PAX 2016 Day 1 – Wrap Up

If you love video games, then PAX is one of those amazing annual events that is worth going to over the three days. Admittedly, I was only introduced to it formally in 2015 but had heard rumblings about it from a raving fan in 2014. It’s definitely one of those things that you need to go experience for yourself. To give ou an idea, here I am writing up notes and blogging about all the amazing things I found out about the event. Here is my biggest takeaway from day 1.

Let the fun begin! #paxaus

A photo posted by The Domestic Traveller (@thedomestictraveller) on Nov 3, 2016 at 4:41pm PDT

You see, I am now convinced that I no longer go to these video game conferences for the games but rather for the lecture series. In 2015, I remember quite well about how there was was a group of people that were reusing the dance dance revolution mat (DDR) to help older people with their sense of balance. What they had found is that, as you get older, you start losing your sense of balance. Now DDR is a really fast-paced and intense game.

But when you slow it down and make it a lot more accessible to older people, it showed something (and I am going from memory here) about a 75% increase in their movement and balance, which meant less falls. To top it toff, what they would then do, is have their physiotherapist check out their results remotely and keeping in line with their performance, either shift the challenge up or down a level remotely. Who knew, that video games could accomplish so much. And since that lecture I was hooked.

I mean, Yes I did love the launch of Just Cause 3 and the Good Game panel but, those lecture series… man oh man. For the first time, I could proudly say that I am a gamer and that games actually help people of all ages!

2016 and it’s the Day 1 Wrap up. Here are the takeaways from there lectures I attended.

Playing on Hard Mode: The Psychology of Dark Soulsimg_8447
Josh Muller (Psychologist, MCRI), Shell Osborne (Department Coordinators – Games Programming, CG Spectrum), jane Cocks (PHD Candidate, University of Sunshine Coast and Jennifer Hazel (Psychiatrist Physciatry Registrar, Prescription Pixel).

I must admit, I really don’t like Dark Souls. I watched a good friend play it at my place and just watching the sheer brutality of it was enough to put me off playing the game forever. However, in this session, it was interesting to see how the game was actually designed in such a different way to compel you to play.

This was the only YouTube video that I deemed worthy of giving an insight into what this game actually is like.

Firstly, the removal of something as fundamental as the pause function was an indication that you needed constant focus on the task at hand because, at any given time, something, from somewhere could come out and get you. Even after you have cleared an area. Or better yet, after spending hours grinding away beating a big boss and you then stupidly fall off a cliff. In doing so, what the developers were hoping to achieve, they proposed, was that they wanted the players to get into a state of flow. You are so focused on the task at hand that you forget about everything else. Similar to how gambling machines in casinos don’t have windows or clocks – they lull your body into thinking that it’s just one constant time and thus you focus on playing their games and gambling away your money (kids, unless you know what you are doing, don’t gamble. Play games instead). To go hand-in-hand with this, they also removed the little heads up display (HUD) or map so you never knew how far you had gone. All you had was, what’s presented in front of you.
but there was also some of other interesting psychological concepts added in – PERMA [Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment] and SDT [Self Determination Theory]. With SDT, what they realised is that gamers had become too complacent in what they expect from a game. They need a constant feedback loop to say that they are progressing and validate their actions. Instead, the developers chose to put this loop into another manner where you were being constantly killed. Whilst most of the time they are random, the actual fights do have some form of critical thinking involved for you to win. Ironically, this is the way that they mimic real life. Because much like the dark world of the game (where literally everything is trying to kill you and people actively dissuade you from continuing – especially the in-game NPCs [Non Playable Characters]), the world is a dark place and you need to have the fortitude to keep going and trying and failing at almost every turn. In doing so, you actually achieve the ERMA side of things. You get a massive sense of positive emotion when you finally beat something, and you are fully engaged with the game. You build some strong relationships with the characters in the game and your actions have consequences and thus, it feels like you are giving this world you are immersed in some meaning. All of this adds to the sense of accomplishment you attain. As the quote they presented said below:

As such, I was convinced that perhaps I need to go back and play Dark Souls… but maybe after I have completed some of the other fun games.

