Monday, July 4, 2016

The Pros of Cons

First, let me start by apologizing for my absence these past few weeks. My old computer broke and I had to wait for a new one. But I'm back, baby!

Second, I had the privilege of going to Origins Game Fair in Columbus, OH. It was only for one day, but it was a great day! As with any fandom, gaming conventions are designed to advertise the best in the business and to appeal to a broad spectrum of players. For new comers, this is an opportunity to meet fellow players and learn more about your favorite games. For veterans, this is your chance to shine in tournaments and meet the people who have built your community. I'd like to discuss some of the highlights from the con, even though I did not participate in all of them. As someone who has never gone to a gaming con before, Origins let me redefine what it means to be a part of he gaming community and how to engage with various players.
This is the biggest reason to go to gaming conventions, having to chance to play new and existing games to which you may not otherwise have access. Representatives from gaming companies or convention volunteers are there to let people play their games, usually for free. I say "usually" because there were a few demos and events that required tokens from Origins, which were either rewarded to players or purchased at registration. At any rate, demonstrations are vital to both large cooperate game companies and the indie scene. People from all over the US came to Ohio for this he convention. If games have just appeared onto the scene (such as Gorilla Games' "Worst Game Ever") or a sequel/expansion to a game has just been released (see Small World: Underground below), developers have the chance to show off their product. If distribution is limited, people from other states can play games they may not have known existed. As for players, demos are the main attraction for conventions, next to any tournaments of interest. It's one thing to read a review for a game to decide whether or not to buy it, but actually playing the game for yourself is far better evidence. A bit of caution with demos: the GM and other people playing the demo can make or break the experience. We had a player for the Small World demo who texting while the GM was explaining gameplay. As a result, they were constantly interrupting for rule clarification. It was annoying, but I still managed to have fun and bought a copy of the game later at my local game shop.

So you played a demo of a pretty awesome game; do you want to buy it? Maybe you just want a tee shirt from your favorite Fantasy Flight game, or a custom Meeple for Carcassonne. Thankfully, there are many vendors at gaming cons with everything from the games to amigurmi figurines. I was especially excited about the vendor section, because I knew there were going to be plenty of indie game developers. This lovely woman (below) was demonstrating The Worst Game Ever, a game invented from a joke gone too far by Gorilla Games designers.

Being able to talk to the people behind the games make it much more enjoying to share with friends later on. Even though I have yet to grab a copy of The Worst Game Ever, it is definitely on my list for a Game Night Pick. I unfortunately did not get the chance to talk with every vendor but it was an interesting cast of characters. A lot of indie designers were with friends and family, who often doubled as coworkers. One group in particular were showcasing an expansion to their one and only game, whose name I forgot. This group was a husband and wife duo with their adorable spokesperson, their nine-year-old daughter. It felt great knowing con goers could support families as well as the larger groups that made their favorite games. It felt even better knowing that friends could play Settlers of Catan for the first time, potentially remaining friends afterwards.

I was not able to participate in any workshops while I was at Origins, but giving enough time I would have taken advantage of the opportunity. While demos are there to primarily advertise games, workshops and classes are meant to enhance the gaming experience. Some classes could be on GM skills or the history of battle ships (Biggs participated in a class about U-Boats and loved it). I would have loved to take part in the workshops on model painting or any of the history classes offered. While not everyone is going to like taking time off of demos or tournaments, I think players can gain new appreciation for the games they love by partaking in classes and workshops.

Ongoing Events
Origins had many events outside of classes and workshops, including charity and all day events. A local blood bank was there on Friday (and maybe other days) encouraging anyone eligible to donate and appearently had a great turnout. Had I had more time, I would have participated in the Call of Cthulhu RPG sessions. They had a conference room dedicated to an all-day RPG event, where participants earned points for creativity and memorable role-playing moments. Prizes could be bought with the points, but only for participants who played the games. This was not only good for Lovecraft fans, but for role players of any kind. The GM's were having a blast and merchandise for the RPG was available at the vendors center, an excellent tie-in for the rest of the con. Somewhere, there exists a video of Biggs and I fighting with foam swords, and that event was worth the two tokens of admission. Part of going to convention is expecting the unexpected, and  sometimes consensually beating your partner with foam.

Maybe you've been playing Dice Masters for months now, or maybe you've been playing X-Wing miniatures for years. Why not test your skill? Heck, why not try to win a regional or national tournament? Origins hosted many tournaments, including the two aforementioned games, Star Wars Armada, GoT the Card Game, and more. I didn't participate in any tournaments but I was there to cheer on friends. Even if you are eliminated from the tournament, it doesn't hurt to hang out for a bit. You get to meet advanced players and get to be exposed to the current meta. Having gone to another tournament for Armada, I recognized a lot of faces, including current champion, Q. Depending on your interest, watching tournaments can be just as fun for the casual player. For the more competitive players, though, participating in tournaments is one of the most satisfying ways to experience a game.

The Con Experience
If you have never been to a convention - of any kind -  I highly recommend going to one at least once in your life. There are no real ways to explain the sensation of going to a con, other than experiencing it first-hand. From Gen-con to Anthro-con, there is something to be learned from events centered around a single concept. I guess the best word used to describe the feeling is "belonging". Even if you only played Monopoly with family or if you don't know how to play Go Fish, you will be welcomed in a this group of people who care deeply about games. Origins in particular was accommodating to all levels of players and was filled with people willing to educate the public. I'd love to go again next year... especially if more skirmish games have Simpson's references in their models.

On deck for Game Night Picks: Small World: Underground... and revisiting Coup with another expansion.

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