Tuesday, 22 October 2019

PAX 2019 Impressions

As an attendee to all PAX AUS events to ever take place, it has been my habit to post post PAX impressions. I will do so again, albeit with too much of a delay (it's been more than a week since PAX).

There were tons of police all across the floors at PAX on the Friday this year. I never saw them before, and (to my relief) I never saw them again after the Friday. Thank the goddess.
Police may be a necessity at most public event, but at PAX? The closest thing to a crime I could ever detect at PAX was the impossibility of having so many people being so nice to one another and the overabundance of smiles on display. No, we cannot possibly have that.
I suspect police was there on that particular day because of the climate protests. But what’s the worse thing the protestors could do to PAX? Assuming power boards are actually secure, what would they do? Tie themselves to a panel on Zelda game music to the tune of sympathetic cheers?

Pins everywhere
The old habit of selling people on game related “collectable” pins continued in force at this PAX. The main difference was the asking price: last year they started at $15, this year they started at $20.

As has been the trend, PAX’ panels seem to be more and more oriented towards the YouTuber generation. How shall I put it? I find them OK entertainment if I need a rest from the hustle & bustle of the show floor, but otherwise I’d call them disappointing.
Pay attention, though, the occasional exception is there to be found, even if none is as serious or as professional as I would like them to be.

Since we’ve talked pins, I will continue with the theme:
I cannot say I was too impressed with Nintendo’s pin quests. I.e., take photos and post them on social media to get a Link’s Awakening pin etc. First, there was lack of clarity on what's actually required to get a pin: we actually did play the required Pokemon demo, but were unaware of having to show this particular website on my phone in order to earn a pin; not to mention the error on Nintendo's landing page that was required for yet another pin. Second,  I’m not the kind of person who posts pictures of themselves online nor will the promise of a badge make me change old habits. And third, with kids at a certain age it might even be illegal to do so.
Let’s just say I did not bother with Nintendo’s pins.
On the more important side, I did try a few of their other games and hardware:
  • Pokemon Sword and Shield: I cannot say I was impressed with the demo. The new Pokemon “models" failed to attract me, and the gaming itself seemed to be trying too hard to differentiate itself from previous generations of Pokemon games. The Let’s Go games, the first Pokemon games on the Switch, tried to do it by using the Pokemon Go capture mechanics; Sword and Shield don’t even have that.
    I think I’ll pass on this one. I still think the best Pokemon experience to be had is on the DS.
  • Link’s Awakening: What a cute, charming game! Which is perhaps why I bought it the day after PAX.
  • Switch Lite: I know it sounds stupid, but - playing with the Switch Lite felt so natural and so nice. Way better than playing the “normal” Switch handheld. I’m seriously considering getting one, although I’d feel very stupid paying Nintendo’s current asking price.
Overall, Nintendo seems to be doing very well in the games department. It is no coincidence I bought 3 Switch games this past month alone, and that’s despite being flooded with quality games through Apple Arcade (which is to say, if you didn’t get Untitled Goose Game yet, drop everything and get it).

How disappointing can Sony be? Very and utterly is the answer.
The short statement here is that there is absolutely nothing on the PlayStation’s horizon that seems even slightly interesting; it’s all more of the same sh*t, literally, in the form of more A title “contents”, usually in the form of sequels, with little to no originality and spark to it.
The contrast with Untitled Goose Game could not be any larger.
It therefore looks like my PlayStation career will elapse with the upcoming death of my PlayStation Plus subscription. There will be no PlayStation 5 for me; what’s the point? Instead, I will focus on where the good games are.

When I say social, I am not referring to the detestable “get this discount through the app” or “look us up in the app” or “find us on Facebook” (what’s wrong with having your own website?), all of which require one to sell one’s soul to a myriad of detestable companies trading in one’s private info.
This PAX was unique, for me, in that I did not bump or socialise with any friend or colleague.
That, however, does not mean I did not have any social interactions. It’s just that most of my social interacting took place with game developers who know me through this and that (and through previous PAXes).
I will note down, in particular, the lovely people from Dinosaur Polo Club, makers of Mini Metro and the new Mini Motorways (that other game of the year winner, as far as I am concerned, along with the Goose). They actually remembered the whole family, and entertained us with discussions about Wellington and life in general. It really does seem like being great people is a mandatory ingredient to being able to produce truly great games.
I will be amiss not to mention Robot Circus, makers of Ticket to Earth, as well as the UK crew of Massive Monster (whom we got to know, originally, through the game Adventure Pals).

Board gaming
One of the highlights of all PAXes, for me, has been the ability to try and play board games (by which I am referring to pretty much any game that’s not a video game).
This year we tried PAX' Dungeons & Dragons for Beginners sessions twice. For the record, I’m no D&D beginner, but I haven’t played for a while (“while” being a relative term) and I definitely lack experience with the current incarnation of the rules. Trying the same starter adventure twice, under two DMs, was certainly an appetising affair: each DM brought distinct flavours and approaches, reminding me just how far D&D can go. Especially when you have a group of interested friends that can adjust to one another. Which is what I don’t have and why it’s been a while since this rogue last poked an arm into someone else’s treasure chest.
The area where one can playtest board games under the guidance of some instructor or sales person of sorts was way too crowded (did anyone mention PAX needing more space?). We did, however, manage to land ourselves a table with a game designer trying out her new board game, and the result was - undoubtedly - the highlight of my PAX. Not only was her game great to play (made greater through being different to the type of games we usually play), the interactive nature of the session and the notes she took from us about her game’s design turned us into game designers in our own rights. We ended up exchanging emails after PAX, and I can say that I met a wonderful person and learned a lot from it.

To sum up...
One more year till next PAX! I hope they schedule them back to the early November slot we were used to; I definitely did not appreciate the traffic chaos caused by running PAX on the same weekend as the Melbourne Marathon.
For now, I left PAX 2019 with a vision about the future to come. A vision in which my gaming is completely dominated by the Nintendo Switch and Apple Arcade.