Welcome back to the stage of history!

Sunny Koda is a concept artist from Australia who went to the US filming a Documentary about Gamer Culture. He went from Sand Diego to Vancouver, from Comic Con to PAX. Now he's following his dream of working in the daunting US Games industry. Will he make it? I hope so. Because I am that guy.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


I hate this country and I want to go home.

Yesterday I was in a bad mood for no evident reason. Chris and Luke played in their first Magic tournament and won a few games. I played 2HG with Zack. Zack is a fun guy, but I hated the new set. In 2HG poison decides every game in an immediate and non-interactive way. It's worse than permission magic (which I actually love). Infect is a terrible mechanic and I'm particularly angry because I know Rosewater fought the other designers to make it happen when he should have just let it go. Given the 600+ geeks in the Radisson hotel the air was also thick with infection. Perhaps I'm getting a little ill. Speaking of which, we went to Kaiser Hospital again today to try and get some paperwork so I can claim back the ridiculous $350 I had to spend to get a prescription for codeine (which you can buy over the counter in Australia for $20). It was particularly upsetting because I didn't want to go in the first place but Chris felt guilty and insisted. Not half as upsetting as the events of this second visit. Turns out the paperwork that got 'lost in the mail' was actually a bill. What I had paid was just a down payment on the $816 I owe for my visit. I'm so furious at how ridiculous it is. Chris is beating himself up about it. For taking me and then, because he has insurance and could have got painkillers easily, not lying to the staff and got them himself. The whole situation is terrible but it doesn't look like there's much I can do about it. I'll get the paperwork and then try to claim it from my insurance.

We also spent this morning trying to organise flights to Las Vegas. So far it's proving expensive and daunting and possibly not worth while. Tomorrow we'll got to a travel agent and try to get Anj's flight vouchers validated. So much business here is conducted in an underhanded way. But I guess that's not so much different from Australia, more that I don't know how to avoid it. Unfortunately neither do my international chums.
After unpacking and repacking all my bags it looks like I lost a small one somewhere between the station and Chris's apartment. It had my travel essentials so iPod, Nintendo DS, Ventolin and earplugs. No big deal.
Found it. I used my enormous powers of deduction and complete refusal to believe that I could lose something through negligence to deduce that it was in Chris' sports bag with his soccer shoes. Bam! Cheered me up before bed.

In other news the Scott Pilgrim game is fun.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What you say? No rubbish, or Ayla head go boom!

There's probably a lot that I've forgotten to write about, there's certainly a lot I didn't capture on film. Tuesday saw Kristen and I reviewing footage for most of the day (whilst enjoying Rogue, Dead Guy Ale and an assortment of Tillamook's best cheeses) and while there was plenty to see and talk about there were also big holes, where I had put the camera down to have some fun. Ironically my strongest memories are the ones when I wasn't filming so the whole things has a peculiar quality. When I get home there will have to be another beer & cheese day while we figure out what to do with this terabyte of random stuff.

After spending Wednesday in transit, a phenomenon that has become all too common, I am safely back in Irvine, CA with my good friends Luke and Chris. The next couple of weeks will be great as I take time to relax and take stock. I'm also hitting the gym to get rid of the fat I gained in my travels. All day in a train/plane seat followed by hamburgers'n'soda is not a healthy way to subsist and it's starting to show. Fortunately Luke and Chris tend to maintain a fairly healthy diet and there's a swimming pool right there *points*. This weekend we are heading into LA for a grand MtG prerelease. I have arrived back here to find they have been steadily buying more cards and playing most evenings. Their training is almost complete! All that remains is the sanctioned trial-by-fire as they pair up for some 2HG and hopefully more than a few drafts with the new set.

The following weekend is still potentially a trip to Vegas. After not being able to go to Austin I am fairly determined to at least make a night in Vegas and hey, gotta have a bucks party right? Who and where better to have it? I hear there's a pinball museum...

Monday, September 20, 2010

I attack The Darkness!

