Tag Archives: pax aus 2014

Magic, Part Two

IMG_1783When we last left our intrepid explorer on his quest for the glorious Sarkhan pin at PAX Aus 2014, he had just gotten his card stamped after taking a really weird picture of himself as part of the three tasks he had to accomplish before gaining the pin and taking over the world. Wait, maybe not that last part. One down, two to go.

After getting my picture taken and getting one of the three stamps needed for the Sarkhan pin at PAX Aus 2014, there were just two other events I needed to complete. Spell-slinging, duelling, or learning to play Magic were the options available to me, although there was one more I can’t remember for the life of me. In any case, I had no idea what spell-slinging or duelling was, and I was pretty sure I wanted to learn how to play Magic, so the choice was between spell-slinging or duelling.

With the primary goal being acquiring the Sarkhan pin in the least amount of time, the “learning to play Magic” line was a little too long for my experienced line-gauging eye. I did notice a collection of iPads setup in the Magic area, and after confirming with a passing attendant about how they were being used for the “duelling” part of the Magic exhibition, I joined the queue (which was, thankfully, much shorter than the learning to play line).

Just so we’re absolutely clear: I already knew how to play Magic. The Pokémon Trading Card Game might have been all the rage when I was in primary school, but in high school, Pokémon had all but died out, and Magic was the flavour of the month. I was intrigued by the card game the older kids were playing in the library every lunchtime, and before I knew it, had two Magic decks of my own and was spending the inevitably-too-short lunchtimes playing with and against some of the older kids.

But all that was many moons ago, and like Pokémon, I fell out of the Magic scene after a few years. I stepped up to one of the iPads set aside for duelling, and when presented with the screen asking whether I had played Magic before, I selected yes. At that point I fully expected get my arse handed to me from a computer, what with its perfect decision making and innate knowledge of the game. Luckily, I had overheard a Magic staffer saying you’d get a stamp on your card whether you won or lost the duel, so my fears about losing and having to do it all again were assuaged. With my newfound brevity, I started playing Magic on the iPad, an experience that was entirely new to me.

At first, I was losing. Pretty badly — the hand I drew had nothing usable, and I was still putting out lands when my AI opponent started doing damage. Nothing serious, just a few chips here and there, but enough to put me on the back foot. Combined with the trepidation and unfamiliarity with Magic on an iPad, I wasn’t really sure I would be able to win.

The Magic iPad experience itself was pretty standard — like any game, Magic follows a set of rules which can be codified and turned into a series of steps, much like an elaborate dance. Only in this case, my AI opponent held the entire ballroom captivated with his delicate footwork, and I was just doing the ol’ two-step in the corner.

Eventually things started turning in my favour and after a while, I had the upper hand. A few more turns later, and I had won the duel, defeating the boss. I resisted the temptation to do a small victory dance and instead settled for calling over one of the Magic staffers over, showing him my win. He grinned and congratulated me on a job well done, and rewarded me with a hole punched in my card, over the section that said “duelling”. Two down, one to go.

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Magic, Part One

IMG_1795There’s this thing at PAX called Pinny Arcade, right, and it’s wonderful. It’s like a little subculture of PAX attendees who are obsessed about collecting and trading lanyard pins, almost kind of like Pokémon. You can buy many of the pins at PAX events or from the online store for little effort, but the most coveted ones are the ones that you have to trade other collectors for: Penny Arcade staff, some easier to find than others. Some, like the Sarkhan pin you see above, can be earned through a series of events. This is the story of how I came to earn the Sarkhan pin at PAX Aus 2014.

At first, I wanted to trade someone for it, it being the Sarkhan pin. I was wandering the area for panels with a few friends; they were searching for PAX Aus XP QR codes, I was mostly just killing time until the next panel I wanted to see.

An enforcer was standing outside one of the panel rooms, and I was drawn to his glittering lanyard of Pinny Arcade pins. After a quick glance, only one caught my eye: Sarkhan. I asked him if he wanted to trade, and pointed towards the mean-looking dude with flames. He seemed momentarily confused, as if this was the first time anyone had ever asked him that question before, before answering with a question of his own: “you know it can be earned, right?” I asked him where, and he said downstairs, at the Magic exhibition.

My companions at the time had heard about this, and informed me three tasks had to be performed before the pin was awarded. This being day two, one of them said the pin was actually easier to earn yesterday, on day one, as only two of four tasks had to be performed, but now, it was three out of five. Feeling a little like Hercules and his labours, I parted ways with my companions and wandered downstairs, passing through the many glittering attractions of the expo hall before arriving at the tabletop area, just past the console and PC free play areas.

Upon arriving, I made my way to one of the Magic areas, as they were cordoned off into various sections. I must have had a lost and/or confused look on my face, because I was soon approached by a guy who asked me if I needed any help. I asked him where I could perform the deeds to earn a Sarkhan pin of my very own. Looking pleased I was not there to collect his firstborn and merely after a collectible pin, he directed me towards another desk, currently staffed by a man and a woman. I thanked him for his assistance on the matter and moved on.

At the desk, I was greeted by the woman, who asked me what I was after. I stated my intentions on collecting a Sarkhan pin, and with a knowing look in her eye, she handed me one of the cards that contained the instructions for the five tasks. I only had to perform three, and from memory, I could choose from learning Magic, taking a photo, duelling, spell-slinging, and one more that I can’t quite recall.

