Breath in, breathe out and Expand

Written by Kyle Evans. Posted in Features

Expand was one of the six games featured at PAX Australia as part of the indie showcase and it's easy to see why. It has a clean, appealing graphic design, serene music and it's a fresh twist on the simple platformer. Not to mention it's home grown in Adelaide by developer Chris Johnson and composer/collaborator Chris Larkin. The controls are simple: you just gently push the thumbstick and navigate an expanding, changing concentric maze.

So it's essentially a platform game where you're shifting from spot to spot, dodging moving hazards and ducking through closing doors while trying to find the exit point. But in abstracting out the platform jumping genre, the experience feels new. Pushing further into the unexplored blackness reveals new surprises, with the walls pulsing out, sucking in or spiraling out of existence. Expand generally does a good job of mixing things up as you go from exploring, to running away to being pushed along. At one point the music synced up with the pulsing movements of the map and the game suddenly took on the feel of a rhythm game. At other times your focus narrows on the shifting shapes to the point of it feeling hypnotic.

Kell's Wonderful Life: Legal Technicalities

Written by Kyle Evans. Posted in Podcasts

Anyone who has tried to fill out the ballot papers below the line knows that legal and political systems can be complicated. Dr. Kell attempts to explain some of the peculiar legislative curiosities in the United States, Australia. "In order for a product to be labelled a pickle, it must be able to bounce."


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Article photo by Vikas Namblar. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Kell's Wonderful Life: A Fairy Tale

Written by Kyle Evans. Posted in Podcasts

Once upon a time, there was a kingdom filled with all manner of magical creatures. Dragons, tolls, fairies and more! But there was trouble in the kingdom when...ok, this is a story about marriage equality. Just listen, OK?

This episode was recorded a while ago as indicated by the reference to the overturning of Proposition 8. But this thinly veiled story of thinly veiled homophobia is still relevant today.

For those wanting more on the history of the legal battle over Prop 8, I highly recommend Joy 94.9 radio play on the subject for a reading of some of the legal poetry Kell mentions.


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Article painting by Hilda Miller. Posted by Sofi. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Bringing Iñupiat culture to video games

Written by Kyle Evans. Posted in Features

In a warm corner of the crowded gaming expo floor at PAX Aus, Upper One Games invited players to step into the cold and experience Never Alone. In this game you play as an Inuit girl and her friend, fox, as they traverse the harsh Alaskan landscape.
 
We spoke to the developers at PAX Aus about how this game is being developed in partnership with Iñupiat elders based in Anchorage, Alaska. The story goes that they were contacted by the tribe and asked if they wanted to make a video game based on who they are as a people. Upper One saw an opportunity here to positively and appropriately show who these people are.
 
This partnership went beyond an advisor role and became a cross-cultural collaboration. They conferred with Iñupiat elders on the script and game mechanics to make sure they resonated truthfully. For instance, the game is a co-op game whereby a young girl and her fox combine their different skills in order to survive, which reinforces the cultural importance of interdependence. "They live in Alaska. It's freezing cold and finding food is one of the most dangerous and hardest things to do."

Under the wig: Cosplay at PAX Aus 2014

Written by Jordan Fennell. Posted in Features

At this year’s PAX Australia, life imitated art as hundreds of fans walked the halls of Melbourne’s Convention Center dressed as their favourite video game characters. From the carefully hand crafted pieces to the casual costumes, they all came together to experience a range of panels, game showcases, and meet ups with video game enthusiasts from near and far. Although there were many cosplayers representing different games and genres, it was the League of Legends cosplayers that came out in full force.

Laura Scott, also known as Saerianne, is a 19 year old cosplayer from Sydney. She attended PAX this year in three different League of Legends champion outfits: Arcade Miss Fortune, Janna, and Lulu. At last year’s convention, Laura says there were close to 20 League of Legends cosplayers but this year there was an increased influx and they came by the hundreds.

The growth in participation and enthusiasm for it, Laura says, is a great representation of the encouraging culture among cosplayers and the growing recognition of Esports in Australia. At conventions, this welcoming culture creates a space where “a random stranger can just come up to you and start talking about something and you can be in a conversation for half an hour..  and it’s great to have that connection”

Kell's Wonderful Life: Trapped In The Tunnel

Written by Kyle Evans. Posted in Podcasts

Imagine driving into tunnel and discovering a car rolled over onto its roof with a man inside, shaking and incoherent. Dr. Kell - who is a doctor of robotics and not a medical doctor - recounts his experiences as a first responder during a tunnel accident.


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Article photo by The Highways Agency. Used under a Creative Commons license.