I'm currently back in Portland OR, where it's International Talk Like A Pirate Day. They actually had a big Pirate festival which was mildly amusing and fairly entertaining. Portland is unique in it's culture. The people who live their are economically challenged but enthusiastic; the whole city is overrun with street performers, artists and the like. I find it a very enriching environment to be in, perhaps I'll live here one day? It does seem like it's for the young and single though, whereas I'm simply passing through whilst moving on towards a future in which I am married and gainfully employed. Yay me.

The friends I have made here treat me very well, we have been playing a lot of games and my documentary is going great. This weekend I also took them to the Retro Gaming Expo where we played the games that my Grandma used to have on the Atari 2600, some of the old Mario titles that we played on the spurious 'Mega-genie' and even Donkey Kong Country, the only game I ever needed to have on the Super Nintendo. I still remember eating Hungry Jacks in the Tullamarine terminal waiting for my Dad to get back from a trip to India, waiting for a Super Nintendo... Such retro games brought back waves of nostalgia as far back as the 80's; going to campsites and wandering into the simple Arcade-Sheds where they had three or four machines set up. I played Galaga for the first time since I found a machine at Phillip Island with a coin stuck in it and played until 11pm when you and Mum came and found me. I played Moon Patrol for the first time ever, although when I was seven it was my favourite machine to stare at because the demo screen had recorded gameplay. I even played Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic Adventure (although I do this at home from time to time). The first reminded me of being best friends with Sean Jenkins in primary school, he was so good at the special stages. We would take the levels in turn, on long car trips to scout camps we used to try and hum the level tunes in order from memory. On this trip my Sonic t-shirt has been the most popular by far (as expected). The latter brings back two really vivid memories of my father; we are at Chadstone shopping center and I just stop dead still, the tv's in the EB window showed Sonic the Hedgehog moving in 3D. Dad wants to leave so I pretended to tie my shoelace so I can watch just a little bit more. 9/9/1999 at 9am, my Dad brings me home a Sega Dreamcast and Sonic Adventure. I play it in my underwear about a foot from the screen until he gets home from work and tells me to turn it off.

Now I'm going down memory lane; December 1997, I carve a 3D 'N' out of Styrofoam and paint it to look like the Nintendo 64 symbol and hang it on the Christmas Tree. It works and I spazz out like the kid on the youtube video. My dad takes me to 'World 4 Kids' and pick out any game I want. I pick Goldeneye and Bomberman 64 because they are both half-price. A year later my father plays his first video game: Diddy Kong Racing on an Ice track in a Hovercraft, never plays again. 19th May 2002, Southland shopping center food court: I've been living on my own for a few years and flat out ask my Dad to buy me a Gamecube, explaining that it will help me relax between studying. To my complete surprise he agrees on the condition that I work hard and get good grades. I don't, but I do play Super Smash Bros. Melee and Mariokart: Double Dash for the next five years.

Thank you for always supporting my interests Dad. Even if you didn't share them! I've been asking people I interview about their parent's view on their lifestyle and the results are varied. However most people can agree that there is a definite divide in the mentalities of the Baby Boomers and Gen X that is less pronounced in further generations. For most of us, our parents were the last of the rustic folk who lived their lives before the technological boom of Mobile Communication, The Internet and Virtual Reality. Whereas people of my generation are the Cosmonauts; more dream than substance, ambitious and doomed. Not really understanding the new frontier we discover, but delving deeply irregardless.

Since arriving I have hit up a couple of games stores and managed to get my hands on my very own copy of Aye, Dark Overlord and a copy of D&D:Castle Ravenloft as a gift to Kristin and Seeth for hosting me for a second week of my trip. I saw Castle Ravenloft at PAX where it was demoed. It sold out by Saturday so I'm glad I managed to find a copy. After two games we are still getting the rules right (All Hero XP is kept in a communal pool, Adventure 4- you keep all treasure cards drawn BEFORE nightfall and then just Item cards) but it is a great, fun, versatile, well paced game that does everything right to find a balance of power, speed and danger. You can play the game in an hour but it still feels very D&D. You could even write your own encounters if you get tired of the 13 game variants supplied. It even has Solo player adventures. How many board games can you play alone? A series of expansions featuring new monsters, missions, treasures and classes seems inevitable and would be welcomed with no errata to rules. It is fashioned after 'Dungeon' and it's ilk, but is executed much better. Seeth admitted to not being that interested in board games (he ran a gaming store!) but in spite of this did enjoy it enough to want to play again. I think it's also a very good gateway game to introduce people into D&D in a fast and fun way. 9/10

