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Asking the ‘Somebodies': My PAXAus Adventure

August 20, 2014

All throughout my journalism degree I was given advice on ‘things to do’ and ‘things not to do’. One of the ‘things not to do’ was use clichés commonly used in writing. When I was asked to write a blog post revealing the journey Cam and I experienced in making a PAXAus promotion trailer, I found myself at the starting line struggling to articulate the rollercoaster of a ride that this project entailed.

 

To overcome such a struggle I decided the perfect way to begin this post was with the line ‘It all started when…’ because, at the end of the day, avoiding the use of clichés like the plague is sometimes just no fun (and this was definitely a fun intro to write).

 

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It all started when I met Cam to discuss some ideas for a video that would promote the inaugural PAX in the southern hemisphere. A videogame expo we both always expected to stay in the spatially out-of-reach ethereal realm of online videogame publications (as two students couldn’t possibly travel to North America during the semester) was right in our backyard.

 

Cam and I have come from the same university (Swinburne University of Technology) but had never met before, coming from two rather distinct academic disciplines. So, our first hurdle was to try to like each other, and then decide how an artist and a journalist could ever create a worthy PAX trailer.

 

After bonding over some good coffee, an equally enthusiastic love for videogames, and our woeful attempts to create a humorous video idea, we decided to obliterate our dream careers of stand-up comedy and asked ourselves “what is it that makes Melbourne a special place for videogames?”

 

That is when we realised that we were not nearly important enough to have our answer matter in any substantial way. However the plethora of ‘somebodies’ who were likely to be attaining their itineraries to Melbourne at the time of the fateful encounter, to showcase at PAXAus, probably had something special to say.

 

 

 

Using our access to university equipment, Video Creation 101 skills (speaking for myself: Cam is actually quite the video editor) and eccentric personalities, we set out to record our cooperative ‘somebodies’ answer this question for the world to see. The events that followed were nothing we ever planned for – and that is not just because we, for lack of a better term, sucked at planning.

 

With almost no advanced video-capturing knowledge, we spoke with Gus Sorola, Burnie Burns and Jack Pattillo from Rooster Teeth Productions at their penthouse Crown Towers suite, proceeding to then party with them as VIP guests at their Rooster Teeth party later that night. We conversed with a hung-over Damien Hess (MC Frontalot) over a “super-recovery” breakfast on the balcony of Hess’ fan’s apartment, featuring an amazing view of the Docklands. We had a 5-hour ‘interview’ with Chris Mylrea (CTrix) talking subcultures and danced with Ben Britten from Tin Man Games (whilst capturing some comments from him).

 

Not only did we get a chance to speak with some of the heavyweights of PAXAus 2013, but we also got a chance to immerse ourselves in the cultural atmosphere the international, Australian and, more specifically, Melbournian videogame industry resonates around such important spectacles.

 

Over a year has passed since then and I definitely have more than the overwhelming sense of nostalgia to remember it by. Sure, the sensation of stepping into an empire animated by your greatest interests, and even just having the experience of a childhood hero, Gus Sorola, recognising you on the street, is something that could never be expressed in words. Yet the new friends I have made along the way, especially my goofy partner Cam, has been the most important factor for me.

 

The last scene of our PAXAus project video is of Ben Britten expressing all the things he likes about Melbourne. “Ultimately what it boils down to for me,” he says, “is the people”. As appealing as it is to me personally, this is not an attempt to be more like Ben nor an expression of my laziness, but I definitely do believe that that last scene resonates the crux of my experience working on this project and, in turn, sums up this blog post perfectly.

 

Oh yeah, we also have this video:

 

 

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Author: Theodore Argyrakakis
Journalism Graduate from Swinburne University of Technology  + Writer + Musician + Video Game Enthusiast
Twitter: @checkthelettuce

Heart of PAX: The Making of

August 4, 2014


Hi, I’m Callum. I’m a freelance writer and one of the creators of ‘The Heart of PAX’ video. The second half of the project was Stefan Chochowski, cameraman and editor. Here’s how we put the short film together.

When coming up with the concept of the video, we thought about what makes PAX so special to so many people. We know people love videogames, but we asked ourselves why people get so excited about PAX in particular? A quick Google search turns up plenty of information about new games, so why visit an expo like PAX?

We decided that it was about the people. Not only the people that love videogames getting together to enjoy them, but the chance to meet the people who make them as well. PAX showcases games, but more importantly it brings people together from fans, creators and the press.

That’s what we decided to make our video about: a dramatization of us trying to find the people who make the heart of PAX.

The main hall of PAX Australia, where a majority of the scenes were shot

The main hall of PAX Australia, where a majority of the scenes were shot

Anyone who went to PAX Australia 2013 is probably curious as to where the opening party scenes were shot. It certainly wasn’t on the floor or during the event.

