PAX East 2016 - The Panels (Part One)

One of my favorites aspects of attending an event, is checking out some of the panels and hearing people I admire talk about various aspects of the industry.

Kinda Funny: We Tricked Folks Into Thinking We're a Big Deal

As I was primarily at PAX East to spend time with the Kinda Funny community, even waiting in line for an hour or two to get into the Kinda Funny panel was a treat. I loved getting the chance to sit down with so many Best Friends, both the ones I was at the convention with and those who I either didn't know or who I knew through social media. It was great starting off the conference hearing what people were excited about and what they were hoping to check out on the show floor (I think PlayStation VR was pretty much the number one answer across the board).

Once we finally got into the space and started getting seated, the Kinda Funny guys were all onstage getting setup and some general room music was playing in the background. At some point, Nick led the room in a bit of "Sweet Caroline" before getting into the actual panel. If you've watched or heard any of the Kinda Funny shows from past conventions, you probably know what to expect: Greg runs through the introductions, everyone talks about what they're looking forward to at the event, some random non-sequiturs get thrown in the mix, and then the rest of the time is dedicated to audience Q&A time.

Kevin was recording the show so it'll inevitably be uploaded to the Kinda Funny YouTube channel (and according to Kevin, my hair is in the shot the whole show since I was in the third row right in front of the guys). When it posts, I'll update this entry to include it, but some of the highlights were as follows:

  • Michael Choueiri confessing that he was having a hard time and Greg's "You're Not Allowed to Kill Yourself" post on the Kinda Funny Forums helped him through it. Greg got up and gave him a big hug. And Tim followed up by pointing out that Michael is - in Tim's mind - the face of the Kinda Funny community because he's front and center in a picture they often use from last year's PAX East. It was an incredibly touching moment and I was so glad to meet Michael and hang out with him over the course of the weekend.
  • Everyone who asked a question got to pick out a Vita game from a mystery bag provided by Gio Corsi. One of the people picked Freedom Wars but since he already owned it, gave it to somebody else in line. When that person got up to the line, he called out Sony because the case had apparently already been opened and was missing the cartridge. Oops. I told Gio about it when we saw him later that night and he thought it was hysterical.
  • One of the Kinda Funny best friends - Raul Montero -  showed up in a Negan cosplay that tickled Greg. He would later cosplay at Drake from "Hotline Bling" Saturday (much to Tim's delight), and as Chris Pratt's character from Jurassic World, Owen Grady on Sunday.
  • Tim had to pull a Nick and run to the bathroom with a few minutes to go on the panel and the guys were immediately asked the pivotal question: NSYNC or Backstreet Boys. Everyone seemed to lean toward NSYNC (I honestly don't remember but Colin might have said Backstreet Boys) and when Tim came back, he agreed with the NSYNC ruling but argued that Backstreet Boys songs may have aged better.

All in all, it made for a very fun, mostly non-sensical way to kick PAX East off.

You're a Games Journalist! Now What?

When I attended PAX South, my favorite panel was the Game Industry Career Panel Two-Parter. PAX East had the same setup (with some different faces) but since I had already gotten that focus on the developer side of things, I was eager to attend this panel on the journalism side of things.

Led by Ken Gagne of the Polygamer Podcast, this panel featured Samit Sarkar of Polygon, Susan Arendt of GamesRadar, Alexa Ray Corriea of Gamespot, and Holly Green of Paste Magazine.

Here are some of my abbreviated notes from that panel:

  • Expect to spend a lot of time traveling. Or LinkedIn stalking.
  • Some sites will absolutely deal in quotas, especially with regards to news reports (i.e. publishing six articles or more a day).
  • When asked about their favorite assignments:
    • Copy-editing. - Samit
    • Editing, substantive editing, helping the author hone the craft/get to the point.  - Susan
    • Being edited as it leads to being a better writer. - Alexa
    • Writing something that connects with people. - Holly
  • When asked about their least favorite assignments:
    • Being thrown into an interview about Tomb Raider with little-to-no prep. - Holly
    • Getting people to edit your work. - Samit
    • Reviews, and second guessing yourself. - Alexa
    • Being in the position where you have to let people go, in spite of success. - Susan
  • On the topic of the amount of work involved, Holly mentioned, "If you can’t push yourself hard enough, maybe you don’t belong here."
  • And, of course, my own personal "hey I should be doing more than writing" concerns were echoed with the group consensus that yes, writing is dying, because video is so much easier to monetize. Learning other skills like video/audio editing is crucial to being able to pay the bills.
  • Susan, who was quickly becoming my favorite person, also pointed out the reality that I have been facing in the non-profit sector for years: "You’ll make way more money doing this job in other industries." Yup. I know this feeling all too well.
  • What do you wish you knew before getting into the job?
    • Know your value. Do no harm, take no shit. - Holly.
    • Get skills beyond writing. - Samit
    • Time spent producing content about gaming takes away from time playing video games. - Ken
    • Making a mistake is not the end of the world. Alexa
    • There is value beyond just being a writer. - Susan
  • Make yourself invaluable.