Meanwhile Halo: Reach did nothing for me. I was more excited before I played the game. Nothing has that epic feel, you don't get to play as Team Noble and a lot of the fights seem like dicking around on a whole new level. I played it when I was tired, but it felt like more of a chore than the awesome final curtain. It felt like ODST:2, sans plot. Hopefully I'll get more out of the online slayer? I can almost hear those foul mouthed kids now. 5/10

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Seth Green can't rap. There, I said it.

After my recent obsession with Alma Wade, I feel there should be at least one or two subliminal horror elements spliced into my documentary. I think it'd be fun. I don't really like being scared, but the stories behind F.E.A.R, Dead Space, Fatal Frame and Silent Hill have always been so compelling that I am actually brave. Even if the danger isn't real, I feel the fear and likewise, I feel proud for facing it.

Last night Mitch and I went to the Vancouver Best Buy Halo Reach midnight launch to get footage for my doco, Mitch ended up with the Legendary Edition of the game. I must admit it's a damn awesome set. The diorama of all five members of the unit is good enough to feature on any artists desk and the diary filled with cryptic notes and cards looks like a sleuths wet dream (I may just have to get my hands on it). To my credit I have sat here all day specifically -not- playing it, waiting for Mitch to get home so we can play Halo the way god intended: CO-OP.

Now onto more dour business, this (just hit pause when you've had enough):

EMBED-Geek and Gamer Girls Song - Watch more free videos
With detailed coverage here.

Be a part of our world (Be a part of our world…)
In latex and bows
Cuz’ these girls play ‘cos
Set our phasers to stun (Set our phasers to stun…)
You’ll be falling in love
Ooooooh oh ooooooh

If only I'd pointed the camera at my own grim face when watching this for the first time. Sure there's Stan Lee, Seth Green, David Duchovny... a few others (almost all male) and they're saying the names of a bunch of things I like but if they're making a case for 'gamer girls' then why the fuck are they naked? And screeching like harpies? I get it, you're vapid attention seeking actresses. But why do actresses thing they can sing? Bah. It's like if I, an artist, decided to star in a film about gaming! Oh wait shit.

Apparently this is a celebration of all things geek. Well, it certainly is a poorly sung list of all things geek I'll give them that. It seems like an attempt to secure a pedestal of worship as a 'Geek Goddess'. Why can't girls who play games just be gamers? Why must they be worshiped? But it's not really the girls who are to blame for this, just look at Felicia Day. But I would point out that unlike many female gaming celebrities, she has actual talent. And if you're thinking I'm being too critical here, may I present exhibit 'B':

Team Unicorn's first film, which actually won an award. I guess it was for 'best wank-fantasy'.

Fun and name-calling aside I really don't see this as a) representing female gamers, b) promoting a positive image for ANY gamers, c) encouraging the acceptance of female gamers in our culture. I see talentless self-promotion at the expense of people I care for. Like many girls before them, Team Unicorn (because they don't really exist?) are using sex appeal to climb into the media spotlight to the detriment of the female image and acceptance in our culture. In that respect Geek/Gamer Culture is not unlike Vampires or 3D tv; someone wants fame and fortune so they decide to slap some Glasses and a Nintendo controller on a nude model and ride the resultant fetish to the bank. Jonathan Coulton is another case, which most people will disagree with me on. I don't find his music to be enjoyable beyond the novelty of it's cultural references. Like Stephen Lynch, I will listen to his songs and laugh at the references and then never listen to them again. In Warren Spector's keynote he mentioned Wil Wheaton's 2007 address and the way he engaged in 'tribe building' and 'flag waving'. This really made me think carefully about people who just yell out a bunch of cultural references and what they really offer us. Games Journalism is another big issue in that regard, what do we really get out of sites like IGN and Wired?

