Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: Conventions, Festivals and Social Gatherings

Me at GeekGirlCon. Quietly not freaking out.

Geeks of all interests and preferences have their conventions. Gaming, anime, comics, cosplay, video games, and more all draw crowds of people to congregate, attend panels, spend money, and party with friends and colleagues. I’m going to GeekGirlCon later this year in Seattle and I am really excited to both table, reconnect with old buds, and make new friends and acquaintances. My daughter is looking forward to possibly getting over her fear of Storm Troopers cosplayers. My spouse will be excited to get away from work and watch me flail as I try to talk to human beings not via Twitter.

Every culture has its reasons to come together and celebrate. The days before ritual fasting; the blossoming of flowering trees; the harvest of rice, barley, and other grains; the birth of livestock; and the anniversary of a celestial event all have or have had their own social celebrations with special foods, drinks, dances, and traditions. Music, merriment, and entertainment are generally parts of these happenings. In some cultures, conflicts or even wars were set aside on these special days so people could observe the traditions, recoup, and reconnect with their fellow humans.

Sometimes, industry drives the gathering of people: inventors, innovators, and experts in their field coming together to show off the latest gadget, mode of transportation, or method of getting things done. It’s the time for people in the field to see what the competition has come up with while consumers can interact with important figures in the industry, see demonstrations, and sample wares. Sometimes, celebrities from within the industry are present, acting, dancing, singing, representing brands, or endorsing products.

Every gathering of people, from a family reunion to a massive festival honouring the deities to the annual sheep shearing, must be organized. Someone must take up the reigns and figure out when and where things will take place, who will be invited, budget the money, make sure that the events are safe, make sure any tools needed are obtained, etc. A lot of energy goes into making sure any gathering of people goes off with the fewest number of hitches possible, but there is much to be gained by hosting, funding, or organizing an event. Perhaps a church feels it is their duty to organize the event, as a tribute to their patron saint of order. Perhaps the festival moves every year, one particular guild having to run the festival and trying to outdo the last town that held the events. And if the convention goes well, someone is going to get lots of recognition for doing a great job. Maybe favour with the spirits? Or perhaps a bag of Ethereal Filcher treasure? The possibility of running bigger and more prestigious events in the future?

Continue reading “Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: Conventions, Festivals and Social Gatherings”

PAX East in review – my side of the table

PAX East has come and gone.  Throughout the entire convention we only managed to get out one extremely small podcast.  Why?  Because we were having too damned much fun, that’s why!  Here’s our first in a series of PAX East related posts. Today I’m going to highlight my experiences at PAX East, touch on the games we played, the people we met and what you can expect in the near future.

Inside the BCEC

Friday

Our first day at PAX East and it was raining cats and dogs!  We arrived at the BCEC bright eyed and bushy tailed.  Then came our first line.  Actually, we had to stand in two lines as we arrived.  We asked the first Enforcer we bumped in to where we needed to pick up our media passes and were promptly directed to the wrong line.  After a few minutes, we realized that things didn’t look right.  Searching out another Enforcer, we confirmed that the media line was not what we were in, and changed lines.

Waitin' in line - a PAX tradition

There was a bit of confusion on the first day as to where to go.  Lots of 3 day pass holders were in the media line and lots of media folks were in the standard line.  About 15 minutes later, a bunch of Enforcers came by and started clearing things up.  About 45 minutes later, we had our media badges and set off to take it all in.

The very first thing we did was head up to the press room to say hello to Tracy, who’s been working with me on this site for quite some time now, but who I’ve never met.  I’m quite sure Tracy will have a ton to say about PAX East as well, not to mention the folks he met, the items he has for review and lots more.

PAX East - the video game side of things

Next we spent the first two hours simply wandering around, looking at vendor booths in both the video game and tabletop game areas.  There was a lot to see and a ton of people seeing it.

Lunch was in order at this point.  We went to the secondary food court area and were greeted with carnival trucks and fried dough.  More than anything else at PAX, that took a moment to adjust too.  After we came to terms with carnival food crammed into an indoor food court (which was HUGE by the way) we found the other side, where such fare as cheeseburgers and pulled pork sandwiches could be found.

Tabletop area, from the skywalk

After eating, we wandered back in to the tabletop area, found an open table and sat down.  Being conference attendees and gamers, we broke open our swag bags and found the free, 30 card pre-made decks of Magic: The Gathering inside.  We broke these open and began to play a few hands. At that precise moment, I rediscovered my enjoyment of a game I haven’t played in 16 years. That is a story for another article though.

