Like my Geek Girl Speak post, this one’s a little late, but I still want to let you know about some of the awesome stuff I got do last year, so I’m posting anyway! It’s worth a humble brag.

This time, I’m writing about the mighty PAXAUS. For those not in the know, PAX is a gaming convention run by the folks at Penny Arcade, creators of the webcomic of the same name about videogame culture. PAX started out in 2004 as a small to medium-sized event for gamers in Bellevue, Washington and has since grown to gargantuan proportions, doubling in size with each new year. By my estimates, that means the entire population of Australia was in attendance at PAXAUS in Melbourne last year, it’s second visit to our shores. I was asked by Daniel Chlebowczyk, of Surprise Attack and previously Madman Entertainment to speak at a panel on transmedia and games. In case you haven’t read my About page, I wrote my PhD on Transmedia Storytelling, which, put simply, is the telling of a single narrative across multiple media channels, so I was thrilled to weigh in.

Before I start, I have to be honest and say that I wasn’t sure at the time whether I should speak at PAXAUS or not. As most of you probably know, Penny Arcade caused some serious controversy back in 2010 when they posted a comic strip involving a character who claims he was ‘raped by dickwolves’ – a supposed commentary on the moral ambiguity of MMORPG communities. Many people were offended and questioned the integrity of making casual jokes about rape. Understandable. Penny Arcade responded by posting a second comic strip antagonising offended groups by sarcastically cautioning their readers not to become rapists. Mmm. Classy. The ordeal escalated quickly, with Penny Arcade selling DickWolves merchandise and supporters of the comic creating a group, Team Rape, to harass outspoken anti-rape activists. Penny Arcade has since, sort of apologised. See this resource for more details.

Despite appearances, I don’t say all this simply to dredge up old news (although all of this only came to a head in 2013 and the topic of rape culture and misogyny in the gaming community is still very much under debate in public discourse). It’s important to me, especially as a geek girl, to reflect on how these events shaped my participation in this community. It’s important to others, too, I’m sure. The rationale behind my decision to participate in the panel was simple: I wasn’t going to let a minority group of bigots and misogynists stop me from participating in a community I rightly belong to. I am geek and I am here to stay. Also, my panel had nothing whatsoever to do with gender, so the likelihood of there being any “issues” was slim, although I was prepared to throw down if need be. Geek lyfe, yo.

150128_10152460678966398_3842962375188928350_nAnyway, I’m here to say that my experience of the convention was nothing short of AMAZING. I’ve never attended such a well-organised, well-run and inclusive event. I’m not a huge gamer, but I had an absolute blast and everyone there was super friendly and hospitable. Sadly, I didn’t get time to stop at the tabletop area for some gaming, but I’ll definitely get in there next year, when I’ll definitely be returning. My experience of the event this time around was one of a child, ambling bug-eyed and slack-jawed through DisneyLand. A whole new world, indeed.

The PANEL (remember? That’s where I started three paragraphs back), was also amazing. I was joined by a line-up of games industry heavy-weights, including the aforementioned Daniel Chlebowczyk, Tristan Jones, of IDW Publishing, Tom Taylor of everywhere (DC Comics, Marvel, Gestalt Publishing, Darkhorse/Lucasfilm) and James Kozanecki of Surprise Attack and CBS Interactive Australia. Discussion mostly revolved around how games interact with other media (think, the Halo franchise, Mass Effect and Pokemon) and Tristan’s humorous retelling of his work on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics for IDW. As far as my input was concerned, having consulted for independent transmedia practitioners in the past, I mostly gave advice to would-be games designers looking to dip a toe into the transmedia pool about the importance of forethought, retroactive design and planning. When transmedia is done right, it’s usually the result of great collaborative work and a lengthy planning process (among other things). The work needs to be conceived of as transmedia from the beginning. Joss Whedon is a complete legend at this. Take the Marvel Avengers storyworld, for example. Each new platform, whether film, television or video-game, provides a fresh new perspective on the storyworld whilst also reaching back and pulling threads from the existing text to weave new, integrated storylines. A simple example is the multiple references in Season 1 of S.H.I.E.L.D to an explanation of what happened after Coulson was stabbed by Loki in The Avengers movie. Both texts are part of a complex story which is greater than the sum of its parts, but which can also be enjoyed in isolation. Neat. And I got to spend an entire afternoon talking to awesome people about topics like this. It was truly awesome.

In short, what began as a trepidatious voyage into the unknown ended on a high. PAXAUS was fun, overwhelming and engaging; the community was much the same. Here’s hoping I see you there next year.