What we said during the video wasn’t that far from the truth. The event was a party held for exhibitors and stakeholders acting as an opening for the PAX weekend. It was a different side to PAX that the average visitor wouldn’t see. Obviously the show floor is what most people experience, but PAX is also a great opportunity for Australian developers to network with each other, not just the fans.

The sections on the floor were the most fun to shoot. We didn’t really have any expectations as to how it would all turn out, so simply spoke to the people who were either in the best costumes, or looked like they were having the most fun. Most were more than happy to have a chat. If some of them look familiar, one of the couples we interviewed became minor Internet celebrities for proposing at the event.

A still from the pre-PAX party where we filmed the opening scenes

A still from the pre-PAX party where we filmed the opening scenes

The moment where I met Jerry Holkins was completely unexpected. So unexpected we didn’t have the cameras running and had to improvise with an iPhone. It was a pretty useful shot too, adding a little closure to our whole story.

Kirsty Sculler was great to work with for the bookend segments, which we shot long after the event was over. We were also fortunate enough to be lent the music by Melbourne based chiptune artist Tiasu. You should definitely check out his work.

Hopefully you enjoyed the short video we put together and enjoy PAX Aus 2014 – 31 October to 2 November 2014!

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Author: Callum Glennen
ex Journalism Student at La Trobe University and Critic
Twitter: @callumglennen

Fire Island – Tin Man Games’ fourth Fighting Fantasy digital gamebook app

January 8, 2014

IOTLK_02Tin Man Games’ fourth Fighting Fantasy digital gamebook app, Island of the Lizard King, has arrived giving you the chance to rescue the young men of Oyster Bay.

Smart phone and tablet users can now embark on a seek and destroy mission to liberate then from the evils that lie within the notorious Fire Island.

But down to business. Your task on Fire Island is to rescue the Oyster Bay band, who face slavery, starvation and a lingering death after being kidnapped by a vicious race of Lizard Men.

Through the wicked use of black magic, the mad and dangerous Lizard King dominates this land of mutants and presents a formidable foe to any would be liberator.

Tin Man Games has taken the classic Fighting Fantasy solo adventure and transformed it into an interactive digital experience, using their critically acclaimed gamebook engine.

With animated, dynamic links, an automated adventure sheet to show changing stats and inventory, the reader can also roll physics-based 3D dice to bravely fight the cornucopia myriad of strange denizens that inhabit the jungles and swamps.

The new game is now available on iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, following a recent Android release on Google Play and the Amazon Appstore for Android.

PAX Aus 2013: Post Show Report

December 20, 2013
PAXpost show report

At the opening of the first Australian Penny Arcade Expo in July this year, scores of people filled the Melbourne Showgrounds in a hall that usually holds showbag stands, most arriving from a short train ride from Flinders Street Station. Hundreds of Melburnians are dressed in the colourful costumes of their favorite game characters. I’d only ever seen it filled with temporary walls, making the size of the room impossible to estimate from the inside. Today, it is completely open, and a rough guess places it a little over one hundred meters long. It is completely filled with people. The queues aren’t rowdy or upset that they have to wait. Everyone seems enthusiastic to be surrounded by so many people that share they passion for games, and excited to be the first of many to be entering the PAX Aus expo hall.

Over the course of the three day event, the Australian video gaming community were united, both developers and the general public, to celebrate the dynamic and constantly evolving medium. Traditional games could be played in the table top area, with a massive library of board games and roleplaying games available to rent out. The PC area allowed visitors to bring their own computer to compete over the weekend in a number of tournaments. The major tournament was the ‘Omegathon’, a multi-stage competition, culminating in a giant Jenga face-off.

Ron Gilbert at PAX Aus

Ron Gilbert at PAX Aus

Other highlights included the keynote speech by gaming luminary Ron Gilbert. Creator of classic point and click adventure games like The Secret of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion, Ron Gilbert offered incredible insights into his development history including stories of helping Stephen Spielberg beat his games, and insights to his craft of writing stories for games.

Data gathered by Reedpop, the organisers of the event, have reported that of the 35,000 visitors to PAX Aus 2013 over the three-day event, 97% of attendee’s had fun. Of this, the vast majority were male, and 80% of the total attendees were between the ages of 18 and 35. Students made up a third of all attendees, with IT professionals making up a further 27%.

Just over half of all attendees came from outside Victoria to attend PAX Aus, solidifying it as an event that reaches a national audience.

PAX Aus BYOPC

PAX Aus BYOPC

The PAX Aus mobile app, which allowed visitors to engage in an augmented reality scavenger hunt, was downloaded over 20,000 times by attendees. Facebook and Twitter likes and fans peaked at 15,000 and 7,800 respectively for PAX Aus social media accounts.