I have always liked to think that Geeks practice a sort of anti-culture, where the social norms are inverted. Appearance is low, respect is precious and character is king. But perhaps we are just the same, or as we are integrated into the societal mass we lose the things that we once cherished in exchange for acceptance and longevity? While being pecked at by buzzards that make money by tapping into cultural capital?

You'll notice I've started referring to gamer culture as 'our' culture and that's because I really did find it at PAX and I very much feel a part of it. As members of a young, growing society I feel we do have a responsibility to shape it's future. And anyone who capitalises or subverts that culture for personal gain (Gamestop, IGN, Girl-Gamers [as opposed to gamer-girls, see old posts], EA) I intend to confront in my documentary.

I saw this the other day and I was like yay, another 'date my Avatar' which was totally awesome and not lame and slutty at all, but no alas, it was a pile of shit bad ripoff of that. Like not a single one of those girls inspired me to want to be part of the 'female gaming' community at all. Just because we are girls and we game doesn't give us license to strut around like total sluts and think that we're the most exciting fucking thing in the world to nerdy guys. In fact I find it kind of insulting to male gamers, they act as though they've never even seen a girl its ridiculous.

Thank you KG :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

LEXX was an awesome show... sort of.

The weekend I have spent in Vancouver felt much more uplifting than the first few days. I went one night to the Gaslight district which is a beautiful spot and quite cool on a Friday night. We spent the night at a tavern called The Barney Stone and were entertained by an Irish band that has been playing there for 30 years. They are fairly tight. After travelling I have come to realise that in Australia we are being robbed blind by alcohol taxes etc. In the US a six-pack will cost you about $10. Cocktails cost as much as a beer. I had a rather exciting martini consisting of Spiced Rum, Butter Ripple Liqueur and Lime. I've had the opportunity to talk at length with lots of people who work in games about all facets of the Industry. It has been educational and a little shocking, unfortunately none of them are too keen to be interviewed on film. I must admit my filming has degraded a fair bit after/during PAX. So many people have refused to give interviews I'm almost not bothering and just filming scenery here and there. I'm also a little crushed by all the things I've missed because I can't be involved whilst filming, and all the shots I've missed because I can't film while doing stuff. Despite meeting lots of good connections and contacting people in every city, my inbox is empty. It's been quite the adventure, but has it been worth a year's savings?

That may sound grim, but I'm not done with that question yet. I won't be able to answer it for another year. Then we'll see where I stand.

A trip like this is a lot of work. A lot of difficult work. Before leaving I could only plan so much; I didn't know who I would be staying with, where I would be staying or what dates I would be there. This means I end up spending about %30 of my trip planning the next few moves and booking flights/trains/coaches. Today has been one of those days, hopefully the last.

After trying to decide between extending my stay at great expense or going home unsatisfied I finally bought another ticket home (thanks to encouragement from my brother). It's $700 I didn't need to spend, made even worse by the fact that if I'd changed my return flight sooner I wouldn't have had to buy another ticket, but th stop-over in Fiji is making me dread the otherwise 15hour flight a lot less. For my money I get to cover the Portland Retro Games Convention this weekend and see my friends Kristin and Seeth again. I also get to see Austin, Texas which I'm very much looking forward to as it seems like a realistic place to find work and spend one last fortnight with Chris and Luke, who I will miss back in Australia.

Excerpts from an email to a friend (an awesome friend):
In Vancouver B.C. at 2pm on a Monday, 14,000km away from everyone I know, it is abstract indeed.

As for gamers, I'm not so surprised to find that they are for the most part all awesome people. Some year, an inconceivable distance from now, you'll have to come to the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) as I've never felt more at home anywhere in the world. So cool!

As for travel, while it's kind of absolving, it's pretty damn scary to be truly alone. I've always enjoyed parts where I'm staying with a local more than being in a hostel because that security and trust helps a lot. I still go out by myself a lot but it's good to have someone to lean on in a pinch.

