Tag Archives: melbourne

Stories from the road: I miss photography

An almost-deserted Bourke Street Mall in Melbourne

An almost-deserted Bourke Street Mall in Melbourne

It’s September 4th, 2022. I’m in Melbourne for the first time in a long time. It’s been nearly 8 years since PAX 2014, and while there have been a few PAX events in between, and several interstate and overseas trips since, for some reason, I haven’t been to Melbourne in all that time. Proper Melbourne, as opposed to just transiting through.

And it’s every bit as good as I remember.

I was supposed to go to Melbourne earlier this year with friends. But ol’ rona was still a thing, and I didn’t think it was the best idea. I might have been right, too, because everyone that went caught it and ended up staying an extra week before they could travel back to Queensland.

It’s September now, and ol’ rona is still a thing. It definitely seems like it will continue to be for the foreseeable future, if that wasn’t clear before. Eventually, though, people are going to have to decide for themselves what kind of risk they’re willing to accept, because the alternative seems similar to becoming something of a complete recluse.

But this isn’t about rona, or travel. It’s about photography.

A little while I ago I took out my Bessa only to find that the battery was flat after not using it for a while. I replaced the batteries, and a quick test shot resulted in some kind of stuck shutter. After panicking a bit, I did a little searching online to discover it was a common enough issue that people had come across it before. A short bit of percussive maintenance later, and the shutter was un-stuck and Bessie was working normally again.

I do feel a little guilty about putting down my camera. I’ve hardly done any photography since moving to Brisbane, so much so that any film I had brought up with me from Hobart expired a little while ago. By “a little while ago”, I mean a few years ago, so yeah, you could say it has been a while.

But it wasn’t until I went to Melbourne to see the sights and sounds that I realised how much I missed taking photos. I heard from my friends who went to Melbourne earlier this year that the city was so much different post-Covid, that it seemed less lively and a shadow of its former self, but if that was the case, I didn’t see it. Melbourne city seemed about the same as I remember from all those years ago, even if it wasn’t as busy as it was pre-Covid.

I ended up taking a few shots with my iPhone 11 Pro, and compared to the iPhone 6 that I had the last time I was in Melbourne, the versatility and quality of the 11 Pro camera system was leaps and bounds ahead. Not entirely unexpected given the multi-generational gap between the two, but phone cameras have performed wonderfully in great lighting conditions for years now. Probably since the iPhone 7 or iPhone X, now that I think about it.

But as much as I liked the photos coming out of my iPhone, it made me miss a standalone camera. Taking photos with an iPhone felt like cheating, somehow, because it was all too easy to get good photos. Point and click, right? With iPhone, anyone can be a photographer. And that’s great! But taking photos with a real camera feels nicer, somehow, like you’re a little more involved in the process rather than letting a bunch of computers and algorithms do all the photography for you.

Melbourne made me miss taking photos.

I miss taking photos with a real camera, and the only fix is to start taking photos again.

PAX Australia 2013

PAX Aus Logo

“Hmm, where to start?”

Among many others, that was a phrase that I uttered during my time on a panel about gaming on the Mac at PAX Australia. It was in response to a question from a fellow panelist about what kind of games I’m playing on the iPad, but now that I think about it, it’s strangely applicable to whatever I want to say about PAX Australia, too.

I procrastinated writing a thing about PAX Aus over on MacTalk because I couldn’t really make my mind up about what to write about. After I was able to procrastinate no more and did eventually write something, I posted it on Twitter with the comment that it was really hard to write. It was, but only because there were so many different narratives about PAX Aus that deciding on just one was the hard part.

There were a number of different angles I could have covered PAX from, with titles such as “the booth babes controversy”, “welcome home”, “PAX Australia and the rise of indies”, “boycotting PAX and Penny Arcade”, “what do you get when you create content just for the content, not to pay bills”, and last but not least, “out of context quotes from Mike and Jerry”.

As you can see, there were any number of different narratives I could have talked about when writing a retrospective about PAX Aus, but I chose the one I did and ran with that. That being said, there are still a few topics that weren’t discussed to my satisfaction, so I’d like to touch on a few other things which grabbed my attention during my time at PAX Aus, starting with panels.

Skippy Theater at PAX Aus 2013

Panels at PAX Australia were, for the most part, excellent. We’ll get to the queues in a minute, but being able to hear intelligent people talk about intelligent topics was kind of great — it didn’t matter if they were the Lead Writer or Lead Editor from BioWare, or if they were the freelance games journalists, or even just yours truly, hearing people talk about stuff that they had a vested interest in was fantastic.

