Category Archives: Conventions

Conventions and Events

Anonycon 2014 Wrap-up & An Interview with a Volunteer

AnonyCon 2014, December 5-7 Sheraton Stamford 700 East Main St, Stamford, CT 06901

AnonyCon Convention Yearly: December 5-7
Sheraton Stamford
700 East Main St, Stamford, CT 06901

These days Gaming conventions are clearly something of a cottage industry.

Hardly a week goes by where I don’t hear about a new con kicking-off somewhere nearby (who would have guessed those plastic ponies I grew up with in the ’80’s would become such a cult among middle-aged males in the early 21st Century?).

But in the Game of Conventions, it takes a special breed of gathering to be able to slug it out over the long haul and persist despite the ever evolving landscape that is Gamerdom. One such Con is Connecticut’s largely homegrown, Anonycon.

With it’s inaugural debut in 2001, Anonycon is one of the longest running gaming conventions in the North East corridor (older even than the vaulted PaxEast: c.a. 2004). Anonycon also boasts one of the catchier slogan’s for a Con; “Games so Good they Turn Undead” and has the dubious honor of being one of first gaming conventions I myself attended not too long ago. (Check out my first tip-toe into the Undeadery Anonycon waters here)

Anonycon's Signature Motto

Anonycon’s Signature Motto
One of Anonycon’s Classic Tee’s
Image Copyright: Anonycon LLC

 

Since my first Anonycon I’ve witnessed my share of cons and meets in the gaming world. But it was with an especially warm and fuzzy feeling that this past December I got the chance to return to one of the first  gaming getaways I ever experienced.

This time around though I went with a bit more focused intent as well as the welcoming grins of some familiar faces. I was also able to get a peek behind the scenes at some of the goings on of the con as an official Anonycon Adviser: a title graced unto me by the con organizers for some financial tips I gave the founders during the year and which included some insights into the convention and its unique place in the world of gaming.

Anonycon, like many cons and unlike many cons, doesn’t simply have a long history of running traditional games, but also has a rich and involved repeat fan and customer base, many of whom return year after year for some of the home-brewed RPG gaming sessions put on by the con’s organizers.

With heavy doses of Cthulhu themed RPGs mixed in alongside organized play systems like the ever-present Pathfinder and budding D&D Next, my first outing to the Con definitely taught me that Anonycon embraces divergent systems.

Long-standing designers and writers the likes of which include Kevin Kulp (A recent Kickstarter champ with his TimeWatch game) and Jason Stevan Hill (A wordy original Anonycon GM), and the perennial con-vendor and author Max Gladstone (Craft Sequence), bring their own systems to the con as well as run variant rule-systems arguably less familiar than the big-red-box brands.

 

Max GladstoneProlific and well-known yearly contributor and author usually in attendance at Anonycon

Max Gladstone
Prolific and well-known yearly contributor and author usually in attendance at Anonycon
Image Source:MaxGladstone.com

Some of these systems delve into less traditional gaming territory such as the Scooby Doo Mystery-Comedy games that took place this year under the Gumshoe system and run by one of the originators and co-founders and influence-rs of Anonycon: Anise Strong.

Thanks in large part to the cons guiding principal and organizer, Max Saltonstall, Anise was gracious enough to share some of the elixir of success that contributes to Anonycon’s year-after-year appeal.

***

(paraphrased, a good deal)

    Anise Strong     One of Anonycon's Founders and a yearly Scenario Runner     Image Source:WMU

Anise Strong
One of Anonycon’s Founders and a yearly Scenario Runner
Image Source:WMU

1. Who is Anise Strong and what is your relationship with Anonycon?

I am one of the founders of Anonycon. Anonycon was founded in 2001 by Max, myself, Rebeca, Si and Adam Morse, my husband. We were all Yale Grads.

2. What was the inspiration for Anonycon?

Seeing the success of ConnCon and wanting to create a Fall-Winter convention with high-quality games and a friendly environment open to all.

3. What type of scenarios do you run?

Bubblegum- light and fluffy with humanoid monsters. Also horror games.

4. What type of games appeal to you?

Immersive, dramatist, less combat heavy more emotional or comic. I am system-neutral and not really into dungeon crawl. For genres I like horror and comedy– hence bubblegum.
 