As you are no doubt aware I have been playing a slew of games as of late. PAX did nothing to abate the tide slowly drowning me however it did introduce variation in the way of board, card and dice games. They are as much fun as video games with the main differences being that you need a group of people to play them and they don't set themselves up nor pack themselves away. I recommend Zombie Dice and Citadel as quick games and Aye, Dark Overlord, Dominion, Settlers of CATAN and Arkham Asylum if you have a little more time. I do not recommend Magic: The Gathering as that game has eaten up a decent chunk of my life (although the artwork is incredible). With my new friend Mitch I've been plowing through console games before leaving his apartment; Call of Cthulu, Too Human, Shadowrun, Call of Juarez, Riddick: EfBB, Fable 2 and F.E.A.R.2. I would say that none of them really held my attention. Call of Cthulu is a cool game version of The Shadow Over Innsmouth, one of H.P.Lovecraft's best works. F.E.A.R.2 also had it's moments and the story is pretty awesome at times but the game is just a FPS with very occasional horror moments that leave a lot to be desired. Alma Wade is well creepy, particularly the ending, but I think Silent Hill is just a much better version of the same idea. Although the other night I dreamed I was at the bottom of the sea and she was trying to bring me bubbles to breath. There's some imagery laden with gamer subtext if ever I had one.

I can't wait for Halo Reach, which comes out this evening.

Mmmm Halo. I only wish I was home for the release so I could stay up all night playing it with my brother. Then play it again with my good friend Jai. When I close my eyes I can almost hear the foul mouthed 12 year olds screeching into their mics.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A week in Vancouver, BC.

At the border to Canada I didn't expect trouble, perhaps that was a mistake. Upon arriving at LAX I was expecting racial profiling or general US paranoia but was instead greeted warmly (relatively) and wished a pleasant stay. The guy at the Canadian crossing looked at me like I was guilty until proven otherwise. I later heard they've been doing this to anyone who isn't white. Assholes!

I am staying with Mitch Lagran and his gilfriend. He works for Rockstar and knows a lot of other talent working in Vancouver. It seems to be a very incestuous scene up here with lots of work. From what I can gather you can in fact get a job here, but keeping it or even liking it can be challenging.
We immediately visited the Aquarium which was very cool and continues my theme of gamers being fascinated by learning. Mitch and I had a good chat about that just after meeting each other. He recommended a book called A Theory of Fun which I will definitely read.
I don't know what to make of Vancouver. Walking round I couldn't find anything I was really interested by and I was accosted by several bums with elaborate stories. Tim Hortons has become some kind of refuge, a place I can go and hide. But even there the obscene 12% sales tax strikes! They don't incorporate it into their listed prices which always stings. I bought a nice jacket for the cold weather and some new jeans after my others tore and the sales tax really hurt.

Poutine is really good though, as is Mt Whistler. On Wednesday night I met my old work friends Jeff and Alex along with Colin and Jag (who supplied some poignant dialog on obesity for my film) and we went to stay in a resort at the base of the mountain. On Thursday we went to the summit and I was completely blown away by just how awesome our planet can be. It makes a pleasant change from dry bush and endless flatlands, and I look forward to going there again in the winter when there is snow to slide about on.

Last night we went to a draw jam at a pub called St Augustine and enjoyed Pumpkin Beer and an Imperial Citric Ale. I met people from all facets of th industry and got some insight into a variety of companies. It seems they fall into one of two categories; companies like Blizzard who celebrate their game launch with Champaign Luncheons and trips to Las Vegas, and companies like EA who celebrate by firing the development team that actually made the game. I can't help but think about this city and Erin and my future... my brow furrows and I just feel like I need to get home and regroup. My resolution does not waver. At this point I can only go forward; it's too late for me to do anything else with my life! But I'm terribly anxious. Life seems like PAX: every second you take deciding what to do others are getting in line, while you play one game you miss countless others, and at the end of each day you wonder where you went wrong. There's another PAX in six months, but this is the only life I'll ever have.