Heading back in to the tabletop area, I then participated in the largest game of Munchkin I’ve yet been able to play in.  Sadly for me, it was also the only game of Munchkin I’ve yet been able to play in.

Munchkin!

Again enjoying the utter disregard for the other players in the party feel of the game, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.    More magic was also played, with Scott and I expending a few bucks to increase our meager collection and constructing some of our own decks.

Then it was dinner time, and because we’re on the cusp of becoming old fart gamers and we wanted to make an early appearance the next day, we headed out to eat, collect our thoughts and get some sleep.

Saturday

Back just after 10am, this was our day of interviews, demos and podcasting!

Heading back in to the exhibitor hall.  The first booth we headed to was the Smirk And Dagger booth.  There before us, Curt of Smirk and Dagger fame had laid out a demo game of Cutthroat Caverns, and no one was playing!  Down we sat and play we did!

Cutthroat Caverns!

Cutthroat Caverns is a cooperative backstabbing game. The more of this type of game I play, the more I like general backstabbiness in games!  This game is built to simulate that strangling fear you first feel as a role player when you realize that your party may be more dangerous to you than the monsters you’re fighting. I didn’t win, but I did assist in getting the creator of this game killed of in our second encounter, which left me with a warm glow and a gentle love of Cutthroat Caverns.   So much so that you’ll be able to read a full review of the base game here on this site in the near future.

In short, it’s a game of balance – you’re attempting to be the party member who scores the killing blow against an interesting host of monsters, but you also have to ensure that your party survives, because without them, you aren’t going to survive to exit the dungeon with your new fame and treasure.

Cutthroat Caverns

Later that day I had the chance to sit down with Curt and record 15 minutes for an Old School podcast which will air a bit later.  We discussed his other games, including his line of parody games which I found to be hilarious.

Shootin' Ladders Frag Fest

Having children of my own young enough that I still log an hour or three a week on Candyland, I found these games refreshing – something I’d look forward to playing.  Shootin’ Ladders Frag Fest particularly appealed to me.  Billed as Halo meets Candyland, I’ll be reviewing this game for TC as well.

Wizards of the Coast had a huge presence in the tabletop area, with Steve Jackson Games, Fantasy Flight Games and Z-Man games also adding to the floor.  Speaking of Steve Jackson, did I mention Axe Cop Munchkin?  Can’t wait for that one!

Later, we wandered over to the Duke Nukem Forever booth and watched the playable demo for a while.

Come get some

It looked like some fun, but struck me as a day late and a dollar short.  Or perhaps, 10 years late and $60 too much.

We looked over the shoulder of people to see the Nintendo 3DS. It looks interesting but it’s not on my must have list of electronics.  Then, we found our way to our next interview.

We stopped by the Don Gusano Games booth and were able to snag Chris for a quick podcast about their new game, Quack in the Box.  This is a cool card game, written by an honest to gosh MD, which has the players as quacks, looking to make a quick buck and then flee to Switzerland with their ill gotten gains.

He doesn't just play a doctor at cons, he's the real thing.

The aim of the game is to earn as much money from your patients by ‘treating’ them for their maladies, without killing them off. Or at least, without killing too many of them off.  Kill to many and your reputation proceeds you, ending the game.  Don’t issue enough ‘treatments’ and you won’t make much money – cash is what you need to win.

Quack in the Box

We’ll have an in-depth review of Quack in the Box in the near future.

The rest of our day was spent gaming in the Tabletop area.  We met up with Wayne from Sages of RPG and a fellow gamer to play a quick round of Survive, played some more magic and generally soaked in the atmosphere.

Sunday

Sunday was our free day.  We arrived a bit early, and waited by the media entrance with six or so other media types.  It was odd that they wouldn’t let us in at the same time as the general public.  There were seven of us, I don’t think we would have overwhelmed the general public.  Be that as it may, we got in about 10 minutes after everyone else, and headed right to the Z-man Games booth.

We got to chat with the guys from Z-man for a few minutes about PAX East and the general state of gaming, and talk quickly about Trollhalla, Alf Seegert’s newest concoction!  Again, you’ll be reading more on Trollhallah here in a bit.

Omegathon Iperation!

After that, we hit up the Omegathon for a bit, to watch folks get suited up for the Operation tournament.  Yes, Operation.  And yes, they were made to wear masks, wash their hands and wear rubber gloves.  It was unspeakably awesome.  Seriously, don’t read this out loud.

Sunday was a day of wandering through the exhibit hall, seeing the sites and checking out everything we had missed previously. We took it easy, played a few tabletop games, grabbed some lunch from the carnival truck crew and due to family engagements, had to leave just after lunch.