5. Other than bubblegum games, what other systems do you run?

My homebrew- Aalterdam which is a themed fantasy setting. It is a year-to-year evolving setting that deals with specific themes and regions similar to historical periods but with a mythical bent. I have authored 14 scenarios for it and have run them for many years at Anonycon–almost every year.

6. What kind of themed setting is Aalterdam?

One of exploration– for example the Lost City of Gold deals with dwarves, but there was also a themed year with evil vampires who tasted like chocolate. It’s not medieval per se, more modern but with flavors like Aztec, Chinese, Icelandic. There are issues concerning political and social colonialism, and historical references like the Fountain of Youth.

7. What system does it use?

All the basic D&D ones– 3.0, 3.5, 4.0 and Next.

8. Are there any modifications to the core ruleset?

There are. For instance there is a magical Painter class- where a character can paint with a brush in the air– and create illusions and other magical effects with spell components.

9. Aside from the theme and mechanical differences are there any other items about Aalterdam you are especially proud of?

It is a diverse world with gender representation and scenarios and modules designed around real-world issues. Like marriage equality. That was something we tackled in the 2003 modules for the game setting– family trees for nobles. The princely families of Aalterdam had to deal with same-sex marriages and I felt it was important that people in Aalterdam could marry people of the same sex despite problems of biology. We solved that with surrogate parents.

10. Aside from a Convention founder, what else do you consider yourself?

A writer, a runner of games and scenarios and a history professor.

 

***

Anise and the other con organizers where very welcoming throughout the event and helpful with some of the Con background and kind of embody the Anonycon experience.

I did attempt to score some further gaming insights from other home-brew DM’s in residence at the convention but upon such requests for interviews I was handedly rebuffed and/or ignored–such is life.

But once again, overall the con, with its exuberant and warmly mellow hosts was a homely experience, very definitely the con I remember, and the one folks seem to enjoy returning to year after year. So if the winter months seem a bit chilly next year perhaps you can warm up with some good gaming vibes with the folks up in Connecticut at next years Anonycon and experience some Scooby, some Cthulhy or maybe some Aalterdamy and their home-brew magicks yourself and

Game Forth!

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Beyond the Con – DexCon 17

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Double Exposure’s DexCon 17
Play-testers for Grifter

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.

Morristown Key1

Map of Morristown NJ
Site of Double Exposure 17

Directly across from the Hyatt hotel, where Dexcon takes place, is a host of restaurants– noticeably Latin ones.

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Galapagos Latin Cuisine Eatery

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.

IMG_0307

Another Morristown Latino establishment

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.

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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.

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Episcopal Church with an LBGTQA sign

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A Baptist Church a few blocks away

IMG_0295 - Copy

Morristown Municipal building

IMG_0303

A 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.

FrankBuddy2

Statue of Morris Frank and
his Seeing Eye dog Buddy

IMG_0313
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.

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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,

Game Forth.

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Doubly Exposed to a Maelstrom – An Alternative Review

Double Exposure's Logo for their first 'Inclusive' Convention- MaelstromImage Copyright: Double Exposure Inc.

Double Exposure’s Logo for their
first ‘Inclusive’ Convention- Maelstrom

Image Copyright: Double Exposure Inc.

In the spirit of positivity, by way of a certain icon of Geekiness, Curt Thompson, I have decided to post a follow-up to a previous blog that was quite the opposite of this idea of One Love– one that at the time was a politely justifiable rant.

You see, a couple months ago, not long after I formed my Meetup.com group devoted towards bringing more inclusivity to the gaming world, I caught wind of a Gaming convention that was being formed around that very idea: Double Exposure’s Maelstrom.

Needless to say I was slightly peeved when I contacted the organizer to the Convention and got little by way of a response (okay more than a little peeved), especially considering its seemingly recent and coincidental abiogenesis.

It’s never an easy thing to step out of the shadows and admit you’ve got some issues with the way the world is being run, especially the Gaming world where the whole Knowledge Is Power concept is the epitome of elite Gamerdom (see: Uber-pwnage).

Image Source: ???

Image Source: ???–

But as I consider myself generally the optimist, and as the Convention drew near and I was continuously reminded of its approach, I decided to once again reach out to the organizer and start a dialogue. This time, results varied.