PAX comes to an end ;(

Today I did have any panels that interested me enough to queue for hours and I still hadn't filmed much so I enlisted Ty's help in shooting footage of the expo hall for my doco. I also managed to win my second M11 draft and score a short interview with THE Steve Jackson! Not bad at all. The expo hall had nothing on Comic Con, but at the same time every single booth had game demos that I wanted to play. This left me with a desperate realisation that I would leave PAX wanting more. So much more! I didn't even enter any tournaments or use the various free-play areas (which included Rock Band, DS Lounge and even 16 player Steel Battalion campaign zomg) so really I feel almost defeated. I could spend every weekend with those people, they are my countrymen. Jerry was right; for one weekend we have our own country to which we all come home.
I spent the afternoon interviewing Ty in my hotel and then went back to PAX to use their free-play computers to check my email, update stuff and win a 3v3 SC2 match with the guys sitting next to me (first opponent dropped when I landed 20 vikings in his secret expansion, moments later the second dropped when my reapers finally overwhelmed him). As I looked up I realised that I had just missed an hour of PAX, meeting up with my friends and the Square-Enix raffle drawing (featuring a statue of KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND!!!) I had entered AND the closing ceremony was already underway. The final round of the Omeganaughts was the OMEGACLAW. Those terrible claw games that are perhaps harder and less forgiving tan Donkey Kong. It truly did make for a great spectator sport.

After the festivities died down and we were done wandering the streets of Seattle looking for something other than a coffee shop (pro tip: does not exist) along with some 50,000 other gamers, we headed back to the Sheraton to let the death of PAX 2010 settle in. But we did not go quietly! There were many people playing games in the lounge and we annexed a table, recruited some unknown gamers and learnt to play Aye, Dark Overlord. ADO is probably one of the most fun games I've ever played. Having said that I'm reluctant to play it again because I kind of gave it my all, leaving nothing in reserve for future bouts. The first game our friend Nick from Sydney delighted in grilling us as a vain and petty Overlord of evil. I managed to go from a sniveling coward to the mightiest Orc in his army, a quick move that put me in good stead and more importantly drew the lulz. In the second game I took the reins and really pushed the game, becoming Emperor Palpatine and forcing my lieutenants to take every card and apply a Star Wars spin. Trek references were also rewarded, as were wookie-threesomes. In the end the fleet admiral was blown out a hatch and Zack was burnt to a crisp by a butt-load of force lightning and spittle.

A fitting end.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I spent most of Saturday looking forward to the Magic The Gathering Scars of Mirrodin party I had scavenged an invite to the previous day. You had to find these magic areas and complete cryptic challenges to arrive at a keyword which, along with the stamped card, would grant you access.
First thing I did was line up for another two hours for the first major event of the day which was Mike and Jerry making a comic live. It ended up being another Q&A with comic being done in the background, I thought we might get input but it seemed like they'd already figured it out ahead of time. Gabe drew a Dickwolf and Jerry called PAX East the 'bitch PAX' which was all met with roaring laughter. They are highly entertaining which I suspect is the real secret of the comic's success.
After that I tried to find a boutique shoe store [I found out where it was on Sunday just as it was closing and Monday was a labor day. Fail...] to get my brother some sweet kicks but after wasting an hour of precious PAX, gave up my search. By this point I was sorely missing the internet.
At this stage I realised that we would have to leave to line up for the Magic Party around 4:30 and I wasn't going to get to any more panels that day. So I entered a Magic draft with Andy and Zack. I won that one too (even though Andy didn't pass me the Baneslayer he busted) and the adrenalin was running high. I think Child of the Night is my favourite card in M11.

The Magic party was EPIC. I'll write about it tomorrow. Right now I have to play some games with Mitch's friends from Rockstar!

The Magic Party itself played host to an even more insidious grammatical treasure hunt with $1000 and a replica Opal Mox up for grabs. It was based on divining information from the oversized preview cards from Scars of Mirrodin scattered about the room. Between this and the complimentary Mirrodin themed cocktails most people were well entertained. But I was greedy and wanted to try and get some face time with some industry people I really admired. At one point Brady Dommermuth and Mark Rosewater made themselves available. Maro gave me a hug but then sent me on my way. Fortunately I had spoken with Brady's brother and he made the connection. We chatted a bit and with his help (and Mon's, the man behind Mon's Goblin Raiders and lifetime mtg playtester) I met Aaron Forsythe and much to my delight, Jeremy Jarvis the Art Director of MTG. I gave him my email and he said he'd be in touch and was willing to look at some of my work. Brady said to me quite fairly 'We don't mess with our artists, you're either good enough for Magic or you aren't'. I am killing myself a bit for not bringing a whole box of business cards to America. If it is my downfall I'm not sure how I will continue. But I am reassured nonetheless; when I get home I have some good leads for a career as a professional artist.