My new friend

Critical Hits

  • First and foremost, the people at PAX East.  Everyone was just very cool.  There was some of the typical con behavior – people sitting in the middle of a walking area, some BO or just general uncaring about others. Honestly though, this was kept to a real minimum given the number of attendees – far smaller than other cons I’ve been to.  Just about everyone we met, vendors, booth personal and gamers were polite, inquisitive and out to have a great time.
  • I got to game for the majority of an entire long weekend, an experience I haven’t had in years. It was wonderful!
  • PAX East has a lending library of tabletop games.  Use it! It’s awesome!
  • The BCEC was a huge win for PAX East.  It may even have been a bit too big!  But I expect next year that won’t be the case as further word gets out and more people attend.  There were places were you could sit down in relative quiet for a few moments and gather your thoughts (or Magic cards) without interruption.
  • The Enforcers were, almost without exception very helpful, fun and enjoyable to work with.  Great job!
  • The lines.  Yes, the lines.  It’s part of the PAX experience I believe. While we elected not to wait in any of them, those who did, did so cheerfully!  Games were played, naps were taken, conversations struck up and most everyone seemed to actually enjoy their time spent in line for panels.  The official PAX Twitter feeds did a great job of informing everyone just how full the events were ahead of time as well.
  • PAX East is a great con to attend if you’re a video gamer, a tabletop gamer or some conglomerate of both!

Fumbles

  • The media treatment.  This was a bit strange.  Media pass holders had longer lines and strange restrictions on entering the floor causing at least a few media folks we met to miss interviews.  We all understand that Media pass holders did not get special treatment with concerns to panels and lines, which is perfectly fine.  But restricting 7 media badge holders from entering the floor while thousands of non-media pass holders stream by just seems kind of silly.
  • Tabletop gaming needs a bigger space!  Not a major fumble by any means but Friday and Saturday saw the free play tables overflowing, with lots of lost souls wandering around in a daze looking for a place to sit down and game.

What I’ll do differently next time

  • Next time I’ll take more pictures of the cosplayers.  There were some great costumes there!  Also add to this list booth folks, both men and women.
  • I’ll be a bit more willing to sit in a line for a while to see a panel.  Perhaps.
  • I’ll bring less netbooks and more games with me.

A gallery of PAX East

Here are a bunch of photos we took at PAX East. Check them out, if you were there, you may be in them!

[tags]pax east, pax, cons, conventions, rpg, role playing games, video games, console, 3ds, duke nukem[/tags]

The blog, it is empty!

Well, not quite – but there’s not much going on around here this week.  Why?  Well PAX East, that’s why!

A bunch of us are preparing for the convention by doing all of our standard, pre-convention rituals.  Packing, sacrificing chicken(McNugget)s, fantasizing over bumping in to Steve Jackson in the loo.

Tracy’s even lost the ability to swear correctly on Twitter – we’re all terribly excited!

So if you’re going to be at PAX East, we’ll see you there amongst the throngs!  If not, stay tuned to TC for a plethora of updates, reviews, interviews and podcasts streaming through the ether during and after the con!

Also coming to TC in the near future, reviews of Untold, Trollhalla, & Ascension.

[tags]gaming, pax east, rpg, board games, cons, swearing[/tags]

PAX East!

That’s right folks, this coming Saturday, lost among the 60,000 other folks there, will be three representatives from Troll in the Corner! PAX East is nearly here, and we’re going to be there! Which means if you’re there, we’ll be there as well and since two of us live here, it’s here in our backyard! There!

Myself, Tracy and Scott will all be present. Digitally armed with audio, video and picture devices, toting games around and gawking with the best of them. We already have interviews lined up with some pretty cool folks there and will all be posting our coverage on this site in the weeks to come. Plus I plan on walking away with some exciting new games to review.

Personally I’m planning on attending several talks on tabletop gaming, getting in on some Magic the Gathering (which I’ve been absent from since the late 90s) and perhaps putting together a few impromptu games myself.

I’d love to also schedule more time with vendors, publishers, creators and others involved in table top gaming – so anyone out there, feel free to hit me up! Interviews, reviews, podcasts, photo ops – you name it, we’ll be ready for it.

If you’re going and would like to say hello, you can reach Tracy and myself on Twitter.  You can also reach me via our contact page. This goes for anyone – I’d love to meet as many gamers as possible, hang out, game, talk, eat and drink. Not necessarily in that order.

[tags]pax east, tracy, ben, scott, cons, rpgs, board games[/tags]

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