Originally published on Trevor Trove on January 28-29, 2017
Day 1 Recap
Today was a good, reinvigorating day.
I woke up and headed over to the convention center this morning to pick up my media badge (since I arrived too late last night to grab it yesterday). Badge pick-up opened at 8AM and I was very glad I booked a hotel that’s basically a block away from the convention. I would not have been interested in making the same thirty-minute walk we made in at last year’s PAX South. It’s a bit on the windy side this week and I’m completely fine spending as little time in it as possible.
Most everyone else I know attending the event was coming in today so I was on my own the first half of the day. As I wrote about earlier, a less-than-informed convention security guard mistook me for an Exhibitor instead and let me into the show floor an hour before the 9AM media hour. So I spent the time wandering the Expo Hall to get a feel for where things were. Namely, I set my sights on the Nintendo booth to figure out just where I needed to be at 9AM when they actually started letting people take the demos.
After walking up and down the aisles for about half an hour, I went and visited with my friend Joe, who is here working the booth for Skybound (Superfight, Red Flags) as he has the past couple PAX events. We spent the next twenty minutes or so catching up before I headed back over to the Nintendo booth.
The hall formally opened and I hopped onto a Switch station to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
After that, I still had about forty minutes before the flood of PAX attendees would start flowing in, but even among the fellow media attendees, the Nintendo line was full so I headed elsewhere, mostly aimlessly. I ultimately landed on a demo of Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, the newest title from the developer behind Oceanhorn: Master of the Seas. I’ll be writing up a preview on that game in the days to come but the short version is it’s looking like a fun little 2D side scrolling platformer in the same kind of spirit as Adventures of Pip.
With the final bit of press time, I swung back over and played Has-Been Heroes, the upcoming roguelike from Frozenbyte.
With the masses starting to pour in, I left the Expo Hall to attend my first panel, titled “New Friends, Better Streams – The Genius of Local Meetups.” Given my familiarity with helping to organize and promote meet-ups int he Kinda Funny community, I was curious to see what this session would entail with its focus on community events in a Twitch-streaming-centric realm. I was especially intrigued when I noticed one of the panelists listed was an organizer for Twitch Arizona. Not a lot in the way of new information from an event-planning sense (though there was more emphasis on finding sponsors or partnerships than we’re used to in the KF community), but I introduced myself to the Twitch AZ rep and followed the group on Twitter and Facebook. They host events in Phoenix, Tucson, and Flagstaff so I might work to get involved or at least attend their stuff.
During that panel, I had started writing out my Switch and Zelda impressions so with the hour break before my next panel, I went over to the Media Room to finish that first post up and publish it. On my way, I made a quick detour back to the Skybound booth because they were selling official Oxenfree merchandise so I grabbed the set of pins. This being my second PAX as “Media,” it was actually only my first time utilizing that resource (at West, I just wrote and published in the hotel room amidst terrible movies). But it was an interesting room to be in, overhearing conversations from other aspiring journalists and hearing their experiences (a guy at the table next to me had virtually the same intro to the Xbox One as me; waiting until the Sunset Overdrive bundle).
After hitting publish on that first piece, I headed up to my second panel of the day: “Streaming 101: Starting Your Quest.” In case you haven’t identified a trend yet, I’m interested in potentially starting to stream on some sort of regular basis. So between the new computer sitting back home and these introductory-level panels, I’m trying to gather some good tips and tricks to get started. Nothing formal to announce yet because I’m still trying to sort it all out but I’m looking at my options there.
After that panel, I swung back by my hotel room for a bit and started writing up my Has-Been Heroes impressions with the Kinda Funny For Honor Beta stream on in the background. That killed time for a bit before I eventually headed back for my third and final panel of the day: the Twitch Town Hall (see: pattern). As someone with a cursory following of Twitch outside of the couple of friends I have who stream and the Kinda Funny Morning Show, it was interesting to see some of their statistics and their plans for 2017. Among the various streaming-centric charity efforts, over $25 million was raised for various causes in 2016. And, like Kinda Funny, Twitch seems interested in making 2017 all about the community, announcing Communities as a new way for grouping together content on the site, as well as their support for groups like Twitch Arizona and the others that had presented this morning.
I managed to find Kyle O’Conner, formerly of IGN, briefly after the panel and congratulate him in person on his new role with Twitch. From there, I returned to the media room to finish the Has-Been Heroes write-up and wait for hotel-mates, who were all driving in from Austin. It turned out they were just about to arrive so I packed up and headed to the hotel room to wait for them.
