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Dell has an “If it’s not broken, just make minor improvements and don’t break it” approach to their gaming laptop series. While there are still some improvements that could be made, the Dell G7 15″ laptop is a good example of this ethos at a decent pricepoint.

I’ve previously mentioned that the one thing I’ve really gotten tired of in gaming laptops is the standard black/red colour scheme – it’s interchangeable with a lot of other gaming laptops on the market. But not this time. Unpacking the Dell G7 15” was a delightful change. It was blue! Well, it was black with gorgeous metallic blue accents.

And this wasn’t the only colour option available. Dell also has the G7 15″ available in “Arctic White” with the blue accents, which sounds like a nightmare to keep clean but it’s a refreshing change from the usual colour options.

Yes, I am that excited about a colour change shut up.

Performance-wise, it handled perfectly. Since I work with a limited internet usage cap each month (thanks, Australia!), I network transferred games across to the G7 laptop and installed them easily. Games like Borderlands 2, Fallout 4, and Civilisation 4 were easily played at their highest settings.

The 15″ anti-glare screen works as intended, but like the last Dell laptop I reviewed, the bezel around the screen is obnoxiously large and doesn’t sit flush with the screen. My current laptop (a Dell XPS 13″ from 2013) has a larger bezel around with screen, but it’s glass-fronted, meaning it doesn’t distract from the experience. The FHD screen is nice, but there’s so much more screen potential hidden behind a large border.

My biggest issues with gaming laptops are always space – especially with games like big triple-A titles, I’ve got vanilla games that hit 100GB and that won’t get smaller over time. Dell has attempted to remedy this with a variety of storage options ranging from a straight 1TB drive to SSD and mechanical drives, or a 512GB PCIe SSD. Dell’s big draw is their customisation abilities, so you’ll be able to find something to work with what you want.

Another issue with gaming laptops and where they’re going is the battery life. The G7 has a 4-cell integrated battery, which won’t support long-term gaming and I understand that it isn’t meant to, but superusers, or even just heavy users, will find that the battery will drain sooner than they like. Everyday users will find the battery life to be perfect for their usage, but if you’re looking to run something a little more resource heavy, you’re going to find that the 4-cell battery doesn’t quite cut it. It sounds obvious, but if you’re someone like me who likes listening to Netflix in the background and runs a few programs at a time, you might need to adjust the power settings to find that sweet spot between energy saving and power mode. It’s not a huge issue, but just something worth noting.

If you’re using the G7 as your dedicated gaming machine and you’re going to be plugged in directly to the wall, run this baby in performance mode because you’ll want to get the best out of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 10 series. They’re standard through a lot of laptops now, but there’s a good reason for it – they just work. The highest end of the spectrum will see you get a GTX 1060 with 6GB GDDR5 video memory which should handle everything you throw at it and you should find it enduring through several years worth of games. Even the lower end GTX 1050 and GTX 1050Ti will faithfully see you through for at least the next 4-5 years.

Reviewing laptops has become kind of a second nature at this point. I’ve had the opportunity to play around with a lot of different models from a lot of different manufacturers and Dell seem to make the ones I like. While there are elements I come back to that I don’t like, they’re always overshadowed by the things I do like. Their customisation options mean you’re getting to make it a bit more of your machine, instead of fitting your needs within a rigid mould. There are sacrifices you’ll have to make, but they can be made up for in other areas. If you’re considering a tidy machine for your gaming needs, which can double as your everyday carry – consider Dell and definitely consider the G7.

I was pretty excited to hear about a sequel to my favourite game of 2014 – State of Decay. I was so dedicated to saving my local town, that I accidentally played for 10 hours straight. By all accounts, I was pretty happy. State of Decay 2 is currently available on Microsoft’s Game Pass subscription service, and with a 14-day free trial, I thought “What do I have to lose?”

Currently, State of Decay 2 (SoD2) is only available through the Microsoft Store (although rumours of a Steam release for later this year are rife). I struggled a bit to find the correct area to download SoD2 without it trying to charge me for it.. It took me longer than I’d like to admit to find the correct link to download State of Decay 2 using my Game Pass since I couldn’t do it through the Microsoft Store app on my PC for some reason. Once I figured it out, it was a fairly smooth operation – minus the snail pace of my internet connection.

