The Australian Government Had A Stand At PAX. It Didn't Go Down Well -- UPDATE

"Help yourself".

So the Australian government had a booth at PAX. I'm not really sure why the Australian Government decided it should have a booth at PAX. Maybe they wanted to get 'down' with the 'kids'. Maybe someone with a cushie government job really wanted to go to PAX. All I know is the above picture says it all. Actually I don't know what it says.

I mean you could say it represents a half-arsed attempt by the Australian government to engage with young people, but the truth is that booth space at PAX Australia is expensive, and I guess the fact they were there at all is representative of something.

But to have that booth? Then leave it unstaffed with a sign that says 'help yourself'? I think that says it all, particularly when the Australian federal government, by removing the $10 million Interactive Media Fund in the last budget, is quite literally telling the Australian games industry to 'help themselves'. Because that's the only help they're gonna get.

And that engagement. Look at the crowds. Look at the swarms of young people enthusiastic about federal politics, beaming with the optimism of democracy. Look at them flock to the Australian government booth with questions, suggestions, enthusiasm for the political process.

UPDATE: I've recently confirmed with PAX organisers that this stand was set up by the classification board in an attempt to engage on the issue of classification. Which makes the above article above a little unfair. I apologise for that.

That being said — the stand was marked 'Áustralian Government', surely it would have made more sense to label it 'Classification Board' if that's the issue they wanted to discuss. A very strange way to go about the task of reaching out to gamers.


    To be pretty honest, judging from that photo, it's more about Classification than anything else.
    Whilst it is weird that the Government was there, does make sense Classification was represented, as it is an important part of the industry.

    I'm also guessing that they wouldn't have paid for that floor space at all.

      I'm sure they would have paid for it....just with tax technically, we all paid for it.

        Next year i'll just say i'm there to man the tax payer paid booth. Free entry!

    This article is a little harsh, just looks like the Classification Board decided to get a PAX booth to distribute flyers and people don't go to conventions to engage conversations about retail compliance which explains why its unmanned.

    Last edited 05/11/14 9:27 am

      I agree completely. This stand might have been quite good for the parents at PAX (I saw a lot! It was awesome) who don't necessarily game, but their kids love it. It would show them how the rating system is a little different for games than film and television and what the R rating means.

      I agree. it also irks me a little when people blame the current government for cutting spending when they have just inherited the previous governments debt. I'm not big on politics either way but isn't that common sense to realise a new government cutting spending has more to do with the previous governments spending?

        Not all, but there’s a great many informed and thoughtful people in this country who believe that there was and is no “debt crisis,” that cuts were not necessary, and that the current government haven’t a clue when it comes to sound economic management.

        One thing is certain, retaining the minuscule Interactive Media Fund would have made absolutely no difference whatsoever to the economic health of this country. It might seem like an odd thing to say, but 10 million is chicken feed in macro-economic terms.

        Be careful. I'm not saying you're wrong, but be aware that no matter which government it is, whenever there is a change in government any problems and negative backlash which occur in the first year or so are automatically blamed on the previous government.
        All governments have debt, and quite frankly I'd want our government to have debt in that environment. Take on debt when the interest rate is low, and invest in public infrastructure projects which are paving the path for the future.
        The debate was whether the debt we had was in a bad state or not. I'm not an economist and I don't have access to the real numbers, so I'm not qualified to make judgement one way or the other. It does appear, however, that the current government is using the blanket term of 'debt' to justify their budget cuts, without actually showing that the treasury was heading for disaster.

        Regardless, cutting 10 million dollars from the Interactive Media Fund was *very* low hanging fruit indeed, especially when trying to balance out the $5.5 Billion dollar paid parental leave scheme.

        What it shows, is that all governments are robbing Peter to pay Paul, simply to kill opposing governments plans for the sake of implementing their own. Welcome to Two-Party politics!

        Last edited 05/11/14 11:09 am

        While they inherited a deficit, it doesn't help that the election promises they actually kept resulted in them cutting off existing revenue streams (the carbon and mining taxes).

        If they were really interested in reducing the deficit, I would have thought they would try to reduce spending before reducing revenue.

        That's missing the point in the first place. The problem was the so called "debt" was completely exaggerated (both in value and in significance). It's not to say that the previous government didn't need to make considerations on spending, but it wasn't as bad as the whole "Labor's mess" crap. There was no emergency and no justification for the NLP's extreme measures.

        And blame on this government is justified since a lot of the cuts and budget proposals hit the people who could least afford it. That's where one of the main criticisms come from in the first place - the cuts and proposed budget measures themselves have been ideological in nature and presented as "necessary emergency" measures, while those who are informed or who have the experience (independent experts) have pretty much disputed the idea of a "budget emergency" or dangerous levels of debt (at least very much to the extent that the media and NLP have successfully convinced people of.

