From PAX East 2018: Out of the Expo Hall and into the Panels

Reading Time: 11 minutes

There were 100+ panels at PAX East 2018 spread across four days. We only made it to six of them, but when you do the numbers if we did nothing but panels we could have only attended 20. I wish I could have gone to more, but time is time. There was a variety of options and a panel for everyone. We attended panels on cosplay, monetizing, education, and veterans and gaming. Below you can read about my thought as well as a synopsis which was provided by the panelists at PAX East.

You Have Died of Dysentery: Meaningful Gaming in Education


Panelists: Ashley Brandin

Synopsis: Teachers and parents are continually looking for innovative ways to keep students and kids motivated and engaged. As gamers, we know first hand how elements of video games can keep a person riveted and motivated for hours. How do we take motivating elements of gaming and add them to various education environments? Join a teacher and seven-time PAX presenter as we investigate some simple yet effective ways to take tips from video games and turn them into best teaching practices, without gimmicks.

My Thoughts: I want to start off by saying that this was my favorite panel of PAX East and one of the best panels I have been to. I love when people use video games as teaching tools and it’s something that has definitely been underutilized in my lifetime. However, it looks like people are finally starting to catch up.

I related to the achievement model that Ashley Brandin presented in the lecture. I personally think that adding achievements was one of the best things Microsoft ever did with the Xbox. For my brother and I, they were a game changer. They gave us a completely new immersive element to video games. Not only did we want to complete the game, but we also wanted to collect things throughout the game, complete objectives in weird ways, challenge yourself by defeating bosses under extreme limitations, plus so much more. I became addicted to them and tried to get as many as possible in every game. I even played crappy games that I knew had easy achievements just to get more achievements. So when this achievement model was presented I was super excited. The model she presented was based on adding achievements to a classroom setting in order to get kids motivated and keep them engaged and looking for more learning opportunities. Just like in most games, the achievements in the classroom were there but not necessary to complete the game, meaning that the achievements were not tied to students’ grades. Instead, they were a way for kids to stay engaged and interact with the material in a deeper way and have learnings reinforced. Brandin broke down the types of achievements that she used and how they all related to a classroom setting. Exhaustive achievements (i.e. collect all of “x”), difficulty achievements (i.e. run this dungeon in under 10 minutes), and exclusionary achievements (i.e. defeat this boss while taking no damage), all had classroom equivalents. For example, a student who had perfect attendance (exhaustive), completing note-cards in 1 minute (difficulty), and making 100% on a test (exclusionary).

I could go on forever on how much I enjoyed this panel, but I do want to touch on one last thing. It was a question from an audience member about time. They asked, “how can students learn and accomplish these achievements in a classroom when, unlike a game that you can come back to at any time, you have limited time in a classroom?” Brandin presented her model as a semester-long scale of achievements. This meant that a student could start day one and finish at any time within a single semester of class. Obviously, some skills needed to be completed faster but that part was a different conversation. I really enjoyed this question because I thought of my own achievement hunting. I had a 66K+ gamerscore and made it my mission to collect as many achievements as possible for any given game. However, once I moved to grad school my motivation to collect achievements dropped dramatically and the main factor in that was TIME. In the 5+ years since I started grad school, I have managed maybe 4K worth of achievements despite still playing video games quite frequently. I have chosen to play different types of games and I have been in more of the “try to complete games as fast as possible” mentality. Since I’ve gotten older, I have had less time to thoroughly enjoy the ins and outs of some games. Overall this was a great panel and something I would love to hear more about in the future as this goal to implement achievements in a learning setting sounds fascinating to me.

Cosplay and Video Game Marketing


Panelists:  Bethany Maddock, Lindsay Aries, and Mikal Mosley

Synopsis: Back again and with new experienced industry pros. One half of this panel will be exploring how cosplayers can move from amateur artist to professional within the complex world of video game marketing. the other half will be for marketing and social professionals to get a better understanding of cosplay and how to best utilize it and cosplayers for marketing and community building. Hosted and designed by Lindsay “Leeleethebunny” Aries with Bethany Maddock, and Mikal Mosley.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this panel and it was very informative. This was also a panel that, I am not going to lie, I got dragged to since we have plenty of cosplayers that are friends and do content for the website. Saying that I did walk away with plenty of information and thought it was really well done. I really enjoyed that they talked about lot of the small complexities that most people don’t think about when comes to just a general contract. I know this was about cosplay specifically, however, anyone that has done any type of work that involves a company or someone giving you a project to do knows the details can be killer. They presented really well that despite what people think about cosplay it is part of a business and that the people involved need to be taken seriously.