Vincent Salzillo, the President and Founder of Double Exposure Inc. personally invited both myself and the members of my fledgling Meetup group to the con, gifting the lot of us with discount tickets and a warm welcome.

Needless to say, the skeptic in me viewed this as a payoff of sorts; the more positive person in me viewed it as an opportunity.

#

In Maelstrom, regardless of the why, I saw a chance to add to the discourse on Inclusive Gamerdom that, aside from glad-handing and talk, have personally seen very little of first-hand.

So, taking up the offer, I headed out with a few comedic friends in tow and adventured out to the wilds of New Jersey, embarking on a quest most geeky into a Maelstrom…

And the results?

Varied.

A fellow (and thus independent from my own sensibilities)Gamer's own image of the 'diverse' crowd at Maelstrom Image Copyright: VB Wyrde

A fellow (and thus independent) Gamer’s
own image of the ‘diverse’ crowd at Maelstrom
Image Source: VB Wyrde (check out his blog!)

While not as eclectic as I had hoped it to be (see photo above), there were a few good signs that the Inclusivity agenda was an important stone in the Con’s foundation. Most obvious and notable to this effect: the panels.

With Seminars set up to cover the idea of Inclusivity, and a huge emphasis on ‘The Other’, a concept I dealt with in a panel I myself hosted (“Kill the Orc!“), there was at least a sincere effort to address the disparity of Gamers in the world of Gaming.

The Black CoyotlYours truly, hosting "Kill the Orc!"

The Black Coyotl
Yours truly, hosting “Kill the Orc!”
-A Seminar about Race & Gaming

The medley of panels and their hosts covered topics ranging from gender issues and religion to sexuality, orientation and the all important, yet somehow nebulous concept of ‘The Other’.

But beyond the panel area, the actual implementation of inclusivity fell somewhat short.

First I’d like to say that points go to the overall attempt at addressing gaming under-representation.  But for actually getting non-traditional Gamers to show up and Game, I didn’t see too many other -ahem- non-traditional looking gamers strolling the halls (see photo above, again).

There were a few, other panelists to be sure, and a handful of other non-trad Gamers, but the bulk of the goers seemed to be cut from the same cloth as other convention-goers.

Now I’ve been to my share of conventions, especially considering the short amount of time I’ve been gaming and the lack of diversity I generally encounter at the gaming table can be both disheartening and hostile at times, sometimes concurrently. So it was a bit disappointing seeing the turnout, however, its something that I’ve come to understand as an Organizer myself is something you really can’t blame entirely on the Convention runners themselves, no matter how much apparent outreach.

But having said all that, and with my critical eye of the overall goals of the convention satisfied, I’d like to put away my  ideological lens for the rest of this long-winded blog and simply describe my experience at the Con itself (which I believe was the point of Mr. Thompson’s Day of 9th)– in short, I had a blast.

Grifter: A Game of ConsMy upcoming 54-card game

Grifter: A Game of Cons
My upcoming 54-card game

The first thing I did when I arrived was get in a play-test of the game I’ve been working on for the past couple of months and am looking to KickStart soon, Grifter with a bunch of great folks who walked over to my ‘lane’ and signed up to play.

You see Maelstrom adopted a basic organizing room where folks could print out the names of games people were willing to run and whoever wanted to, could sign up and play.  So I posted my game to one of these ‘lanes’ and was psyched when four Gamers strolled over, inquired about the title and sat down to play.

Two games in and I got some great feedback and was amazed to find out that one of the Gamers was Tom Tiernan of Everything Epic Games whose partner in crime, Chris Batarlis I’d met at a James Bond LARP event  a year ago and blogged about afterwards (and who was, apparently as pictured above, also at the Con).

After finishing up some great play with my game Grifter, I jumped at the chance to test out his and Chris’ successfully KickStarted Secrets of the Lost Tomb, a Betrayal on House on the Hill homage game. But before that, I gave my Seminar entitled ‘Kill the Orc!’– a not so subtle look at the parallels between fantasy and real-world race relations.

A Ubiquitous Orc...Who regardless, has to die.

A Ubiquitous Orc
Who of course, has to die.

