PAX Rising: An Independent Success

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Australians have always been known for their support of the underdog, the ANZAC pride dating back to World War 1, we’ve built a culture around this kind of mateship. PAX Rising 2016 was a beacon of hope for every child who ever dreamed of being a game developer, PAX showed us what supporting the underdog is truly about. Being an independent developer is hard, anything worth achieving often is, it takes, time, money and resources that no one else will pay for, then showing off that work to people and getting them to play it is even harder when their market is global.

Pressed amongst the shoulders and costumes on the PAX floor was a carnival of games for every console, system, phone, tablet, elegantly contrasting the AAA developers who had mostly the same old games that we are so used to seeing. It’s lovely to walk up to a booth and be confident that the person with whom you are speaking most likely had a hand in creating that game, they’re eager for you to try their creations, to see you experience and hear your feedback, it’s an organic and unique experience. Virtual Reality has a whole new feel when the developer is first person narrating the tutorial in real time, then having a discussion about the experience after you have finished playing. This experience and feedback beats the interaction of a twitch stream 100 times over.

PAX Rising has another highlight and that is the Australian Indie Showcase, an annual event that chooses 6 exceptional games from the many that Australia and New Zealand has to offer, and celebrates them. This year’s winners were: The Eyes of Ara (100 Stones Interactive); Mini Metro (Dinosaur Polo Club); Objects in Space (Flat Earth Games); Paradigm (Jacob Janerka); The Adventure Pals (Massive Monster); Wildfire (Sneaky Bastards). Previous winner Hacknet (Team Fractal Alligator) was present for a second year showcasing the expansion for Hacknet and a limited edition Pinny Arcade Badge.

Winners of the AIS get the prime position at the top of the PAX Rising floor, beneath bright flood lights, organised in a neat row for people to conveniently hop from one display to the next. Other indie games are given coveted Pinny Arcade badges drawing more people than just the endless, curious masses, it encourages the badge hunters, people who look for the limited edition collectors’ items, available exclusively at specific PAX events. This year indie developers League of Geeks, Team Fractal Alligator, Considerable Content, Samurai Punk, Gritfish, and Tin Man Games were included in the 2016 Pinny Arcade badge quest. Penny Arcade including the indie scene in the badge quest is yet another example of PAX having that Australian ideal of supporting the local independent development community.

Even without the perks of being on the AIS wall, or being a Pinny Arcade badge station, the public are more than willing to immerse themselves in the buffet of independent entertainment. Talking to the developers on the floor it is interesting to hear about the different programming tweaks that they make, and the control choices used with the intention of making the game as accessible to as many players as can be reached. Interacting with people as they play their game for three days provides unique and personal feedback that can be invaluable for each developer. Rivalry developer, teenager Kew McParlane, returned to PAX for a second year with his solo developed game, and once again it was swamped by people waiting to have a turn at the game or talking to the young developer. Developers of all ages can be seen, from those straight out of university, to people who have worked for AAA development companies and then have gone on to forge their own development team, like Uppercut Games (Not present for PAX 2016 but have showcased in previous years). The whole team at Harmonious Games who 1 year out of University had a game ready to showcase at PAX and were involved in one of the PAX panels talking about game development. Like the games available the range of developers and their experiences are highly varied.

Aptly named PAX Rising connects the up and coming independent developers with the ravenous gaming community, many of them relying on the traffic of PAX to help advertise their game. Different to being sold useless items in store that the sales clerks know you will never need or use, games are a different medium and can be as enriching as a well-structured novel. Developers selling their own games gives us an opportunity to connect with these developers and also to relate to what they love about their own game, or even games in general. There are plenty of conventions to attend every year but only one has a floor space dedicated to independent games, only one convention supports the Australian underdog, and that’s PAX with the PAX Rising floor.

 

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About: Sarah Rigg

Mini metalhead with a love of horror movies and video games. First started gaming on her brother’s N64 with Mortal Kombat. Favourite series include Bioshock, Pokémon, Silent Hill and Mortal Kombat.

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