Being the non-nerd that I am, I opted for taking a photo as that seemed the “easiest”. The goal was to get the pin in the shortest possible time, and I was thankful that PAX was such an inclusive place: they knew that a lot of people wouldn’t be up for the nerdery of learning to play a collectible card game, so they had an all-inclusive activity that everyone could enjoy. I donned a silly hat, picked up a sword, and stood in front of the camera as it took a photo. Looking at the photo now, and I wish I hadn’t chosen such a girly pose…

With the first of three tasks completed, I had my card punched. One down, two to go.

Wow, two PAX Aus posts in one day? Yeah, it happens when you’re six days behind in daily blog posts for the month of November.

These words part of Blogvember, a thing I just made up right then about getting back into blogging. You can read more words about Blogvember right over here, but the gist is that I'll be attempting to post something up on the blog every day in November 2014. Read other Blogvember posts.


DSC01210There was this one time at PAX Australia this year, when I was in the line to get some playtime with Far Cry 4. When you’re in lines there’s not that much to do — sure, if you’re queueing with a friend you can talk about what you’ve seen or are going to see next, but if you’re by yourself, you’re either smashing out some StreetPasses on your 3DS or doing something solo on your Vita and getting mocked for it on Twitter. But I digress.

Anyway, I was in this line, and it was almost my turn. There were perhaps 3 or so people before I was up, and the line was moving at a pretty steady pace — Ubisoft had between 8 and 10 consoles set up for the demo, and each person got maybe 10 minutes of play time, so it wasn’t too bad. From where I was in the line, I could see a girl playing the game.

I feel as though I have to preface this with “I’m not a sexist or anything”, because even though that should be pretty clear, what happened next could have easily happened to a guy, and I probably would have felt the same way.

With that out of the way, there was a girl playing Far Cry 4, and the thing I noticed was that she was dying, a lot. Like, over and over again. At first I thought she was just bad at the game, but then realised that wasn’t possible as the game wasn’t out yet, which meant everyone was bad at the game. My second thought was that she wasn’t familiar with console shooters — I know I’m definitely not, having two sticks to work with is confusing as all hell for someone who’s more experienced with a keyboard and mouse.

When I stepped up to the plate and had the PS4 controller in my hands, I was crazy bad at the game, too — I just kept dying, over and over again. Running into a guard unexpectedly and dying. Biting off more guards than I could chew, and dying. Trying to jump over something that couldn’t be jumped over, and dying. Glancing at the people who were doing the demo at the same time as me told a similar story, as they were dying a lot as well.

The interesting thing about the whole experience is that my brain automatically jumped to the conclusion that someone was bad at the game, even though no-one was particularly “good”, either. Like I said earlier, it could have happened to a guy or a girl, but it begs the question: did my own perceptions jump to a conclusion based on gender? Maybe. And if so, that’s kinda messed up.

These words part of Blogvember, a thing I just made up right then about getting back into blogging. You can read more words about Blogvember right over here, but the gist is that I'll be attempting to post something up on the blog every day in November 2014. Read other Blogvember posts.

Custom A40 Speaker Tags

IMG_1638Around the middle of last year, I picked up the Astro A40 headset to replace my SteelSeries 7H, whose microphone had decided it wasn’t for this world anymore. They’re pretty good, as far as headsets go — a little on the large side, but they’re comfortable enough for extended periods. I would have liked the option of leather ear pads for even better noise isolation, but yeah, they’re alright.

The A40 is the most customisable headset I’ve ever used. You can have the microphone on the left or the right, or choose to have no microphone at all. The in-line volume control also houses a mute switch, and secondary microphone, and a button you can use as a kind of push-to-talk (at least, that’s what I think it’s used for. I’ve never actually used it).

But the coolest feature about them is that you can customise the speakers with custom speaker tags. Astro were exhibiting at PAX Australia last year, and I was excited to pick up a set of custom tags for my headset at their booth. Alas, when I asked them about custom tags they said they had so few they were only giving them away if you bought a headset — I already had a headset, so that wasn’t really an option for a set of $20 speaker tags. Not gonna lie, I was pretty disappointed I wouldn’t be able to get some custom speaker tags.

This year at PAX Australia, Astro were exhibiting once again — and this time, they actually had speaker tags on display. During the time only media were allowed into the expo hall, I asked if they would be selling the tags separately this year, and to my delight, they said yes.


I came back a little later, and after umm-ing and ahh-ing over what I wanted — and confirming that I could pick up two tags for $20 (hey, you gotta ask) — I chose to go with the custom speaker tags you see in the picture above. Ideally I would have liked something Dota-related, but after looking online and seeing nothing that really took my fancy, I chose to go with the guy from Battlefield 4 and one of the official Astro/PAX tags. The Astro rep I talked to was super nice and said she’d give me a set of the official Astro/PAX tags, and throw in the Battlefield one for free, which was kind of awesome and more than made up for the lack of tag availability last year. I was super stoked with that!

The funny thing is, I don’t even play Battlefield all that much. I used to play Battlefield 3 a bit, and Bad Company 2 a LOT, but Battlefield 4 has basically fallen off my radar. I’m not really sure why, but perhaps I was just sick of that kind of gameplay — these days, I’m all about the Dota.

These words part of Blogvember, a thing I just made up right then about getting back into blogging. You can read more words about Blogvember right over here, but the gist is that I'll be attempting to post something up on the blog every day in November 2014. Read other Blogvember posts.