The Q&A feedback I got from the session was again a great experience and it was amazing to be able to openly talk about a lot of the issues that I encountered throughout my short career thus far in gaming.

I heard from folks who told me about their own experiences about inserting taboo topics into their games in an effort to bring awareness of real-world understanding to the gaming table and was delighted to engage with people who described their own discomfort at times over the language used in gaming literature concerning race and gender.

I also got a chance to meet Ajit George and Whitney Beltran, whose own panel seminar on Gaming as the Other dealt with their personal experiences in the world of gaming.

It was through these great gaming folks (GGFs) that I was introduced to the game “How We Came To Live Here“.

Brennan Taylor's Native American RPG A story-telling game of community and consequences Image Copyright: Indie Press Revolution

Brennan Taylor’s Native American RPG
A story-telling game of community and consequences
Image Copyright: Indie Press Revolution

Put out by Galileo Games |Galileo Books, How We Came To Live Here is a Native American story-telling game written by Brennan Taylor that deals with the myths and legends of Native American peoples. Centered around family and the tribe, the game is a surprising answer to the concepts I raised in a blog I posted not too long ago about Native American Druids.

Following this exchange I finally got to test-drive Tom’s Secret’s of the Lost Tomb with my comedy bud, admiring the great art and narrative character backgrounds, and after that I joined a one-shot table of Star Wars Edge of the Empire RPG by Fantasy Flight  Games– The Long Arm of the Hutt. Playing a Twi’lek bounty hunter at a table comprised of overwhelmingly non-traditional gamers, it was a great way to end the con.

(Somewhere in all that action I also got in a few minutes of D&D Next as a Drow assassin, but I forget now the order of the affair, only that I Sneaked Attacked the funk out of an undead Dwarven Skeleton – UBER-PWNAGE!)

So all in all,  it was a great con–and a Positive Experience, something that truly made me, as a Gamer, Happy (Nerd Love Post: Owned).

And while the bar Maelstrom set for Inclusive was in my critical eye nowhere near met, nor even analyzed as to how to approach it, the actual outcome of the Con was in my ‘Other’ more positive eye a success– the conversation about inclusivity was started.

So when you get a chance, why not Head Out, Game Out, Roll out with your Gnoll Out and find some reasons to incorporate Inclusivity, in whatever form it takes into your own gaming experiences and

Game Forth!

Game Positively.

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A Very ‘Unconventional’ Convention – A Very Familiar Tactic

failI grew up with half a tongue.

A couple months ago I decided to implement a long-term goal of mine that had been a dream since I first became a Gamer.

It was a dream that entailed the creation of my own public Gaming group, open to all members but with a special focus on bringing into the fold of D&D and table-top games individuals like myself and other, potentially disenfranchised folks who might have felt a bit out of place within the larger Gaming Community.

Granted, this is a lofty position to take, but it was a sentiment in tune with comments I’d heard from other Gamers I‘d played with. By sight alone, I saw how frequent certain individuals came and went in the gaming community, with little impetus by other Gamers to keep them in the mix.

And so it was, with the generous and grateful help of my group of campaign players who, I cannot ever express the gratitude I have for their support that this idea and dream of mine was able to come to fruition.

I successfully launched this brand-spanking new Meetup.com group for Gamers in the New York City area this past September. (You can find the page here.)

With the title of Alternative Gamers, and a moniker for our Members that was an extension of this very commercial brand, Black Coyotl, I gave our members the title of ‘Inclusive Gamers’.

In all honesty, I didn’t know how the Meetup would fare in the marketplace; there are literally dozens of gaming groups operating in the Tri-state area, all of which are geared towards a specific niche, neighborhood, or type of Gamer (Female/V:TM/Old-Timers etc.)

Which is why I decided to create a group where I, and others like myself could feel comfortable playing in, and more than that, feel welcomed. It was my attempt at creating a ‘safe place to play’ for Gamers who might not be the most welcomed at your traditional gaming scene.

In the months since, I’m proud to say that my Inclusive Gaming group, with the gracious help of my Gaming friends, has been a success.We have had over a dozen successfully organized Meets, and have brought in a slew of new players to the mix. 

What’s more, it was rewarding to see that the idea of an Inclusive Gaming group could not only attract members, but could do so repeatedly and retain them.

