Wednesday, September 8

PAX is upon us. The cauldron is ready; the stars are right.

Let the ritual begin.

PAX was awesome, and that was always going to be the case. I tried to divide my time between getting close to Mike and Jerry and filming something useful for the documentary. Playing with friends, eating food, trying new games, buying merch, entering competitions, talking to people, seeing bands and exploring Seattle were all secondary. Unfortunately with only three days this meant that few of those optional quests were completed.

Queued for two hours to see Warren Spector deliver a stirring keynote that makes me want to rethink the angle of my documentary. At least a little. In a nutshell he challenged gamers to support the move of gaming from fringe to mainstream and to be more aware of gaming's future. I believe he said something along the lines of 'we won the war for acceptance, but now we don't want to share' and I suddenly feel guilty. I suppose my documentary is looking at the culture that surrounds games whatever it may be, but I now feel responsible for supplying a message that predicts and encourages a future in which we all play games. Or at least have the opportunity to do so without being judged or harassed by the hardcore or the oldschool. It's okay to be casual. If you are 80 years old and want to play Jet Grind radio, that's fine too.
Following that I held onto my seat for Mike and Jerry's first appearance and Q&A. I didn't ask a question, although I perhaps should have got up just to remind them they said they'd plug my documentary on their site. I'm not looking for people to stay with anymore, but some public interest would be nice. The best part of that was probably Erika's boyfriend proposing to her.
Then I met up with Zack who was losing a GP qualifier and checked out the expo hall. There are youtube videos and pro articles on the event so I won't put much here. However I did play Mortal Kombat, NBA JAM and Sonic 4 and they brought a smile to my face. The good thing about being a young adult is that everyone entering the industry are your peers and so games are coming full circle and being made by people like me who grew up on what we would consider 'classic' games. Finally companies are doing what we told them and making games just like they used to, without the pressures of the latest gameplay innovation and cutting edge graphics. Jerry said his kinds get bored of the old games bad graphics, I wonder how these new iterations will be received? Personally I loved to play them and will be first in line to buy them all.
I did chat with the Sega guy for a while and he told me that while the demo is of a level that may as well be a prettier Green Hill Zone, the following Episodes will take Sonic into brave new territory. And I don't mean stupid like turning into a were-hog, I mean brave like Sonic CD. And while I can't say the same for Mortal Kombat, when you see the Romeo Must Die-esque Xray grapples and the new brutally awesome fatalities you will shit yourself with joy. I hope it gets to Australia unmolested but I won't say I'm optimistic.

Actually the questions I get asked when I tell people I'm Australian are (in most common order):
1) Do you guys hate being mistaken for New Zealanders? Because they do and I watch Flight of the Concords.
2) You are all descended from convicts [more of a statement].
3) Don't you have retarded videogame laws?
4) Don't you get delayed releases?
5) Don't games get banned there?
6) Why is your country so shit in regards to games?
7) Where did you get that from and can I have it/some?

Speaking of questions, I then attended a Panel on games journalism that was kind of pathetic. Not only was only one of them currently a games 'writer' (he made the specification after I questioned their journalistic integrity) but they had no material prepared and just fielded questions from the audience. One guy from Canada asked if he could get a job in America; 'No' was the short answer. I decided to ask them, since a couple of them were actually studio publicists, about getting in contact with games companies but the person before me asked the question. So I just basically threw out a bunch of criticisms of games journalism which were met largely with two responses.
a) Yes, it's not really journalism it's just writing about games. There's no real money in it besides what the big news sides grind out of their advertising and that involves keeping readers with spectacles, sexist pieces and using numbers between 7 and 10 to rate games (unless they sponsor the site, then it's 9-10). This model I would like to compare to Penny Arcade, who have the freedom to speak honestly without fear for their livelihood and are therefore the only professional commentary worth listening to.
b) We're just trying to feed our families. Games companies exist to make a profit, news sites exist to make a profit, retailers exist to make a profit. Any sort of obligation to gamers or idealism about creating games is secondary. To that I say, find a new line of work. If your heart isn't in it then you really shouldn't be involved. Yes, I suppose publicists are a necessary evil but they can be honest from time to time. One of them basically said they speak for the companies because developers are socially retarded. I prefer to speak to developers 100% of the time and will include no PR dickholes in my documentary. And as for games 'writers' well we don't actually need them at all. I'd rather read a review written on a forum by a fan or by Jerry on Penny Arcade than a page or two of drivel someone who fancies themselves a writer saw as a paycheck.
After the panel I did apologise to Chris Kohler and John Drake, I didn't want to hold them accountable but I did want to get some reactions to guide my documentary. John mentioned he'd like to see gamers portrayed as normal people, focusing on their lives outside of games. Interesting.

I also met up with Ty, the 16yo kid who has been coming to PAX since before he was toilet trained. He shoed me the ropes and helped me get around town a bit. Then he gave me a free ticket to go see Testament, Megadeth and Slayer with him O_O

So now he's the coolest person in Seattle (cooler than Valve, cooler than Penny Arcade) and I've seen Megadeth play Rust in Peace COVER TO COVER. \m/

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