Both the mainstream press and enthusiast outlets did not overlook the scale of event. Over 350 media pass holders were in attendance. Reports appeared on widely read publications like the Herald Sun, The Age and The Guardian, while gaming specific outlets like Polygon, Kotaku, and IGN covered the event heavily.

‘A lot of people have come to PAX. They stood in lines, took photos, discovered new games, made new friends. They helped to make PAX just as much as its Enforcers and creators. These people, from all corners of the country, from all corners of the globe, might have come to Melbourne as geographical outsiders, but PAX has made them insiders. Brought together by gaming, and leaving united by gaming’ said Darren Wells from CVG.

Independent developers featured heavily at the event, and crowds flocked to the dozens of games made by small teams on display.

PAX Aus featured the world first preview of Australian based developer Halfbrick Studio’s anticipated new game Colossatron: Massive World Threat, reaching the front pages of many gaming news outlets.

PAX Aus opening hall

PAX Aus opening hall

Halfbrick Studios was only one of the many exhibitors at PAX Aus. The response from the 100 plus companies on show was universally positive, in particular from independent developers.

‘Ninja Pizza Girl’ developer Disparity Games, based out of Noosa, were extremely pleased with the coverage they recvived.

‘Even though Disparity Games is a tiny family team and we had the smallest booth space available, the PAX Aus team always made us feel valued and took great care of us. Exhibiting at PAX Aus was a wonderful experience and directly led to international press coverage of “Ninja Pizza Girl”‘ said Jason Stark from Disparity Games.

Although perhaps the most telling factor of how popular PAX Aus 2013 was is the rate at which tickets for 2014 have been selling, the 3-day passes are gone long in advance suggesting another immensely successful show next year.
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Author: Callum Glennan
Journalism student at La Trobe University + Tuba Hero + Grumpy Barista + Journalist in training
Twitter: @CallumGlennan

GCAP13 – Living Collaboration

December 6, 2013

As a developer, I have (for the most part) experienced my profession mostly in solitude. This isn’t to say that typing away at a keyboard can be a negative experience (though not to deny that possibility), and in actuality I have always found that aspect of the job description to be one I relish the most. I love the quiet, internalised thought processes that come with building complex systems, and the strong sense of satisfaction when it all comes together as a result. Yet there are times when I realise how such a mindset can stunt growth and opportunity, and it was during Tony Albrecht’s brilliant talk at Game Connect: Asia Pacific (GCAP) 2013 this year, “How Smart Programmers Write Dumb Code”, that I had one of these realisations.

Both during and after the talk, I found myself overwhelmed with so many interesting ideas, born not just out of the talk itself, but from the QA discussions afterwards. The notion of programming being the process of controlling entropy, or the constant and delicate balance between generic and hard-coded implementations. Even if many of these ideas are ones that I understood on some innate level, the simple act of talking/arguing about them made them all the more tangible; all the more relevant. It was simply invigorating. Even this many weeks after GCAP, I still find myself drawing upon my experiences/discussions/ideas from it for motivation/inspiration.

Sharing and collaboration are such easy concepts to convey, yet to truly understand their nature requires more than simple recollection or retelling. Events like GCAP are a prime example of how, in the end, the power/quality of our work relies heavily on our ability to communicate, share, and debate. To be given a space such as GCAP where all of these notions are not only encouraged, but nurtured, is a truly wonderful thing, and it’s clear that we would be a much weaker industry without it.
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Author: Benjamin Wallis
Master of Computer Science Postgraduate at RMIT University, Melbourne and Freelance Mobile / Web Developer
Twitter: @TheCaffCoder

The Inherent Welcome: Melbourne Games Industry

November 29, 2013

It was around six months ago when I approached my tutor after class on a Friday afternoon asking a specific yet retrospectively unfair question: “How do I get into the video games industry?”

Having studied journalism for around two years at the time, one of the hardest and most daunting tasks I had encountered was finding that doorway into the field I have come to love in video games journalism. Feeling overwhelmed, I had no clear avenue to start, no clear beginning, and no easy way to continue writing about what I specifically enjoyed. That was quickly turned by one very simple characteristic I have found inherent in Melbourne’s video game industry culture, with almost no effort at all – the family environment.

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“Being an indie here in Melbourne is kind of great because the community here is very active and very collegiate. We share all of our failures and successes and having that support network that, when you’re an indie who has no money, is incredibly valuable,” said Ben Britten Smith, Technical Director of Tin Man Games.

“I think Tin Man Games definitely would not be around if it wasn’t for the indie community here in Melbourne.” It is in the relationships and the trusting bonds formed that makes Melbourne a great place for aspiring game enthusiasts, he said.

