geek culture

Postfacto Ruminations on [P]enny [A]rcade E[x]po

by on Nov.16, 2015, under games industry, geek culture, indy

Postfacto Ruminations on [P]enny [A]rcade E[x]po


PAX! PAX! PAX! Oh my goodness, since when did I become a convention go’er?

Actually, only now realising that I’ve been to a couple. The first being a Star Trek convention in Vancouver circa 2000? Earned my nerd cred right there. And Quakecon in 2002? Smack during summer in Mesquite, Texas. Ergggh.

Fast forward circa 2014 and I popped my PAX cherry. That sounds worse than it is. I do have to say, it’s great for gamers and non-gamers because it embraces all platforms, all media, both digital and non-digital. From the exhibition displaying Australian indie games (and their devs), big name releases, demos and of course tabletop.

I’ve always enjoyed the Penny Arcade guys. We’d share their comics between us right after WoW was released (2004?). Longtime fan, so I guess it makes sense that I’m up for their conference.
Now that I’ve bored you with a little backstory, here are my highlights and impressions.

Personal Highlights

  • Warren Specter’s Keynote. Great to hear him speak, and his perspective was interesting. One theme was the notion that videogames will supplant movies and TV into the 21st century. “Seeing such a shift only happens once every hundred years. We are privileged to be living through such a rare event.”
  • The Witcher 3 story producer’s talk on quest design in The Witcher 3. Yeah, I’m fanboy but it was still interesting!

The Great

  • Star Wars Battlefront. Twas a treat to see new maps and modes. This looks like a great Star Wars game, thanks Dice!
  • Dark Souls III
  • The Freeplay Console Gaming Lounge
  • The Australian Indie zone
  • Cosplayers, Cosplayers Everywhere

The Not-so-great

  • Really loud gaming events, particularly on terrible (terrible!) small PA rigs.
  • Reports of widely available content being shown in limited access booths. Fallout 4, lookin’ at ya.
  • All but one Vive demo system was broken by the last day. Does not bode well for a consumer release!

The Ugly

  • The timing. I like Melbourne for certain things, but having PAX on the same weekend as Melbourne Cup horserace? Talk about jacked up hotel prices and the worst culture clash one could imagine. Also my ability to build costumes is limited since I have a yearly work conference in the U.S. a mere two weeks prior.
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    Gbuzz. Love it!

    by on Feb.14, 2010, under geek culture, meta

    Sometimes, I want to blast out content easily. Actually, let me qualify that. Using the word content for what I post in Twitter or (now) Google’s Buzz is very much using the word loosely. 🙂
    At any rate, I just want to blast out ‘stuff’ easily. Thoughts. Ideas. Sightings. Photos. Links. Rants. I think you get what I’m saying. I hope you get what I’m saying. When I joined Twitter in 2007, I thought that would be “the place” to do it. After a few years, I have found Twitter to be mind-numbingly AWFUL to use. 140-character limit? Photos in a separate place? Links shortened? Shitty clients as a gadget in the corner of my Gmail?

    Now that Twitter has done the impossible and carved out a niche among even the most non-nerd of nerds out there, you’d think there’d be some improvements over what it was (in 2007). And as more and more tweets are beamed out, I have found the volume, the searchability, and the readership make it almost unusable. With the character-limit, many of the tweets I follow are abbreviated into something akin to a smear of text and letters from a ritalin-injected highschooler on their iphone. Do you understand this pain?

    Google buzz. It’s clean. It’s easy. It’s integrated. And I could post this in Gbuzz if I wanted to. Twitter would look like… “#Googlebuzz i luv gbz bc it iz clean n coo oh n #twitter sucks 4 me”

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    Too good to pass up

    by on Jan.21, 2009, under geek culture, WoW

    Very well done, to both Obama and the person that WoW-ified his inauguration!

    POTUS Achievement!

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    The Death of Computer Games (magazine)

    by on Mar.27, 2007, under books, games industry, geek culture

    A series of business miscues… and the last vestiges of a rational gaming press have finally succumbed to the forces of stupidification.

    Computer Games Magazine, my favourite magazine in the industry (and quite possibly, ever) has fallen. It takes with it another promising venture, Massive Magazine.

    Tom Chick, Henry Jenkins, Cindy Yans, and a host of other fantabulous writers and illustrators will now presumably move to other places to share their insights (or hilarity, depending on which you’re looking for).

    It’s hard to describe what a stunning loss this is for me. I even shipped a select boxload of back-issues to Australia. And up until this month, a nice treat would arrive monthly in my email – the digital edition.

    It was a magazine that reinforced the notion that games are not just for teenagers and nut-jobs, but “normal” adults like you and I (yeah right!).

    Many people have had their say, so I’ll just post a couple comments from CGOnline’s forums.

    CG, ye will be missed. Massive, we barely knew ye.

