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PAX Australia 2015: PAXageddon

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.

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So you want to be a video games “journalist”?

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.

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Call of Duty developer nerfs gun, players react appropriately

Call of Duty is one of those games people take seriously. Sometimes; way too seriously. In this case, it’s the latter.

CoD developer David Vonderhaan patched Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 recently to make the game a little more balanced. In the patched, he nerfed the stats of a sniper rifle, changing the fire time from 0.2 seconds to 0.4 seconds and the rechamber time from 1.0 seconds to 1.1 seconds. Point one of a second, people.

When the patch went live and the notes went up on the Cod:BO2 site, players reacted appropriately with constructive criticism and thanks… No, wait. That’s not right. They reacted the way you expect your typical Call of Duty fanboy to react; with threats of violence, death and cancer. I shit you not people. Some minor code was changed and these people act like the game was changed from Call of Duty to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

As pointed out on the Gamer Fury tumblr, Call of Duty fanboys used their vast knowledge of the English language to voice their anger over these changes.

hey can you un nerf THE FUCKING SNIPER U FUCKING CUNT WTF WHY DID U DO THIS IM GOING 2 KILL YOU! DICK HEAD FUCKING DIE!!!!!

– FeedMeCreate

omfg you fucking fat cunt i hope you die in a fatal car crash you fucking twat also your nan has cancer

— NeronV2

you are a prick messing up the snipers on BO2 and if u don’t sort it out am gonna rape your family ….. BITCH !!

— SwizzoM8

I HOPE YOU BURN IN HELL YOU FUCKING COCKSUCKER AND I HOPE YOU GET RAPED AND GET AIDS AND DIE IN THE BIGGEST PAIN IMAGINABLE

— DJVAHNCOCKSUCKE

And not proper use of a punctuation mark in sight. I’ve had some anger when it comes to nerfing abilities in games, but it’s to balance the game and make it more fun, it’s not a personal vendetta against you. It’s also not worth threats of rape, violence, cancer or death. This kind of behaviour is why the gaming community and the industry at large has such a bad reputation in the mainstream media. Don’t feed the trolls, guys. Report them and move on.

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SEGA Bids Farewell to its Australian Development House

According to both Gamasutra and Kotaku AU, SEGA is closing down the Australian arm of its development studio later this year.

After last year’s staff layoffs, this closure may come as no surprise to some watching the market closely. While the media release doesn’t say how many employees will be affected, this recent closure adds to the worrying trend of Australian development houses. Team Bondi closed its doors in 2011 after the controversy that struck with the Triple-A game, “L.A. Noire.”

Not only this, but this is the second development house to be killed off by their parent company this week.

Disney representatives announced that it would be shifting LucasArts to a new licensing format instead of a internal development studio. LucasArts were responsible for Psychonauts and Grim Fandango and had been working on Star Wars: 1313, which had great interest from gamers.

Whatever games these development house had in store for us will either be sold to other developers or left to linger in the world of “what if?”

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Double Fine Developer Leaves.

Ron Gilbert, best known for his games Manic Mansion and The Secret of Monkey Island revealed that he would be leaving the quirky director via his blog earlier today.

After development on “The Cave” finished, he decided it was time for him to move on.

Now that The Cave is done and unleashed on an unsuspecting world (ok, we did do a bunch of PR, so it wasn’t exactly unsuspecting), it’s time for me to move on from Double Fine and plot my next move.

This raises a question: What’s happening with the incredibly successful Kickstarter that Schafer started last year? If one of his lead developers is leaving, what on Earth is going on?

I, unfortunately, haven’t had the pleasure of playing any of Gilbert’s games but from what I’ve heard, they’re great fun. I should probably invest in a copy of Monkey Island…

Anyone wanna add that to my list?

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There Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked (A Borderlands 2 review)

You know, they say there ain’t no rest for the wicked…

Following the runaway success of Borderlands, the guys at Gearbox announced they would be working on a sequel in August, 2011. Keeping with their winning formula, the game advances the story of Pandora by five years and introduces a fantastic new villain.

After the opening of the first vault, Lilith, Mordecai, Roland and Brick have parted ways, only to be reunited after your character becomes the first Vault Hunter to survive a meeting with Handsome Jack. Handsome Jack has taken over the Hyperion Corporation, is mining Eridium and wants to stop anything that gets in his way. Continue reading

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I’m aliiiiiiiive!

I’m alive, guys. I’ve been lurking around and doing stuff but uni got its claws into me and dragged me to education hell. But I’m back!

So let’s recap on things I’ve been doing:

Borderlands 2: One of my most anticipated games came out in September. There’s some major road works going on around my house and the day that Borderlands 2 came out, they had to shut off my power at 8pm. 8PM!? What am I; a grandmother? (Hey Nan!) It was a kick to the teeth, but I’d managed to get in a decent amount of Pandora plundering before I had to head off to gym and the dark ages of no electricity.

Continue reading

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