Overall, it was a great panel; not a whole lot of particularly new information but reinforcing a lot of the elements I'm already working toward. Amusingly, just like the PAX South getting into the industry panels, the Q&A portion was prefaced with a "don't tell us your life story, just ask the question" sentiment and, once again, people immediately threw that request out the window...grumble grumble grumble...

EDIT: The panel has now been uploaded and can be found below:

How Video Works

The How Video Works panel featured Greg Miller (Kinda Funny), Anthony Carboni (Host), Andrea Rene (Host), Neha Tiwari (GameSpot), Bruce Greene (Funhaus), and Max Scoville (IGN).

These kinds of panels are always a delight. Much like the Uncharted panel from PlayStation Experience, it was immediately apparent that everyone on this panel was friendly with one another, despite working at rival companies or being potential competitors with one another. There were lots of jokes and a definite sense of history among the panel. Here were some of the standout pieces of wisdom from the group:

  • Look at craigslist for jobs. Maybe not great-paying gigs, but definitely experience. - Neha/Andrea
  • For a long time, traditional television was the model for video coverage of gaming (a la G4). - Bruce
  • Video games and the platforms covering them like YouTube and Twitch are emerging mediums. It's all new. There were no rules. It's always shifting. - Max
  • The major outlets are here [at PAX] using the same kind of tech available to everyone else. - Anthony
  • Streaming changed things. Video on demand is heavily focused on post-production but streams are all about the pre-production work that goes into them. And being "on" the whole time and interacting in real time with the audience can be exhausting. - Max
  • "You can spend all your time chasing trends and be unhappy. Or you can just be you." - Anthony
  • "If you take one thing away from this panel. Snapchat is vertical." - Anthony (a joke sparked by Max pointing out how odd it is that for years, video was a landscape medium, but Snapchat is portrait.)
  • Research the tools that can help you format content to reach your audience. - Andrea
  • Use the YouTube Creator Playbook!!! - Greg/Andrea
  • Don't prioritize search engine optimization over developing the quality of your content. Build them up in tandem.
  • Watch other content and experience videos and mediums outside of the gaming space.
  • Surround yourself with people who want to do the same stuff as you. - Bruce
  • How do you make money doing video? Ad revenue, Twitch subs, Patreon. Don't turn any jobs down. Work and network with everybody. Don't be afraid to reach out for things like sponsorships. But also be okay with the stuff you love being a loss leader and being flexible enough to take on other projects that will be more lucrative. - Anthony
  • Network. Put your best foot forward. Assume you're going to work with people again. - Andrea
  • Everything is an opportunity. If you work well with others, they will keep wanting to work with you. - Neha
  • There was a moment that was particularly touching for me. In talking about creators that are out here [at PAX] meeting each other and collaborating together, Greg called out me and Alex O'Neill of Irrational Passions as the second generation, following in the footsteps of people like Brittney Brombacher (aka Blondenerd), who was featured on the big Square-Enix Uncovered event pre-show.
  • When asked about how to stay engaged with your audience, the whole panel agreed that social media is a critical component to keeping an audience personally invested in your content. By utilizing Twitter or Twitch chats, or responding to YouTube contents, etc. the creator has to engage with their audience or that audience will be inclined to ditch them and find someone else who will engage.

This took longer to piece together than I anticipated so I'll cover the other half of the weekend's panels tomorrow: IGN Presents: 16 Big Anniversaries Happening in 2016PAXAMANIA II: Yes, Even More Video Game Wrestling!, and How Toys-To-Life Became Mainstream in 2015.

Thanks for reading!