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PAX Australia 2014 opening day

by Nalini Haynes

It was a sunny Melbourne morning. Seriously. It was sunny.

Catching the train to Southern Cross Station, I exercised my leet detective skills to ascertain that some of my fellow travellers were headed to PAX. Some were easy to spot like the girl wearing an Ash cap, carrying a Pikachu plushie and a satchel with a Highrule crest. Others weren’t as easy to discern: gamer geek guys in tees and shorts whose primary distinguishing feature was a certain intensity of expression.

When trying to locate PAX Australia, the general rule is: if in doubt, follow the stream of geeks transfixed by the inaudible strains of the PAX Piper of Melbourne.

O. M. G.  I just realised, I’m sitting here in the pub, writing in my diary, composing a PAX-press, while following Robert Rankin’s advice on being a writer — all except wearing a suit. I’m pretty close, though: black fedora, black softshell, black tank top, black shoes and dark jeans. My media pass may also be a giveaway, with lurid colours and foil overlay refracting rainbows, identifying my tribe as ‘not one of you’ to other patrons.

Thursday night’s screening of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar ended rather late (after midnight). The knock-on affect is that I missed the 9 am PAX opening for media, only starting my perambulations around 10 am.

By-passing Jeff’s Shed, I went straight to the convention centre to acquire my media pass. I trailed up and down and up again before an enforcer’s directions enabled me to wend my way into the bowels of the building — would you believe to the box office? — to secure my media pass.

With media pass dangling from a lanyard around my neck, I focused on photographing cosplayers. I hoped the camera was focused, anyway. I can never be sure until the photos are on my large screen at home.

The percentage of ‘civilian’ or street clothes among PAX attendees was high, as cosplay is not a priority for the majority of attendees. However, the cosplay on show was diverse, much of it spectacular.

I left the convention center to head in to Jeff’s Shed, where I met a Hoth rebel going the other direction. He waved and signalled for me to follow him without telling me why. I shrugged and obeyed: Mark Dickson and co. are always good value.

Twice I had walked past a full-size snowspeeder in the convention centre foyer without noticing it. TWICE.

Mark Dickson, machinist of Rebel Pilot metallic essentials, builder of R2 units and the Rebel Legion’s Hoth doors (also at PAX this year, near doors 4 and 5 in Jeff’s Shed) has selected a full-sized snowspeeder as his next project. The outer shell is nearly complete, with a layer of paint applied only days earlier.

When the Rebel Legion guys moved the snowspeeder to PAX, it attempted to escape, crashed to the concrete and steel surface and Daniel Sullivan’s hand beneath. The force was strong on this one. Daniel was covered in blood spatter. Six stitches later, it appears he will retain full use of his digits. A sign at PAX explained that this full-sized model is incomplete because it’s undergoing a ‘restoration’. Restorations are notoriously dangerous.

I wandered back in to Jeff’s Shed then on to the exhibition hall floor, photographing cosplayers along the way.

At the hall entrance, Logitech posed a logistical difficulty. Crowds surrounded their stall almost filling the walkway. Geeks sang anthems, air-punching in a mysterious yet obviously predetermined sequence. Like women at a wedding clustering to catch the bouquet, these geeks — manly men and girls alike — vied to catch bouquets. Logitech’s bouquets may have improved the bouquet of PAX over the next few days as new tee shirts were hurled into the crowd.

The Battlefield stand was demarcated, not by an actual battlefield, but by a real tank. A really BIG tank. Apparently it took 3 years to get the tank through Customs because geeks with a tank are more scary than rednecks with guns. The guns are still on the tank but have been decommissioned, presumably by filling the barrels with molten metal and removing pieces essential to firing them. We’d better hope we don’t need them Tomorrow When the War Began.

The tank has rows of monitors at which gamer geeks sit, playing. The queues include a significant number of girls, including girls in cosplay, waiting to kill the enemy because Sleeping with the Enemy is so 20th century.

League of Legends also featured karaoke anthems but significant seating spared us serious standing.

Acres of table tops, bean bags for holding hands — I mean for playing hand-helds — and consoles awaited the ravenous hordes hungry to play games in this, the most auspicious games event of the year.

Indie game developers were out in force in cluster-stalls, at solo tables and in networked feature stalls like the Academy of Interactive Entertainment where Jonathan spruiked his school and students alike while wearing costume alongside the more conservative Sebastian from Canberra.

Over the course of day one I attended a panel on ‘Political Proactivism for Geeks’ and I even hung around to catch Tripod, the MSO and Paul and Storm in the evening concert.

In my day, the opening band was the warm-up band and was often less well-known. People often came late, missing some or all of the opening band. Even then I used to arrive on time because MUSIC. Today I was surprised to see Tripod opening for Paul and Storm. PAX obviously decided to reverse the usual order of things because TRIPOD ARE FUCKING AWESOME.

About 1/3 of the audience left with Tripod.

Paul and Storm opened with ‘Write Like the Wind George R R Martin‘, possibly their best-known song, following up with a song about being the opening band, which they dedicated to Tripod. Later songs included one disturbing number about a male stalker in a girl’s bedroom; not all songs were in good taste. Paul and Storm focused on comedy, commenting that ‘a 3 minute song lasted 14 minutes’ on at least one occasion.

In the music panel the following day, an audience member commented that Paul and Storm were ‘Masters of the stretch’. MC Frontalot commented that, after a set, Paul and Storm realise they’ve prepared 20 minutes of music for a much longer time slot so the next 3 minute song may last 38 minutes. Frontalot gave the impression there may have been a story behind his dissing of Paul and Storm.

Eventually the stage lights dimmed, while the overheads came up, everyone gathered their showbags and loot and wandered out into the night. Thus ended day one.

And so it began. PAX Australia 2014 continues…

More posts and photos coming soon.

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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