I had originally planned to see more panels than I did, but thanks to the insane queues I had to reconsider what I really wanted to see and what I was only kind of interested in. On the first day I saw the Gaming on the Mac panel (saw, was a panelist on1, same thing), along with “BioWare Goes Down Under”.

The BioWare panel was interesting as there were more people who were into Dragon Age than I thought there would be, even though fans of Mass Effect still beat them numbers-wise. I think I queued for around 45 minutes for the BioWare panel, and after that, it was straight into the Xbox One keynote in the massive main theatre. The atmosphere of the Xbox One presentation was particularly great – heaps of people all hyped for a next-gen console, live Kinect demos, and even though I posted snarky comments on Twitter throughout the whole thing, it was still worth seeing the Xbox One in Australia for the first time.

XBone Keynote at PAX Aus

On the second day I kicked things off with the Make a Strip panel, where Mike and Jerry (Gabe and Tycho) were on-stage making a strip live and in colour. It was pretty great seeing the whole thing come together like it did, and there was a great Q&A session after which saw Mike and Jerry eat a Vegemite sandwich with all the results you might expect (you kind of had to be there, I guess). I had planned to see the Good Game panel, but because it was in one of the satellite theatres, it kind of meant the queue was already full 90 minutes before their presentation was even scheduled to start. Kind of bummed I missed out on that, but I still finished off the day with a panel from Australia’s largest games dev studio, the Firemonkeys (Real Racing, Flight Control, that kind of thing). It was eye-opening to see them talk a little about their relationship with EA, the games publishing giant that people often blame for the worse decisions relating to their titles (as discussed in the panel). I wanted to ask them about Real Racing 3 and in-app purchases, but didn’t really want to seem like “that guy”.

To be fair, this was the queue to get into PAX on the second day, not a queue for a panel

To be fair, this was the queue to get into PAX on the second day, not a queue for a panel

The final day came along and by now queues and I were old friends, which was good, because I ended up doing so for an hour for the “are videogame reviews failing to change with the times” panel, which featured editors and reviewers from a few big-names — PC PowerPlay, Hyper, and others. Writing game reviews is something I’m tangentially interested in, so I thought it was going to be an interesting panel. Sadly, while some interesting topics and points of view were brought up, I walked away feeling disappointed — towards the end the panel degenerated into a “I’m right, you’re wrong” argument between people asking questions and the panelists, and failed to address some of the bigger issues surrounding video game reviews.

I was pretty far up the back for the Make A Strip panel, but it was still great

I was pretty far up the back for the Make A Strip panel, but it was still great

It was during that last panel that they brought up the topic of not wanting to attach a numerical score to reviews. They held up the shield of “but our readers want it”, and I guess that’s the response you give when you live and die by your readership, but I would have liked to have seen the debate if they approached the subject from the angle of “if we care about our readers (which we do), then how does removing scores make for better reviews?”

Also on the list of bullets dodged by the panelists: “where do written video game reviews stand in the context of “Let’s Play”s on YouTube?” And since all of the panelists were in print media, “how does print media fare in the increasingly online age, where people expect videos of actual gameplay, not just words deconstructing the game mechanics?”

After the controversy of the videogame reviews panel, it was nice to end PAX with something a little lighter, namely the final round of the Omegathon (giant Jenga!) and the short and sweet closing ceremony that ended rather abruptly with Mike and Jerry dropping the mics and walking off stage.

I dislike calling out panels that didn’t answer the tough questions because I know my own panel wasn’t perfect in this regard either — we missed a few topics I would have liked to cover a little more, such as the rise of indie development, Kickstarter, and how those have affected gaming on the Mac, but at the end of the day, all the preparation in the world might not have satisfied those who were in attendance. Either way, this being the first PAX Aus and all, I’m sure panels will get better — bigger venues, shorter queues, and even more intelligent discussion.

There’s a few other topics I want to talk about (gaming culture, the whole Penny Arcade aspect of things, etc), but those might have to wait for another time.

  1. There’s a recording of our panel available over at Reckoner, if you’re interested in having a listen. 

Hello, Melbourne.

See those ugly lines running all over the screen? Exactly what I hate about Melbourne. Sometimes a guy just wants his view of the sky to be unimpeded, you know?

Photo taken with iPhone 4 with in-camera HDR. Straight from the camera, no editing.