This is where I started to encounter issues. It took 4 attempts for SoD2 to make it past the main menu / splash screen where I would push a key to start, and it would crash to desktop. And this wasn’t an isolated incident – it happened repeatedly. After lamenting this on Facebook, it highlighted a larger issue with people trying to play the game with little to no luck.

Once I was able to finally get into the gameplay, it was a new, but familiar scene. You select which character pair you’d like to play with and you’re thrown into the post-apocalyptic world. State of Decay 2 attempts to flesh out the opening characters with some story, but I was more interested in their base stats which are vital to their survival. You pick up characters pretty quickly into the game and start establishing your home base. It’s similar gameplay from the previous games, in the way scavenging works, but the UI has been updated. It’s more user-friendly, and yet not. I think I’ve played so much of the original SoD that I have muscle memory for the previous controls, but certain elements just don’t make sense. Things like silent takedowns, and final kills were executed by press ‘Z’ in the previous game, but now it’s a combination of left CTRL + a button or mouse click which is distracting and means I got chomped on more than once.

There’s a new type of zombie to deal with, and a new style of infestation to go along with our undead friends, and all the other zombies have had a facelift – along with the rest of the game. Everything definitely looks more modern, but is still suffering from a mildly outdated look. It isn’t distracting, and doesn’t take away from the game at all, but if you’re a hardcore graphics fiend, you might complain.

Unfortunately, this is as far as I got to play. There was a large (20GB!) patch to fix the launch bugs which meant that I had to wait another day to play (Thanks NBN!) When I started up the game, I was faced with a working splash screen, but the following image.

A friend of mine had a similar issue. A part of the patch had failed to download correctly. But since this isn’t as easy as steam verifying files and downloading the necessary bits it needs, it meant the whole 20GB patch needed to be downloaded. Again. I’ve spent more time downloading State of Decay 2 than actually playing it – and I’m so disappointed.

Because I’m on ADSL (thanks again, NBN!), I have a small monthly allowance to use between two heavy users (netflix, downloading, etc) which means that downloading 40GB of data has chewed through just under a quarter of my allowance for the month. This might sound like a rare issue for some gamers, but since the state of Australian internet means that there is a huge portion of people in the same boat as myself.

Two days and a huge chunk of data later, and I’m reconsidering my decision to buy it later this month.

I can’t comment on the storyline, the development of character relationships, the gameplay, or anything else vital to games review because I haven’t been able to play it. The rare times I got it to work, it was great – but not enough to make a definite comment. It looks like something I’d love to spend time investing in, but I’m spending more time trying to make it work and I just can’t be bothered.

I wanted to like this game. I wanted to love it. I wanted something that would continue the same style of game I loved in the first State of Decay, but make it feel like a more desperate attempt for survival and I got a game that barely works. I can only hope it’s an issue with the PC distribution platform and not the Xbox One download because the series is a great spin on zombie survival horror, but I think I’ll just wait until State of Decay 2 drops on Steam, or run it through my Xbox One because it’s not a happy experience on the Microsoft Store.

Editor’s note: this review will be a little different to the regular format. I’ll be discussing key changes between the Inspiron 15 7000 (7567) 2016 model and the Inspiron 15 7000 (7577) 2017 model. If you missed the original review, catch up here and follow along.

Earlier in the year, I reviewed the Dell XPS 15” Inspiron gaming laptop and apart from some minor complaints (storage mostly), I thought it was a pretty solid laptop. Recently, an improved version of this laptop was released, and while there are some changes under the hood – overall it’s still a great gaming laptop for your on-the-go gamer.

At first glance, the aesthetic changes between the 2016 and 2017 models are minor – if there were any at all. Sleek, black laptops with pops of colour to accent logos and WASD keys are fairly standard through gaming laptops and it’s nothing that needs to be changed for the sake of updating.

The thing I did notice about the 2017 model was the bezel around the screen. Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the 2016 model to notice the size, but the 2017 model seemed to have the screen surrounded by a thick, black border. I showed this to a friend of mine and he noticed as well, noting that it seemed to take away from the actual display – which I completely agree with. The screen on the Inspiron 15 7000 series of devices is beautiful, and capable of playing video and games in 4k. The border around the screen seemed to be less of a edge to define the screen, and more like an eyesore to distract the user.

