PAX AUS 2015. Another year done. I’m knackered.

So my social event of the year, PAXAUS 2015, has come and gone. It was an odd mixture of fun, frustration, and exhaustion.

The mecca of all things nerdy.
The mecca of all things nerdy.

If you’re not sure what PAX (short for Penny Arcade Expo) is, you should check out Penny Arcade. Penny Arcade started life as a little online web comic that has grown into a huge industry powerhouse simply because it’s creators LOVE gaming. The expo happens yearly all over the USA and now, thankfully for the past few years, in Australia. Even better is that they’ve chosen Melbourne as the city to host it (for the time being) which means it’s incredibly easy for me to go to. It’s a celebration of games, gaming, games development and issues surrounding the gaming industry. It includes all facets of gaming, which is what I especially enjoy, so if you’re not a lover of video games but you adore table-top games, you’re totally covered.

To be honest, I am not really a hardcore gamer of any particular game style. I dabble in indie computer games and occasionally play the more mainstream stuff like The Sims, obvs. When I feel like it, I might play a card or board game or two. That said, I do enjoy knowing about the industry and it’s various facets. So for me the panels at PAX are definitely my favourite bit and what I invest much of my PAX time in.

Hee. I got the feels.
Hee. I got the feels.

This year there was a huge number of panels that I wanted to get into but due to time and schedule overlap, I couldn’t quite see everything that I wanted to see. Sadly, with PAX and the nature of how the show is put together, you do run the risk of panels not being great. Unfortunately many of panels I chose to attend were lackluster. While the topics were awesome, some failed simply due to the lack of preparation or real direction on behalf of the panelists.

The two panels I attended about the social aspect of gaming were frustrating as they didn’t even come close to discussing the topics they advertised. One panel was supposed to be debate about social gaming (think multiplayer games) versus solo gaming (single player) and which was better. It turned out to be a bunch of gameheads talking about which games they liked to play as opposed to putting forward arguments as to which was supposed to be “better”. It could have been SO GOOD… but wasn’t.

The other panel along the same theme was “Are Gamers Social?”, which was supposed to be a discussion addressing the idea that we gamers are not just people who sit in dark rooms playing games all day, denying that the outside world exists, was extremely disappointing. It was clearly put forward by someone with an axe to grind and who wanted to whine about how people give him a hard time – and having folks on the panel who looked like they hadn’t even bothered to shower in a few days didn’t help his cause. Even as they complained about it, they had already firmly ensconced themselves idea that gamers are different sorts of people an that they were different and somehow unsociable. ARGH!

Anyway, I left that one early because it just frustrating me.

But not all was doom and gloom. I had picked a few pretty awesome panels. There were a number of panels about diversity in games – including not only women in the industry (of course, because that’s always a huge topic considering “Gamergate” last year and the ongoing saga of females breaking into male-dominated industry), but also representation of different folks from all walks of life, backgrounds and ethnicity as well as addressing the issues of physical and mental disabilities in games. Some of those were real eye-openers.

And then there were the fun ones. D&D games with audience participation; a great one being run on the last day by The Dragon Friends who put out a regular podcast, discussions about LARP (live action role-play) as art, and science versus video games presented by Tim & Phill Talk About Games which as a little bit brilliant and piss-funny too.

The business end of the panel. (The Dragon Friends.)
The business end of the panel. (The Dragon Friends.)

The main exhibition hall was definitely sensory overload and I could really only manage a few short walks around the place to look about before naturally gravitating back to the quiet of the panel theatres or the table top hall. In spite of the overwhelming visual stimulation, I did get to see a lot of games being played and I admit my trigger finger got itchy as I observed folks enjoying Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate which has all the aesthetics I like in a game. (Ye olde London? YES PLEASE.) I even got to see a live demo of a game that I have been patiently waiting the release of called Unravel which really does look brilliant.

On the whole, PAX is fun. It’s hard to describe to those who have no interest in gaming of any sort (like my work colleagues for example) but it’s nice to know that us people who enjoy games and gaming of all sorts have a place to nerd out and be with our own for a few days.

