Well, as you might know, I have spent the last few days attending and covering the Origins in Columbus, OH. I spent a lot of time at the convention, gave brief rundowns of what I did while there, tweeted my happenings, and did my level best to experience as many new things as I could, while getting interviews for TC. This was my first convention, ever, so I made some missteps, and I’m sure I missed some things that I should have seen or done. I’m only one man, so that’s to be expected.
Anyway, I wanted to take some time and reflect on the experience as a whole before I begin going through each event and interview in detail. So, here are some thoughts on the convention and my time there.
1. It’s not the biggest convention, but Origins has a lot going for it.
I talked to a lot of people throughout my time at this convention. As this was my first time at any kind of gaming convention, I wanted to get a lot of opinion about what I should check out, and how I should handle my time while there. I heard a lot about the differences between Origins and GenCon, with most people warning me that GenCon is bigger, and moves at a much faster pace.
That’s just fine by me, but it highlights something that I loved about Origins. During each of the five days, I never once felt overwhelmed. There were a lot of things to see and do, RPGs of every type, board and cards games, tons of miniatures games, and a good-sized Exhibitor’s Hall. But even with all of those things to do, I was able to (for the most part) pace myself and do what I wanted to do without getting burned out. It was a good, chill atmosphere, and there were a lot of kind people to talk to. I didn’t run into anyone that I would classify as a jerk of any kind, and people were glad to give recommendations as to what I should check out. That led me to try a bunch of games that I would have never thought about trying, and really helped to widen my perspective on RPGs and the gaming industry as a whole.
That having been said, there were some issues that happened, not to me, but around me.
2. A show of this size needs more organization.
I don’t know if this is true, but I had someone tell me that GAMA (the organization that runs Origins) only have five paid staff members. The rest of the GAMA folks at Origins was volunteers, and they were spread very thinly. It wasn’t anything major (from what I saw; others might disagree with me), but as an example, there was no line just for generic game tokens on Day 1. So, to get in a game that you didn’t register for, you had to stand in line for 45 minutes. The corollary to that is, if you wanted to sign up for specific events, then you were also waiting for 45 minutes.
I also heard some grumbling from a few of the folks who ran RPG games, or were responsible for people that ran RPG games, that GAMA was simply difficult to work with. One GM in particular, stated that he might not return next year, which is a shame, regardless of whether or not his gripes are valid.
A convention is no better than the events that make it up. A lot of gamers come to Origins, and even though we gamers usually have our favorites, the Miniatures people play RPGs and the Board Game players play CCGs; all of those categories cross over to a large degree. Origins offers a wide variety of RPG events, and I think it would behoove them to better support those events. If good GMs and good players get turned off of the convention, they’re going to go somewhere else. Origins has grown recently, and it would be a major shame to see that backslide due to poor management and organization.
3. Good players and good GMs make for good game sessions
This one is so obvious that, for all intents and purposes, it does not need to be said. However, I’m saying it because it ties in neatly to my previous point. If Origins breeds a reputation of being bad for RPG gamers, then the good gamers, the ones who can make their game of choice shine, then the convention will be all the poorer for it.
My gaming lineage is based, like many, squarely in Dungeons and Dragons. It wasn’t until I started listening to The Gamer’s Haven Actual Play sessions that I gave any credit to gaming systems other than D&D. Because of that widening of perspective, I checked out Savage Worlds, Feng Shui, Call of Cthulhu and the Storyteller games. At Origins, I took my ideas about what tabletop RPGs are, and I blew them out of the water. I played systems that I had never heard of before and systems that had been on my radar but I had never played, all of which I have next to no chance of being able to run with my home group. However, in nearly every game that I played, the GM did such an excellent job of running the game and introducing not only the rules, but what the system and setting can do, that I bought the books for almost every game in which I played.
All of that was due to the quality of GM and player that were with the table with me. A developer can put together the best combination of system and setting, but if a new player is introduced to those things by a bad GM, or the game table is populated by bad players, then that new player is very likely to be turned off completely. I had great GMs and cool, avid players, and now I own a set of books that, even though I will likely not use the systems or settings themselves, I own and can use as resources for the game I do run. The upshot is that I also was able to support a bunch of good companies that deserve gaming dollars.
4. If you go to a convention, pay attention.
I don’t mean pay attention to where you are going, or anything like that (although that’s good advice). No, I mean that if you’re in a good game, or have a good GM, or play with an awesome player, then pay attention to how they do what they do. If you’re like me, you always want to get better at what you do when it comes to tabletop RPGs. At Origins, I saw GMs manage games and run things in ways that left me at little awestruck. I feel like I almost learned more about how to GM effectively in four days of sessions that I did in the nearly ten years that I’ve been actively playing.
As well, I am going to be running a number of session at KantCon, and I feel that, even though I didn’t have any time to work on my sessions, I am more prepared for how those session may go than I was before I went to Origins.
5. Game designers are people, too.
Again, this is another no-brainer, but I think it’s something comes up often. I remember sending an email to the guys at The Gamer’s Haven, telling them how much I enjoyed their Deadlands game, and they wrote back to thank me, but also to tell me to email Shane Hensley, the designer.
I almost didn’t do it.
Then, to me, a game designer was an Important Person, meaning that they would be far too busy to take the time to read my email, let alone respond. Thankfully, I was wrong, and my wrongness was more and more evident as I talked to developers and designers at Origins. They’re all just people, passionate about their hobby, and with the drive to do something about it. So, if you play a game and you see all of those names on the inside title page, and there’s a particular aspect of the game that you love, or think needs work, pick the appropriate name, check out the website, and write to them. Let them know what you think; they need good feedback as much as anyone else.
Please, though, just remember Wheaton’s Law: Don’t Be A Dick!
The fact that my brain is no longer cluttered with random floaties of thought having to do with Origins, I think I’ve successfully wrapped up this postmortem.
I have a bunch of pictures and audio to get through, and I’m going to do my best to get as much of that up as I am able to before I leave for KantCon. If you have questions, comments, or feedback for me, then comment here, e-mail me, or find me on Twitter.
[tags]rpg, rpgs, tabletop, Origins, conventions, KantCon[/tags]