Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Big Bad Con 2017 Report - Intro & Friday

Hi all!

This will be probably a three-post report because I'm trying to break down my panels and games pretty detailed, so I wanted to warn you ahead of time. These will be paid posts! Thank you for your support. :)

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Me on my flight in, very tired.

Overall Con Thoughts

Big Bad Con is the best con I have ever attended. I don’t say this to like, make other cons look bad, that’s not the point. I came out of Big Bad Con feeling much more positive about the experience than any of my previous con experiences, I didn’t get hurt while I was there, I felt safe and comfortable throughout the con, and I was able to play the games I wanted, see people I wanted, navigate registration super smoothly, make it through my panels with a lot of encouragement from the audience and fellow panelists, and I felt supported coming to the con after a death in the family.

The con also seemed very diverse, compared to what I expected or maybe what I’m used to, I don’t know - I saw a ton of androgynous-styled people, I know of many trans people who attended, there were more people of color that I interacted with than is my norm, and so on. It was awesome.

The rooms were great, local food options were tasty and at least accessible to me (I went out to dinner 3 times and had no real issues getting to the restaurants), and the food at the hotel was good so I didn’t get stuck if I was too sore to walk. I will note that the panel room was super chilly and that could be worked on.

I played two games that I really enjoyed, met so many new people in an environment where I wasn’t feeling pressured to rush, and it was just really great. Sean Nittner and the entire incredible staff (who talk about Big Bad Con here) made it a great experience for me. I honestly really want to go back and I don’t know how I’ll make it happen, but it would be worth it.

Note: My experience is only my experience, and others may feel differently. For example, Stephanie Bryant expressed that being the only woman in a large crowd of people outside Games on Demand was awkward and uncomfortable. This is something that could use review - for me this is a consistent Games on Demand issue but my experience isn't universal.


more!
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Hazy!
Friday

I arrived at OAK airport around noonish on Friday, and Jeremy Tidwell was kind enough to pick me up and transport me to the hotel. The hotel is pretty nice! I had some minor room issues, but they were quickly resolved, and I got to meet Jeremy Kostiew FINALLY (his beard is gorgeous, fyi) and forgot how hugs work, as well as getting say hi to James Mendez Hodez, who I’m interviewing right now also.

I got to hang out with Mickey Schulz, Lex Larson, Misha Bushyager, and Rachel Beck. I loved talking with them and having a space where I could get settled into the con after the long flights. Also got to meet Tanya DePass, my roomie, who is awesome. Later I got to meet Sandy Jacobs-Tolle, who is really nice! I screwed around a lot but also spent a significant amount of time talking games culture, current work, and so on.

I noticed that there is a huge trend of people just really feeling like there’s no safe space for them. We talk about this online a lot, but in person, we were just really venting it out. We have to fight our way through just to be able to play. The number of people who said “I don’t play at tables with people I don’t know so I don’t game at cons” was significant, and heartbreaking. I know this feeling, and it’s just not fucking fair.

Later I went out to dinner with Tracy Barnett and some of the others. We discussed games a lot, but also some really challenging personal experiences from growing up, our own baggage, and how it influences our play styles, our gaming, and our lives. I had a few conversations like this over the weekend and was reminded that gaming is an incredibly human hobby. 

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I was on the You Don't Look Like a Geek panel with Kristine Hassell, Tanya, and Jahmal Brown. I admit it was weird (but good) to be the only white person on a panel. The experiences that the others shared we're very far from my own, but I felt really lucky to be there as a part of it.

I was, to my knowledge, the only non-cis person on the panel, which is part of why I was there, plus my orientation queerness and disability. Those don't all seem super visible, and in narrower communities like indie games they don't seem remarkable, but those things still can fall into the category of weirdo for a lot of geeks.

Thankfully Big Bad Con had made steps to welcome people like me. Like Metatopia, all-gender bathrooms made a difference for me, so much.
We talked a lot about things that made us feel unwelcome or out of place. I am the only one who actually uses “geek” as a label for myself much, and it's not a constant for me. We discussed ways to make geek environments more welcoming for people like us, how to handle exclusionary behavior, and also (my favorite) what benefits we had from being nonstandard geeks, much of which centered on finding others like us.

I liked when Jay talked about being a veteran and how when he had gone to basic training everyone had to be in it together, and how that's how he participates in games: everyone is in it together, and they should try to find common ground. I will note this can be challenging (sometimes more for some than others), it's a good intent. It's relevant to the discussions that happened here and elsewhere about those behavior you will allow at a table, and why you would let people like racists stick around.

On the subject of being white, I was reminded how much white people contribute to ostracizing and distancing people of color from the community. That's bad, and something I hope to continue working on.

I personally spoke a little about forgiveness and moving forward in geekdom. We have a hard tendency to hold tight to people's mistakes, which is understandable. But when someone has apologized, even if they've demonstrated change and tried to make up for it, we so rarely give them forgiveness or allow things to move forward. They can continue to be pariahs, treated with disrespect, and so on. It hurts me to see that, and my heart ached when someone from the audience came to thank me for talking about it because they had messed up in the past and they feel like they can't do enough to make up for it. That sucks! If you continue to be treated like a bad person even after you've apologized and made changes, the motivations to keep trying get fewer every day. This sticks with me.

That being said, we discussed the nature of exclusion and inclusion where keeping racist, sexist, homophobic, and other bigots in your space excludes people of color, women and trans and nonbinary people, queer people, and other marginalized people from your space. Even if they're still at the table, they are likely uncomfortable and may have already checked out. This subject came up A LOT at my panels.

John Brieger caught up to me after the panel to talk about his current project and ask for my thoughts on his safety mechanics. It was fun to meet him and the others I caught up with, but my exhaustion and medication caught up with me and I hit the sheets early.

Before I crashed out, I was gifted a pocket size Script Change card by Tomer Gurantz! I received a lot of good comments about Script Change this weekend, and on Sunday spoke with Dante (Bryant Stone) about adding a new mechanic to it. It'll be coming soon as one of the optional mechanics. :D

Front of the fancy pocket card. :D

And backsies! :D

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That was Friday! It was REALLY packed somehow, even though I wasn't actually that really busy. I am still processing a lot of what happened before I left for the con (work crises, loss of a family member, etc.), but I honestly have a lot of love for Big Bad Con. I had heard so much good stuff about it, I thought it would disappoint, but nope. :D 

Saturday (with two panels) and Sunday (with two games and talk on Script Change) coming soon! Thank you for reading!



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