I got back from Metatopia in the wee hours of Monday morning, due to a backup of planes at Newark so awful that the Captain said it was the worst he’d seen in years. We got home, tossed our luggage on the couch, and embraced our cats. I went to bed for a blessed ten hours of sleep, which may rival all the sleep I got at Metatopia.
This trip was really big for me, in a lot of ways. The farthest I’ve been from home (Washington State) into the EST is GenCon. But this trip I went all the way to New Jersey, and even snuck in a few hours to see Manhattan.Getting to be a tourist somewhere new is a hard to come by (because of finances) experience in my life, and tends to leave a lasting impression on me. Manhattan was gorgeous.
So, the professional new experiences. I’ve been an attending pro at conventions before, but this was my first time as a Special Industry Guest. I did playtests, panels, was interviewed live, and recorded four interviews for the oral history archive. I don’t expect people to know who I am at large events, but perfect strangers introduced themselves to me, telling me about what part of my body of work they’d encountered before then. I didn’t expect people to ask about how I got where I am, and maybe that’s a post of it’s own, later, though I’ve addressed that question from different angles in the past.
Metatopia has a similar sense of calm pacing and environment as BigBadCon in Oakland, and GoPlayNW in Seattle. But because of the emphasis on playtests, focus groups, and panels, it’s also a deeply professional and educational experience. If someone has the opportunity to attend Metatopia to learn more about the hobby, professionally and personally, I can’t fathom why they wouldn’t go.
Still having a hard time disentangling some thoughts I have, post-con.
One of my friends made sure I made it to a friend’s panel during the con. I often duck out of friend’s convention panels, and I think it’s because I feel like they don’t need my ‘moral support.’ Most of my friends are seasoned pros, and I’ve often been afraid of being the dorky friend who shows up for people’s panels/release parties/events, like some sort of maternal instinct to be supportive gone awry. And after this weekend, I’m pretty sure that inclination may be largely bullshit. I went to a friend’s panel, and I learned a lot. I took pictures of slides. I made notes in an email to myself. You are not the sole intended audience of your friends, and until you remove yourself from the headspace of friend, you might miss out on a ton of useful info your friends can give you.
That previous point was hammered home by interviewing peers/friends for the oral history archive. Did I know some of them before that weekend? Yup. Did I know all the things they’d tell me before, during and after their interview? Fuck no. One of my friends compared to the process/experience to “This American Life,” which was flattering/unexpected. The sense of detailed, spoken bibliography being delivered by a primary resource was mind blowing for me as an interviewer. Women were giving me incredibly contextualized, in-depth looks at their work. I’m fairly confident some of what was relayed doesn’t exist in that detail elsewhere, and I’m humbled to have built the trust to be given incredible access to the lives and work of others.
I saw a few folks in traditional dress at Metatopia (I’d define that as clothes that aren’t necc. Western, is from someone’s religious/cultural/ethnic background) and it made me so damn happy. In my own emotional/ethnic/religious context about this, I can usually spot a few guys wearing kippot at, say, GenCon, but that’s it. I never wear mine at conventions because I don’t want to deal with potential bullshit. Metatopia is clearly a place I could visually convey my religious/ethnic background without worrying about it.
The unisex/gender neutral bathrooms were probably the ones I used the most, and that they were arranged by the con is wonderful. Hoping that becomes a trend in the future at other cons.
Going back to unexpected things, I didn’t anticipate getting thanked for work I’ve done, let alone my Twitter account. But it happened multiple times, and every time I shook hands with a Twitter follower saying they enjoy my feed, I did my best to accept it, and not stumble over my words in a sudden moment of “gaping fish face.” When people say you did great work, the most frequent response you should reach for is accepting it, and thanking them for being a part of the people who enjoy your work. When you fight those who compliment your work, you often devalue their emotional experience and engagement with what you do, which is both a dick move and really chancy if you want to keep those who enjoy your work…well, continuing to enjoy your work. Their compliment is not solely about you.
There needs to be a lot more dialogue/conversation going on about emotions and politics when it comes to pushing for positive change in gaming. I’d never had the words for why the notion that we must “politely” present our arguments for equality until Elizabeth Sampat gave me the words during a panel. To insist on people approaching a group in power about the inequality between them is to say to the oppressed that they must approach their oppressors from a subservient place. And that is so very not okay.
Playtesting is quite possibly one of the coolest, most essential stages of developing a game. I never clicked on just how important it is till playing in playtests this weekend.
I’ve got other thoughts, probably dozens, but this is what I could get out right now. Hopefully the rest will untangle over time. And if I met you at Metatopia, feel free to say hi on the blog or over Twitter. There’s no sense in falling out of touch between now and next year.