The major change that Dell incorporated into their latest iteration are the options available for your GPU. The 2016 model wasn’t underpowered by any means, but the 2017 model includes the ability to upgrade your NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1050 to 1050Ti with 4GB GDDR5 to a NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1060 with 6GB GDDR5. While the changes may seem minor on the outside, greater processing power means an overall better experience while gaming. Along with more dedicated RAM to help improve textures and frame rate.

It also means your games won’t become obsolete as quickly – It’s only a series apart, but the 1060 seems to be the goto requirement for a lot new games.

What’s disappointing about the upgrade in graphical prowess is the downgrade to actual power. Moving away from an integrated 74 WHr, 6-Cell Battery to a integrated Quick-charge 56 WHr, 4-Cell Battery means your battery won’t last quite as long away from the wall. The quick-charge is a nice addition, meaning you’ll be on the move to your latest LAN in shorter time, but as someone who likes to move around with her device and not always to somewhere with a plug, the smaller battery is a disheartening. However, the change in battery may have been more to do with actual space than anything else.

The last major change is the addition of a Thunderbolt™ 3 port. This ties into the quick-charging battery, but also allows for lightning fast data transfer and a move into the new normal. USB 3 / Thunderbolt™ is quickly becoming the universal adaptor for phones and computers. The problem is that it only includes one because of the traditional USB ports – but that’s more of a general consumer dependence on traditional USB products.

Dell have taken a lot of consideration in how they update the Inspiron 15 series of computers. While sacrifices to battery were made, they were to improve space and power and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Happily, the updates mean that you’re getting better value and a better experience from your Inspiron 15 laptop. It’s still a sleek device that’ll keep up with a mid-level gaming rig, with the bonus feature of portability – so you’ll always be able to game with your friends at home, or at a LAN.

Laptop provided by Dell for consideration.

 

Portability is one of the most important features for any on-the-go freelancer. Trying to balance power, battery life, and size tends to mean sacrificing one in favour of the others. Want something with a lot of power? It’s not going to last long without a power point. Need a long battery life? Prepare for that sucker to weigh a tonne. The Dell XPS 13” 2-in-1 balances the trio well without sacrificing too much to deliver a lightweight device.

Unboxing the XPS laptop was a new experience for me when I was presented with a tiny 13” laptop in sleek silver exterior. The laptops I normally unbox are 15”+ monoliths encased in black and red details which don’t really suit being an everyday carry. Weighing in at 1.24kgs, the XPS 13” is the perfect size to slip into your backpack, handbag, or satchel and jet off to your next meeting. I took it out with me several times, and it even came on an excursion to paintball training where I was helping my team with some social and sponsorship deals.

Working with the laptop on the go is a fairly painless experience, if not a tiny bit terrifying. I’ve never used a convertible laptop before, so bending the screen backwards was an anxious experience the first time, but provides a whole new way to work. It can feel a little awkward if you’re using the laptop as a tablet, as you’re pressing keys on the exposed keyboard but a quick readjustment of your hands sorts that out. However, it feels clunky in the converted mode, and not just because of the keyboard. Despite this laptop measuring in at 13.7mm thick, it doesn’t feel as slim while in tablet mode – possibly because I’m used to tablets being paper thin.

The size of the keyboard isn’t an issue, however. While it takes a moment to adjust to the size of a smaller keyboard when you’re used to using a full-sized desktop but it’s a comfortable adjustment. It’s a quick keyboard and makes it easy to type up short or long documents with the short keystrokes and smallish-keys. The only issue I had was bumping the touch pad which would send the cursor into a mysterious position, but this is definitely a PEBKEC issue because I do it with every laptop ever. Also, for those who are into this kind of thing – the keyboard is quiet, so you won’t annoy the people around you with the constant tak-tak-tak of furious typing.

Opening the device can be difficult at times. The 13” XPS has a 5.2mm InfinityEdge bezel with a Corning® Gorilla® Glass NBT™ screen which means there’s no notch in the edge to separate the screen from the keyboard. It’s really fiddly to open and I often needed two hands to hold the laptop steady while I tried to pry it apart. But when you do, the screen is bright and displays colours fantastically. You get a bit of glare from sunlight on the glass, so it’s not a laptop I’d recommend to use in the sun – find a shady spot close to Wi-Fi and go nuts. It’s a great screen to watch or stream videos and doing some minor image editing on.