Here is the video they drew this information from:

Can’t Code, Can’t Draw: The Many Creative Jobs in Videogamesimg_8478
Seamus Byrne (Editor, CNET), Georgia Van Cuylenburg (Voice Actress, Final Fantasy XIII), Corey May (Narrative Director, Certain Affinity), Mick Gordon (Composer, Doom) and Sebastian Mitton (Art Director, Arkane Studios)img_8479

How do I put this? I was not prepared for the monumental awesomeness that was this presentation. It was so full of practical advice and implementable tips mixed in with a somber sense of reality that I was stunned. One of the recurring themes in this talk was the need to demonstrate passion. Not just any passion but YOUR passion. You need to connect with who you are and bring that to life. Right now, when people try to pitch to the guys in any video games company, they try to do what everyone else is doing and in essence lose out their own creative voice. Be who you are and let that shine through (within the frameworks of the law — hat tip to Corey). Another thing is to never work for free. In today’s day and age, you can work on your personal projects that will help you get there but working for free shows two things – one that you do not value yourself enough and two, that you don’t know what the other person can do for you. Exposure? What does that even mean?! Vanille, aka Georgia, also reminded us all that to stop thinking of it as networking but rather as making friends and as such, you can go through your networks. Because people tend to move around and when you play the long game, and come from a place of integrity – you will always come out on top. Mick highlighted the need for Audio engineers because a lot of people think that without programmers and artists, the game is dead. But next time you are playing a game, he challenged us to play it with the sound off and experience how it is different. He relayed a story about how when he was working on this game for four years (can’t remember the name but quite a few people cheered when he mentioned it) that the development team would get emails from this guy saying how much he loved it and would be grateful for the chance to play against the guys. After a few back and forths, they eventually set it all up and the guy kept beating them. Not once, but every single time. And these are the guys that wrote the game. So they said they wanted to know how he was doing it, as in what is his strategy – to which he replied, I don’t have a strategy as a blind person. That’s right. A blind person was beating the developers of this game.

During their Q and A session, here are the things that stood out the most:

  • Self-belief and make it part of who you are. Always back yourself and make opportunities. Because there is NO such thing as LUCK.
  • Inject who you are into what you do.
  • Make sure you work your ass off and put your content out. In doing so, you will get critiqued, but learn to develop a thick skin. Take the criticism as feedback rather than negativity.
  • Remote working is the new way to go. Especially for the smaller paid work can be remote but whenever you have bigger pieces of work, that’s when it makes sense for you to relocate to that location.
  • In regards to applying for a job: Words on a page are only one part of the equation. The other is about the human behind it. By being you, injecting your personality into your work.
  • Regarding putting out fan fiction and how to overcome it: Get your content out there. Fuck it. Do It. Self Belief. Think about this, the author of “50 Shades” is laughing all the way to the yacht!
  • All games need context.
  • When you start a new project, start from scratch.
  • How do you bring video games into the classroom? How do you get the kids to write?: Think of Pen and Paper VS videogames – Dungeons and Dragons – forces players to both read and write. Twine – encourage writing because it is a text-based video game.
  • What makes you a good employee: Trust yourself. Work with others. Be social and share. Think long term – spot the trends VR. Don’t be judgemental and if you don’t like something, understand why. This will give you a different perspective.
  • Closing comments? Don’t give up! Connect your passion with how to help the world and you can change the world!
 Some of the things that I did see were the new VR games, launch of the Final Fanatasy 15 (Good Gawd I only waited 6 years for it) and got to watch a live eSports match.

The other thing was the opportunity to meet Hamish, the artist who was commissioned to paint a couple of giant art pieces and XBox and PS4 custom plates.

Plus the Red Bull DJ was dropping some massive hits.img_8486 My fave being this one from Saints Row.
Plus, I got to see WarHammer in action. It was impressive!

Plus seeing the old retro games brought a tear to my eye. Although seeing the PS3 items in there, I was a little taken back.

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