to give you their honest opinion. Just remember, all criticism can be useful if you don’t get upset by it.

On video games

Understanding how video games work is probably important if you’re interested in video games. Ask developers what goes into making a game, or take a basic coding course (there are some available online) to give you a greater insight into how what goes into a game. Your passion for video games is what got you interested in this kind of writing, a deeper understanding never hurts.

On industry shows

Go to every event you can get in to. Last year at PAX Australia, I introduced myself to indie developers showing their wares and built relationships with people. A few weeks later, I got an email from one of the guys I’d met asking me to review their game. I took down business cards with my contact details (work email, mobile number, website) and they sent me a copy of their game. Going to industry events is important for networking. Sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. It’s in your best interest to know everybody.

For stuff you can’t get to (E3, anyone?), streaming and live-tweeting are going to be your friends. Getting involved in hashtags will help you get into the conversation and gauge the reaction of your intended audience.

On the Internet

The Internet is a big, scary place and it’s full of individuals who have strong, conflicting opinions and you’re likely to meet someone who disagrees with you. And maybe, they’ll disagree with you so much they’ll call you nasty names, say horrible things about you to their friends and try to rubbish you so that you don’t get more work. It’s bound to happen. What’s important to remember is that there are people who agree with you, too.

It’s also a vital part of what you want to do. Traditional print doesn’t have much room for video game editorials or reviews (outside of video game publications), so it’s best to make yourself an online presence.

About yourself

Be honest. People will read your work under the impression that you’re being completely honest and transparent in your work. This is especially important when reporting news and writing reviews, even your editorials needs to accurately represent your opinion. If someone pays you to write something; announce it upfront. If you’ve been provided with a product; acknowledge that the product was provided by a company. If you don’t disclose everything, people will find out and you risk your reputation.

Have confidence in yourself, and your writing. If you’re not confident of what you’re writing, it’ll be reflected in your piece. This is something I struggle with time to time, but I have a good circle of support to help me realise that sometimes I write English good (yes, that was intentional.) Find people who are willing to read your work and give you feedback, it’s the only way you’ll learn.

If you’ve got the talent and the drive to be successful, you’ll be successful. People respond to people who are confident in their ability to progress and succeed. With help, I’ve written for Player Attack, been retweeted by PAX Australia and reviewed for ASUS and Walk-Thru Walls. Have the guts to ask for help and send your stuff to everyone. If they reject you, ask for feedback about what you can improve. If you’re accepted, ask what they liked about your piece. Every little bit helps.

 

Thanks to James McGrath, Lauren Grey (and her friend) and Scott Rhodie for their help with this post.

e3-2014

E3 is like Christmas in June for the video games industry and gaming fans everywhere. With the new generation of consoles being launched, purchased and firmly ingrained in households, Microsoft and Sony came out with a new line up of games and console attachments for their next gen consoles and some great stuff for their current gen consoles. Let’s talk about what Microsoft and Sony had to say at this year’s conference.

Let’s start with Microsoft, since they were the first off the mark.

The thing that got me the most foaming-at-the-mouth excited this year was the announcement of Halo Master Chief Collection. Microsoft reminded us that Halo 2 is 10-years-old this year (anyone else feel old?) and for the anniversary, they were going to combine Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3 and Halo 4 on ONE disc for all your intergalactic, space needs. Bringing back Halo 2 multiplayer and rendering it to current generation specifications. Seriously, you guys, they announced this and I stopped paying attention. Along with the Master Chief collection being released, there’s also a Halo 5 beta you can get in on. Reason 1 why I now need an Xbox One is because Halo. Yes, I am a fan girl.

Another series that made everyone terribly excited was further offerings from Assassin’s Creed. Ubisoft announced Assassin’s Creed: Unity which includes up to 4-play co-operative mode. Set during the French Revolution, you form your own brotherhood of Assassins and get stabby with it. While separate from the single-player mode, this was the main showcase of the Assassin’s Creed presentation.

It’s no secret that I’m not a huge fan of the Assassin’s Creed series any more. After everything that Ubisoft continues to bring out, I gave up on having a good story in lieu of being used as a cash cow. It’s disappointing because the new multiplayer aspect looks terribly well done. Unity continues the tradition of looking gorgeous, but I’m starting to wonder if that’s enough. It seems to be for fans of the series.

Fans of the Tomb Raider series will be happy to hear that there’s a new Tomb Raider gaming coming to Xbox One. Set after the end of the last game, Lara appears to be going through therapy, trying to work through the events of the island she was stranded on. She’s definitely becoming the Lara we’re used to: ass-kicking, strong and won’t take crap from anyone. Like the last game, this trailer looks full of promise.

There was also stuff about Call of Duty…

Sony is up next with what was a fairly… mediocre presentation but had some excellent games and hardware to show off.

The biggest surprise for the crowd was the announcement of Grim Fandango being remastered and bought to PS4 consoles around the world. Everyone I know holds Tim Schafer’s Grim Fandango in their hearts with loving nostalgia. I’d never played Grim Fandango, but last year at PAX Australia there was some excellent cosplay and listening to Ron Gilbert’s keynote speech reminded me of why those games mean so much to people. This would definitely be a good reason for me to pick up a PS4.

Another reason to pick up a PS4 would be Little Big Planet 3. Three new characters to help you get around more player-made levels and new levels of depth, why wouldn’t you pre-order this now? Little Big Planet is the game I show my non-gamer friends who want something easy to play, but you can spend hours being terribly entertained. Also, Stephen Fry.

Sony didn’t focus solely on the games. They announced a white PS4 coming to North America in September. It looks stunning and it’ll definitely give me enough time to wait for all the games I want to come out and drop in price. Although, the Australian time frame hasn’t been confirmed, hopefully a global release is in our future and some awesome bundles come along with it.

It’s hard to decide a “winner” from the battle of Microsoft and Sony but, personally, I think Microsoft won it. Out of the two conferences, Microsoft had the best offering of games that interested me. Sony has some great ideas coming up for Sony branded TVs, for the Vita and Playstation TV (which sounds AWESOME), but a lot of their non-game related stuff didn’t really grab my attention. However, this is just my opinion.

What did you guys think? Who was the big winner for you and what grabbed you the most?