Now, what is rather interesting is the development of this idea of Inclusive and Alternative Gaming that has suddenly sprung up in the area.

As a Gaming hobbyist, I keep an ear to the gnomish railroad of this world (as evidenced by my blog) and came across another Meetup group in the city, a Gaming group, around since 2012 that surreptitiously about a month after our launch this year had the following on their homepage:

It’s interesting considering the phrasing, but what I find more interesting is the disclaimer about its non-competitive nature; as if there is some implied competition in quoting this new addendum to their site, almost as if the presence of this disclaimer were expected to be challenged in some way. In what way I can only wonder (does this blog constitute a challenge?), but I do find its sudden appearance more than coincidental.

(I also find it amusing, as a consequence of a mechanical and hence numbers crunching mindset, that their apparent Inclusive bent is rather, at least seemingly, exclusive, as evidenced by the makeup of their apparent members.

I also mention this group because in a prior incarnation, it was organized by a member who was a PoC [with a name similar to my own actually] but evidently because he was too ‘combative’ he was replaced– you know, how the President sometimes comes across as an ‘angry you know what person’)

I want to stress that I am not calling out the group, simply pointing out an obvious appeal to head off a label of exclusivity. But there has also been another very interesting development in the larger gaming community:

Image Copyright:   Double Exposure, Inc.

Image Copyright:
Double Exposure, Inc.

This past week I received an invite to Double Exposure’s Maelstrom Convention via mailing list. What I find incredibly interesting is how this particular con is being billed, according to some of the following sections on its main page:

Image Altered & Reproduced from:  http://www.dexposure.com/ms2014.html

Image Altered & Reproduced from:
http://www.dexposure.com/ms2014.html

Image Altered & Reproduced from: http://www.dexposure.com/ms2014.html

Image Altered & Reproduced from:
http://www.dexposure.com/ms2014.html

Now, I’m not exactly a man given towards providence, however, I do see something of a pattern emerging here. Well, that’s not true exactly, what I actually see is a pattern emerging from a design that I created, and implemented- successfully.

It’s a design that as I said had been a dream for a long time, one where I sought to create a space of safety and comfort for individuals who, well quite frankly: felt marginalized (Wow, where have I heard that before?) Strange that these ideals and goals sound so closely similar to the stated goals of my own group: altgamers So having learned about this Inclusive Gaming outlet I contacted them, and set about asking them if, as they seem ready, willing and able to “set the bar for inclusivity” and to “research” and “outreach”, they wouldn’t mind sponsoring or helping out, or at the very least, responding to  our group’s existence, and thereby embracing such a collection of Inclusive Gamers. As for a response I received none. Which, sadly to say, is exactly the response I expected to be given; not even a rejection, I expected complete and utter silence.

Expectations: Met.

(So much for outreach and research..)

It’s a reaction I’ve gotten more than once since launching this Meetup, as when I mention its goals, I invariably get no response.

For instance, the Emerson College professor Eric Gordon, who runs the Engagement Game Lab, billed as an organization designed to turn gaming engagement into political and civic action and has sponsored games designed to bring water to African’s, and incidentally whom I met at a lecture for inclusion and informed about the group, seemed entirely disinterested in hearing about it, or its members. It’s a general hands-off approach I’ve received in quite a few venues. Unpub, a gaming organization for play testers and whose events I have attended (here for instance) I reached out to as well and inquired if there may be any interest in the possibility of PoC and other Inclusive gamers version of their play-testing model, was silent on the possibility: I received no response from them either. Zilch. Nadda. Nothing. The Con or Bust program, which sponsors trips for minorities to go to Sci-Fi Conventions ( i.e.the burden of helping out the ‘Other’) I also reached out to, looking to engage them in the possibly of being a perk sponsor- and was politely told that their finances didn’t really align with our goals, those of course being getting more minorities involved in the fantasy genre and table-top world. (Obviously D&D isn’t really speculative stuff).

I realize of course asking for endorsements is a tricky and complicated idea, and more doors will be shut than open, but what is amazing is the similarity of goals for the organizations I’ve reached out to, and their complete disinterest in even acknowledging our presence. It’s a paradigm that is wedded to the idea of helping out the ‘Other’ from afar rather than actually engaging with them on an even level with full parity (Give them soup, but for God’s Sake DON’T HIRE THEM!).

