As most of you would know, PAXAus was last weekend. Thousands upon thousands of geeks assaulted the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC), and its surrounds, from Friday 31 October until Sunday 2 November. Many photos and accounts of the event can be found online (including a photo gallery on The Campaigners own Facebook page).
For many, PAX is about getting to see new games before release as well as games in development. Or heading to the tabletop area and trying out games you have been itching to play. Yet still, there are those who just want to dress up and hang out with their two hundred closest friends in equally elaborate attire. These are all perfectly legitimate ways to experience PAX. But I want to talk about the PAX outside of PAX.
During PAX myself and three others stayed in an apartment not far from the MCEC. We all flew in from different parts of the country, myself from South Australia, Craig and Yolanda from New South Wales and Luke from Western Australia. Craig is my brother, Yolanda is his girlfriend and Luke is their friend. I met Luke for the first time at last years PAXAus, and while up until this point I had spend as few as four days with him, I felt like I knew him quite well.
This PAXAus we were sharing a room. So this would either solidify our friendship, or go sour quite quickly.
We all arrived Thursday, and took ownership of the apartment. It was within site of the ABC building, and I was constantly on the look out for Shaun Micallef. This had nothing to do with the proximity to the ABC, I am just always on the prowl to spot Shaun. As a group we went and purchased supplies of milk, bacon, lollies, fruit, eggs and alcohol. Then, when they had been returned the apartment, we went out for dinner.
After a wander up the Promenade we settled on TGI Friday, much to Luke’s protests that it was in fact Thursday. I suggested that perhaps the restaurant had condensed time so that all Fridays that have, and will ever, exist had been packed into the area. Luke seemed unconvinced, but we entered the eatery anyway.
The restaurant had four floors. Either by accident, or by design, it appeared that they had hidden the families on the ground floor, and spotted the PAXAus attendees and sequested them on the third and fourth floors. We were seated in a booth in the corner, with a good view of tables and tables of boisterous, excited geeks. After ordering food and drinks (I was vilified by my table for requesting a soft drink as my beverage), we talked about the panels and activities we would be engaging in over the next three days. Luke and I also participated in singing Happy Birthday for a person whom I suspect it was not actually the birthday of. Our waiter brought all the drinks, except mine.
After dinner we returned to the apartment. We distributed alcoholic drinks, and then all sat at the dining table to play Love Letter. The intention had been to play Bang!, but it was soon discovered that only half of the game had actually been packed. With a flurry of cards, accusations and baffling YouTube hip-hop videos we gamed into the night. Five hours later we realised that it was 1am, and we decided it was probably time to stop playing Love Letter and go to bed.
We all set off for PAXAus together in the morning. Once there we immediately separated. The trio had a panel they wished to attend, and I myself had commitments pertaining to The Campaigner to fulfil. However, I snapped a quick shot of Craig before I departed, in case be became lost. Though if he was lost, most likely you would find him in Management, eating all their lollies. Whether they wanted him there or not.
That evening we all regrouped at the apartment before heading out for dinner. We decided to try an Italian restaurant just around the corner, which was quite busy, but managed to squeeze the four of us in. Either my old man ways were starting to cut through, or they were making fun of me, but everyone at the table ordered a soft drink. Our meals followed shortly after, with Luke ordering the same as me. If we aren’t careful, soon we will be finishing each other sentences. I ate my dinner with some haste and left the trio, as I had a panel to attend.
Later I would meet them again at The Boat Builders Yard, a bar just across from MCEC. After a couple of drinks myself, Craig and Yolanda called it a night. Luke opted to stay on. I took a quick photo of Luke, in case he became lost.
The next day I was the first one awake, so I decided to make a nice bacon breakfast for everyone. Yolanda was a vegetarian, but I figured I would cross that bridge when I came to it. Luckily, that bridge crossed itself when Yolanda rose and immediately began breaking eggs. These were turned into scrambled eggs, which I assume was the intention all along, though sometimes you can’t be sure about these things.
Like two old-fashioned housewives Yolanda and I cooked a breakfast for the four of us, including setting the table and arranging everything nicely. Then, like the evil dead, Craig and Luke were suddenly lurching about the apartment, pale and drooling. The smell of meat had roused the unliving. Together the four of us sat and ate. It was the quietest I had heard any of us, ever.