Game Connect: Asia Pacific (GCAP) was held in Melbourne on 21-23 October 2013, and seeing all the game developers local to Melbourne all together was definitely true to Ben’s comments. The aura of the event applauded creative thought, innovation seen in many art cultures, amid a friendly sense of accessibility. Everyone there had the opportunity to talk and share their experiences of their profession in amongst varying and specialised skill sets, whilst the panels tackled problems and leant helpful advice in that friendly and accommodating twist true to the impression of the convention.

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Ben Britten exclaiming that “Melbourne is where it is at!”

As a relative newcomer to the scene, I was almost certain that my place there would be distant, doing my job and moving out. However, seeing the people I had only met once before was surprising in the difference compared with most second encounters – we were all close friends.

It is in that light that I would like to extend the invitation to anyone in Melbourne or Australia. If you have any interest in the video games industry, whether it is writing or games programming, no matter who you are or what you do, the Melbourne video game scene ‘doorway’ is larger than you think.

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Author: Theodore Argyrakakis
Journalism Student at Swinburne University of Technology  + Writer + Musician + Video Game Enthusiast
Twitter: @checkthelettuce

Storytelling is the Name of the Game: GCAP and why we should all be indie developers.

November 1, 2013

‘We can all be indie developers as we all have a story to tell’

The Game Connect Asia Pacific (GCAP) conference left an impression on me. I could feel the passion and love everyone felt for video games and play in general. Play is important to us as a species, culturally in the way humans interact with stories and socially in the way we interact with each other. We play when we communicate and as gregarious beings we identify with the world in which we live in through play. Play is a form of rationalising the world we live in and, of course, play is pure storytelling.

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We read books and relish imaginative dilemmas. We watch films and observe the nuance of the director, but play is how we lose ourselves, to become part of the telling of the story. It is when we fuse our personas with the protagonists and our experiences to the fictional worlds. It is often said that music is the highest form of art, but since GCAP, I feel that video games share the pedestal with music as I believe it elevates us beyond many realms of possibilities, emotions and dreams

There were many speakers that intrigued me on both days of GCAP, but it was Mattie Brice and her keynote on Earnest Games: Why you Matter to Game Design that really fascinated me. Mattie frames play as something quite exploratory, as something that allows gamers to explore multitudes of stories written from perspectives of a variety of developers. She equated game design to us, the people, as each game is personal to both the game designer and the gamer. And I think there is something special to this idea that is highlighted especially well in the most personal of games – the indie title. With unparalleled personal freedom, the indie developer is an artist able to conjure illusions through design and code, musings from their vivid imaginations to tell us a story; a story that is personal to them and them alone. There is nothing else I’d rather play as a writer as I’m always interested in listening to the stories of others.

“Through play, we explore the forbidden, the impossible, the things that we are not allowed to explore in our daily lives. In this sense, fiction operates much like play: through fiction, we try lives, and those trials are bound not by the values of life, but by the particular morality of that fiction. Pushing the analogy further, game designers are actually life designers – creators of an order and a world in which a different life can be instantiated.”  	-Miguel Sicart, Beyond Choices

“Through play, we explore the forbidden, the impossible, the things that we are not allowed to explore in our daily lives. In this sense, fiction operates much like play: through fiction, we try lives, and those trials are bound not by the values of life, but by the particular morality of that fiction. Pushing the analogy further, game designers are actually life designers – creators of an order and a world in which a different life can be instantiated.”
-Miguel Sicart, Beyond Choices

One of the developers of indie game Rabbit-Rush attended GCAP and I was lucky enough to play it whilst waiting for the initial keynote on day one. Rabbit-Rush is a very peculiar yet wonderful game that drew me in from the get go. It was retro, it was creepy and it was unique. It told me a story through play; the story of the developers. Of all the late nights they fed this game, of all the burgers and fries they ate themselves. The clichéd blood, sweat and tears was apparent; I was drawn and I was hooked.

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The game reminded me that we can all be indie developers, in that we all have a story to tell, and can tell it in our way, whether it be through games or other forms of expression.  For example, Mattie mentioned a program, called Twine. Twine is a lovely program that allows developers to make games with a focus on storytelling. A little complicated to learn and play with at first, but there are great tutorials out there! I’ve ‘played’ with it and if I can do it, anyone can. It’s just the story that matters; story and the chance to give others a way to experience your creation through play. And if you make something awesome, I’ll read it (contact me here – @DNN_Lewis) and I’m sure many other people will too. You will make a difference, indies always do.

To finish, as Mattie did: ‘we are game design and our flaws are game design too’. Indie games are great because of this “flaw” notion. Flaws, like story and play, are markers of being human. Write stories, create games. Fail, retry, and tell us your story; your special perspective on a specific situation. Your games are beautiful, your stories are interesting, please don’t stop and continue adding to the indie market! We need your voice; we all want play with your imagination.

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Author: Dann Lewis
Creative Writing PhD student at Deakin University + Writer + Gamer + Cyberpunk
Twitter: @DNN_Lewis

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