PAX Aus 2016 and reflections

PAX is back in Australia and we were able to go!

PAX Aus - Where everyone knows your game
PAX Aus – Where everyone knows your game

PAX is a yearly tradition for me. I like to check out new games, try a board game, and splurge a little on merch. I also like to hang out with my Melbourne buddies, including the ultra-talented Alice Carroll (of Alice Carroll Illustrations, who did a lot of the awesome concept art for The Day After) and Jamatar (indie Gameboy musician – check out his great Interstellar). I also got to say hi to PAX regular and Pop Culture artist extraordinaire, Kat from KatArt Illustrations. It’s great to be around all the talented artists, all interested in new and weird and cool things.

I also like to go and be inspired by the indie developers and panels. The PAX Rising area was great – lots of local game devs trying strange and clever game ideas. The panels as well give an insight to the motivations, aspirations and life of developers. Sure, there’s a bit of survivor bias (“I did this and was successful, so maybe you should do it too!”) but I tend to mine my own insights from what they discuss.

NanoJam - Terrible ideas made good fast.
NanoJam – Terrible ideas made good fast.

One of those insights – obvious as it is – is if you want to make games, make games. You need to experiment, and to experiment you need something to experiment with. This was the major failing of the first few years of The Day After – I spent a large amount of time building up a game engine (several times over) to eventually scrap it for the superior choice of Unreal Engine 4.

And really, in a creative place you need to try ideas and have them be crap. Creative things are refined, rather than cut from whole cloth. I’ve been watching The Black Mirror and marvelled at the screen writing. Then I read about Charlie Brooker sitting in his boxers, in his flat, crying because the first draft of one of his scripts was so bad it hurt. The first cut of Portal 2 had no portals in it. Toy Story originally had Woody as the villain. In the words of Ernest Hemingway: “The first draft of anything is shit.

The Day After has gone through many design iterations. Very little have been playable from an experimentation standpoint. Which sucks!

Furthermore, the advice of “if you want to make games, make games” should be taken literally. I recently tried an experiment inspired by Cortex (Myke and CGP Grey), who were in turn inspired by a terrible management book. Nevertheless the experiment was good. In the context of running your own business, there are roles and responsibilities. If you had to put down on paper the roles, skills and tasks they have to achieve, what would they be?

I began writing this as a future goal state for Cognitive Discodance. I incorporated just the roles that were currently being done, and things that would most likely need to be done upon release of The Day After. Even considering the current plan to contract out some of the creative work, there were server managers, social media managers, business person… In amongst the mess of all that supporting scaffolding, was game designer. Over the last few years I’d been devoting a lot of time to everything but the game designer/programmer role. Turns out keeping WordPress and social media accounts afloat is a big job. This year, I’ve been moving towards trimming away all this fat and concentrate on the core mission. Without it, nothing happens.

Cognitive Discodance is a part-time hobby, but luckily I have next week off to dedicate a few full days to it. If only I can shake the PAX Pox I brought back!