PAX Australia – overall a success, but the public transport arrangements let it down

An article in The Age today notes that while there were a few issues, last weekend’s inaugural PAX Australia video game festival went well.

PAX Australia: XBox One demonstration

PAX Australia: Wizard Of Wor on the Commodore 64

We went along on the Sunday, and had a good time. We avoided the sessions with long queues, and instead saw an XBox launch event, played some games in the retro area, had some lunch, and looked around the expo hall.

Not being hardcore gamers, that satisfied us. And that’s I think where the planning for this event slipped-up.

Someone had obviously decided that most people would be staying all day, and the transport planning clearly reflected that.

The trains to the Showgrounds only ran every 20 minutes until 10:40am… then at an appalling 40 minute frequency until midday.

Trains to PAX Australia at the Showgrounds: infrequent, and delayed

Worse, we and others found there were train delays. The 10:04 was about 10 minutes late, meaning we spent 25 minutes waiting in the cold at Southern Cross. It then crawled to North Melbourne before finally getting up a decent speed the rest of the way to the Showgrounds. The 12:04 train was 20 minutes late.

At Showgrounds station there were long queues for the few Myki validators available. (We didn’t bother to queue — it barely matters on weekends when the fare cap is $3.50 anyway, and even on a concession fare, two 2-hour fares will get you to that cap.)

After 12:04 (well, 12:24 if that service was 20 minutes late) there were no trains at all until the late-afternoon. Instead people were advised to catch a tram back, with extra trams running.

The reality was that lots of people didn’t stay all day… while many may have come first thing in the morning and stayed until everything finished up, many others arrived and departed at various times across the day.

And what few extra trams ran were sporadic, resulting in the utterly predictable problem of the regular route 57 short (Z-class) trams being packed:

The tram coming back from PAX Australia

Apart from making many people who’d arrived by train find a different exit and stop to get home again, it was a slow crowded ride back into the city. Thoroughly unimpressive.

The PAX programme booklet noted the support of the Victorian Government, and I happened upon an episode of Byte Into It on Triple R last Wednesday which noted that PAX came to Australia because of enthusiasm from the locals — and to Melbourne specifically by that government support. Which is great.

But this kind of cooperation should include adequate transport arrangements. Public transport can and should do special events like this very well, but on this occasion, the system let people down. The danger is that next time more people will drive, clogging up streets around the venue. And given that special events are sometimes the only times people use PT, they may also be put off using it for other travel in the future.

How much extra would it have cost to run 20 minute trains all day? Surely not much more than the extra trams they ran all day, given the labour costs (drivers, and signalling people for trains) are the main cost.

If PAX returns to Melbourne, and I hope it does, if it’s at the Showgrounds again, they clearly need to do better.

Can you combine street art, classic video games and a Melbourne street map? Yes!

Can you combine street art, classic video games and a Melbourne street map?

Yes!

Pac-man: street art map

CDH Art: “Using the familiar street art motif of retro gaming, I created a walking guide-map to Melbourne’s street art.”

There goes my August spending money

Yowzers. It’s been 7 years since I bought the house.

And it’s been four years since I bought the car.

At the time I bought the car, the dealer I bought it from had just paid the rego, so it’s due every August. This year it’s $696.50.

Obviously because I bought the car in August, the insurance is also due every August. $369.05 (It can be paid monthly, but this is 15% more expensive.)

And… you guessed it… the house insurance is also due. $673.35

Can someone remind me, when/if I decide to upgrade the car at some stage in the future, not to do it in August?

  • I also just got a rates notice… happily the next installment for that isn’t due until late September.
  • A reminder why, despite their groovy advertising and the promise of cheaper premiums for people who don’t drive much, I don’t insure with Youi

Actually do plan to use a little spending money: to help fund From Bedrooms to Billions, a documentary on the beginnings of the UK video game industry. Nostalgia ahoy!

I’ve donated $100. And that was before I discovered the music they’ve used for the trailer — which starts at the 3 minute mark in the following video:

From Bedrooms to Billions – Teaser Trailer from GRACIOUS FILMS on Vimeo.

Flashback to 1984: The Challenge Chamber

Australian PCGames magazine cover, December 1984One of the lesser-remembered 80s Australian computer games magazines is PC Games. At least, I assume it’s lesser-remembered because it doesn’t seem to have a Wikipedia entry, although its UK cousin does.