The Short-but-Epic Trip to USA for DragonCon 2014! (Part 4 – Day 1 of DragonCon 2014)

So Friday, the 29th of August (bloody hell that seems like a long time ago now) was the first official day of DragonCon 2014. I was all a-twitterpated and excited to get started on my first real con experience. However there was one minor problem…

I was fighting a losing battle against the dreaded Travel Lurgy. The cold which had remained hidden until the moment I sat my arse down in that first plane out of Melbourne, reared it’s ugly, snotty head in a proper manner. I had gone from a tickly throat and a bit of a cough to starting to feel claggy and unwell. Really unwell.

John was doing his best for me, as per usual – loading me up with medication we thought would help but what we thought might have just been a coughy thing turned out to be an actual cold thing. It wasn’t bad at that stage, I could deal with it. If it didn’t get any worse, I would be just fine with that.

When it came to costumes for the day, it was decided that Friday would be Firefly Day. Unfortunately, in my forgetful and somewhat panicky blondeness, I had left my costume neatly folded on top of my dresser – IN MELBOURNE. Not much help to me there, was it? I’d gotten dressed in civvies at that point, quite prepared to be the tagalong friend who carries everyone’s stuff (aka The Handler) and just enjoy the sights. Well, my mate Tracy wasn’t having any of that and in her preparedness, offered me a choice of Indian saris to wear so I could play Inara. Watching everyone else get dressed up made me maybe a tiny bit jealous (and foolish) over having no costume so I let Tracy wrap me up in a gorgeous black and gold number.

I’d like to note at this point that neither of us knew what the hell we were doing. Thanks to the Font of All Wisdom on Random Shit, aka Google, we managed to figure out how to put on a sari. So we wrapped and folded and wrapped and folded and pinned, pinned, pinned, and wrapped and folded some more until I looked like… well, me. In a sari. I was the blondest Inara you could imagine. I was also buggered if I needed to go to the toilet at any stage. There were pins everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. They connected the sari to my pants, my tank top, to itself. It was almost scary sitting down for fear of popping one and ending up with a pin ending up somewhere it ought not be.

So, I was Inara (chubby blonde version), then we had John who was Wash and Tracy and Grant who were Kayley and Jayne respectively. Naturally Kayley and Jayne have the biggest following in that show so Tracy and Grant got a load of attention. A couple people asked to take their pictures and then belatedly realised John and I were part of the group and called us in for a group shot when they recognised who we were playing.

Renlish.com - Firefly Friday
John, me, Tracy and Grant.

Yeah, we don’t fit the mold – but it’s still loads of fun.

And thus began my first foray into cosplay and conventions.

The first panel of the day was this guy:

Renlish.com - Patrick Stewart
His thinking face, maybe? I dunno.

That’s THE Sir Patrick Stewart there, folks. Sorry for the fuzziness. My camera couldn’t quite handle the lighting situation but… I was in the same room as one of my favourite classic actors. I was a little bit in awe. (Actually, a lot in awe. And it wouldn’t be the first time that’d happen too.) He is such a great speaker. So engaging and witty and absolutely adorable. Of course he was peppered with the usual questions about X-Men and Star Trek and it was great listening to him tell his stories. The hour-long panel went by so quickly.

Speaking of panels – there is one common thing that links them all.

THE QUEUING.

God in Heaven. I’ve never experienced anything like that before. Lines for panels went around the block and double-backed on themselves to head back around the other way. Queues snaked up the middle of buildings for several floors. People were milling everywhere.

Lining up to get into Sir Pat’s (we’re totally on casual name basis now) panel was an exercise in patience and sheer force of will. We had lucked out when we arrived and joined the line when it was just a few hundred strong. From where we stood, we watched what seemed like thousands walk past us to find the end of the line and it was like that for a good hour. I won’t mention the incident where one of the volunteers tried to get the small group of us in our area to move off because we weren’t standing in the right spot – even though we’d been told to stay there. Pigs would fly if we were going to join the end of the line at that point, not with the several hundreds/thousands who had tacked themselves on in all the time we’d been waiting. Needless to say, we scared the poor lass who, to be honest, was only doing what she was told as well. But she came through and made arrangements for us to stay where we were.

Oy. So, lesson learned. Turn up at least 90 minutes early to have a better chance of securing a place in the queue.

With that panel done, our next appointment was in another hotel to see a Firefly panel. This was pretty much the whole reason we dressed up.

We saw this guy:

Renlish.com - Adam Baldwin
A terrible picture of Adam Baldwin and panel moderator.