My major issue with the screen is that it marks so easily. Because the XPS 13” is marketed as a touch screen device, you can use it as a tablet (as mentioned above), but I hope you don’t mind fingerprints and smears all over the glass. It turned me off using it as a touch screen device because I didn’t want to spend 20 minutes every few hours cleaning off marks to keep using the screen.

The other test I put this neat little device through was some gaming (obviously). While it isn’t a dedicated gaming machine, the basic specifications would give you enough variety for some on-the-go time wasters. I also tried streaming games through Steam. This seems like the better option if you’ve got a good connection as you’re able to play games in full-spec while away from your rig. Since streaming isn’t as resource heavy as playing games directly off the hardware, you won’t need to worry about pushing the little laptop to the limits.

Battery life won’t be an issue either. I managed to get a few days of life from the battery when I was using it on my travels. You’ll supposedly get just over 8 hours of battery life for everyday use, and a little over 7 hours for your Netflix binge sessions. Even at home while I was using it as a dedicated media screen while working on projects, the battery was consistent and didn’t need too many settings adjusted to really get all the juice out of it.

It uses a Thunderbolt™ 3 connection for the AC adapter which is great for a quick charge and keeps the frame of the laptop as thin as possible. You’ve also got a MicroSD slot, USB-C ports, fingerprint scanner and all the other basic necessities you’d expect. The power button is hidden away on the side which took a bit of getting used to, but again, it’s all designed to keep the size down.

Like all current generation laptops, it comes preloaded with Windows 10 and a range of software options available. To me, retail installs of Windows 10 feel a little bloaty. You can have a range of storage options on the XPS 13” (up to 1TB), but you’re going to spend some time uninstalling the software you’re not going to use. There’s also no optical media drive which isn’t a huge surprise for a device which prides itself on its side – if you’re worried about this, USB optical drives are cheap and portable too.

The Dell XPS 13” 2-in-1 is a tidy machine. It stands up to the quality expected of Dell in their XPS line and balances portability, power and weight nicely. I’m still not sold on convertible devices as they tend to feel chunky and not as nice as dedicated tablets (something I’ve felt from years of working in tech retail). But, if you can overlook a messy screen and sometimes clunky feel from tablet mode, the XPS will fit right into your life. It’s stylish, lightweight and easy to use as an everyday carry.

 

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.

I’m starting to become a seasoned pro when it comes to reviewing laptops – and I’m starting to notice the things I really like and dislike about the humble gaming laptop, as I’ve used more and more of them. Since I’ve only ever actually owned two laptops in my life (and one was a gaming laptop), getting my hands on other kinds of tech is fun.

ASUS were kind enough to send me a ROG GL502 laptop to play around with and I’m pretty sure this is my favourite one out of the bunch – with one caveat.

To really give the GL502 a run for its money, I essentially replaced my gaming rig/work PC with it since I had a bunch of work to do while reviewing. Two birds, one stone.

The GL502 laptop is a lightweight, compact laptop, designed for the more mobile gamer. It weighs in at just 2.2kgs (4.8lbs) which means that being able pack it up and take it with you won’t break your back. It’s also incredibly slim for what you’re getting. It packs a 15” screen that can display games in either Full HD or UHD, meaning that 4K gaming isn’t out of your reach. Although, my opinion on 4K gaming is similar to 4K TVs – just because it’s there doesn’t mean it’s necessary. I don’t really have any wish to play games in 4K because I don’t think it’s really worth it. However, if you’re one of those people who likes to crank everything to 60+ FPS and see every miniscule details, the option is there.

ASUS continue their red and black colour scheme across the GL502 laptop, but it’s far less overbearing than in their other laptops, and that’s something that makes me endlessly happy. The GL502 detailing is scaled back and more subtle, which makes it more pleasing to look at in my mind. It’s not as “Cockpit of a fighter jet” as the other laptops I’ve reviewed, it’s far more sleek and refined which makes me think I’d be happier to show it off on a desk. The red has changed slightly to a more orange undertone which is a little off-putting on the black background, but the accent colour doesn’t dominate the entire laptop, making it easier on the eyes.

Let’s talk about my favourite and least part of this laptop – the keyboard. The keyboard is amazing to type on. I wrote several articles for my freelance gig, plus a few for myself and a bunch of other work stuff I’ve had going on in the background and it handled like a dream. The laptop keys only travel 1.6mm each keystroke so you can be quicker in-game and in real life. The WASD keys are highlighted in the orangey-red tone to give you the impression that this is a gaming laptop and your hands sit nicely atop them.