PC in those days simply meant personal computer, not necessarily the IBM/Microsoft platform it does today.

Australian PC Games ran for, I think, perhaps about two years in the mid-80s, during the boom of 8-bit personal computers. It was put out by the same publisher as Australian Personal Computer, which is still around, but had more of a games focus.

Apart from games reviews and tips, it also had features and reviews of new microcomputers — at the time, 8-bit computers such as the Commodore 64 were incredibly popular, and the likes of the Atari ST and Amiga were just starting to appear on the scene.

The magazine also had games listings — something unheard of these days (thanks to cover discs and the Internet), they’d print program code in the magazine for readers to type in. Apart from games they also had a running series called PCG-64, which was machine-code listings of BASIC language enhancements for the Commodore 64, many of them sent in by readers.

I’m only reminded of PC Games because the Retrogaming AUS web site has started up a Wiki which has a page on it. To my lasting regret, at some stage in the 90s I cleared out almost all of my copies of PC Games, except for one: December 1984.

The Challenge Chamber

One of the regular features in PCG was the Challenge Chamber. People could send in their high scores in various games for listing in the magazine, and PCG would periodically call in some of them to play in their “Challenge Chamber”… just to make sure they were as good as they claimed.

My friend Merlin sent in a dizzyingly high score for the Commodore 64 pinball game Night Mission, and one Saturday in late-1984, PCG got him and another 13 year-old called Paul (who was a whiz at Pogo Joe) to come in and play.

It turned out the PCG Challenge Chamber (the Melbourne version at least) was a magazine office next to Elwood Post Office — and just down the street from my house. I managed to invite myself along and watch the challenge unfold.

After a while getting the C64s organised and hooked-up, both Merlin and Paul played. The account of the Challenge appeared in the December 1984 edition of the magazine…

Australian PCGames: Challenge Chamber (1/2), December 1984

Australian PCGames: Challenge Chamber (2/2), December 1984

Retro Gamer edition 100

Yes, it’s true: I paid extra money to get a magazine about old video games sooner. I truly am a sucker for nostalgia.

Retro Gamer edition 100

But hey, it’s the 100th issue, with a reprint of edition one as a bonus!!!

PS. 8pm Saturday: Spotted today at my brother-in-law’s birthday barbecue, this tattoo of Rik’s:
Rik's Space Invaders tattoo

Movember: any Modern Warfare/Call Of Duty fans want a limited edition USB drive?

Are these Modern Warfare: Call of Duty 3 “Captain Price” USB drives, sent out as part of Movember, really “limited edition”, or are there eleventy-billion of them out there?

"Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3" USB drive for Movember

Although I’d normally subscribe to the view that one can always use another USB drive, I’m wondering… would any of you MWCOD fans pledge a donation to Movember to buy it?

It’s still wrapped in plastic, and with a little box it came in. I’ll cover the postage to anywhere in Australia. Click here to see it bigger.

Anybody interested? What am I bid? (Leave an email address if you want it.)

A few pics: Myer, trams, crocs and Star Wars

I don’t have a proper blog post for you, so here’s a few pictures from the last week or so.

If you were looking for Myer’s Lonsdale Street store, it’s gone — almost all of it except the facade.
Myer Lonsdale Street
(When I was a kid, we often went into the City on a Friday night, had dinner at the Coles cafeteria in Bourke Street, then made our way up through the back of Myer to level 6, where the toy department was, before heading to Lonsdale Street to catch the 602 bus home.)

Great to see Yarra Trams continuing its removal of mystery “phantom” route numbers. This “67a” (that’s “a” for altered) was diverted during the Queen’s visit.
Tram 67a

Southland: Beware of crocs.
Warning! Crocs!

Darth Maul in a playful mood at EB Games, Southland.
Star Wars

A few pics for Thursday

Pac-Man on Lonsdale Street
Pac-man on Lonsdale St
(though if the ghost is blue, Pac-Man must have had a power pill, and should be chasing, not chased)

I don’t want to seem paranoid, but I don’t think this is a real ATM:
That's not a real ATM

Behold! The temple of Gorm!
The temple of Gorm