PAX is upon us. The cauldron is ready; the stars are right.

Let the ritual begin.

PAX was awesome, and that was always going to be the case. I tried to divide my time between getting close to Mike and Jerry and filming something useful for the documentary. Playing with friends, eating food, trying new games, buying merch, entering competitions, talking to people, seeing bands and exploring Seattle were all secondary. Unfortunately with only three days this meant that few of those optional quests were completed.

Queued for two hours to see Warren Spector deliver a stirring keynote that makes me want to rethink the angle of my documentary. At least a little. In a nutshell he challenged gamers to support the move of gaming from fringe to mainstream and to be more aware of gaming's future. I believe he said something along the lines of 'we won the war for acceptance, but now we don't want to share' and I suddenly feel guilty. I suppose my documentary is looking at the culture that surrounds games whatever it may be, but I now feel responsible for supplying a message that predicts and encourages a future in which we all play games. Or at least have the opportunity to do so without being judged or harassed by the hardcore or the oldschool. It's okay to be casual. If you are 80 years old and want to play Jet Grind radio, that's fine too.
Following that I held onto my seat for Mike and Jerry's first appearance and Q&A. I didn't ask a question, although I perhaps should have got up just to remind them they said they'd plug my documentary on their site. I'm not looking for people to stay with anymore, but some public interest would be nice. The best part of that was probably Erika's boyfriend proposing to her.
Then I met up with Zack who was losing a GP qualifier and checked out the expo hall. There are youtube videos and pro articles on the event so I won't put much here. However I did play Mortal Kombat, NBA JAM and Sonic 4 and they brought a smile to my face. The good thing about being a young adult is that everyone entering the industry are your peers and so games are coming full circle and being made by people like me who grew up on what we would consider 'classic' games. Finally companies are doing what we told them and making games just like they used to, without the pressures of the latest gameplay innovation and cutting edge graphics. Jerry said his kinds get bored of the old games bad graphics, I wonder how these new iterations will be received? Personally I loved to play them and will be first in line to buy them all.
I did chat with the Sega guy for a while and he told me that while the demo is of a level that may as well be a prettier Green Hill Zone, the following Episodes will take Sonic into brave new territory. And I don't mean stupid like turning into a were-hog, I mean brave like Sonic CD. And while I can't say the same for Mortal Kombat, when you see the Romeo Must Die-esque Xray grapples and the new brutally awesome fatalities you will shit yourself with joy. I hope it gets to Australia unmolested but I won't say I'm optimistic.

Actually the questions I get asked when I tell people I'm Australian are (in most common order):
1) Do you guys hate being mistaken for New Zealanders? Because they do and I watch Flight of the Concords.
2) You are all descended from convicts [more of a statement].
3) Don't you have retarded videogame laws?
4) Don't you get delayed releases?
5) Don't games get banned there?
6) Why is your country so shit in regards to games?
7) Where did you get that from and can I have it/some?

