For those not stalking me, I’ve recently moved to Sydney, a thousand or so kilometers from my erstwhile home of Brisbane which is, as I’ve remarked often, the most gamingest city on the planet. When I had a chance to return for a friend’s wedding I almost didn’t stay the extra few days to coincide with our biannual convention, Go Play Brisbane, but I’m very glad I did because it works really well. In fact, it’s consistently the best convention I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to conventions all over the world. Well, it ranks with Gen Con Indy and DragonCon, anyway. In the top three, in other words.
I could do a listicle about why but that would imply they are things other cons can learn from and that’s not really the case. For example, it’s wonderful that GPB is free because it means there’s so many things we don’t have to organize and you never have to worry about giving value for money. But it’s free because it’s small which allows us to use free venues. Door prices put pressure on attendees and organizers alike but they exist for a very valid reason: stuff costs money. Smallness also means organizing it is much simpler and easier so it’s less of a chore and more a labour of love, which keeps everyone going and reduces burn-out. And that’s kept us in the hands of some amazing people who’ve made it sing. And they in turn have attracted some amazing people to run games and support it. So let’s do some goddamn shout outs to those people also:
The Loot Room came out and offered free board games for drop ins! I tried to do that a few times but these guys have waaay more stuff and can write it off as a work expense and frees me up to do MESSAGE stuff. They have a new game cafe in Beenleigh which is wonderful and the second in Brisbane (depending on how you count). They also provided prizes for the MESSAGE which is so lovely.
Another company promoting stuff but also playtesting was Jack Ford Morgan with Starblammo (left). This RPG-cum-card game is GMless and involves developing characters, space ships, galaxies and stories by the drawing of cards and rolling dice. In the afternoon I played a similarly-GMless, build as you go game of chronology called Microscope which we’ll talk about in a full write-up in the next post. Microscope (right) is very rules light and as such is a game that depends heavily on the creativity of the players. Luckily Go Play keeps attracting really creative, amazing people who are keen to experiment with new and exciting things (while also having plenty of old classics like D&D, Feng Shui and Fate).
And speaking of experimental, my morning session was Jack McNamee’s Mystery Solving Teens (below). This was an actual game, where we had twenty turns to solve a mystery using our own player abilities, something that, as a fan of the reader-solve mystery genre, I adore. Added to the mix was the fact that Jack had constructed a massive three dimensional town entirely out of cardboard, and the clues were hidden amongst, under or inside these structures. The 3D reality of the town immersed us in the game while the sifting through clues as we actually would submersed us. This was also a first playtest which is to say it will only get better. I don’t know if it could ever be sold but it’s not always about markets. It’s about coming together and sharing experiences. Which we can do in our houses but we can do in differentt and larger ways at cons.
And that’s what good cons are about, and that’s what Go Play has always delivered. People say over and over again that they’ve never had a bad experience at GPB, and never even had a bad game. Maybe it’s because we keep pulling the same people over and over again, and there’s too few of us to suck. Maybe big cons can’t do that. On the other hand, maybe if we ran smaller and smaller cons, this could be reproducible elsewhere. Maybe there’s room for a third tier of gaming between the massive hundreds to thousands to tens of thousands of people cons, and playing in your basement. Maybe the time of the mini-con is ascendant. It’s like a game cafe, but with social mixing, which is what I feel too many cafes lack. And fair enough, some times you just want to go hang out with your friends. And sometimes you want to do something bigger, more cross-pollinated, with afficianados – but not thousands of them. The mini-con. Is it a thing? Let’s find out.