I mention these examples also as another pattern I see, one that unlike my Gaming group, is one I did NOT have a hand in making. It is a convenient side-stepping around a certain topic; one I dare not state the Card I wish to play, as I will be accused precisely of playing it– tsk, tsk, we allow you here don’t we- good grief what more do  you want?!?

It does seem however that the goals of my group are ones that clearly need to be addressed. One that is a quaint idea, and clearly a new avenue for exploitation; similar to the appearance of the Blaxploitation film genre of the seventies:

Image Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Black_caesar.jpg

Image Source:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Black_caesar.jpg
He’s Caesar, but wait he’s not just Caesar, he’s black Caesar- Whaaa?!?

Clearly Inclusive Gaming is a concept that can be run and implemented by anyone. Of course the goals of this concept should encourage not simply the attracting of diverse gamers, but also seeing them in decision-making positions and given free agency.

What is even more amazing is that at the very inception of a concept like Inclusive Gaming, before the scene is even fully formed, the Gaming world is already trying to co-opt and consume it, but in the most capitalist way possible. So even when a group like ours tries to exert its agency and differentiation to what is already in place, it seems that outright stealing and re-branding this desire is the only option available by the wider culture.

This tactic of paying lip service to the idea, wait, sorry “outreach and research”–  and doing so purely for profit, or worse to head off charges of exclusivity falls under the realm of false appeasement and exploitation. It’s an argument that has been far better elaborated on by far more eloquent writers than myself when the great RaceFail of ’09 happened.

RaceFail was a backlash against the perception that there were institutional factors at work within the speculative fiction world that prevented certain ‘types’ of writers from achieving successful careers in the genre (for further details check out this blog here).

Essentially what it boiled down to was that while efforts to appear inclusive could be implemented and hence self-evident, in actuality, this appearance was just that: an appearance. There was no genuine desire to engage with these other types of Writers, at best there was only the desire to write about them in purely abstract form (the magical ‘Other’ and the exotic ‘Other’).

The attempt was seen as not only flawed but completely dishonest and was really only addressed by certain writers who wished to avoid appearing Exclusive (which DexCon seems to backhandedly acknowledge with its Dual Headline of Inclusive Gaming Experience / Exclusive Event Schedule—you can’t get much more disingenuous than this).

What’s more, DexCon is trying to shoot down the fact that the Gaming world is inherently Exclusive– not simply inherently, but systematically Exclusive.

This is an acknowledgement that the Gaming world, and Geek culture in general denies on its face. It is the reason why RaceFail happened. It is the reason why such eloquent and heartfelt appeals to this fact were written by bloggers like Avalon Willow and Deepa D. when they wrote the following:

Unfortunately with DexCon’s upcoming ‘Inclusive Gaming Bar’ being set, there’s a preemptive attempt to display an openness in the community which clearly does NOT exist, otherwise groups would not have to give disclaimers, organizations wouldn’t have to host ‘inclusive’ conventions, and my Group would NEVER have had to have been created.

What it is then, is an attempt to co-opt the argument, and the critique of the culture, from people who have been the very reason for its bias.

And so it’s interesting knowing that while I and the members of my group are clearly not worth the time to deserve even a response, our dollars are certainly desired and even courted.

It’s also interesting to note that while I am personally NOT welcome at a lot of the events I go to (in fact my presence is actually often times greeted with outright hostility and ridicule), my IDEAS clearly are.

So, in an effort to maybe demonstrate just how, non-inclusive this upcoming convention really is, if you’re in the area, and were interested in going to this or any of the DexCon conventions, I would like to encourage you NOT to go– and unlike my usual foot-forward saying I think given their clear appropriation and disingenuous appeal towards ‘inclusion’ as an effort to appear open, is really nothing more than a disingenuous money grab.

I would suggest quite simply not going to any of their events all together: I know I won’t be anymore. In fact, why not create your own truly Inclusive Group, one where inclusive means engagement and cooperation, not co-opting and profit, and

Game True!

