I spent today at PAX Australia.
PAX is a video games convention. And video games conventions may not seem particularly relevant to a library blog. But one of the things I want to do with this blog is collect ideas from different fields that might be of use to my career in library nerddom.
This was my first time at PAX. It’s huge.
It filled out the entire Melbourne Exhibition Centre. I actually had a bit of panic attack when I entered the main hall full of crowds and queues and lights and noises. As I twittered:
#paxaus2016 replicates the gaming experience in that I’m lost & have no idea what I’m doing & a monster is probably about to eat me…
It took me almost an hour to find my bearings and gain some composure. Part of that was sitting down and reading the map. And part of it was just jumping into the experience: playing a game, talking to booth staff, focusing on the bit of the convention that was right in front of me, rather than trying to take it all in at once.
I’ve storyfied my tweets from the convention, so I won’t spend time here on describing it. But here are some key ideas I took away:
Video games are a digital medium, and yet they can pack out a convention centre. Part of the appeal, I think, is just getting a hands-on experience with stuff. You get to play the games, talk to the devs, try out the gear.
Humans don’t just learn by reading and thinking. We learn by doing.
I caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen for 20 years just because we were in the same location. I bought a game that I would not have even known existed if I hadn’t walked past the booth and thought it looked cute.
Physical proximity allows these sort of chance connections to happen.
If you follow gamer culture, you’ve probably heard about GamerGate, the vicious backlash against feminism (and women in general) in video games. The victims of GamerGate have banded together to make gaming more welcoming, diverse and inclusive. The organisers have done a great job of listening to this community and making PAX a safe and inclusive place.
- a clear, simple code of conduct that includes the outcomes for violating it
- a “no booth babes” policy
- a quiet room (the AFK Room) with a clinical psychologist on hand for people who were feeling anxious or overwhelmed
- a Diversity Lounge to celebrate and be a safe space for the wide variety of people who game
- gender-neutral toilets, which is such a simple gesture to show all people are welcome
Gathering the Community
I loved seeing the cosplay. I loved chatting to developers as I tried out their games. I loved meeting friends. I loved just being around all these people enjoying what they loved. These things can only happen when people gather together in the same physical space.
There is a huge value in providing a place where people can gather together.