Adam Baldwin of Jayne Cobb, Firefly fame.

He’s a funny bugger too. He really took over that panel. Sadly Ron Glass (who was Shepherd Book in the show) was a late-comer to the panel, having been “caught in traffic” (I can imagine) and much quieter than Adam, though he had his moments as well. Grant was totally geeking out at this point. Adam is his hero from that particular show.

There was an amusing moment before the panel started where an Indian couple actually asked if I was in costume or not. Tracy confirmed that I was and they were impressed at the good job we’d done. We laughed and said there were pins everywhere and there would have been no chance of me putting it on by myself, to which they replied that Idian women grow up dressing in saris and still need the help of many hands and many pins to make it work. We felt rather proud of ourselves after that.

The last event of the day before we were totally wrecked and needed to eat was the Doctor Horrible Sing-a-long. John is a massive fan of Dr Horrible. I’d only ever seen a couple of episodes as they were being posted up online years ago. It was fun seeing the whole thing together in that environment.

The Short-but-Epic Trip to USA for DragonCon 2014! (Part 2 – Hello Atlanta!)

After a very comfortable night asleep in a bed that I could actually lay down in (plane seats are not comfy and not made for sleeping) I awoke to something warm and furry vibrating against my hand. I would have thought that my friend John was up to things nefarious and kinky but our relationship is not like that at all. Then I remembered… he has cats.

Three of them, to be precise, and one of them had decided she liked me enough to wake me up in the morning and demand cuddles.

Renlish.com - Jeanne
The beautiful face of Jeanne. (Photo stolen from John.)

Ugh. Impossibly cute. I thought I would miss my two spewkitties at home, and I did, but these kitten cuddles went a long way to starting my day off with a smile.

So after a shower and a repacking all my stuffs, John and I collected the rental car, our other two friends; Tracy and Grant, and then headed out on our four hour trip across a couple of states from North Carolina to Georgia.

And what can you really say about a four hour drive apart from it was long and boring with a few moments of humour interspersed throughout…

That became our theme song for the trip.

Anyway, by early evening we finally made it into Atlanta and the Peachtree area where DragonCon was taking place.

The Atlanta Marriott Marquis, where we were staying, is also one of the five hotels that hosts DragonCon and all of it’s visitors. And it was huge. Really huge.  BIGLY huge.

Renlish.com - Atlanta Marriott Marquis
Looking up into the belly of the beast!

I thought I had been in some big hotels before but the Marriott was something else entirely. It just seemed to keep going. And the hive was already buzzing.

While John was checking us in, I made a quiet remark that the hotel was fairly busy. My friends just looked at me and smiled in that kindly, “You poor, naive thing, you” way.

It was only Wednesday evening, the Con didn’t officially start until Friday…

Renlish.com - Atlanta, Georgia
Goodnight, Atlanta. See you in the morning!

The Short-but-Epic Trip to USA for DragonCon 2014! (Part 1 – LAX SUCKS!)

I’m back!

Actually, I’ve been back a week already but I’ve needed all that time to simply get over the delayed jetlag that has claimed my soul upon my return to be able to even think straight about what I did last week, let alone write about it.

So.

The USA.

It’s fun. Different, but fun. There’s lots of similarities between Us and Them (Us being Aussies and Them being Amurrikans) but on the whole, they a nice – if interesting and slightly strange – bunch.

My trip started with an early morning run to the airport. I was stressed. I’d never had a flight with so many stop-overs before and I could think of nothing else but horror scenarios with my connections. Usually when I’d booked my own flights, I made sure there was no more than one connection to make or I was flying direct. However, that’s simply not possible when one is flying into North Carolina. And after all the horror stories I’d heard about the big and awful LAX, I was in panic mode.

Unfortunately the Manbeast had to get to work so couldn’t stay to keep me company (and calm me down) so after a quick hug and “love you” we went our separate ways.

As I checked in, the guy at the desk seemed to sense my unease (and by “sense” and “unease” I mean was he was watching me pretty much fall apart in front of him) and talked me through the whole damned thing as well gave me a little map of LAX and described exactly where I would need to go to meet my connections. That settled me somewhat. I had a good three hours between flights at LAX. I would have enough time to get lost and find my way at least once…

AND THEN THE FLIGHT WAS DELAYED BY AN HOUR AND A HALF.

