PAX 2013: a Bashful Recap (HA, HA, GET IT)   Leave a comment

This year was my first PAX, and in a year full of good times, this was certainly a highlight. I went to quite a few panels, although not as many as I initially intended; I ended up spending more time than I anticipated just wandering the expo hall and admiring the games I saw. I’ll talk briefly about a few highlights.

Panels

I went to a few different panels that were centered around game development or entering the game industry, and for the most part they were, at the very least, interesting, and at most extraordinarily helpful in setting my mind on the right track. It’s honestly difficult to remember the specifics of what I heard where and who said what, but the general sentiment I got was inspiring. I heard from a lot of developers who had worked hard, failed, worked harder, failed again, and finally succeeded in fulfilling their dreams of working on their own personal, independent projects.

I think my favorite thing I heard from these panels, still was one simple piece of advice. I can’t remember who said it, but the words certainly stuck with me: “Create more than you consume.” It made me step back and re-evaluate my work ethic as of late and inspired me to push forward into the world of writing music for games.

One panel I do remember quite well was one about the development of games that tell personal stories. We heard from three development teams: Neverending Nightmares, a psychological horror game inspired by the lead developer’s experiences with depression and OCD-related intrusive thoughts and images, That Dragon, Cancer, a sort of interactive storybook about the developer’s experiences with his 4-year-old son’s terminal brain cancer, and March, an abstract allegorical first person platformer about the developer’s break up with his girlfriend. All of them had such profound and interesting things to say about how games can share these human experiences with people in ways that nothing else can, and it helped me remember my favorite things about the whole medium, about why games have been so important to me my whole life since I first played games like Final Fantasy VII, Chrono Trigger, and Metal Gear Solid. Things have only gotten better since then in games, and I know that they’ll only continue to get better.

I also went to two feminist-centered panels. One was a ranking of the best female characters in games (which was pretty entertaining, a little silly, but the panelists’ heads were in the right place and it was certainly valuable), the other a panel about the gender issues in games and the world of gaming. The latter was actually quite good, talking about issues in journalism, in related forums, in development, and in games themselves. In the wake of all the BS that tends to come from the Penny Arcade leadership, it was wonderful to see some feminist light shining through.

Unfortunately, at another panel that I purposely avoided that featured the aforementioned PA leadership, some still-scabbing wounds were reopened (he said that “pulling the dickwolves merch [arguably the only right thing he did in that whole debacle] was a mistake”), and a lot of people were really disappointed (myself included). I hope that PAX can become a more inclusive environment, especially for women and LGBT folks. I think feminist-centered panels can be a big part of that, although more and more of that community is outright boycotting PAX (and for good reason). I remain cautiously optimistic, though.

Games

I also played a lot of games at PAX (surprise, surprise). Neverending Nightmares was a haunting and extremely interesting experience, and I sincerely hope it gets its funding (which you can help with at their Kickstarter page!). That Dragon, Cancer was downright upsetting to play. Those two games shared a booth, and both set the tone of their games very well. The former put black cloth around two small desks with chairs and computers, isolating the player from the busy expo hall around them and getting them into the story. The latter placed idyllic photos of the developer’s family and a homey lamp. It all made for a touching experience, and honestly I’m tearing up a little bit thinking about it.

Other games I saw included Against the Wall, Catering to Birds, The Stanley Parable, Always Sometimes Monsters, Mew-Genics… the list really goes on.

I was also inspired to buy Ridiculous Fishing, Badland, and Papers, Please (into which I’ve unfortunately already sunk 12 hours) after seeing them at their booths. There are other games that are on my list now as well, but it might take me a tad longer to get to them, seeing as I already have quite the backlog of games (and work) going.

I also got a chance to try out the Oculus Rift, at last. It was a world of fun, to say the least. A bit nauseating, but totally awesome. I’m looking forward to seeing how that influences the gaming world going forward.

Talking to People

Honestly just talking to people, mostly developers, was my favorite part of PAX, I think. Hearing their stories was, to reuse a tired old word, simply inspiring. The creators of the aforementioned games, Neverending Nightmares and That Dragon Cancer, Tommy Refenes of Team Meat, Vlambeer of Ridiculous Fishing and much more, the sound designer of Badland (on whom I tragically cannot find anything on the internet about; the sound design for that game is really impressive), Ryan Ike, composer for Gunpoint (super cool and nice guy, writes awesome music, more about him in a sec…), the developer of Against the Wall, of The Stanley Parable

I also, at last, got to meet somewhat of a hero of mine (although it’s slightly embarassing to admit) and a superstar of sorts in the indie game music world: Danny Baranowsky. He was ridiculously nice and had a lot of great words of advice for the aspiring games composer. Talking with him has even further inspired me to do whatever it takes to become a full-time games composer. Ryan Ike, another composer, also told me about a thing he does called “Microjam” where he posts a new little piece of music every week. So I think I’m going to start doing something similar.

The Mlog

Starting next week, I’ll be posting a new piece of music every week here and on Soundcloud. Occasionally the music might go to use somewhere else (VR Trainers, films, games…), and occasionally I might compile some of the music into an album. We’ll see where it goes! I’m excited, and I hope whoever reads this will be too.

In any case, that’s about all for now; until next time…

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Posted 4 September 2013 by jonbash in Games, Music

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