    (continue reading…)

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    My adventures in ASCII

    by on Feb.05, 2007, under geek culture, meta, new media


    A big thank-you

    Two years, 56 posts, and my adventure in ascii gaming continues.

    On this very happy anniversary, I get to pause, poke my head out of the sand, and begin the flagellation.

    First off, I’d like to extend a welcome to many new readers, and thank some old ones. For your great patience as you’ve slogged through lengthy articles over these two years… a sincere thank-you!! I really appreciate it.

    (continue reading…)

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    Massively online communities : the genre paradox II

    by on Jan.24, 2007, under games industry, gaming, geek culture, mmo, mmorpg, new media, WoW

    fitting communities together

    As mentioned in my previous article, gamers expect a community from the game publisher. In a sense, this demonstrates the unique position of videogames in the landscape of entertainment. Consequentially, feedback and community become a cost of doing business.

    I believe we’re quickly reaching the point where publisher-run communities no longer serve their purpose. The communities are too vast. Moreover, the gamers themselves have evolved toward a deeper level of sophistication. Gamers are the reason we’ve come this far, and we simply demand more.

    (continue reading…)

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    World of Cokecraft

    by on Sep.08, 2006, under games industry, geek culture, mmorpg, new media, WoW

    TerraNova highlighted it, I watched it, and ‘iCoke’ blazes a trail for World of Warcraft into China. The ad is actually somewhat old, but combine it with this :

    With 7 million subscribers, WoW is now in the list of the world’s top 100 most populous countries.1 2

    It easily exceeds the population of Lebanon or Israel. It will likely surpass them both put together. Think of how all those Wow players could represent a significant force for massive social change, if only the damned Horde would stop getting in the way!

    Priorities, priorities. 🙂

    (Keep reading!)
    (continue reading…)

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    Slashdot, The Experience

    by on Aug.30, 2006, under geek culture, new media

    The Slashdot Game!

    It’s no secret that the “end game” in World of Warcraft is broken. Once I had attained the splendour of Level 60, I could progress no longer. Without forty of my “closest friends”, I could not raid, I could not obtain better items, and the remaining hopeful sprigs of activity remaining became simply unattainable. The game was over.

    This same story is about to be re-told. This time, within a much, much older game. Where the end-game is much like the brickwall that is WoW. The great game of Slashdot.What? News for Nerds? Stuff that matters? How is that a game?

    (continue reading…)

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    Why I love my PSP

    by on Jul.24, 2006, under geek culture, portables

    Ma PSP
    In the beginning, it was digital watches. I found them simply riveting. My father’s friend had one, and I’d climb up onto his lap and press the steel divets that activated the display. I’d stare at the “:” between the digits, transfixed as it blinked reliably back at me. This was my first breath of technology, or at least my very own concept of it. And it was good. It was so new!”Dad, why can’t I watch TV on it?” The room breaks into laughter. Dick Tracy grimaces; Douglas Adams snickers.

    Growing up, the idea of new technology became somewhat of a faith itself, served by my imagination, and yielding an occasional, gratifying example of the truly new. There was less satisfaction in things I could easily conceive : bigger hard drives, faster processors, better graphics… those were merely products of my inductive instinct, realised time and again in my thoughts long before before they actually appeared. I don’t claim that’s anything special – anyone who’s professed intimacy with the faith shares this mindset. Those are the rules of the game.

    Once I learned the fundamentals, digital technology was relegated in my mind to tooldom, a fascination recalibrated into a study of its promise. My imagination tended to span a vast problem space, the gaps hopefully filled in by the clockwork machinery of vapourous technological solutions. This was the fun stuff.

    Gadgets rarely impress me, really. “Technological wonders”… rarely are. The love of gadgetry, though hardly a new affliction in the scope of human interest, actually draws my ire. I wonder if disciples of ancient inventors loved products like some of my past acquaintances, who’d adoringly recite a menu of their innards like baseball stats. I always felt that this was like loving a hammer or a screwdriver. Sure, I was smitten at one time, when I was six, but show me something that I didn’t think of, show me a lifestyle change, a problem solved…show me fulfillment. That’s excitement!

    The Internet came along, turned into a shopping mall, and was promptly booted into a political sandtrap. Think about that, how political it became in its first decade of mainstream existence. Yet, there exists a huge gleaming promise there. Problem spaces filled, new ones created. I remember that promise, springing into life, as I ran up the stairs and into my university’s graduate comp sci lab, gaping open-mouthed at the world’s very first graphical internet browser. All of those thoughts and possibilities gushed into my brain in an instant…then disappointment as I watched the pace of progress deliberately stunted by the ponderous inefficiencies of well established non-digital industries, all scared, shaken, uncertain. It was a collision on all levels, inevitable, as our capability slowly matched imagination; as technology met lifestyle. To business, this was either promising or threatening, depending on its orientation.

