Panels are the heart and soul of PAX — and PAX Online is no exception. There’s a lot more of them this year, thanks to the show’s expansion into a 9-day event. But parsing the schedule can be a bit tricky, so to help out, here’s a list of the biggest and most interesting panels you’ll want to catch up on.
Note, that while all PAX Online panels are broadcast through the official PAX, PAX 2 and PAX 3 Twitch channels, you will be able to watch them back after the fact. If you want to check out the full schedule for yourself, you can do so here. There’s a handy timer to swap between timezones as well, which is neat.
Storytime with Mike Pondsmith (Sunday, 3:15am AEST, PAX 1)
The father of Cyberpunk 2020 — and by extension, Cyberpunk 2077 — is this year’s headline speaker. And even if that wasn’t the case, Pondsmith has proved to be a superbly eloquent, warm and engaging fellow for interviews, so Storytime with Mike Pondsmith should be a blast.
There’s not much info in the official panel description, but given the pitch it’s likely that there’ll be a walk through Pondsmith’s career. That’ll have to include the origins of Cyberpunk 2077 and the early days of collaborating on the project with CD Projekt Red, which was back when The Witcher 3 was still in development. A rough time for Australians, but this panel should be a blast to catch back up on.
GOOD NIGHT mr.coconut: The Rise and Fall of Neopets (Sunday, 4:45am AEST, PAX 3)
The rise and fall of Neopets, and its attempted rebirth, has always been fascinating. GOOD NIGHT mr.coconut is a story that covers it all in full, touching on Neopets‘ virtual stock market, its weird affiliation with Scientology, and the nightmare that ensued when mods vanished.
Meet Tarn Adams, Co-Creator of Dwarf Fortress (Sunday, 6:15am AEST, PAX 2)
The Dwarf Fortress panel won’t have both the Adams brothers, but it will be a chance for users to ask questions of Kitfox Games (which published the Steam version) and at least one of the co-creators. Dwarf Fortress has been one of the longest running and remarkable productions, spanning more than 16 years, so there’s sure to be some good tales here.
Sid Meier’s Memoir!: A Conversation with Sid Meier about His Life in Computer Games (Sunday, 9.30am AEST, PAX)
Sid Meier’s just published his memories, so naturally there’s a panel to accompany the whole thing. This should be an absolute blast. What would a dinosaur Civ game look like? What were the early days of MicroProse like, and what was life like behind the development of classics like Railroad Tycoon, Pirates! and more? Sid Meier’s life as a designer began as a 28-year-old who wanted to make “the ultimate strategy game”. That in itself is inspiring, so a chat about his entire career should certainly prove interesting.
The Psychology of the Final Fantasy Series (Sunday, 12:15am AEST, PAX 3)
What happens when you get a group of psychologists to unpack the characters, trauma and struggle behind Final Fantasy? That’s what The Psychology of the Final Fantasy Series plans to do, bringing together academics and psychological researchers from within and adjacent to video games.
Survival of the Fittest: DayZ to Battle Royale to Icarus (Sunday, 2:30pm AEST, PAX)
The maker of DayZ, Dean Hall, has been working on Icarus for a while. Not a huge amount is known at this stage, bar what was teased out during the virtual PC Gaming Show.
Survival of the Fittest isn’t focusing exclusively on Icarus, but there should be some details about lessons learned from DayZ and how that’s feeding into Hall’s next project. The panel will also talk about the survival sandbox genre and the early days of battle royale, and Hall’s view on what the genre needs to move forward.
Film Victoria Funding: How The Goose Gets Made (Sunday, 3:45pm AEST, PAX)
It wouldn’t be a PAX Australia — or a virtual PAX Online with Australian input — without some support from local funding bodies. This panel will feature some of the developers behind the hilarious Frog Detective series, and how government funding can be a crucial factor in catapulting local games to international success.
Play it Again: Preserving Australia’s Game History (Sunday, 5:15pm AEST, PAX 3)
I’ve spoken recently about the National Film and Sound Archives’ mission to preserve Australian games. And that’s what Play it Again is doing, specifically focusing on ACMI’s Play it Again ARC project.
The talk will focus specifically efforts to preserve Krush Kill ‘n’ Destroy, Aussie Rules NES, and Team Fortress: Quake, as well as how those games can be playable today through emulation.
Game Maker’s Notebook with Sucker Punch’s Brian Fleming (Monday, 3:15am AEST, PAX)
A live chat between the president of Insomniac Games and Brian Fleming, the co-founder and producer at Sucker Punch (Ghost of Tsushima, inFAMOUS, Sly Cooper). Game Maker’s Notebook is a fascinating repository of wisdom and stories in game development, and Brian Fleming should have plenty of tales — and lessons — from what it’s been like working on Ghost of Tsushima.
