Thursday 6 August 2015

The Best Four Days in Sleep Deprivation

Or: In Which We Nearly Made It All The Way Through A Trip To Gen Con Without Losing Our Luggage.

Gen Con has finished for another year and I realise that the last time I updated this blog was two years ago (shocking behaviour - I do apologise). So, without further ado, I shall present this year's Gen Con report minus pictures as, once again, I took my camera and utterly failed to used it...

My first Gen Con was in 1994 when it was still in Milwaukee. That was an exciting and odd experience and for years I wanted to get back and bring my husband, Richard, along with me. We finally managed that in 2013 and have been back every year since, with each year being its own peculiar (and exhausting) beast.

This year, I was lucky enough to have been selected as an Industry Insider Guest of Honour and I got to be on three very enjoyable panels. The first was Women in Gaming, which I will admit I was mildly dreading as part of me wondered if we still needed such a panel in this day and age. But, sadly, after the events of the last eighteen months or so, it appears that yes, we most definitely do.

Thanks to the lovely Rachel Ventura of Legendary Games, we'd decided to focus on the positive aspects of being a woman in games, something that was very much appreciated by our audience. Having been to the ConTessa opening ceremony the day before, I'd been reminded of how women have been in gaming from the very beginning and how important their contribution to the worlds we all know and love have been. Sadly, in some quarters, that seems to have been all but forgotten.

It was fascinating to share experiences with Elisa Teague (author of Girls on Games), Nicole Lindroos (Green Ronin), Rachel, and Shoshana Kessock (Phoenix Outlaw Productions) and we really could have done with another hour (at least!) to do the topic justice. Still, there's always next year...

My final two panels weren't until Sunday. The first, hosted by the ever-so-organised Keith Baker, was about designing worlds. We were joined by Elsa S. Henry (Blind Mouse Games), Brannon Boren, and the redoubtable Ken Hite. Although slightly intimidated at first by the illustrious company in which I found myself, this was an excellent panel all round (particularly the startling revelation that, as far as we can tell, Elsa is actually Daredevil, though you didn't hear that from me).

It's always interesting to see how other people approach world building and to discuss how important tone and the type of stories you want to tell are to giving your world its unique feel, and I hope we gave the audience some useful tips and ideas to go away and play with.

My last panel was an absolute hoot. Of all the panelists, Bryan Steele (Ursa's Den) was the only one I didn't know (but, as it turns out, he's thoroughly lovely - hardly a surprise, really, as most people in the gaming industry are). Along with Andy Peregrine, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, and Bill Bodden, we had a highly entertaining chat about the dos and don'ts of becoming a freelancer. As Andy said at the time, let's hope we haven't done too good a job, or we've just put ourselves out of work!

In between panels I got to meet up with old friends, some for the first time in the flesh (including the wonderful John Kahane). I also got to make new friends, indulged in sushi therapy with Monica Valentinelli (man, the sea puff specialty roll at Mikado is amazing, and I speak as a sushi virgin), and had some incredibly instructive business meetings, some of which I hope to be able to talk about in the near future.

I also worked the Modiphius booth on Saturday, shilling my wares (Achtung! Cthulhu and Cogs, Cakes & Swordsticks) under the watchful eye of booth manager and long time proofreader and friend, T.R. Knight. It's always lovely to interact with our customers and to hear how they're playing and, more importantly, enjoying our games. I even got a little sketch of Cutey (our nickname for the squid symbol you'll find throughout the A!C books) by John Kovalic although, in my usual oblivious state, I had no idea it was him until after he'd gone and I'd checked the business card she was drawn on! (Unless, of course, someone else has taken to drawing cartoons on the back of Mr. Kovalic's business cards...)

And, of course, there was the ENnie Awards Ceremony. Having nearly missed the first hour because I was convinced it started at 9pm not 8, I was, thankfully, in place to see Achtung! Cthulhu: Terrors of the Secret War win silver for Best Cover. Ian Schofield did a lovely job on that one for us and I was so pleased to see his work recognised by both the judges and the voters.

By far the biggest surprise of the night, though, was Terrors walking away with the silver for Best Monster/Adversary. I honestly thought they'd put up the wrong screen to start with, especially considering the other amazing and beautiful books in that category. But no, it really was us and I was thrilled to bits for Josh O'Connor, Jesse Hawkins, Reuben Saunders, Dave Blewer, Dim Martin, Ian Schofield, Michal Cross and Chris Birch (oh yes, and me, of course, as chief cook and bottlewasher on the book) that people liked what we'd done. The choice we'd made to go cinematic was risky, but the nomination and the medal (one of which is hanging over my computer as I type) show that it was the right decision.

I love Gen Con and it's wonderful to have seen it grow and evolve over the last twenty-one years. This has to have been my favourite one so far and, fingers crossed, we'll get to do it all again next year!

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