In an effort to increase my visibility (self-promotion can be a real bear), I’ve been hitting the convention circuit a little harder this year than in the past. For a semi-introvert like myself, this can be both a terrifying and exhilarating experience. And also tiring.
First up was Origins, back in early June. Held each year in Columbus, Ohio, Origins sometimes struggles as second fiddle to GenCon in the tabletop gaming world. Personally, I like Origins quite a bit; the venue is large enough to host world-class events like a World Science Fiction Convention (aka WorldCon) with lots of smaller meeting rooms perfect for concentrated gaming events. My traveling companion, Monica Valentinelli, was invited to be a speaker at the event; she needed a ride, so it became a more financially feasible event for me, knowing I had my room and badge covered in exchange for driving and for my presentations.
My events went well; I gave solo presentations on selling games to distributors (for manufacturers) and on freelancing in the gaming industry. Attendance wasn’t spectacular — I don’t think there was ever much more than a dozen or so people in the audience — but both events were well-received with active participation, and I had the gratifying experience of people coming up to me afterwards to thank me for my presentations.
I managed to hang out with a few friends while there; Sarah Hans, and Steve and Betty Lickman — Steampunks of my acquaintance — met up with me for lunch on Saturday, and the conversation was relaxed and interesting. Sarah and Steve are also writers, and Sarah edited the anthology Sidekicks!, in which both Steve and I had stories. We commiserated on trying to get stories noticed — if not published, and had a pleasant lunch together. I also had a delightful dinner with Seth Polansky and Kelley Slagle — among many other people — and heard all about a film Kelley directed, which they were selling DVDs of at the show — called “Of Dice and Men”. I watched a screening of the film that evening, and enjoyed it well enough to buy a copy from Kelley. It’s also available in a Special Edition on BluRay.
July 4th weekend saw me at CONvergence, in Bloomington, Minnesota. CONvergence is a large, fan-run convention that does pretty much everything, and does it all pretty well. I was again attending with Monica V.,so I had company for the drive. Made a few plans with area friends, but mostly was expecting to see more people I knew. It’s been more than 20 years since I last attended a Twin Cities convention, and many people I knew back then are no longer part of the scene. I did catch up with a few friends, first for sushi dinner on Friday, and then with a different group for a delightful Mexican-fusion brunch on Saturday.
My panels were well-attended, and this time I was not flying solo; each had at least three to four other panelists, and the level of moderation skill was generally good. I was on panels about getting into tabletop gaming, becoming a game designer, and the rise of tabletop gaming as a popular hobby, and the audience was receptive and engaged each time.
Saturday night I was feeling a bit sorry for myself; I knew far fewer people at the convention than I thought I would, and was kind of lonely. I happened upon a few people in one of the poolside cabana terraces about to start a game of Ticket To Ride — one of my favorite boardgames — and they asked if I’d care to join them. Going completely against type, I said yes, and spent an enjoyable hour or so gaming and chatting with four complete strangers. My thanks to Lucas, Nicole, Amy and Jeremiah for being delightful company!
Caption: Lucas, Nicole, Amy, Jeremiah, and me at CONvergence, June 6, 2015
At the end of July, I made the holy pilgrimage to GenCon in Indianapolis. It was an odd experience being there completely on my own this year. For more than a decade I was working for someone else at the con, either as an employee of ACD Distribution, or as sales manager and occasional freelance writer for Green Ronin Publishing. This time, I was there representing only myself, and while I again failed to make sufficient plans to prevent me from dining alone occasionally, I did have several good meetings about future work, a few convivial meals with others (including Lynne Hardy and her husband Richard), and had two seminars that went well. I reprised my presentation on selling games to distributors here, and found myself on a panel with several industry luminaries about how to get started as a freelancer in the gaming industry. I also finally met Eloy Lasanta, whose Third Eye Games had me as a stretch goal for the AMP: Year One RPG Kickstarter. I wrote the adventure Evolution of Apex, which has also been collected with the other AMP: Year One Adventures into an anthology titled AMP Adventures. Eloy tells me my adventure is meeting with decent acclaim from the game’s fans, which does me a world of good to hear.
I managed to wangle a free badge as an “Industry Insider” which got me access to being on those two panels among other things, and it was curious to see people’s surprised reactions to my “Guest of Honor” badge at the show. I’ve been around in the games industry for years, and while I’m nothing like a household name, I have made my share of contributions.
I also managed to find a last-minute roommate to help cover the extravagant cost of a hotel room at the show. David Miller runs a cool gaming news site called Purple Pawn; besides being a nice guy and a pleasant roommate, David is serious about presenting information about gaming to his readers. I highly recommend checking out Purple Pawn when you have a chance.
My last convention of the summer was Geek.Kon, where I have been one of the Local Guests of the convention for a number of years running. The Local Guest guest list is quite long, but includes Monica Valentinelli and Matt McElroy, Alex Bledsoe, Christopher Jones, Aaron Pavao, and Mark Stegbauer. There were many more guests of the convention, but I wasn’t able to spend much time with them. I especially regret not meeting and chatting with Greg Weisman, but that’s what next year’s conventions are for.
A highlight of the show for me was breakfast on Sunday with Will Shetterly and Emma Bull. I was Emma’s Guest Liaison when she was a GoH at Wiscon 14 back in 1990; I haven’t seen either Emma or Will much since, so it was very pleasant to have this chance to chat and catch up. Another highlight was dinner the night before with all of Geek.Kon’s GoHs at the Nile restaurant, a tradition for several years now.
Geek.Kon is rapidly becoming my favorite local convention. A top-notch staff that works hard to put on a good show, Geek.Kon is staffed mostly by a collection of youthful but competent people. The convention has been growing at a rapid rate, and I hope to see them around the scene for many years to come.
So that’s been my summer so far, and it’s taken a bit out of me. That’s more travel and more conventions over three months than I usually do in two years! I have hopes to make it to a few conventions next year; much will depend on how organized I am, and I have hopes that I’ll have more new projects to promote.