Witchboy's Cauldron

Melbourne Travel Log

Day 1 Continued

The keynote speech-which I was scheduled to give at 6pm-was to be held in a dojo, which I liked a lot. (There was actually a framed photo on the wall of a screaming Australian martial artist getting poked hard in the eye.) By this point, I was running on fumes. The conference got under way, in a super casual "set up the stage audio stuff as the speakers are talking" fashion. Looking around, I saw a bunch of people who were there to do a good thing because they were having fun, because they wanted to, not because they were being paid a lot of money to do it. It was really refreshing, in contrast with the energy-charged, but impersonal, mass-spawning-waters experience of E3, which I'd attended less than a week earlier.

After the conference got under way, Fiona recommended that I head to the hotel for a shower and a nap. (I was looking even more bedraggled than usual, apparently.)

The cab ride to the Ibis hotel was cheap and the driver was friendly. He'd moved to Melbourne in 1957, years before-in his vernacular-I was a wicked grin on my mother's face.

At the Ibis, my plans were dashed. I couldn't check in until 2pm, something like 4 hours later. I couldn't buy Australian cash with my plastic, so I was only able to get enough for a locker. I dumped my baggage into the locker, and then went into the lobby to use the Internet. However, both terminals were down. The Ibis is cool, but it's not the W, I learned. I trekked out into the streets, starving and exhausted, looking for food and connectivity.

It was looking more and more like I would have to give my speech un-showered and un-rested. (Before arriving, I assumed that I'd be able to rest for one day before speaking, as is the usual custom in the tech-culture-conference world.)

I walked for blocks, checking out 3 Internet cafes. None of them would let me plug my laptop in; they would only let me use their computers. Since, before leaving the US, I had left a world of intriguing business and game studio developments in a whirl at my back, I really wanted Internet access.

At one of the Internet cafes, the attendant was also a vegetarian. She recommended a place to eat called SushiMax, which was good. Starving, I ate too much, probably to kill time and busy my anxious self.

My laptop batteries were fading away as my own biological batteries were doing the same. I had tweaked my speech on the flight (of course), so I copied it to a USB keychain fob just in case. (I suddenly wondered: How can the GBA have so little memory when this tiny keychain fob holds hundreds of megs?)

Back at the Ibis, they finally let me check in. I took a shower and-after lying in bed for a long while, fighting jetlag-managed to get an hour of actual sleep. When I woke up, I felt like a donkey had kicked me in the head, so I took another shower.

Keynote Speech

I had a taxi drop me at the Free Play conference dojo and prepared for my speech. I'm not sure how many people were there, but I was told it was a couple of hundred. Who knows... This was my first speech that wasn't specifically about game design. It was all about inspiration and hanging on to the spirit of creative independence in the modern game development climate. Everyone I talked to seemed to like it, but then again the Australians seem like very polite people to me. So, again, who knows. I enjoyed delivering the talk, one way or another.

I hung around after the speech and the conference slowly transitioned into a party. I didn't have a drink (just because I didn't feel like it, in my exhausted state), but everyone around me started getting sloshed. I spent 5 minutes with one group, 10 with another, moving around and meeting as many people as I could.

Red Light

One of the best conversations I had was with a guy who had been called "insane" at an earlier session for asking whether interactive media might someday be more culturally relevant than film. I opened my laptop and showed him a rant I had written earlier in the week on the exact same subject, sharing his viewpoint. This gave him a feeling of vindication, I think. He was smart and passionate.

At some point, the party transitioned from the games group to the film group; within an hour, the room had a much higher ratio of hip haircuts, attractive women and (I kid you not) men in fur coats, Tyler Durdan style. It was increasingly difficult to hear the drunk people talk over the obnoxiously loud DJs. Wanting to go back to my room, I finally walked out with a group of developers-with whom I had spent the last half hour talking-and said goodnight, flagging a taxi.

This cab driver was a serious racist, explaining to me how his favorite hate group controlled the world's economies. Last time I'd heard this rant from a cabbie, I was in LA, several years back.

At the hotel room, I tried to call back to the states, but failed to figure out how. Feeling totally frustrated by technology and totally cut off from my life, I fell asleep, exhausted.

Next: Day Two




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Travel Log - Melbourne

Freeplay 2004

GDC 2004: Emergence

Orthogonal Unit Differentiation

Systemic Level Design

Travel Log - Hong Kong

Sacrifice Review

Features Without Interface

Transcendent Moments

Half-Life review

Worlds Apart

Distinct Functions in Game Units

The Future of Game Design



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Content 2003 Harvey "Witchboy" Smith     Design 1998 TheZealot