Maybe it’s the because the arguably most well-known Table-top/Role-playing convention in the North-East falls on the July 4 weekend, the country’s Independence Day, but my recent trek out to Jersey for this years Dexcon brought with it a strange but welcome moment of reflection about the landscape beyond the Convention itself.
First, DexCon 17 was a great experience—I spent most of the time there play-testing my upcoming Kickstarter card-game, Grifter, which got universal thumbs up. When I wasn’t getting valuable feedback about the game, I managed to play a few scenarios of Pathfinder, sit for a little D&D Next adventure and round out my stay with some group-talks and seminars.
Besides myself, also in attendance at the packed Con were a bevy of Gamers, vendors, authors, developers, artists, LARPers, organizers and all manner of creative minds. And from what I saw the collection was eclectic, all-encompassing, and very inclusive–a great turnout.
Not one for spending their entire daylight hours cooped up inside I felt the urge to head outdoors for some lunch during my second day there. My walk through Morristown, the town where Dexcon was situated in, gave me an odd chance at reflection about the world at large and gifted me with a peculiar set of lenses through which I afterwards returned to the convention itself with.
Though this wasn’t my first Dexcon or my first trip to Morristown, it was the first time I ventured out of the oasis and into the small city surrounding the area in which the mecca of gaming occurred. What I found was an interesting mash-up of Americana.
Directly across from the Hyatt hotel, where Dexcon takes place, is a host of restaurants– noticeably Latin ones.
A short walk North along Speedwell which is the boulevard where the Hotel sits on, one will find many eateries of Spanish cuisine.
The neighborhood itself, judging by the make-up of the individuals walking around seemed to be composed of many inhabitants appearing to be largely of Latin American ancestry. In fact the further one walks this way the more pronounced this appears to be the case. My New York City eyes saw the Jersey equivalents of Bodegas along with attorney storefronts, supermarkets and shops catering to an evidently manifold Hispanic population.
Intrigued, I decided to scout out the rest of the area around the Convention, several gaps in my play-testing, seminar and gaming schedule allowing for this amateur sleuthing.
Directly behind the Hyatt, no more than a block East were small, closely built houses. Unlike two streets over, the demographics here seemed to suggest a neighborhood of largely African decent. There was a nice sunny ball-park I passed on my brief walk-thru where some children were playing and individuals along my path nodded as I strolled by.
To the West and South of the Hyatt I found municipal buildings and a small low-built commercial section of the town that reminded me of a less dense version of Brooklyn.
The municipal buildings included an armory, a court house and an amusingly titled Fort Nonsense. Investigating Morristown when I returned home yielded the fact that the town proved to be a decisive location in the War for Independence from Britain—a fine choice for the Con given the date of its occurrence.
Shops in this quarter were plentiful, with restaurants of a decidedly American and European flavor. It was also here that I found an abundance of churches, from Baptist to Episcopalian to Methodist (One Episcopal site had a welcoming LBGTQA sign outside). Just for comparison, in the apparently Hispanic community to the north of the Hyatt I did see a church as well as an old and apparently historic Synagogue.
The mix of peoples in this clearly more affluent area largely appeared to be wealthier and of a more European descent. There was a small square with a statue of a man walking a German Shepard. Stopping to read the two plaques beside it I found that this scene depicted Morris Frank & his Seeing Eye dog Buddy. They were it seems, some of the first pioneers in the Seeing Eye dog movement in the United States and Morris, the man, lived in the Morristown area until his death in 1980.
Continuing along this boulevard I saw many small specialty shops like Yoga Spa’s, jewelry stores and organic eateries. Waiting at a cross-walk a car honked by in several beeps as its occupants, four young ladies of potentially Latin decent waved the Columbian flag from one of rolled down windows. Smiling at them and receiving a smile back I continued on, encountering more homes and stores before heading back to the Con to continue on with my gaming fun.
It was a ponderous walk through the town, one that got me thinking about the convention and the folks in attendance there.
The Convention and the Hyatt hotel it was hosted at were clearly situated at the convergence of a number of different neighborhoods. But not just in terms of population, so too did the area seem to be a nexus of various religious, historical and alternative viewpoints that were the entire backdrop amidst which the Con itself was occurring.
It got me thinking about the world outside the gaming one and how so much of what Gamers, including myself bring to the table comes from their world experience beyond the board.
Perhaps it was fitting that the Convention was happening along the border of an extraordinary intersection of peoples, ideologies and history so too like gaming itself which occurs at the crossroads of fantasy and reality whose blurred lines occur in the minds of its players. Incorporating all those different factors into a unified story, or Country is kind of what the hobby is all about. The suspension of the familiar in hopes of creating something new and different—at the junction of all things varied. America, like Gaming, was and is something birthed by the notion that ideas can trump everything that has already come before. Something new, something unique and something inclusive of All Men, and now Women too, Created equally: a fitting food for thought on Independence Day. Take it or leave it, but always,