PAX 2016 Jetsam: In No Particular Order

My biggest impression of the con was that board games are huge (basically half the show) and growing, the barriers between the two are evaporating and Australia is leading the way in both. We’re not the 200 pound gorilla but the world has noticed that we are entering that nascent period of hyper-innovation that comes when everyone catches on to a great idea at once. This is THE scene to watch, internationally, because it’s where the exciting new vibe is right now. We aren’t just getting that games are huge and commercially viable and culturally important, but that they are something we can excel at uniquely as Australians and – most importantly – that they are an ART FORM. Melbourne International Game Week and GCAP inspired an art display at the State Library which wasn’t just about games, but took for granted that games were important, and was looking at fringe games with artistic and political radicalism. To borrow a comic metaphor, this is our Watchmen moment (let’s not screw it up).

Indeed, Philip Minchin was walking around trying to get support for a government body about games – like the AFI is for movies. It’s going to happen eventually, it needs to start now. Find out more about what he does at his website or the Australian Play, Imagination and Learning Institute (hoping to be the AFI equivalent) or the Australian Play Alliance. He’s also a game consultant which I want to be. The TGDA were kicking ass with their booth as well, and the example of their work was the proliferation of Aussie games around them. Alex Wynnter is a powerhouse for the TGDA and ran a great booth.

Thanks to twitter I’m not going to report everything wonderful I heard and saw but I have a bucket of stuff to go through and report on and link you to. I tipped out my big bag of handouts, remembrances, business cards, tweets and notes and I will share them as I pick them up. I like sharing things. This is a huge part of why I like cons and game events: a place where my skill set, values and bliss meet is a place of teaching and connecting. I’m the guy who loves nothing so much as telling person A that booth B contains everything they ever wanted, to the benefit of A and B.

Notes and Phrases

Sometimes I just write down phrases I like that I’ve never heard before. Here are some of those from the panels I attended and appeared on:

“Radical inclusion”

“Velvet Rope” – not a wall, but just the right to say who can and can’t come

“The Missing Stair Metaphor” – a problem everyone is familiar with so isn’t fixed until the person unfamiliar with it falls victim

“Penguin Herders” – people employed by a space/event to link new people to other people

The three components that make people break the rules and do “bad things”, regardless of their morality are Anonymity, Scapegoating and Peer Acceptance. We often forget the middle one – you need someone to be mad at. Making out that there are enemies encourages bad behaviour.

That said: “Asshole is not a protected category” and doesn’t deserve to be enshrined or protected.

“The Oregon Trail generation” – a US nickname for the people between X and Millennials, who have seen the computer/internet world grow, and can act as a bridge for Xers who don’t get it but might not also get how immersed the Millennials are, that they cannot possibly “unplug” because they live there. And expect the constant connection it provides as normal.

“Pervasive games” – the meeting of AR games and place games like Pokemon, games that become part of life/the environment

Solid Vertical Slice – a computer game term for showing a bit of all parts of a game/project

The Door Problem – a way to think about the intricacies of game design


Larpwright – someone who writes LARPs.

The world is generally isolating and crushing, millions times more so when people are being attacked online. Send hope and connection as often as possible; a million times more when people are being attacked.


Checkpoint – a group connecting mental health with video games. Which makes sense: in a gaming future where EVERYTHING is games, everything should connect with games.

Syrinscape is an ap that provides awesome background sounds for RPGs and tabletop games and LARPs. Free with in-ap purchases of suites. Heavy memory cost but a brilliant idea.

Alchemist’s Refuge in Melbourne is a bar that sits under a game store. Play space above, play space below. Also a physical example of how gaming is cross-culture now. I saw two old leather-clad barflies talking about Magic The Gathering power curves.

Also, Brisbane has two awesome new game cafes – Cafe SoSay in Paddington and Vault Games on Charlotte Street (which is freeeeeeeee).

The TGDA now has a magazine called the Campaigner. Well it’s already up to Issue 17 so I’m very late. Is a print zine useful still? Yes, because it can go into game stores and cafes and bars. Plus they have a great website. I talked to editor Matthew Lee about contributing but honestly there’s so much gaming going on I’m not sure I’ll have time…

Australian Games

At the TGDA booth Savage Yeti were playtesting a brain-burner area-control tile game called Cows and Sheep, and Karl Lange of Ark Angel Games had an amaaaazing game about mowing the lawn, which has that instant appeal of things that we all understand. Plus I’m a sucker for pun names – Mowtown.

A great game for families is Remarkable Rhymes of the Traveller’s Times from Humblebee Games, which is a simple idea: combine progressing fairytale telling with the Apples to Apples mechanic. Speaking of Kickstarters I got to help out on the Kingmaker booth, a seriously fun little bluffing and prediction game which was an INSANE success at the con. Look for it in KS next year. People were all but shaking us down to get pre-release copies.

Soon to come from the same scene is The Brigade from Red Genie Games and Reign from Garage Games and Illuminatus from Dark Mushroom Games I didn’t get to play any of them because there wasn’t ANY TIME. I also got a flyer for Wayfinder Live, which apparently is a free Augmented Reality game about running through the Melbourne Laneways. Also did not get time to play.

Mothership is an awesome looking not-whole-day-taking space wargame. Not for me but pretty as hell and skill trees for daaaays.

Because I’m a hideous nerd for games about medicine, I jumped on the Kickstarter for VAXCARDS a game about diseases. Not to be confused with the other game about diseases, the one where you are awesome anime style fantasy heroes but also antibodies. I can’t even find it now. I search and find all the other games about diseases OH GOD GAMING SINGULARITY.

I had no real time to go look at the computer games but two quickly caught my eye: Mini Metro which is about building a metro system efficiently (fun for map nerds) and Brief Battles which is another pun name – the battles are quick and involve hitting people with underpants.

And what better sign is there of a gaming golden age than a game about hitting people with your underpants?





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