The thing I hated, and this is no-fault with the series – but the review laptop I got, was that my keyboard was French. If you’ve never used a French keyboard before, it’s in AZERTY format and not QWERTY – however, the GL502 was in English mode so everything was where it should be. This made writing on the laptop a nightmare. While it felt amazing to type on, if I concentrated too hard on what I was doing and didn’t let the muscle memory of touch-typing take over, my brain would confuse my hands and everything was a mess. But that’s a problem for the editors – it doesn’t take away how the GL502 laptop feels in a general sense.

Gaming on this laptop was really nice. Everything I threw at this game from Prison Architect, to Borderlands 2 and everything in between was handled without a fault. The Full HD screen displayed games without missing a beat and it was easy enough to adjust in low light and sunlight without struggling to see what I was doing.

The downside to hardcore gaming sessions on this laptop is the battery life leaves a little to be desired. While the GL502 worked well as an everyday laptop for my freelancing work, any long gaming sessions I wanted to do required a closeby powerpoint so that the battery wouldn’t drain after a few hours. However, if you’re planning on taking it to a LAN, you’re not going to be up and wandering around with it, are you?

The ASUS ROG Strix GL502 is definitely an investment with the RRP sitting above the $2000AUD mark, but you’re paying for portability and style which isn’t something you can get with a standard PC rig or some other gaming laptops on the market. The particular review model I was sent had 32GB DDR4 RAM installed, along with a NVIDIA GeForce 1070 and a 1TB hard drive. And as I mentioned before, it’s incredibly light for a gaming laptop.

The ASUS ROG Strix GL502 is probably my favourite ASUS laptop that I’ve been able to review (minus the French keyboard). It’s compact and light, which is perfect for taking it on the go, but it packs enough power and hardware to be able to stand up to anything you can throw at it. It’ll age well, which is something a lot of computers don’t do in the current era of gaming, it’s great for your everyday projects, and it’s not exactly bad to look at. This is the laptop you want to consider if you’re looking to upgrade.

Laptop provided by ASUS for consideration.


Trigger warning: This post discusses mental health, including depression, anxiety and suicide. If you are risk or know someone who could be at risk, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, or use the links below.

Mental health and mental illness carries a huge stigma of weakness and loneliness for those who suffer, despite depression topping WHO’s list of ill health and disability worldwide – an increase of 18% in 2017.

This issue is something that the gaming and wider geek community has taken very seriously for quite a while, and with recent studies exploring how video games may actually improve symptoms of depression, an Australian non-profit organisation is creating a new Kickstarter to help produce a web series to assist gamers with their mental health.

CheckPoint is an organisation which revolves around mental health and video games. Their service provides chill-out spaces at conventions, resources for different mental health issues and information for gamers and game developers to improve their mental health. Their latest endeavour is The CHECKPOINT Series which aims to “raise awareness about mental health issues and helping those affected, using the power of video games.”[sic]

CheckPoint have an early target of AUD$55,000 to produce a 16-episode web-series aimed at gamers using evidence-based information which could previously have been out of reach for individuals and their families about mental health.

Divided into two seasons, the first season will focus on what CheckPoint calls the “Mental Health Essentials”, which contain education about different types of mental illness (depression, anxiety, personality disorders, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, drugs, alcohol, and addiction, and well-being for the games industry) with the goal of raising awareness around these illnesses.

Season two focuses on breaking down the stigma around mental health, which stops a lot of people seeking the help they need, and how videogames can be used for therapy, as well as how the industry can improve representation around mental health in healthy and effective ways.

Mental health is something that impacts pretty much everyone – whether you suffer or you know someone who suffers. I’ve been dealing with depression and anxiety (GAD) since I was in my teen years and it’s not something that’s easy to admit to yourself, your family, your friends and it’s definitely nothing something that I’m comfortable openly admitting to in a professional sense, but the important message that The CHECKPOINT series aims to tell is that it’s okay to not be okay, and it’s okay to ask for help.

The Kickstarter officially launches May 4th, 2017 (that’s today!) and provides a great range of incentives for backers for participating and providing valuable funds for such a vital service. If you’re interested in checking out the Kickstarter, or anything that CheckPoint do, you can check it out here.

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.

