My First Gaming Convention...and What a Gaming Convention It Was!
Guest Post by Jill Spivey
I should preface this post by saying that I was only introduced to gaming five years ago when I met my ever-loving husband Chris. I have played in a couple campaigns and a few one shots, but I am a newbie, by all accounts. So when Chris came to me with this wild idea to attend Metatopia after being invited by some unknown-person-to-me Avie, I was perhaps a little hesitant. Flash forward a few months later, and we arrive in glorious Morristown, New Jersey. (I'm poking fun because we actually quite enjoyed the little town, but it's not exactly where I think of taking a weekend away from the kid, you know?)
My impressions of Metatopia as a relatively new gamer and a first-time gaming convention attendee:
SO. MANY. GAMERS.
I know it's a small-ish con compared to many others, but to somebody who's only sat in a room with a maximum of seven gamers at a time, 500+ feels like a lot! And there are so many gamers with so much to say about gaming in general. I was probably the quietest you'll ever see me, mostly just taking it all in, and realizing that on a scale of 1 - 10 on the geek scale, I rank about a weak 2.8. I definitely have some geek-building to do.
What was probably most incredible about all these gamers in one space was how warm and welcoming everyone was. Brennen, one of Chris's long lost high school friends, introduced us around, and we had the chance to meet a tremendous amount of people who are interested in the same things we are: creating a more inclusive gaming community. Metatopia was a very inclusive space, especially for women and LGBTQ folks, and even included a couple of omni-gender restrooms. This is particularly encouraging to see given that much of the gaming industry still caters to white hetero males. Next year? I'd love to see more people of color at Metatopia. I'd love to figure out how to help make that happen.
SO. MANY. GAMES.
Like, so many. They have this big board set up where you can sign up for games (if you're not already signed up). And it's massive. And for the newbie, completely overwhelming. We luckily had someone tell us the general breakdown of the board, which helped. But I really wish we had registered for games in advance. Somehow we missed that memo. Anyway, we participated in some really fun games, and were able to give feedback that I hope was helpful.
There were times I sat in awe, watching Chris and some of the other gamers in their element. I think skilled gamers are the result of two things: experience and creativity. I don't think I expected to be inspired at the gaming table, but I was. Multiple times.
One thing that made me feel fairly uncomfortable was the way some of the feedback was being given. Chris and I talked up this at length on the ride home. I feel like the best way to provide feedback is to start by asking questions, then listening to their intentions, and then providing feedback:
- QUESTION: When you included X mechanic, what were you trying to do?
- FEEDBACK: Have you considered looking at X game system to provide a mechanic that better fits what you're trying to do?
- QUESTION: Did you intend to make X easier for players? If so, why?
- FEEDBACK: It was easier, but fun. If you wanted to make it more difficult, you could . . .
I've seen that others have been posting about this issue as well. Providing constructive feedback can be difficult. And when you're in a new space with new people, sometimes people are trying to prove their "street cred" by dropping a bunch of information/names/gaming knowledge where it might not be warranted. Look, it's a temptation for many of us in new settings. When you find yourself in that situation doing something like that, I think it's usually wise just to stop talking.
SO. MUCH. TO LEARN.
Like I mentioned, Metatopia taught me that I have much to learn. So many panels, so much information! And some conversations, like the one we had with one of the publishers Chris is working with, opened up new ideas and new paths to explore. As Chris (and I, by association) embark on this game developing/designing journey, it has become crystal clear that we have much to learn about game design and publishing. And, I mean, who knew that the gaming world is on Google Plus? Who knew that anyone was actually on Google Plus? (Okay, I guess many of YOU knew, but I sure as hell didn't. )
SO. MUCH. FUN.
Let me be honest here. I don't love gaming like most of the people at this con do. I want to love gaming, but I generally put up with it and try to enjoy it. But I really had a lot of fun at Metatopia. Being a part of the design process of other people's games gave me a deeper understanding of the various mechanics and the choices that game designers make to provide a better experience for the players. My experience at the con also taught me why I haven't really loved gaming so far (I think. This isn't science, people.). All those damn stats. Math was never my strong suit, so the stats in things like Pathfinder feel very limiting and make me want to tear my hair out. It was great to see new systems that embrace a more fluid way of advancing the game.
So that's it for Metatopia 2015. My virgin con status has been retired, and I look forward to next year.