Sunday, August 31, 2008

Convention Updates - Part 5 - Fan Expo

This con, for gaming at any rate, is a joke.

A big, fat, stinking joke and it was on anyone involved with the Hobby Gaming Industry (as opposed to the Electronic Gaming Industry). You see, Fan Expo is a convention that caters to a lot of people. It's got Anime fans, SF fans, Comic Book fans, Horror fans and finally Gaming fans. I put our industry last because that's exactly where they put us. Seriously, we were in the armpit of the convention centre.

To give you a brief description:

We were in a featureless room, with no signage, behind the guest of honor autograph area and next to the dark video game corner. The only entrance that bothered to open onto us had VIP entrance over top of it all weekend.

Quotes of the convention:

"I found you because I went looking for a bathroom."
"I didn't go there because it was the DARK VIDEO GAME corner."
"This looks like a place I shouldn't be going."

If I had paid for this I would have been screaming from the beginning of the con until the end of it. I wouldn't have stopped yelling until they either gave me my money back or given me something for my money because it was awful.

Zero foot traffic, a hassle when I tried to roll with the situation and make something positive out of it. It was perhaps the worst con I've ever been at.

Now this isn't a slight against the guy who organized it. Justin did his best to try to make sure we got what we needed and to get those who he works for to listen to us, but at best the brushed him off at worst the ignored him. He tried his best, it's not his fault that we've dropped to beyond after thought.

With this con it's never a case of "if something goes wrong" it's a "when something goes wrong." Last year none of the gaming guests were listed and none of my events were posted. This year none of my events were posted and we had to deal with the location from hell.

The only reason why I bother is that it's free, and even then I wonder if I overpaid this year.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Convention Updates - Part 4 ... Gen Con ... the rest

Well, it's been a little too long to remember all the pertinent details of Gen Con now. Only the big events stood out. So instead of giving them to you on a day per day basis, let me throw them at you numerically.

1. There was an awesome demo of Run For Your Life Candyman.

When you do demos where you try to be animated you run into three groups. The first group wants none of it and will never participate no matter what. The second group gets that it's okay to be all chanty and tribal (because yelling "Rip it off" is always fun) and they get into it by the end of the demo. The third group dives in head first and never looks back.

I had a table filled with the third group. We had chants of "Rip it off/out" going whenever someone lost a piece. "Cage Match!" when cage matches were started. We booed when there was little mayhem and screamed "Grudge match" when it old rival went at it again. We had one guy who sat there and started four cage matches in a row. I had to start a "King of Cage" chant for him.

I don't know what inspired me to do this, but about thirty minutes after the moment of silence for Gary Gygax The King of Cage got knocked out of the game. For some reason, I stood up and said the following:

"Everyone please stand ... a moment of silence for the King of Cage .... ... .. Thank you."

It was great.

2. Seeing Jess and her family.

Jess Hartley is an amazing person and I'd call her a pretty damn good friend who, despite knowing me for a pretty short time, is more than willing to chat and give me swift kick in the arse when needed. ^_^

I got to hang out with her, though usually we ended up crossing paths at around 2:00 am, and her family who are also awesome.

3. Seeing people I don't usually get to see, and meeting the people they know.

My friend Jamie showed up, because he lives in Chicago and it's a lot less far from Indianapolis than Toronto is. He had his friends and they were lots of fun to be around. I got to play some of the old Cyberpunk CCG with Jamie and his crazy decks.

Also hanging out and helping Curt from Smirk and Dagger games and seeing the Slug crew totally makes it all worth it.

4. Annoying the heck out of the Adventure Games booth.

Seriously folks, the first time you hear the exact change dance it's funny. The second time amusing, the third time it's annoying and every point beyond that makes you want to fly into a murderous rage. It's personally how I feel about Munchkin and since SJG is in that collection I'm not too sure that it's that much of a coincidence.

5. Awesome games of CyberGen

I managed to get two really good games of CyberGen off the ground. Dark and Stormy went off wonderfully as it could have gone and we got some really good players and some people really into the game. We also had some people who recognized me after we ran the intro game which is also awesome.

That's pretty much the highlights of the weekend. It's more than 3 weeks late, but better than never.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Convention Updates - Part 3 ... Gen Con Intro and Day 1

Now let me state the fact the right now I'm not a big fan of Gen Con. The past few years have made whatever sheen it had fall to the wayside to be replaced by the large head of profit and corporatocracy. Last year in particular was bad because pretty much nothing was where it said it was going to be, and goodness help you if you had a game after the HQs closed. Then you had no idea if there was a change.