Speaking of questions, I then attended a Panel on games journalism that was kind of pathetic. Not only was only one of them currently a games 'writer' (he made the specification after I questioned their journalistic integrity) but they had no material prepared and just fielded questions from the audience. One guy from Canada asked if he could get a job in America; 'No' was the short answer. I decided to ask them, since a couple of them were actually studio publicists, about getting in contact with games companies but the person before me asked the question. So I just basically threw out a bunch of criticisms of games journalism which were met largely with two responses.
a) Yes, it's not really journalism it's just writing about games. There's no real money in it besides what the big news sides grind out of their advertising and that involves keeping readers with spectacles, sexist pieces and using numbers between 7 and 10 to rate games (unless they sponsor the site, then it's 9-10). This model I would like to compare to Penny Arcade, who have the freedom to speak honestly without fear for their livelihood and are therefore the only professional commentary worth listening to.
b) We're just trying to feed our families. Games companies exist to make a profit, news sites exist to make a profit, retailers exist to make a profit. Any sort of obligation to gamers or idealism about creating games is secondary. To that I say, find a new line of work. If your heart isn't in it then you really shouldn't be involved. Yes, I suppose publicists are a necessary evil but they can be honest from time to time. One of them basically said they speak for the companies because developers are socially retarded. I prefer to speak to developers 100% of the time and will include no PR dickholes in my documentary. And as for games 'writers' well we don't actually need them at all. I'd rather read a review written on a forum by a fan or by Jerry on Penny Arcade than a page or two of drivel someone who fancies themselves a writer saw as a paycheck.
After the panel I did apologise to Chris Kohler and John Drake, I didn't want to hold them accountable but I did want to get some reactions to guide my documentary. John mentioned he'd like to see gamers portrayed as normal people, focusing on their lives outside of games. Interesting.

I also met up with Ty, the 16yo kid who has been coming to PAX since before he was toilet trained. He shoed me the ropes and helped me get around town a bit. Then he gave me a free ticket to go see Testament, Megadeth and Slayer with him O_O

So now he's the coolest person in Seattle (cooler than Valve, cooler than Penny Arcade) and I've seen Megadeth play Rust in Peace COVER TO COVER. \m/
The bus ride to Pomona was tense. I was on my own hoping to meet my contact I'd never even seen at the last stop which was in a car park in the middle of nowhere. To make things worse the bus driver had never driven the route before and was trying to ask me for directions, then complaining that I should remember when we inevitably became lost. Unfortunately I figured out where we were long before she did but of course she wouldn't listen and ended up driving halfway back to the depot before radioing them for assistance. She was Latino, but when my contact Andy turned out to be of Mexican descent I described her with more of an Asian slant. 'Damn Asians' he remarked, as I apologised for being late.

Zack and Andy reminded me of a Hispanic version of Gabe and Tycho. Zack with his boundless energy and hilariously forward attitude and Andy with his calculating reserved demeanor and biting wit. I immediately took to them both. Later in the night I met Nick, a fellow Australian. But he was from Sydney and had a penchant for the theatric, so it took a little longer to warm to him. We went to a supermarket and bought enough junkfood to satisfy all of PAX and prepared ourselves for the train the next morning.

The PAX train was certainly worth the effort as the two days really flew by. I learnt to play a heap of new board and card games. And why not? We were literally a captive audience. I managed to garner my first win in an M11 booster draft (no doubt in part to my practice with Chris and Luke) after gesturing to my first pack and announcing that it contained a Baneslayer Angel (which it did) that I would ride to victory (which I did). Another highlight was attempting to play a game of Diplomacy which to my complete surprise really is fun once you start actually playing. The rumors that swirl about the game and it's intimidating rulebook are enough to scare away all but the most hardcore board gamers (who instead whisper about it with mystical awe) but the thrill of Diplomatic success and betrayal are worth the effort. I could see it being played like a murder mystery night where everyone dresses as a country's ambassador. I learnt a couple of excellent card games too, and I would have bought them today if they had been in stock. Citadels is a very fun game for about six players. You must try to predict other players choice of character each round while building your kingdom. Dominion is also very cool, each player builds a deck that they constantly play cards from to improve. But Citadel is widely known and Dominion has won multiple awards so there's few surprises there. I also heard of Arkham Horror's excellence but have yet to play it.

It was so easy to sit down, introduce yourself and just play games. Even the food was okay. The only downside was trying to sleep in a chair when you knew you could be gaming. This feeling only increased at PAX.

Playing Rockband on a moving train is trippy.
I don't know how to title this or where to start. Laptop keyboard is unfamiliar and at this point in time there is almost too much to write about. This is the first chance I've had to write since I got on a bus to Pomona in San Ana. I'm now in Vancouver BC, some 2,100km away. 13,192km from home.

I think I'll just make a few posts.