Opinion: A heartfelt look back at PAX Australia

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how-pax-australia-symbolises-the-aussie-gamer-999It’s been a week since life returned to some semblance of normalcy in the shadow of PAX Australia. There’s been plenty to read about the three days dedicated to gaming, some good, some bad and I thought I’d weigh in from both a media and personal point of view.

This wasn't even a tenth of the line for entry on the first day

This wasn’t even a tenth of the line for entry on the first day

Even as Josh and I headed on down to the three day expo celebrating all things gaming, from table-top gaming to cosplaying, from panels to concerts, one question bounced around my noggin, “why the hell am I here?”

Sure, we had a so-called controversial panel to take care of, interviews, hands-on with various devices and games, but did we really have to be there? At the time I struggled to find the answer, but over the last week I’m more than glad I attended, and here’s why.

Who's that handsome devil?

Who’s that handsome devil?

Usually if you put the words “public”, “media” and “event” in the same sentence it’s enough to send me running for the hills. It’s not that I don’t like talking to Average Joe or Josephine Gamer, but at most public events I’ve been to I inevitably get cornered by someone excited to talk to media, or should I say, talk at, and sit politely as they talk at me for an hour about Stalker or some other PC game I’ve never played before, and told them so several times over. PAX for some reason, felt different, and it was.

I’ve read several articles from peers, some voicing their frustration at not getting the gold pass to circumvent lines for panels or interviews, or even gameplay sessions themselves. Usually I’m happy to champion this line of thought, but to me PAX wasn’t about the media and our coverage. It was about gamers. It was an opportunity for anyone, absolutely anyone, to get the same level of access that media sometimes take for granted.

It was never about us. It was all about you.

It was an opportunity to spend three days with your brothers and sisters and revel in gaming culture. It was a chance sit and shoot the shit about titles, consoles and hardware over a round of Magic: The Gathering with people you’ve never met before. It was the best place to get, like, 87,654,147  fucking StreetPasses so that your Nintendo 3DS actually had some value for 72 hours. It was a nostalgic look at old school gaming and new school gaming rock stars.

But most of all it was a three day Gamer Pride parade.

The line for our "Why So Serious?" panel, two hours before it started. If we weren't hosting we would have never made it in.

The line for our “Why So Serious?” panel. If we weren’t hosting we would have never made it in.

It felt like a secret only the 50,000 who attended  knew about permeating through Melbourne. It was that instant recognition of a pop culture t-shirt, or hoodie, or backpack on a fellow enthusiast, and the knowing nod or glance that followed which made me realise the impact of PAX and gaming culture.

Now just to be clear, this isn’t a circle jerk for the event. There were a few problems. It was hard to get into panels, unless you were prepared to line up for several hours, and to be honest you should have known what you were in for. Thousands upon thousands of people, limited seating, you don’t have to be a mathematician to crunch those numbers.

The Enforcers (volunteers helping direct traffic and answer questions) occasionally gave out erroneous information or were ill informed, but what do you expect from people who had generously given up their time for free to help make the event far far less of a clusterfuck than it could have been. And then there was the weather. Thanks Melbourne for hitting us with downpours and twelve degree temperatures. Did ya think that would damper our spirits or weaken our resolve? Hell no! And I wasn’t alone.

Over three days I didn’t see a single argument, hear a raised voice or even a cross word in anger. It was like a freaking hippie commune and on the final day when we’d decided to forgo the work side of things and just mill about as gamers, I truly began to remember why I love this industry so damned much.

It was watching attendees embracing everything about gaming we all know and love and leaving the anger and trolling behind, and I wish with all my heart people adopt their PAX attitude the next time they hit up a forum or comments section.

Holding court on panels was a highlight

Holding court at panels left me on a high

The moments I’ll remember most and take with me forever are much more personal.

It was basking in the nervousness (yes, I get nervous) before the Stealth Gaming Panel and actually falling off stage as I tried to take my seat. That moment when Splinter Cell: Blacklist Animation Director Kristjan Zadziuk threw to me to break down the options available in his game after I did something in the demo he’d never imagined possible.

It was scratching my head bewildered as Josh went ape-shit over some piece of hardware I’ll never understand or be able to use.

It was seeing PAX AUS Communications & Content Manager, and my pal, Guy ‘Yug’ Blomberg grinning at me like the Cheshire Cat mere moments before our “Why So Serious?” panel commenced filling me with dread and the sigh of relief when Josh hosted it like a fucking boss and the panellists did what they do best and made us look good.

It was the chance to catch up with many interstate industry peers, shoot the breeze, whore out our respective sites and podcasts to each other, and possibly grab a brew in the evenings afterwards.

I don’t really know what I was expecting from the three days other than exhaustion, but I know what I got out of it.

Appreciation.

It’s reminded me why I do what I do and how grateful I am to still be doing it after ten years, so next year if you see me come up and say hi. I’ll be the guy waiting in line right next to you for the next preview/panel/concert and maybe this time I’ll remember my 3DS and mine some of that sweet sweet StreetPass gold like the rest of you.

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Dave Kozicki

Shotgun Samurai
Video game reviewer, presenter and enthusiast. Film and TV-aholic. Pop culture geek. T-shirt and sneaker addict. All around nice guy and one hell of a sexy beast. Writer for Official PlayStation Magazine AU, AusGamers and Hyper Magazine.