PAXAUS 2022. Friday. Something is missing

A Melbourne morning, tram bell ringing, cold bluestone footpaths and the threat of rain. Mobs of gamers, easily distinguished by their plain baggy clothes (except for those in costume) and slouched posture, converge on the Melbourne Convention Exhibition Centre. It’s easy enough to make it inside but where to then? The speed runs were beginning at 9:00am yet dancing enforcers, dressed in yellow like minions, encouraged us to mill about in the queue hall, a cathedral dedicated to the lines that characterise PAX. So I just wandered in there, instead of further down the hall to the public access areas like I should’ve and found milling about, testing my bladder for another hour and a half to a DJ playing mashups of Blink 182 and the Pokémon theme song.

The missing paper

After a countdown over the top of the second playing of the trailer for the Dungeons and Dragons movie, which looks indistinguishable from the capes hit slopped up by Hollywood, they let us in. I knew exactly where I would first head; the toilets at the furthest end of the sprawling convention centre. I get in, somehow it already smells of the sewer outside the YHA, despite being the first and only person there. Surely they’ve recently been serviced?

fter servicing a toilet in my own way, I was distressed to discover that not only were they poorly ventilated, but the toilet roll hadn’t been refilled. I cut my finger opening and closing the toilet roll enclosure, swore, and then awkwardly waddled, pants down, into the adjacent stall to use their paper. I made sure everything was clean, Flushed the paper, returned to the scene of the crime, flushed that shit down, grabbed my bag with my good hand and washed the blood off my other hand.

Leaving the bathroom, I inspected the wound. It wasn’t bad, but it was still bleeding and exposed. I approached the nearest enforcer. They grunted and fobbed me off to the expo staff. The poor girl I asked about a bandage or directions to the first aid tent squeaked and said it was her first day. She offered some bad advice and conferred with the equally useless other staff. “There’s no toilet paper either” I helpfully yelled at them as I walked away.

I eventually found a large green cross on the wall and within a nurse pulled a bandage from his top pocket. it matched the bandage already applied to my left thumb earlier int he week after a kitchen incident. It’s just like me to inhibit my gaming appendages right before needing them.

The Missing Frames

The highlight of the day was definitely Grubdog’s Metroid Dread speedrun. During the prolonged inactivity on this site, Grubdog has quietly been developing his talents in running through games quickly. He was kind enough to invite me on the stage to offer colour commentary, along with Kenorah who could actually speak in depth on the technical aspects of the run.

Grubdog’s speedrun in full. You can see me bobbing my head beside him.

Aside from an unfortunate death, and a technical mishap that saw us lose the screen for a few seconds, the run was a great success. A creative audience member made a sign reading “First try FIRST TRY” and would hold it up every time Grub took more than one try to pull of a trick. But those were few and Grub was clutch on all the boss battles that could send the run awry.

After the run Grub was pretty exhausted and had to buy a bottle of water to replace the sweat he lost through sweaty palms, I got an avocado roll. Throughout the rest of the day people would approach Grub and congratulate him on the run.

The missing… something

None of the panels grabbed me. From what I gathered could broadly be categorised as follows.

  • How to make money in the gaming industry.
  • D-list streamer tells us what she thinks about the content creator landscape.
  • Gaming is queer, so lets be nice to the poofs.

The expo floor was bereft of the big names that usually populate PAX. This left us with amazon showcasing TV shows, facebook trying to convince us that the metaverse will be a thing, and Sonic Frontiers somehow emerging as the highest profile game being promoted. Sonic consistently attracted decent lines all day. The only competition it faced was probably Street Fighter, but their booth was so bare that it was turning people away. Grub and I looked at the spare controllers and instead wandered over the the arcade section to wait a turn to play Mario Kart GP.

8bitdo had a booth showing off their controllers with various games. Grub and I had a round of Tekken 7 with him winning in straight sets. It was then though that we discovered that somehow my controller had been mapped to control both of our characters. The button mashing nature of Tekken meant we hadn’t noticed. A farce of a game. Nice controller though.

I didn’t engage with any of the indie devs, or any the board game stuff. I think I want to but something was stopping me. Perhaps after being overwhelmed by the amount of people I was missing the impetus to engage in conversation.

The missing medals

I watched Grub and his team get washed in Splatoon 3, they didn’t even score a point across two rounds. A young boy watched the match in horror, worried that he too would meet the same fate. When his turn came, his team’s performance wasn’t as disgraceful, but the result was still the same. There would be no glory.

I summoned a crew from the Another Castle discord to create. Spaceteam. We competed against the other Spaceteam in one of PAX’s longest running tournaments. After an hour of playing, about half of which as struggling with the matchmaking, we jsut called it a draw with them.

Weather it’s covid, or inflation, or just mismanagement, there were no medals at the PAX. Instead we were given golden stickers to apply to our PAX pass. Somehow my motivation to enter the Mario Kart time trials and Switch Sports tournaments tomorrow has vanished.

But I’ll try to get back into it. You get out of fan conventions what you put into them and I’ll make more an an effort to engage tomorrow. I’ll have an indie dev take me through their 3 years of unfinished work, I’ll book out an exotic board game and try to learn the rules with some people. I’ll drag people to beers at the PAX pub. And I’ll take some photos to populate tomorrow’s write up with.

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