Edit: Since this post, I’ve been in communications with the organizers for Double Exposure and have received nothing but support and assistance in both promoting an inclusive mindset within the Gaming community and in allowing for a discussion concerning changing the representations of those depicted in the industry.

They have also provided financial assistance in the form of discounts to members of the Incusive Gaming group of which I am the Organizer, as well as providing spaces to have talks with other gamers as to how to effect change within the community itself.

Towards this end, I would like to state that the Double Exposures organizers are clearly forward-thinking members and backers of a diverse and inclusive future in the Gaming industry and I personally wish others within the community were as proactive in their efforts as they were.

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Post-Anonycon: The Wrap-Up

Attending the event this past weekend up in Stamford Connecticut, I took the MetroNorth train from Grand Central out of New York City. It was a quick trip, my first on the Metro and I arrived at Stamford well ahead of the start time for the Con; I had signed up for a game session during each of the slots for the three days of the event, aiming for variety.

All in all I got a well-rounded experience, sampling some new Game Systems and met a bunch of folks.  I’m still new to the Gaming circuit and so my focus was getting exposure to systems beyond D & D.

To this end, I had scheduled in two games I hadn’t heard of before the Con; one of which I ended up missing because of an overrun of one of the slots I attended, but I still got the chance to try out a variant on a game called Paranoia.

Paranoia is a humorous game of a dystopian future where players engage in missions set up by a paternalistic overseeing Computer, where the players themselves take on roles at odds with the tenants of the Computer’s attempt at a Utopian society and with each other. The variant I played changed the setting to a medieval one, with the Computer being replaced by the Church, and where we all played Inquisitive troubleshooters, seeking out devilish creatures.  The game was light on rules and heavy on puns, Player-versus-player interaction and side conversations. It’s definitely a game that depends heavily on the sense-of-humor of your fellow Gamers at your table, but it was a good experience, a light session that I could see adding to my weekly gaming group as a breather from our main campaign.

Outside of this game of Paranoia, I stuck close to my D & D systems, playing in a few games of Pathfinder Society, Living Forgotten Realms and Living Divine. As I’ve come to see at Cons, the Pathfinder rooms were bustling, and the usual hard-core’s of that scene were in heavy attendance. The Living Forgotten Realms games had their followers too, but with much less numbers.

The big thing for me, Game-wise at the Con, was my exposure to the Living Divine campaign. An offshoot of Dungeons & Dragons 4E Rules, following the Living Forgotten Realms model, the premise of this shared world setting was that the player-characters carried essences of immortals. The Dungeon Master I played with, Jay Babcock, was the originator to the campaign, and also the writer of the modules I played. Asking around, I found out that Jay was a regular of the Living Greyhawk Campaign world,  ‘back-in-the-day’ and from what I’ve learned about that campaign, he seems to have combined the elements of that setting with the rules of 4E and the feel of LFR modules.

I was interested in some of the mechanics of the Living Divine world, chiefly the Chase mechanic, which was a turn-based, card-system whereby the pursuer and the pursued played moves meant to counter one another, and the Battlefield commanding gameplay that had each individual player controlling a unit symbolizing a battalion of troops. The Battlefield mechanics followed the 4E combat rules closely, but with attack, hit point and mobility attributes of the battalions changing over the course of battle. As I’ve never played in a War-game before, this was a good taste of something I always wanted to try.

Aside from these changes, another major addition to the rules are player-character Followers who give in-game bonuses and are used as the aforementioned battalions during mass combat Battlefield encounters. An element of campaign world itself was the absence of magical items, apparently due to the influence and multitude of Divinity in the setting, which makes character-building more crucial, and that looks to be counterbalanced by granting players a new Divine Trait at each level. These traits are basically Feats themed around divine Domains, or specialization areas like Battle, Earth, Fire, Death and the like, which are the player’s divine portfolios, meant to flesh out their characters. I’m looking forward to picking up some more games from the LD-universe and hopefully see a rise in the battlefield, follower and pursuit rules being introduced and applied elsewhere in the 4E world.

Outside of the Games, there was an author but no vendors from what I could tell who attended the Con, a fact I found slightly disappointing.  All in all, it was a good experience, with the systems I tried enjoyable and the folks for the most point, despite the usual lack of diversity, friendly and easy-going. Looking forward to the next one.

Game Forth!

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