Continuing with my love of Oxenfree today, I realized at some point throughout the day that I had sadly missed the Limited Run Games launch of a physical copy of the game in the morning. I received an email for it and all of my end of the year stuff had me itching to play it again. I meant to set an alarm or something to grab one when they went on sale but forgot. Fortunately, they released a second batch late in the day, where I was able to secure one. So it was a very Oxenfree-filled day…
Then, my roommates for the weekend arrived. Frequent former roommates Frank Bozzani (aka IrrelevantJokes) and Christian Puente (aka Pixelbrave), and newcomers David and Chelsea Wilkerson. We spent a little time catching up in the hotel room before we headed over to the Dave & Busters Kinda Funny community meet-up that Alex Aziz coordinated. About 15-20 of us hung out together (next to a batch of Comedy Button fans) for probably the better part of five hours: eating, visiting, and laughing with one another. Eventually, people started splitting away and calling it a night.
Chelsea, David, and I walked back to the hotel room, while Frank and Christian took a quick detour to the Whataburger I visited the night before to take part in the tradition that started at last year’s event. Everyone wound down and turned in as I sat down to write this recap of the day.
All in all, a great kick-off to another year of “convention”-ing.
Day 2 and 3 Recaps
Saturday and Sunday were much more lethargic days at PAX South.
How to Make It in the Industry
Up first Saturday was a panel on How to Make It in the Industry at 10:30AM featuring six women from different parts of the industry. Susan Arendt of GamesRadar led the panel alongside the likes of Andrea Rene, Chelsea Stark from Polygon, a video game lawyer, a developer, and a Twitch Partner.
Some small, stupid portion of the gaming audience would immediately dismiss this panel based on it being all women. Fortunately, those idiots weren’t around. Not that gendered stories were the focus of the day anyway. Pretty much every story and anecdote shared could have easily occurred with their male counterparts in the industry.
When discussing advice for getting your foot in the door, Andrea Rene highlighted that “networking is number one. You can’t get the job you want without finding the person to ask.” This has mirrored my own experience as well. Doing the work itself is absolutely essential, but you need to get the right person looking. She also stressed that you should “always be nice.” Susan echoed the sentiment recalling a GDC keynote wherein she was still a “nobody” and a few people from another outlet were teasing her for her outlet. Fast forward to a few years later when the sole person who hadn’t cracked jokes worked for her and the rest of them wanted to but she couldn’t trust that they would represent the brand in a professional manner.
Once in the door, how do you stay inside. Melissa Dingmon, the Senior Social Strategist for Big Fish Games enforced the notion of asking for help, despite the inevitable imposter syndrome you might feel. They hired you so you do belong there. Kintinue, a full-time Twitch streamer, discussed the need to keep learning. “Once you’re partnered, that’s not the end game. Just like if you study martial arts, getting that black belt is not the end game.”
Susan discussed the idea of people asking “how do I get to be more confident?” and stressed that they’re really asking “how do I get more confident that I’m good at this?” She said to throw that question away and instead focus on “how do I get confident that I will survive failure?” Recognize that failure happens. Accept it. Learn from it. And move on.
Andrea emphasized that people are going to question your knowledge. “It’s okay to know what you know. It’s okay to say you don’t know. It’s okay to learn too.”
The lawyer Suzanne (didn’t catch her last name) mentioned it’s never too early to start doing the thing and described that she would reach out to speak on panels at conferences when she was just a first-year law student and probably was accepted to 90% of the engagements she sought out. Susan chimed in that it’s never too late either, mentioning that she worked in safety standards until she was 35 before she ever wrote about gaming.
Melissa focused on finding your “pillar people:” the ones who will support you and help you grow and always be there, while Chelsea stressed the idea of following up and Kintinue talking about staying grounded.
When the panel was opened up to audience questions, the first one was “what is the most important decision you made?” Andrea Rene stressed the importance of “finding your lane, and staying in it…if you dabble here and there you won’t become good at that one thing.” Susan touched on the realization that “a captain needs to know how everything in the ship works.”
How do you meet someone and balance trying to network and not coming across as creepy?
Susan: “Realize I’m a person first. A person who might lead to a job, yes, but a person, first.”