        BBesides, if we really were in trouble then it would only be right for the government to have focused just as much (if not more) of their efforts on tax evasion etc by big businesses for example. Ask yourself this, why did the government resort to those exact measures and claim, "they agonised" over it and that there was no way (when once again there have been many alternate and fairer suggestions. IMO it says a lot.

    Someone should follow this up with Australian Classification. Have they been contacted for comment Mark?

      I'm not sure this was a classification board booth. But I'm following up on it for sure.

        uh it clearly is covered it classification stuff. also how do we know the sign wasn't just put there while they went to get lunch?

          The stand was staffed fully Fri-Sat, but this sign was up for most of Sunday. I saw a couple of lads take a photo (not sure if its the above one or not) and knew instantly that this would be turned into 'a thing.'

          We're all being a 'touch' unfair. It's likely to be a local decision if there wasn't any engagement from participants on the previous two days. It was simply pamphlets on classification material, which admittedly don't require paying a public servant (or two) three days' salary/TOIL, but some scrutiny needs to be applied the Attorney-General's department about:

          (a) the perceived value in having a stand at PAX;
          (b) what measures of success where applied to having the stand at PAX;
          (c) where these measures met?
          (d) whether the civil servants are collecting travel allowance (~$350-400 for 3-4 days) or getting paid to be at the expo.

            Definitely not staffed the Saturday. I passed in front of it several times through the day. Wouldn't be too surprised if the attendant was just enjoying his/herself in PAX rather than sitting there just watching a few people pick up a pamphlet.

              Yeah, I saw some other comments who made reference to it not being staffed on Sat. Must have been my timing. I look forward to the 'Collecting Your Metadata is Good for You' stand at PAX 2015.

            Well, the classification board can't staff a stand on Sunday. Almost all of our amazingly diverse classification board would have been at church on Sunday, along with their other >40 year old, white, Christians also on the classification board.

            Let's all raise a glass to diversity.

        I can definitely confirm for you @markserrels that this was a classification booth and not set up for engagement with youth. The stand was unattended for the entire expo (at least during the hours open to the public from my observations) so it's best we carry on in the positive spirit of PAX Aus and make the odd joke in good humour.


          I'm fairly sure I remember seeing someone there when I first noticed the booth, probably about 10:30am or so Friday. Wasn't manned after that though.

          There were people manning the booth several times when I walked by (most of Friday, at the least). I remember seeing them and thinking 'good on you'. Educating people about how our classification system works is important, and a convention is not a bad place at all to try to do that.

    It looks like all they have are flyers about the ratings system, something most people at PAX would already know a lot about.

    If they really want to educate people about the ratings system they're better off having a booth at the local mall to educate the mums that buying COD for your 10yo son isn't the best idea.

    Just a hunch, but I suspect that the state and federal government have clauses in exhibition contracts that allows them first right of refusal to gratis booths/tables at all exhibitions in the Exhibition Building. I doubt it's about engagement, it's more likely to be about showcasing the most relevant government department information and/or facility, which in this case would be around content ratings.

    As an example, you'd likely see a government booth at Baby expos providing information about Paternity benefits and considerations, Council Support Groups, Births Deaths and Marriages, Public Health provision information and the like.

      No, the government does not have first right of refusal, and the government does not have clauses in contracts that have nothing to do with them. They would have paid for the space, which would have been a contract between them and the event organisers, and the motivation would have been about engagement.

        Your conviction is stronger than mine, but the Convention and Exhibition Center is owned by the Vic state government, I'm surprised that they don't provide themselves perks of ownership.

          @ryvman is correct - There's no additional clauses. Govt pays the same as everyone else.

          PS - Classification is a Commonwealth issue, not state. VicGov still do some half-decent things (still less than they used to) for the local gaming scene. :)

      I dunno about Federal, but I know in State government, the Media & PR team has a budget for running booths. I'm not sure if it includes paying employees, which are drawn from the various involved deparments. But SOMEONE pays them.

      Which can be tricky, since 'attending conventions' isn't anyone's job description that I've seen, so they usually have to put a call out for 'volunteers'. Which isn't exactly what it sounds like.

      I know I've put my hand up several times for the 'volunteer pool' to fill in at the 24/7 disaster relief call centre when major 'weather events' roll around. I've got the training and experience in that field, it's a good way to help out beyond putting some money in a tin. So I was mildly horrified (in the only instance I got called up) to learn that 'volunteering' didn't actually mean donating your time to disaster relief, but rather putting your hand up to do duties outside of your regular role and get paid overtime.