    So now, in my 34-year-old hands, I hold both a promise fulfilled and one newly born. A Sony PSP.

    It’s well engineered and pretty stylish. A place to which I can retreat. Full of sound and colour and brainiac distraction, enough to ease the tedium of commuter strain. Though well beyond my old Gameboy (which never became anything more than a Tetris machine no matter how hard I tried), it represents the exact same essence.

    If I really wanted to, I could ride the train with my old handheld LED Pacman, circa 1981. Yes, the PSP is exactly like these, simply mobile entertainment. But mobile entertainment on serious steroids.

    Has it come a little late? Well, it has paced the advance of low-powered LCDs properly and appropriately. So logically, no, the device is right on time. Yet, it seems a happy evolution at best. In itself, it changes nothing. We all know what portable fun is already. We imagined it when we were kids. It is well and truly a mere gadget; an iPod with a bigger screen and a 802.11b transceiver. In the unending tide of techno playthings, it will be a historical footnote. An small inflection point, not a turning point.

    Yet I, in spite of myself, love it.

    Why? Because of nostalgia. It’s fulfillment of a promise made thirty years ago, while I nestled in the lap of a digital watch. Finally here.

    It’s a brand new promise. To me, it shows me a ubiquitous connector. A piece of internetworked fun. Wireless, mobile, graphical, auditory. It may not be exactly so, but it represents the Internet in my hands, an exciting multiplayer game, a movie, my favourite song, a chat with my friends, a videocall with my mother, a meeting place, a map, a social gateway, and a million things that I can’t even imagine. Right now, it does only some of these things. But it, or something like it, most definitely will.

    It’s a new verse in the vows of my faith, that yes there is indeed such thing as sooner or later when imagining technology. Even if it’s later, I’ll never doubt again.

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    As the World Turns

    by on Mar.09, 2006, under geek culture, new media


    Both online and off, I’ve found more and more people love to talk about games. Moment by moment seems to edge ‘our realm’ closer to the mainstream, and the perception of “the gamer” appears to gradually shed its awkward social heredity.

    In some ways, the plight of videogames is echoed by the comic books that sprung into the hands of the masses over sixty years ago. Having to battle a mindset that viewed them as ludicrous, even dangerous, comics slowly ground down the resistance and became a cultural staple for storytelling. Like videogames, comic book makers even faced Senate hearings in the U.S. to answer for their depictions of violence and crime.

    Nowadays, change has become an efficiency unto itself. It comes far more rapidly. In the space of a few years, games are becoming bastard rockstars of our culture. When the cool factor outpaces the nerd factor, true acceptance is within reach.

    Why do I know that games are nudging mainstream? Forget about “game profits eclipsing Hollywood movies”, as I suspect that statistic is probably so narrowed as to be meaningless. Really, I know mainstream when I can have a conversation about PS2’s “Black” with someone I’ve bumped into on the street. Or when my sister phones me up and asks me about “story themes” in Halo for her highschool english class.

    Can we call that progress? I’d say so, and finally! Ideas and interest in games has been viewed as the purview of nerdly distraction. I cannot count how many times articulating the merits of a particular game’s value were met with cold dismissal. Games are fringe shows for nerds, I was told. But as I said, things are changing. As the audience widens and discerns, I can easily imagine the choices and varieties will deepen. Perhaps even to penetrate the barrier barring our idle distractions from forming into a semblance of cultural relevance.

    Right now, every highschool classroom is full of kids whose daily lives are steeped in technological influences. Computers are no longer the fringe, they are practically central to their teenage experience. In the face of this, its obvious that gaming has finally busted through into the realm of cool. The face of gaming at this point is not only on a cell or a PDA, but on t-shirts and tatoos. Music inspired by 8-bit sound chips of yesterday feeds on a youth appetite for retro. All this isn’t new at all, but now this stuff is clearly embedded into our culture. Not even comics enjoyed this level of interest.

    As I roam online, or perk up in conversation at a party, one thing is for sure : everyone sure does have an opinion about games. Good, bad, ludicrous, insightful, artsy, musical, useless. Whatever. I’ve heard and engaged more on the topic in the last year than any other.

    As someone who’s been in it right from the beginning, its been fun to not only observe and participate, but also be an agent of that change. When clans were new, my friends here and around the world pioneered their definition. Shaped them! And as an observer in that time (and incidentally studying Communications and Media at SFU) I recalled wanting to study and record all of it.

    As we form on the precipice of monumental change in gaming as I believe, things will quickly become more complex and fractured and both niche and mainstream, I believe recording today is even more important. There is real history here, and I’m hoping it can be captured and displayed for the future. In that vein, Wikipedia is trying to bolster its entries in their games section. If you have an opinion about a particular game or genre, they have a weekly contribution page on a random topic. Get over there, check it, and lend a hand… if you’re so inclined.

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