How to Broadcast Safely as a Marginalized Streamer

Panelists: Tanya Depass, Brandon Harris, ImperialGrrl, Jenna Saisquoi, Adam Koebel, and BlackOni

Synopsis: Broadcasting games, creative work, cosplay, tabletop games, and other hobbies can be fun, but they can also be perilous for some of us. This panel will bring you some tips and tricks such as using bots, human mods, and other methods to make your experience as stress-free as possible. We’re revisiting the topic due to recent events in gaming culture that reinforce the need to continue the discussion.

My Thoughts: I did not get to catch all of this panel as it was placed in the theater that was all the way on the other side of the convention center and we got lost finding it. This panel told some of the horror stories that can happen from being a content creator on the internet. They discussed how trolls can be disruptive and ruin your stream, as well as some ways to go about handling it. I have been to other panels before that have discussed dealing with trolls and the various idiots of the internet, but this panel was different from the other ones. The panelists not only talked about the hard times they’ve gone through but also gave ways of hiding your data and scrubbing your data from the internet in order to prevent people from being able to find and harass you or even doxx you. It’s one problem when trolls come into your chat and harass you, however, it is a completely different issue when a troll comes into your chat and posts “hey I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE” and proceeds to share personal information.

There are plenty of content creators out there that just don’t realize even the littlest of details such as tagging yourself at a local restaurant (an example the panelist gave), can be used to pinpoint a general location of where he or she is located. The internet is still a terrible place filled with attention seeking idiots that are just bored and want to ruin someone else’s experience and time, however, it has developed into a place where people are looking to doxx (Search for and publish private or identifying information) individuals to horrify them. The internet is ever evolving and as the good is evolving so is the bad and people need to stay informed and keep up.

War Stories: Veterans and Gaming


Panelists: IceRocker, Gflo, Stephen Machuga, Special Guest Cody Bowman, and Dave Crouse

Synopsis: Ten-HUH! For many military personnel, gaming isn’t just about getting a high score or unlocking achievements, but using games to cope with their time in the service in a world that doesn’t always speak their language. Led by military charity Stack Up founder Stephen Machuga, a panel of veterans tell their unique stories of their time in the service and answer questions about the military from the audience!

My Thoughts: I want to start by saying I have seen this panel at least 4 times at different conventions across Texas and I really enjoy it and the people who tell their stories. If you haven’t heard them yet, we have done a few episodes on Stack-Up, so we are very familiar with them and I will advocate that you should definitely go check them out. Having said that, I want to say a few things about why I really enjoy this panel and keep going back to see it. While they do give plenty of information and can learn things about what Stack-Up is about, the focus is to just listen to the stories of the vets (and this time a military spouse) and audience members. They try to answer audience questions and let them tell their stories, it’s always extremely interactive.

The panel is 15-20 minutes of valuable educational information on how you can help vets, the ways that gaming helps vets and active duty soldiers mentally and socially. The last 40 minutes is just storytelling and answering questions. I pointed out earlier I have seen this panel at least 4 times, but each time it has been a unique experience and you learn something new about each of the panelist every time. You also get to listen to how much just the ability to speak to and interact with panelists other than just standard Q&A means to audience members. It is definitely a unique experience when it comes to panels. I also really enjoy that they are not afraid to change up panelist and adapt to what is happening around them. For example, for this panel, they added a military spouse as a panelists to try to address a lot of the questions they had received at PAX south, which I attended. I would also like to give a huge shout out to their special guest panelist Cody Bowman who was an Air Assault attendee who wanted to be on the panel and was added to it that morning. He did a great job especially for someone who just hopped in there the day of.

Gaming Patreon: Building Community for Fun and Profit


Panelists: Ken Gagne, Ian Danskin, Tanya Depass, and Lon Seidman

Synopsis: In four short years, Patreon has enabled thousands of gamers to take their journalism, podcasts, and channels to the next level. It’s proven a popular alternative to the whims of Google’s “adpocalypse” — though Patreon’s had a few bumps of its own along the way. We’ll chat with Patreon creators to learn about their crowdfunding strategies, setting effective goals and rewards, building a community, and how artists and patrons can steel themselves against potential changes to Patreon’s model.