Did Animal Crossing Save Our Souls? (Monday, 5.45am AEST, PAX)
A perfect game at the perfect time, nothing has quite struck a chord with audiences this year in the way that Animal Crossing: New Horizons has. This panel is a chat with three academics and researchers about Animal Crossing‘s social impact in a COVID-affected world, as well as the general impact on increased gaming throughout the pandemic. Has isolation gaming been unhealthy for people? Has it helped everyone cope? That’s the question Dr Catherine Flick, Dr Rachel Kowert and Dr Seebastian Deterding will answer.
Building a Home Escape Room: Zero Budget, Lots of Fun (Monday, 6:00am AEST, PAX 3)
You’re stuck inside. You need a bit of a creative escape. So why not make your own escape room inside your house? Cosplayer and DIY’er Sara Winters will explain how to build your own escape-room like experience in your own house.
TTRPGs and Kids: Engaging Children in Tabletop Roleplaying (Monday, 9:45am AEST, PAX 3)
Tabletop is an incredibly social activity, but getting children into the groove of roleplaying is a whole different challenge. TTRPGs and Kids features teachers, tabletop experts and producers on the best way to introduce kids to the tabletop world, how to gently foster interaction between players, and how to appropriately and meaningfully incorporate BIMPOC and LGBTQ+ content into gameplay.
Capturing the Performances in Red Dead Redemption 2 (Tuesday, 8:00am AEST, PAX)
What’s it like to spend nearly five years recording voice-overs for a video game … in secret? That’s just part of the story you’ll hear from Capturing the Performances in Red Dead Redemption 2. 7 voice actors will be able to openly talk about their experience on the game for the first time, retelling what it was like working together for so long, and how it all came together.
Indigenous Game Design of Turtle Island (Tuesday, 9:45am AEST, PAX 2)
What does it take to incorporate Indigenous wisdom and culture appropriately into design? What are the different ways Indigenous-made games look at things like mechanics and expression? That’s what Indigenous Game Design of Turtle Island will explore, featuring multiple designers and artists talking about their experiences and thoughts on the future of Indigenous game design.
Gaming Research Outcomes for the Past 20 Years (Tuesday, 2:45pm AEST, PAX 2)
A panel focusing on the hot button topics for mainstream media: violence in video games and microtransactions. It’ll include some of the researchers behind the biggest studies and investigations into loot boxes and the psychology of modern gaming business models, so there should be plenty of interesting insights to take away.
Gamifying Government: 3rd Time’s a Charm (Tuesday, 3:45pm AEST, PAX 3)
Here’s a few things you don’t see in a sentence often: PAX, Austrade and the Royal Australian Mint. But that’s what Gamifying Government will feature: three separate government departments talking about how they’re embracing video game technology to provide more modern services.
The panel will feature an adviser on digital technologies for Austrade, a coin designer from the Royal Australian Mint, and the Australian Government’s Manager of Virtual Worlds, which is a job title I would have never expected a government employee to have.
A Hero for All: A Chat on Diversity with the Cast of Overwatch (Wednesday, 4:15am AEST, PAX)
Bastion’s not really the headline character for Overwatch‘s diversity, but A Hero for All will have plenty of firepower to make up for it. The voices behind Torbjorn, Hanzo, Winston, Baptiste, Sombra, Symmetra and Pharah will join together to talk about their experience with Blizzard’s hero shooter, tales from behind the scenes, and their experiences of portraying some of the most iconic faces behind one of Blizzard’s biggest franchises.
Procedural Generation: What’s It Good For in 2020? (Wednesday, 8:00am AEST, PAX)
A chat with the minds behind some of the most impactful procedurally generated (procgen) games — Dwarf Fortress, Caves of Qud, Darkest Dungeon and Industries of Titan — about the current state of procgen games, what its strengths and weaknesses are in 2020, and what the future holds.
The Model Minority Myth in the Gaming Industry (Wednesday, 10:45am AEST, PAX 3)
A chat for board gaming fans. Featuring creators from Dice Tower, board game designers, and producers from Wizards of the Coast, The Model Minority Myth in the Gaming Industry will talk about the challenges of replicating minority cultures in tabletop and board games — and the successes and failures along the way.
Press X to SCIENCE! (Wednesday, 5:15pm AEST, PAX 2)
Why is Dungeons & Dragons being prescribed to patients? How can gamers solve some of science’s biggest problems? Those are some of the questions three scientists will be posing and answering in this panel. It’ll cover the latest research into video games, the intersection of current science and video games, and some of the best recent citizen science projects.
Creating the Quest – An Indie Game Level Design Panel (Thursday 8:30AM AEST, PAX 2)
Ever wanted to know what it took to make an indie game? What’s involved in level design, story writing, and anything else that turns a good idea into a great, playable game? The panel will feature the folks behind games like Shovel Knight, Ori and the Blind Forest, and the Shantae series to hopefully answer some of your questions.