This year, something happened. There must have been something different, someone actually in charge but ... everything was where they said it was going to be. The way I got my badges was efficient and professionally handled, and we didn't have security every ten feet checking to make sure that we were paying customers. It was actually somewhat enjoyable this year, which is a big step up.

Now the main reason why I busted my butt to get there was for the simple fact that I had a Suitors game that had 25 people signed up. Seriously, 25 people. That was mind blowing. I had only had Cyberpunk games sell out on me. However, I'll get back to this later. Let me do a quick day by day run down of what happened on Jonathan's magical trip to Gen Con.

Day 1 - Wednesday.

First of all, I thought I was leaving Wednesday night at say around 23:00. Instead I found out a few days before that we were leaving Wednesday morning, at say around 4:00. Thankfully I was able to get the time off of work to do this, I do love my day job that pays the bills, and we ended up having a grand old time on the drive down. Nothing too spectacular there, other than the Catalyst Studio folk being awesome, and the inevitable border cross.

Crossing the border is always interesting, I've done it tons of times but it never actually gets any easier. We did our little coaching ahead of time (Remember to say SF con, they think gaming means gambling) and stopped at the Duty Free shop to buy some alcohol for those less fortunate souls south of the border.*

When we got to the actual customs officer we didn't get asked about the booze at all. Instead we were given the Canadian Pop Quiz, which I won by knowing that Calixa Lavallee wrote the Canadian National Anthem. I was also the only one in the car who knew it, which was amusing since I was told later that when they heard that question everyone thought that we were going to get pulled over.

We got to Indianapolis after much issues with the GPS we were using, it brought us through Detroit ... seriously, and I sat down and waited for the GM HQ booth to open to get my badge. Ran into a whole pile of people I knew, in particular the Slug Fest Crew, and got to watch a bunch of people try to get their badges through sheer force of will. Nothing too stupid, but when the guy with the "I'm in charge" badge asks you to fill out the form, you fill it out and thank them for not losing your badge.

Finally I made it to the hotel where the SFC were at and hung out there for a bit until Curt, from Smirk and Dagger Games, showed up with a great story. I'll let him tell it, poaching stories is ultimately bad form, but in the end it landed us a Penthouse in the Embassy. Pretty freakin' awesome.

Now I'm going to cut this up, so next update is day 2.

1. Note, I don't drink. However, being Canadian still gives me the right to make alcohol jokes.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Convention Updates - Part 2 ... Dex Con

I know it's not soon, but it isn't as if anyone really reads this so the update came just at the right time.

Origins was fun, with a lot of really good food to be had. I really loved the North Market,
which for those who live in Toronto is like walking into St. Lawrence Market, because it provided me with an easy place to eat good food.

Now I get to talk about one of the better networking cons in the North East. Seriously, if you're a small to medium game publisher or designer you need to do your best to get down here. I'm talking about Dex Con.

A little bit of history. I started going to Dex Con, one of the many Double Exposure events that are held during the year, in 2004. It's one of the most fun places I've ever been to. It's the biggest pajama party on the planet. It has food events, which means lots of sugar and chocolate fondue. The people there are just the type of people you want to have playtest your games because they've all playtested games and don't hesitate to tell you if something you did is crap, no matter how much they like you.

This year was no different. We went, we had a blast and then we made our way home.

Highlights of the night.

1. Suitors tournaments actually going off

I've had some problems with this in the past. I run Suitors tournaments and no one shows up. I understand there's a little lack of exposure, but sometimes you'd expect curiosity to kill that cat once in a while. (Problem solved at Gen Con but I might have James to thank for that).

2. The CyberGen LARP:

I think I've come up with some pretty good preliminary rules for how to do a LARP. I've had a bit more experience actually being in the trenches and slogging out scenes with players. I didn't expect the response I got for running CGen as a LARP. Apparently it's a lot of fun.

It might be because CyberGen is a phenominal setting that's quite different from a lot of other settings. You get to play kids, do crazy things. Heck, I think there were like five different "sex" scenes and by that I mean people making a "date" and then laughing about it in the hallway.

It might be because they got to do what they wanted to do, rather than deal with some sort of overbearing "plot" I had put down upon them. No, you foolish people, I have this great story and you are getting in the way of it!

The coolest part was that this was called the best LARP of the event, by a guy who ran three of his own.

There were other moments, mostly involving me getting to hang out with people I gladly call friends that I don't get to see that often. A lot of playtesting and a lot of great memories.

I tell everyone this. You need to go to Dex Con. It's only a year away now.

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