PAX is People: Smart, Generous Geeks Who Made PAX Awesome

The founders of PAX have said again and again that PAX is the people. They’ve compared the convention to a party. They’re just the hosts, it’s the guests who make it awesome.

PAX Aus 2014 Crowd

I had so much fun and learnt a lot at PAX Aus 2014. I met and heard from all sorts of people, from politicians to TV show hosts, to game developers and random friends-I-hadn’t-met-yet. Here’s a few shout outs to some smart, generous geeks who made PAX awesome. (Hit the links to jump ahead).

Diversity Lounge

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I instantly loved the diversity lounge. It was a fairly small room (I hear it’ll double in size for 2015). filled with several consoles, tables to play RPGs and card games and booths along the wall celebrating and supporting diversity. They even had panels!

I wandered around inside a little bit and everyone was really friendly. It just felt like a nice, chill space to relax and hang out. It felt very welcoming.

In fact, while poking around some nice people asked me if I wanted to play a game with them. The exchange went like this:

Game Master: “Hi, do you want to play a game?”
Me: “Uh, okay, what type of game?”
Game Master: “It’s a time travel rolepla…”
Me: *immediately sitting down ready to go* “I’m in”

It was an indie game the GM had made called Retro Causality. It was tonnes of fun, the best part – other than founding the Holy Laser Empire and saving PAX – was how welcoming and friendly the whole thing was. It was great to be asked to sit down and I could just join in and suddenly belong.

It brought a great smile to my face as I flipped cards, travelled through time rifts and ate a cookie from the Cookie Brigade (who raised over $22,000 for Child’s Play over the three days of PAX).

Medic Charity

You may have heard of Medic, a charity created by Aussie cosplayer Eve Beauregard. If not, I’ll let Medic’s Facebook page do the introductions:

Medic is a group of people from all over the world who have banded together to make a difference by harnessing their unique individual talents.

Medic constructs creative and ambitious campaigns which are uniquely designed to benefit each cause in the best way possible. We present them through our strong and loyal network of #Medics the world over, with the ultimate goal of making the geeky culture we’re a part of as socially conscious as it is awesome.

During PAX Aus 2014, Medic raised over two grand for Special Effect, an amazing group that modifies controllers so people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to can play games.

We all know the mental benefits gaming – and just being part of that community – can have. Special Effect is a great initiative: at PAX I found out they had modified a controller so one person could play – and complete – GTA using only their face! How cool is that?

I really admire Eve and the work she and Medic are doing. It’s amazing and heart-warming to see fellow geeks – and some Aussies, at that – making the world a better place and helping others join in, become aware and use our community’s geeky superpowers for good.

I didn’t get to meet Eve in person, but everyone from Medic I talked to was so passionate about helping others. Definitely a group to support.

You can help Special Effect by donating through Medic’s campaign page.

Enforcers

The unsung heroes of PAX.

People who volunteer to give up their weekend and miss out on seeing and being an attendee at PAX, to help make everyone else’s PAX amazing. They check passes, help people out who are lost, answer questions, entertain the lines, and more.

Every enforcer I met was helpful and friendly.

I was in a panel where someone’s son had gotten lost. Enforcers scoured the theatre then commandeered the PA system to give helpful instructions to the boy to get him safely back with his family. Quick, efficient and friendly help – and a relieved family, as well, I’m sure.

I even had an a little incident, myself. I had been waiting in line for a while to ensure I’d get into a certain panel. One of my friends further back in line called me up in crisis-mode – something was up and so they’d left the line. I gave up my spot at the front to go help them. As soon as I did, the line starting moving into the theatre. One lovely enforcer not only helped me find my friend and made sure we were okay, but made sure we didn’t miss out on the panel.

Thank you, enforcers. You’re the best!

Nicole Stark

Nicole Stark is an Aussie game developer, a lovely person and the matriach of House Stark of Noosaville. That’s right, Disparity Games is made up of one Aussie family, daughters and all. I love that!

I’ve written about Ninja Pizza Girl before and the more I see of it the prouder I am to have backed it during the Kickstarter. I backed at a higher level, and you could see the results of this in the PAX Aus demo.

Even ninja pizza girls need help sometimes.

Ninja Pizza Girl is a game about, yes, a ninja pizza delivery girl. But also about a family doing it tough, teenage bullying and emotional resilience. Ninja Pizza Girl is shaping up to be a great game, one that’s both fun and not afraid to tackle deeper issues than delivering pizza on time.

Nicole went above and beyond and offered to host my flyers at her booth. It was a generous gesture and she told me that people really seemed to like my flyers – they had a discount and doubled as a choose your own adventure plus a bookmark covered in geeky quotes.

