Because You Missed It: The Hidden Gem Panels of PAX South 2015


If you didn’t make it to PAX South 2015 or were standing in line a while to play Dreadnought or Gigantic, you probably missed out on some of the smaller panels the convention offered. As a first-time PAX goer, and having watched previous PAX panels online, I wanted the opportunity to attend and participate in a few that struck a chord with me. Two of these in particular were The Gamer Parenting Strategy Guide and the Gaming Helps: How Gaming Can Help in Illness panels.

The Gamer Parenting Strategy Guide

Diving right into the meat of the panels, The Gamer Parenting Strategy Guide was hosted by Penny Arcade’s Jeff Kalles (@Sellak) and Kristin Lindsay (@Peeardee), as well as Eric Neustadter (e) (@thevowel). They stressed the importance of parents being involved in their child’s gaming, even if not as a participant. “E” reminded everyone of the extensive parental controls on the Xbox One, as well as those of other platforms including iOS. There were some common sense suggestions such as, “beware of YouTube’s ‘related videos’; a friendly Minecraft ‘Let’s Play’ can quickly turn into a profanity-laced tirade.” A particularly helpful “why didn’t I think of that” tip for newer parents was simply to turn on subtitles in games and videos to encourage literacy and reading comprehension (which I have since done after I arrived home). I learned of apps made by Toca Boca that are kid-friendly and (some) educational as well as a neat subscription-based service called Story Bots, which takes a photo of your child and delivers a unique story in which he or she stars! One of the attendees also mentioned K9 web protection to help protect your child from adult content online. As the panel drew to a close, I got to ask the final question of which games were the most rewarding cooperative experiences they have had with their child, and if any particular games or genres were better or more engaging than others. Here’s what they had to say:

E: “…if they’re old enough, Halo co-op with my son…We’ve played every Halo game co-op on Legendary together, and that is a great experience to do over, like a Christmas vacation, or something like that once they’re ready for it.”

Jeff: “Disney Infinity works really well at our house, because I can do the missions, and he can go do something else, because he does not like to follow the path! He wants to go do whatever he wants to do…and it drives me nuts as a gamer. I need the reward…”

They closed with a few helpful links and tips shown below, and I left the panel with an encouraging sense of reinforcement that, as a parent, I’m on the right track with my kids.


Gaming Helps: How Gaming Can Help in Illness

At the Gaming Helps: How Gaming Can Help in Illness panel Sunday, Joshua Turner (@DeathsCrowbar) took us through his battle with cancer and how gaming was instrumental in fighting boredom and depression. Let me paint the scene on this one. The panel was held in the Bobcat Theater, which probably seats 300-400 people. There were give or take 40 in the theater. Josh was originally scheduled to have 2-3 other panelists join him, but extenuating circumstances prevented their attendance. His presentation locked up as soon as his intro song, “Carry On My Wayward Son” concluded, leaving him with just his notes and a microphone, visibly flustered. A recipe for a train wreck waste of time, right? Hardly. Josh explained his struggles and praised the communities such as Halo 3 and Twitch that helped keep his spirits lifted through his cancer treatment and his parents’ splitting up. He showcased the awesome charities like Child’s Play, Extra Life, and Able Gamers that continually outdo themselves in helping sick kids and disabled gamers.

When it came time for Q&A, I was first to the mic. I jumped at the opportunity to share the story of #PrayingForGrayAndMason–of how gamers, listeners of the Everyday Gamers podcast, and fellow podcasters rallied around my family in our time of need to support us in so many ways while the twins were in the NICU for two and eight months respectively. As I sat down, ten more people had lined up behind me. I got to hear the story of a sweet girl who was on the brink of suicide but was still here today, largely in part because the gaming community cradled her in their digital arms and let her know that her life had value and that things would get better. I thought of Mason’s -8 vision as I heard the story of a disabled gamer with extremely poor vision and his buddy that he met, who was his self-proclaimed “seeing eye person.” There was even a medical student studying to be a doctor who asked how he could help his patients in similar situations as Josh once he gets his doctorate. While it was a shame that every PAX attendee was not in that room to experience what we few did, it was still an intimate setting that I never would have expected at a convention of this size. For that 60 minutes, I had a new family, and there was zero animosity or malice–only love and encouragement.

There’s Always Next Year

It’s experiences such as these, coupled with the strengthening of existing friendships among our independent gaming podcast family, that will have me back at a future PAX, I hope. Should you get the opportunity to attend one yourself, don’t turn a blind eye to the smaller panels. You never know which ones may change you for the better.

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