101 Things I Wish I’d Learned in Games School (Thursday 5:00PM AEST, PAX3)
School is great (stay in school, kids), but that doesn’t mean a quality education can’t miss some of the things you can only learn through experience/expensive mistakes. This panel of experts is going to hopefully fill some of those gaps by sharing their wisdom. Experts include folks from Epic Games, EA, EA Firemonkeys and RMIT University.
Sound Design Live: Watch Us Recreate Video Game Sounds (Friday 3:00AM AEST, PAX)
Sound design is an art. All the sounds in the games you play had to be made somehow, and they probably weren’t recorded using the authentic items (unless they had space lasers). In this panel, Ryan Stunkel is going to be recreating the sound effects from games you love using household items. It sounds (get it) like it’s going to be a mix of impressive, interesting and at least mildly amusing.
Ask the Cast! Overwatch Voice Actors at PAX Online (Friday 3:45AM AEST, PAX)
If you have more questions for the cast of Overwatch, this is where you’ll get to ask them. Just head to the Discord and hope they pick your question. Voice actors include Jen Cohn (Voice of Pharah), Anjali Bhimani (Voice of Symmetra), Paul Nakauchi (Voice of Hanzo), Crispin Freeman (Voice of Winston), Feodor Chin (Voice of Zenyatta), Jeannie Bolét (Voice of Echo), Benz Antoine (Voice of Baptiste), Carolina Ravassa (Voice of Sombra), Keith Silverstein (Voice of Torbjörn), Boris Hiestand (Voice of Sigma), Lucie Pohl (Voice of Mercy), and Josh Petersdorf (Voice of Roadhog).
The Science of Goosebumps: Music in Gaming (Friday 12:15PM AEST, PAX2)
Music can completely change the emotion of a level or scene. Imagine a romantic scene with chilling chords, or a live battlefield with Benny Hill music; it just changes everything. This panel is going to talk all about the role music plays in games. Panelists include folks with credits including Final Fantasy, League of Legends, Overwatch and Hero Wars 2.
NerdKwiz (Friday 7:30PM AEST, PAX3)
A PAX Aus Diversity Lounge tradition, NerdKwiz is going digital. This is the quiz show all about diverse gaming and pop culture, with rounds that ask the special guest contestants to match same sex attracted female characters with the trope they ended up in (dead, evil, and/or pregnant), tell Halo chapter titles apart from Halo fan fiction, and a brand new audio round featuring some familiar tunes played on unfamiliar instruments. The panel is made up of people from the Australian games industry (including Alice Clarke, one of the authors of this post).
Dungeons & Designers (Saturday 3:00AM, PAX)
There’s a new adventure out and the biggest rule update in three years is on the way. Join principal game designers Jeremy Crawford and Chris Perkins to learn all the insider tips and secrets.
The Art of Motion: Performing and Acting for Games and Film (Saturday 8:00AM AEST, PAX)
This is a panel for all the budding actors who dream of one day doing performance capture for a game, or starring in a movie. Join these six actors as they tell you how they broke into the business, and how things have changed since.
untitled kris straub panel.mp4 (Saturday 11:00AM AEST, PAX2)
I don’t know what this panel is about, and nor do you. Probably webcomics. But since it became a meme, I bet you’re also curious.
How to Make the Worst Video Game Adaptations Possible (Sunday 6:00AM AEST, PAX2)
It’s hard to imagine video game adaptions worse than, say, Doom, or everything that wasn’t Detective Pikachu. But this surprisingly impressive panel of experts (including Dan Hernandez who wrote Detective Pikachu) is going to give it their best shot.
Not Your Therapist: Managing Mental Health in Streaming (Sunday 9:30AM AEST, PAX3)
What do you do if audience members in your stream start trying to talk to you about their serious mental health issues? Or what should you do when you want to talk to a streamer about tough times you’re going through? This panel features expert mental health professionals who can share relevant advice.
Inclusion and Sensitivities of Indigenous Culture in Games (Sunday 6:15AM AEST, PAX3)
It would be wonderful if there were more games that included Indigenous cultures. This panel features Phoebe Watson, a proud Yarrer Gunditj woman, talking about her experiences incorporating Aboriginal culture into the game Innchanted.
New Games, Old Consoles (Monday 8:15AM AEST, PAX3)
it’s easy to think of old consoles as being limited by today’s standards. But there is a beauty in the limitations, and art to be made within those constraints. This panel aims to teach viewers about how to make music, art and even games for older 8 and 16-bit consoles.
Saving History! With The Video Game History Foundation (Monday 11AM AEST, PAX2)
Like all artistic mediums, games have cultural value and can give future generations an insight into the past. Join The Video Game History Foundation to see how they preserve games, and how you can help.
Did we miss any PAX Online panels that you think we should highlight? Let us know in the comments!