And the panel ended on a question about if someone should do an unpaid internship. To which the lawyer vehemently said “Don’t!!!” And discussed the federal regulations surrounding unpaid internships and a study that showed those with unpaid internships wound up with the same prospects as those without and often end up making less (since they’ve already shown they’re willing to work for free).
All in all, another smart and informative panel.
Rest of Saturday
Following the panel, we wandered the show floor (it was everyone else in my group’s first time exploring it) and eventually decided it was time for lunch. Frank and I went to Chipotle and caught up on some of his latest adventures since leaving Phoenix for Austin. He’s really enjoying the podcasting he’s doing with our friends Joe, Chelsea, and David and we also talked about some of his work opportunities. It was a great one-on-one sit-down away and provided a nice breather from the rest of PAX.
We headed back and I hopped into the tail-end of a panel I’d wanted to attend about “Hidden Gems” in gaming. Frank went off on his own to explore the show floor some more while I listened to Mikey Neumann of Gearbox talk about the highs and lows of Faxanadu on the NES. It made for a funny reflection on a game I vaguely remember from the era, but only just barely.
After the panel, I just ran into a brick wall and felt entirely drained of energy. I started drafting up another preview piece in the media room but ultimately decided to head back to the hotel room and crash. I hoped to only be out for an hour or so and return for another panel but I ended up staying in most of the rest of the night.
My roommates hit up a Stream Texas community event (which had been alluded to in the first panel I had attended Friday) and invited me out to join them but I stayed in instead, mostly glued to Twitter and all of the news surrounding the #MuslimBan. Eventually, they all returned (the bar was apparently a bit too small for the audience) and we chatted about everyone’s day. We walked down the Riverwalk a bit for some Mexican food dinner together, and then returned to the hotel.
Since I was already somewhat rested, I ended up listening in to my friends Lauren, Joey, and Ben while they streamed some Overcooked on Twitch. It was fun chatting with them and even discussing the possibility of me making a weekend drive to hang out with them sometime in the near future.
Today continued the quiet wind down of the event. We slowly started emerging from our slumber around 9AM (when identical alarm tones went off on the phones of Christian, Frank, and myself – just slightly out of sync). Actually, David and Chelsea had gotten up a bit earlier and already showered and gotten mostly ready to go.
The rest of us got up, showered, and packed up our stuff to check out of the hotel. I left my bag at the concierge, then walked with everyone else to their car parked a couple blocks away to drop their stuff off before we made our way back for the final day.
On the show floor, we largely went our separate ways again. Frank, David, and Chelsea went around to do some end of PAX shopping at the various booths. Christian wandered the show floor and got some footage for his eventual Pixelbrave video of the weekend. And I went up and down the aisles, taking note of the Indie games I’d be keeping an eye on going forward.
Frank, Christian, and I reconvened and walked over to a barbecue place on the Riverwalk (Chelsea and David passed to keep checking out the floor and watch some D&D gameplay in the tabletop section). On the way, I briefly ran into Karyssa, a local Twitch streamer and photographer who was part of the “PAX 11” at PAX East last year with me.
After lunch, Christan, returned to the floor hoping to shoot some cosplay and whatnot, while Frank and I slipped into a final panel: My Favorite Terrible Game. Susan Arendt discussed Uncle Fester’s Quest and presented an theory as to why the game has the Addams Family name but almost no tangible connection to the show. Richard Mitchell (Project Lead, XPO Game Festival) declared his video game Stockholm syndrome love of Battle Arena Toshinden Remix (the port of the PlayStation game for the Sega Saturn). Andrea Rene highlighted Dead Island Riptide, despite the game sharing so many of the same flaws of it’s predecessor. And finally, Mikey Neumann of Gearbox explained his undying love of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and why it is saddled with so much disdain in the series.
Following the panel, Frank and I managed to find our party and wandered for a few last-minute items on the show floor (Frank got to say hi to Ray Narvaez, Jr. aka Brownman). We hung around in the lobby until Joe got a break from working the Skybound booth around 3PM and we visited a bit to wrap things up before eventually saying our goodbyes (first to Joe at the convention, then to me back at the hotel). While I waited for my ride to the airport, I got to briefly say hi to Naomi Kyle and Kyle O’Connor again as they waited for their car to the airport.
My journey home wrapped up with me finally playing Limbo after all these years as I booted it up on my Vita at the San Antonio airport and beat it just as my plane landed back in Phoenix.
All in all, another enjoyable PAX filled with friends and memories.