Nicole was extra busy at PAX, featuring on three different panels, including one a very interesting one I attended entitled “Political Proactivism for Geeks”. It was panels like these that enlightened and educated me at PAX. I love to hear from fellow geeks who consider how our hobbies and communities can move AFK and make change in the world.

Hex

You probably know Stephanie Bendixsen better as Hex from Good Game.

She hosted a panel called “Playing as a Female character – does it matter?” and raised some great topics within that framework. Discussions were had on the new Lara Croft, gender in games like Tearaway, and why playing as a character you can identify with matters.

I just tried to get a good photo, but Google+ decided it should be a GIF.

Hearing from Hex and just seeing in person the passion she has for gaming, how much she wants to see it progress, and the insights she has

Hex has some great thoughts on games individually and as a medium and hobby. You should totally follow her on Twitter.

Randy Pitchford

I’m not a huge fan of shooting or looting. So why do I love Borderlands so much?

Well, it is a fun series – and I especially love the Aussie-skewed Pre-Sequel. But beneath the crazy absurdity and violence there is fantastic writing and a lot of diversity. I didn’t expect it at first, but it’s really hooked me in.

For instance, the latest game let’s the player choose to play one of two women (one being  a woman of colour), a robot, or a cyborg man. Diversity!

Beyond that, the first NPC you meet is a gay woman who’s totally comfortable with her sexuality, only flirts with one of the women you can play as (the other isn’t her type, she explains) and is just friendly and fun and isn’t defined by her sexuality. There’s so much more, too, but we’ll leave it at that for now. I was talking about Randy Pitchford.

Randy Pitchford is the CEO of Gearbox Software – and a pretty great stage magician, too!

Randy Pitchford looking for a stage magic volunteer
Randy Pitchford looking for a stage magic volunteer

I saw Randy on a few panels this PAX and he always came across as honest, thoughtful, extremely interested in the topic of diversity and very eager to reflect on and question himself.

He likes to play as female characters and when asked why, he really thought about it and at least part of the reason – for MMOs at least – was he was intrigued to see what he would be treated like with a female avatar.

This conversation was in the “Playing as a Female character – does it matter?” panel I mentioned above with Hex. Randy raised and answered several other insightful questions on the topic. He even, at one point, jumped back to a topic from 10 minutes earlier that he had still been mulling over as the panel had continued.

Randy also ran a very entertaining panel called Inside Gearbox Software. It wasn’t focused around diversity, but even so, there was some decent discussion of it – including about the design of female characters in the upcoming Battleborn. And there was a Borderlands fan art showcase at the start of the panel, with artist’s names and everything. Fantastic!

So thank you Randy for your contributions to diversity in games and your general love of entertainment, be it games, art or illusions.

“Queering Video Games” Panelists

I wasn’t really familiar with any of the panelists for “Queering Video Games: LGBT Representation and Why It Matters”. But what they delivered was a funny and frank look at representation in games. Discussion involved where things have gone right, what’s been done poorly, what other media can teach us to do (or avoid), some lesser known gems to check out, and how we as a community can do better.

I particularly liked the talks around romances in games, whether having a queer bad guy is better or worse than having no queer characters at all, how much ‘acceptance’ is ‘enough’, and some funny stories of sneaking LGBT plots into games without publishers noticing.

Thanks to all the panelists for giving me a lot of food for thought. It was a fascinating panel and I’m really looking forward to more like this next year.

Open Chat

So those are just some of the fantastic people who made PAX awesome. I had a great time, as you can tell.

What did you find most exciting at PAX? What are you hoping for next year? What other cons have you had a great time at because of the people?

Jarrod

When Jarrod's not writing about personal development through pop-culture, he's helping people like you reach their goals through fun, empowering coaching.

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4 thoughts on “PAX is People: Smart, Generous Geeks Who Made PAX Awesome

  1. Hi Melody! Looks like your comment got caught up in spam for a while; sorry about that!

    Thanks for checking out the site. I’m interested: how’d you find your way here?

    Oh, and thanks for the link. I didn’t realise I could buy the game already. Nice!

    The Diversity Lounge was great, wasn’t it? Such a great vibe and really nice people. I’m keen to see it again this year. I hope to see you there again :)

    1. I think the creator found it when he was vanity searching, he and I are friends so he shared the link and I felt like commenting :)

      I’ll definitely be there this year, though, I should probably book my tickets soon! :S Can’t wait for more wonderful panels and people! :)

      1. Ah, cool. Good to know :) Thanks for the comment. Always happy to hear from people.

        Yeah, it’s kinda nice we don’t need to scramble for tickets like the Americans. We have ours and accommodation booked already anyway, though, and flights are next on our list.

        I agree, I can’t wait to meet some new people and I’m looking forward to more insightful panels (last year was fantastic on both accounts!)

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