It was the last thing I needed. My anxiety took over sometime during the flight and I had a cry because I am a big baby.

Renlish.com - Up and Away!
Calm. What my flights should have been like – but weren’t. (Photo from RGBSTOCK).

When we arrived in LAX (that horrible, HORRIBLE airport!) nearly 15 hours later, I was ushered into the express line into immigration and, after a lengthy conversation with a typically surly customs officer regarding internet friendships and how cool they are, I was officially let into the country!

Of course that triumph was short-lived. I had to run-run-run, collect my luggage, transfer it and then make it to the next gate to make my connection all within an hour. No small feat in such a big airport. Thankfully, I made it with about ten minutes to spare – though not without an x-ray scan AND a pat-down by a lovely TSA officer. Yeah, wearing my most comfy but metal-studded t-shirt for the trip? Not the brightest idea I’d ever had.

I will say here and now that whilst I know that people who work at airports are usually the grumpy sort because they’re dealing with Average Joe (and Decidedly-Below-Average Joe) en masse on a daily basis, the folks in American airports take grumpiness to a whole new level. I don’t ask for much but I don’t suffer fools or rudeness gladly, so when I ask for help I expect a civil reply. The grunts and glares and “this is shit you should know, lady” attitude I got were disheartening and infuriating. Anyway.

Fortunately the last connection I had to make in Detroit was much easier and, after a total of 27 hours traversing the globe – but still managing to arrive the evening of the same day and only seeing about seven hours of daylight (talk about a mind fuck) – I was in North Carolina.

And it was deliciously warm! I hadn’t noticed when I first hit fresh air on the continent. I was rushing so much in LA that the warmer temperature didn’t really even register for much of it until I realised that I was feeling a little warm in my cardigan while I was jogging to my terminal. I looked at the sky and thought “Oh, that’s right, it’s Summer here.”

The Weekly Bindi – Week 12… and corsets… and OMGI’MGOINGTOAMURRIKA!

Renlish.com - The Weekly Bindi
“I’m cuter than that kitten you’re watching on Youtube, right mum? RIGHT MUM?!”

I actually can’t remember what video I was watching, but I was cackling away and then all of a sudden I felt the SCRAMBLE-THUD of Bindi on the bed. She started on my hip and slowly worked her way up my back until she was within petting reach and purring happily into my ear as I obliged her.

And then of course I flipped the webcam on and took a couple of shots. She didn’t mind so much. It’s cold now and I was the warmest spot in the house.

Anyway… last weekend I went to OzComicCon at the Melbourne Exhibition Buildings in Carlton in search of all things geeky and nerdy and, joy of joys, I found it! I have become somewhat obsessed with cosplay after my first experience playing at SupaNova a couple months ago and I’m now part of Facebook cosplay group where some local talent show off their amazing work and works in progress for up-coming conventions.

Sadly I didn’t get any pictures at OzComicCon because I was simply unprepared for the amount of people there and the crush inside the exhibition hall but the bro in-law and I are planning a visit to Armageddon to take pictures of the awesome cosplayers that show up there. And I know there will be many!

The other reason I went to OzCC was to go looking for bits to add to my steampunk costume.

Because…

Renlish.com - DragonCon
DragonCon. ATLANTA, GEORGIA, USofA, BABY!!!!

I am going to DragonCon!

I’m going to AMURRIKA!

Yes, due to the extreme kindness and generosity of a dear, dear friend, I have found myself America-bound for one of the biggest conventions in that country.

AND I AM STOKED.

Because I don’t really have the body to be comfortable cosplaying most of the characters that I like, I am sticking with what makes me look good and feel good and to that end, I’m joining the American steampunk ranks and revisiting my steampunk costume. Steampunk is huge over in the States so I’m hoping to see some amazing stuff at DragonCon.

As my original corset is looking somewhat sad at the moment, I decided to go corset hunting at OzCC with one of my mates and my mother and, at Wonderland Corsets, found the most glorious corset I think I have ever seen and when the helpful shop lady strapped me into it, it looked like it was made to fit me. I had a perfect hour-glass, my boobs looked awesome and my back-cleavage all but vanished. I bought it immediately. Who wouldn’t?

Renlish.com - Corset of Wonderment
Steel-boned gorgeousness.

I cannot wait to wear this baby out with my new, pimped-out costume.