Top 5 games, hey? This is something I’ve been asked to do a few times and something I’ve thought of doing for years but I always thought it was kind of cliché and overdone. However, after browsing the Playstation Store for some reasonably priced nostalgia, I thought I’d do a “Best Games of My Childhood” thing, so here we go!

 

#5: Tomb Raider (PSOne)tomb_raider_pal

Developer: Core Design

Publisher: Eidos Interactive

I don’t think it would be a list of (my) old school games without Tomb Raider appearing on the list. The first female video game character I can remember playing as, Lara Croft definitely a role model of mine. Her tough “take-no-prisoners” attitude from the first games, along with the supernatural side and puzzles makes this game a great memory in my mind. The recent remake of Tomb Raider really holds no comparison to the original PSOne classic.

 

psychonauts-xbox-cover-front-eu-43747

#4 Psychonauts (Xbox/PS2)

Developer: Double Fine Productions/BudCat Creations

Publisher: Majesco Entertainment/THQ

Okay, okay. So this game wasn’t released until I was 15 (2005) but it inspired a childhood giddiness that I couldn’t pass up when writing out this list. From the brilliant mind of Tim Schafer, it’s about a kid who runs away from the circus and has dreams about meat circus’, who could pass that up! Obviously the iconic part of Psychonauts is the Milkman conspiracy, but there are so many gems (characters and levels) in this game that you can’t really have a favourite.

 

#3: Crash Bandicoot (PSone)Crash-Bandicoot-1

Developer: Naughty Dog (Originally. After the franchise started to gain fandom, it was sold around to several different dev houses.)

Publisher: Sony Entertainment. (Same deal as above.)

Man, who didn’t spent countless hours playing as Crash? This game was a staple of any 90’s child’s gaming career. The levels varied from too easy to controller-crushing hard and no matter how many times you died, you went back for more. Based around a set of fictional islands in Australia, Crash has to fight his creator Dr. Cortex to save his girlfriend.

The game is one of the best-selling games Sony ever released and still stands as a classic against the platformers of today.

 

Supermariolandboxart#2 Super Mario Land (GameBoy)

Developer: Nintendo EAD.

Publisher: Nintendo.

This was one of the first handheld games I’d ever experienced. It was also my first introduction to Nintendo and a portly Italian plumber. I don’t think I ever finished it because of the lack of save feature and a knack for dying. Sadly, my Gameboy no longer works so I can’t go running world to world, jumping on Gooma and punching coin blocks, but I can remember the fun (and frustration) I had as a kid playing Super Mario Land alongside Mario.

 

#1: 40 Winks (PSone)

36475-40_Winks_[U]-1

Developer: Eurocom

Publisher: GT Interactive.

40 Winks came out in 1999 and is classified as a “survival horror” game. Which is kind of funny since it’s about a set of twins (about the age of 7) named Ruff and Tumble; it doesn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of men. The idea of the game was that Ruff or Tumble (whoever the player chose) would fight through several 3D levels to save the Winks. The Winks are little creatures that help you have sweet dreams. But then Winks go bad, they give you nightmares!

You fight as robots, ninjas and super heroes to save the Winks from Nitecap and his minion Threadbear (his teddybear).

No shit, this game ruled my childhood.

 

The guys at Rockstar promised some new Valentine’s Day themed gear so you can rampage with your significant other online, but is it enough to keep people interested?

With the terrible failure that was the GTA: O launch still fresh in the minds on users, Rockstar have tried to make it up to players with improved servers, the $500,000 stimulus package and free stuff packs for faithful players, it doesn’t seem enough to keep people interested. There is still no word on when the most anticipated aspect; heists, will be introduced into the online experience.

Heists were talked up by Rockstar as one of the most exciting parts on Grand Theft Auto: Online with apartments having heist planning rooms and being able to plan robberies with your friends. Just like the story mode, but instead of AI characters and hoping they don’t fall off their bike; you can chew out your friends when they screw up! (Seems like a good idea to me!)

The last few times I’ve played GTA:O, the servers have been half-full or below and I can’t get my friends to play. “Why? There’s nothing to do!” They lament. Which is true. The first week or so, we had so much fun taking selfies in the bathroom or trying to find the most outrageous spots to take photos. (Playboy mansion part, anyone?) but the novelty have worn off and it’s just not as fun anymore and I’m not sure that even when heists eventually make their debut, that it’ll be worth investing the 50+ hours that my clan and I played when the game first went live. (And we could all get online.)