My Thoughts: This was one of the prototypical panels where they bring in people who are going to teach and educate you on a thing, and in this case it was Patreon. It was useful for us since we do have a Patreon. They went over the ins and outs of Patreon and some of their successes and failures using the platform. How to deal with other issues and even gave thoughts on Patreon’s terribly failed idea of making patrons pay fees. I totally agree and think most do, in that they were just going to screw small content creators, let medium ones absorb the hit and help just the large ones. Which is what panelist, Tanya Depass, presented to the crowd. This panel did give us here, at But Why Tho, some new ideas that we may look into as we enjoy what we do and would love to continue to give all of our listeners and bloggers the best that we can. I really enjoyed this panel and would totally recommend to anyone who would like to get into Patreon. I don’t really have too many thoughts since it was one of your pretty straightforward educational panels, they set out to tell people about Patreon the highs and lows and they did their job very well.

Building Your Stream Community

Synopsis: Building a community comes with many challenges and hurdles, but we’re here to help! We’ve gathered a council of content creators to discuss the ins-and-outs of building a great online community in your own live-streams. We’ll be smashing myths and sharing the facts about streaming to help you set a foundation for a positive and effective community.

My Thoughts: This panel is a panel that we wanted to attend but weren’t able to because of conflicting times with one of the panels above, however, we did manage to have a friend attend this panel and gave us a rundown on their thoughts. Now that we are Twitch affiliates and been trying to build our own community, we wanted all of their notes and tips from the panel. Unfortunately, they were very disappointed in this panel and felt they learned nothing new. The only thing they took away from it was stream what you want and don’t pay attention to anything just have fun. Which, if you’ve streamed before or attempted to build a community you know that things just don’t work that way. They felt all they received was the basic advice that you find in the hints sections of a video game, but for building a community. That may be helpful for some people, however at least in my opinion after attending panels like this the people that do attend, myself included, want more than just Community 101 that I can do a google search and find in 15 seconds.

I wanted to write about this panel for a few reasons. Even though we didn’t attend, hearing our trusted friend’s assessment and disappointment with the panel, and having had this experience before where we attended a panel and left with nothing but a pat on the back and “insert thing” 101 run down, and answers to question that are just “try your best.” That panel for us was at Wizard World Austin in 2017 at a panel based on building your YouTube channel, which we have one here. We sat through it for an hour and even asked 2 technical questions in the Q&A which we learned: Make videos as much as can, try make nice titles with tags and possibly clickbaity, no one knows YouTube’s algorithm so it is all pretty much luck. Repeat process with every video and hope one day you get lucky and a lot of people like it. I was so disappointed and upset that I think for a few conventions did not want to attend any of these types of panels.

I guess the main point of all this is 2 things:

  1. In both of these panels, the panelists were people who had decently size communities and YouTube channels, obliviously bigger than most of us in the audience, however comparatively small to the large communities on their platforms. That is not to completely knock against them, but if us, as attendees, check your community, following, and if you can’t provide actual insightful information then people will question why you are on this panel.
  2. In these types of panels, at least in my opinion and from speaking with plenty of friends and other attendees that go to these types of panels, the majority of people that show up and are present in the audience are there to learn and want something more than basic advice that seems pretty common sense. Also, a lot of us know that most of this work and building involves “luck” so telling the audience there is a lot of luck involve devalues not only your panel but what you are bringing to the panel itself. Being able to inform your audience about things they can control and sharing preparations that people can take so that when that “luck” presents itself people can take advantage of the opportunity.

I don’t want to completely dismiss what happened in these two panels and say they are complete failures because I am sure there might have been someone out there in the audience that actually did enjoy these and felt they learned something. I just wanted to share that if you are a panelist or thinking of ever being a panelist for any type of convention that while there are types of panels you can just wing it if you are talking about building anything then please be prepared and know your stuff. You can’t always just throw up the hey look at me and expect everyone to buy into it. I am sure this is just common advice or least I feel it should be, as a person who has had to present at conferences before, when giving a panel, presentations you should not just know everything about what you are presenting, but things that may even relate to what you are presenting as you never know what someone may ask in the Q&A or where conversation may end up.

Thank you for making it all the way through this post. The very last thing I leave you with from the panels and PAX East is Pascal’s Wager. In a lot of the panels about building communities and getting started in monetizing your stream, cosplay, and content, just try it. If it’s a no, it’s a no. But you won’t know if you don’t try first, and you’ll lose nothing if it’s a no. Create things!