That night we did not have dinner together. Saturday night was probably the busiest at PAXAus, and I met the trio again at The Boat Builders Yard just after 10pm. They introduced me to a friend of theirs whom “worked for XBox”. He was fascinated by the physical similarities between myself and Craig, and wanted to know if we were twins. Given Craig was born four years after me, that would be some kind of biological miracle, and we informed him thusly. He seemed disappointed, but cheered up immensely when he learnt that I owned two Beagles. In fact, I don’t recall seeing anyone exceed this level of excitement throughout the whole of PAXAus. Which I suppose does something to inform us about the human condition, but I am unsure what.
Again Craig, Yolanda and myself retired to the apartment, with Luke opting to remain at the bar. His eventual return to the apartment heralded titanic levels of snoring. I hardly noticed.
Almost too soon, Sunday morning arrived. Everyone awoke in their own time, and a humble breakfast of cereal was had by all. Together we made the trek to PAXAus for the last time.
The day progressed as expected, and at 6pm Guy ‘Yug’ Bloomberg’s voice intoned the words no one wanted to hear. “PAXAus in now closed.” I kid you not, there was profuse boo-ing.
Our heros met at the apartment, where we chewed the fat while we waited for the trios friend, Mary, to arrive. It was 9:30pm by the time she hit the buzzer downstairs. We decided to try our luck and hit the Italian restaurant again for dinner. The PAX gods were on our side, as the restaurant was still open. We sat down, and Mary took us through how she spent a large portion of the day recuperating on the floor of a toilet stall, after attending a video game shindig the night before. At the back of my mind, I wonder if and how the tabletop scene will enter this age of money fuelled debauchery. I can’t wait to find out.
When dinner is finished we head into Melbourne. Luke has plied his contacts and picked up some tickets to get into a PAXAus after party. We front up to Beer DeLuxe. The four of use get through alright, but Mary is stopped. The bouncers want to check her ID for her age, but she proposes that it is because she is Asian. I get the feeling she is only half joking, and would not hesitate to snap the bouncers spine if required. Mary is small of stature, but seems to possess a level of energy disproportionate with her size. And the fact she spent the better part of a day tragically immobile in a public convenience.
She enters unhindered.
We are gifted with tokens for free drinks. They are small metal coins, and I muse that they would be good to use in an RPG. This is all unfamiliar to me, I don’t know who anyone is, but they are all obviously people involved in the design and marketing of video games. I make small talk with Mark, who works in Marketing for XBox in Australia. He is obviously a very important person, but I press him with inane small talk. He is cordial, but obviously has no idea who I am, and just wants me to leave him be.
Coming back from the bar I spot a familiar face, tabletop designer Wesley Lamont. We talk briefly, me slightly shouting over the din, and Wesley speaking normally, in that fog horn level voice that could sandblast a metal bench in the right conditions. Our chat is brief, as he is required elsewhere.
This does lead me into another conversation with a lady called Giselle. We talk, along with a fellow from a company in San Francisco, about how politics works in Australia as opposed to USA. Our international friend expresses an interest in another drink. Giselle reaches into her coat and hands the man a dozen drink tokens. Turns out, this is the person that has organised this whole event. She requests a particularly ostentatious drink from the international guest, and then flits away.
The night finishes with a chat to a game designer from 2 Hit Studios, Matthew, and his brother. By this point I had downed my fair share of beverages, but things were starting to get meta. Luckily, the bar turned all the lights on and ended the evening. As before, Craig, Yolanda and I headed back to the apartment while Luke opted to continue. I saw Mark on my exit, shook his hand and said it was nice to meet him. He looked relieved.
Luke came home quite late, but I was fast asleep. When I awoke in the morning he looked like a beached dolphin, but sounded like a deflating air mattress. This arrangement hadn’t been so bad.
At the airport I sat with Craig and Yolanda. By coincidence our planes were leaving from the same gate, but an hour apart. In the intrim we nutted out the basic mechanics for a card game. Sometime I miss just sitting and riffing with my brother. Now that he lives interstate, it is nice that we can have something like PAXAus to be ‘our little thing’.
With Craig and Yolanda on their plane and away, it made me a little sad. His exit meant the end of PAXAus.
I looked over, to a small space between a wall and a row of seats. There, sprawled out on the floor was a fellow and his new friend, playing his tabletop game prototype. Watching were the two game designers from 93 Made Games. I wandered over and we talked and talked.
Maybe PAX is never over.