      The same is true of manning government presence booths, from the departmental emails I've seen asking for 'volunteers'. Like the booths the government runs during the EKKA in Brisbane, and at certain trade shows. I have yet to actually man one, but will probably get around to it one day.

      Last edited 05/11/14 11:10 am

    In some defence of the setup there, every time I walked past on Friday and Saturday it was staffed by a very bored looking person, and no-one was visiting or engaging with the stand.

    What day was that picture taken?

      I'm not sure. I actually spent a fair amount of time trying to find the booth but couldn't someone sent me this pic.

        Opportunistic photo + article

        It was in the boardgame section. I thought it was advertising the new Australian game "Police State" Or was it called "Data Retention" Cant remember :P

        I saw some kids take a similar photo on Sunday. See my earlier comment.

        The stand was at the corner of Tabletop, not in the Expo, which suggests to me this was a very last minute thing. There's no reason to put it where it was unless pretty much every other spot was already taken.

          Either that or the cheapest spot the government could afford.

        When I went to see the booth on Sunday it was like this as well. It was down the bottom of the board game booth sections near the meeting rooms and cosplay changing room.

        At some point on Friday, some wag did this:

      Yeah I saw a guy there most of Friday. He looked pretty bored and he tried a few half hearted attempts at handing out stickers etc.

      As others have noted they probably only had a junior staffer out there and only between business hours Friday and Saturday.

      I was there all 3 days and none of the times I walked past there I saw anyone manning the booth (didn't see that sign either though).

      I'm guessing it was only staffed during office hours or something.

    I know this is difficult to understand, but people that work for the government aren't politicians. The sad thing is about this exposure that there is probably someone who works in the comms team at the OFLC who pushed for this in an attempt to try and engage with the industry. They were probably told that only one person could go because of expense and they had to decide do I sit here in this booth where nobody is approaching me or do I head out into the crowd and talk to people. Someone takes a 'gotcha' photo and next year they won't be there. (disclaimer: I know this is speculative, what can I say, I have an active imagination)

    On the other hand anything that inadvertantly makes the Liberal government look like the idiots they are is fine by me.

    I now have two nice new classification magnets for my fridge. The fact that they had something in any way worth me picking up shows some amount of thought.

    (perhaps they should have sponsored the R and MA wristbands instead?)

    Yeah I saw this sign there at times, also saw a very bored looking person as no one was talking to them.

    There were people there at some points over the weekend just not late at night (which is understandable, as most government agencies don't like to pay their people to work outside of 9-5 if they can help it). There was a guy who handed us a card about classification on the Saturday. The flyers and information were specifically about the ratings system, and had links to

    Scott Ludlum was there wasn't he? Maybe see if he knows anything @markserrels or if he was avoiding it like the plague as well

    I did see this and I did laugh, but to be fair, if my job was to staff a booth like that at PAX, I'd probably bail on it too.

    I was there for 3 days and I cant say I even noticed it.. lack of a booth babe methinks.

    You missed the great photo op of when someone changed the sign to say "Please Yourself"

    If anyone was wondering, the booth was tucked away near the wargaming section of the tabletop area. Easily the least visited area of the main building. I only saw it because I entered the tabletop area from the wrong door once.

    I saw the booth staffed on Friday and Saturday, but I didn't go past it on Sunday so I don't know. There was only one guy on the booth, I would assume he needs to eat, go to the bathroom, have a walk around just like the rest of us, leaving his only option to put up such a sign. I have a couple of classification fridge magnets to add to my collection that he gave me when we stopped past. I personally think classification is an important topic to educate people about, which is relevant if you went to any of the PA Q&A session where it was a question asked a few times about how do we educate parents about what their kids are up to. This booth might not have been the best way to do that, but it's better than not doing anything at all.

    Still, Leaving the both unattended was a pretty shitty move.

    It wasnt unmanned on Saturday, walked past a few times, there was a guy there handing out classification notes.

    Personally, I hope that a game loving public servant convinced their boss to let them represent, put up the sign and then just PAXed out all weekend.

    Actually, when I passed it on Saturday someone had folded the paper so it read "Please Yourself" which I think is that much more hilarious.

    I picked up a whole bunch of OFLC swag at PAX. Score!

    Someone should have just taken everything and the booth. It does say help yourself afterall!

    No poopie this article was unfair.
    Stall guy was probably in the toilet or out to lunch

    Last edited 05/11/14 5:06 pm

    Help yourself? I could use that chair...and table...and carpet it is sitting on...

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