There is one word used to describe PAX Aust by every person I spoke to last weekend: Community. A feeling of community so euphoric, so all-encompassing… If I could bottle it, I would be rich! But this vibe comes from the experience of PAX, not just the promotions and hype. Activity in the peripherals of conventions like PAX make the events. Over the next week, I’m going to share a few experiences to give you the rounded picture of why conventions and exhibitions like PAX are so damn awesome. And you are part of the community too. Feel free to share your own experiences in the comments afterwards.
Episode 1 – The Enforcer
It was Friday, Day 1 of PAX Aust 2016. I had just finished lunch with a friend and was racing back for an interview with the founders of A Township Tale (more on this game in a future post). As I cross the road to enter the main doors of the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, I spot a fantastic cosplay outfit on the steps outside the building. Unfortunately, she was cornered by this guy—a guy who was clearly invading her space and she was desperately trying to move away from him.
Sensing the distress she was in, me and my stomping boots picked up speed. I was about 25m away when I realized I had no idea what in Hades I was going to do about this.
Fortunately, there was an Enforcer walking in the opposite direction, passing by right next to me. You can’t miss the Enforcers–they wear bright yellow shirts with ENFORCER blazoned across the back. They are the volunteer helpers of PAX: walking info booths, crowd control, theatre cleaners, and collectors of lost children. In this case, it was a guy eating his lunch, and I was about to disturb his break. Sorry dude.
As I walked past him, I grabbed him by the arm and said: “Come with me, please.” He spun around and started saying “Hey!” until he looked up and saw the same thing I had seen. He simply said, “I’m on it,” as we marched forth together.
What we were seeing was a guy groping a woman in every bare spot she had in her cosplay. She was pushing him away, trying to twist away from him, but he was all hands, not giving any opportunity for escape. She was clearly saying no; he was clearly thinking otherwise just because of her cosplay. Rule number one of cosplay: Cosplay is not consent.
We were a couple of meters away when I called out “HEY!” and the assaulter turned around. Enforcer-Dude was far more effective in his actions: He grabbed the guy by the upper arm and lifted him about an inch, before pushing him away. The cosplay artist mouthed thank you to me then bolted, a perfectly normal response to this nasty situation. If she ever reads this, I hope you are not turned off cosplay. Your outfit was stunning.
Initially, the guy tried to claim innocence, saying things like I wasn’t doing anything. Enforcer-Dude wasn’t taking any of it; he had already seen it happen. For that I was grateful. It is always better to have someone else see it themselves, rather than trying to explain things.
Eventually, the guy says, “So what are you going to do? I’m just going to head back in…”
Whoa, man. Wrong thing to say, because Enforcer-Dude just replies with, “No, you’re not,” and yanks the guy’s PAX pass off.
At this point, I realize I am running really late for my interview. I said to Enforcer-Dude, “Are you good here?”
“Yep. Thanks.” And with that, Enforcer-Dude walked off into the Centre with the other guy.
I never caught Enforcer-Dude’s name. I never learnt of the outcome. But my faith in the Enforcers was cemented with this very short but high-impact experience. Not every PAX experience is perfect but this one was both positive and natural. Knowing there is at least one other person at PAX willing and able to enforce consequences on people like that makes me feel far more relaxed about being there.
That’s my Community.