The Con You Wish You Went To

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, after driving past downed trees and long lines at gas stations, we arrived in Morristown, NJ, for Metatopia. Luckily, it was in the six block area of Morristown that somehow still had power. Many of the attendees left homes that still had no electricity, were damaged by trees, or in some other way were still very much dealing with the effects of Mother Nature’s wrath. Most of the attendees arrived exhausted physically and emotionally.

But for three days about three hundred of us gathered in the Hyatt, testing games, talking about a wide variety of topics during organized panels or while standing in hallways or gathered in unoccupied meeting rooms or over drinks and meals. While the effects of the storm were felt in some ways—such as some last minute cancellations and the sad demise of the catering coffee maker which meant coffee was not among the refreshments provided outside the main meeting room—the convention felt like an oasis of warmth and light, both literally and metaphorically.

It was an amazing amount of fun. One reason Clark and I have turned Origins and Gen Con into week long events is because the best conversations seem to happen right before and right after the cons are scheduled. The exhibitor’s hall is closed, no one is scheduled for 4-8 hour shifts working a booth or running games. We can relax and hang out together. Metatopia was kind of like three days of that.

I hear there’s this great playtesting thing going on at Metatopia. Honestly, I can’t really speak to that since the only playtesting I did was when Tim Rodriguez saw me and some other people walking by and said, “Hey, come try out this card game!” I sat in on some testing for a game with Cam Banks, but since I’ll be working on the game that hardly counts! And I know Clark had a good experience playtesting his Kriegzeppelin Valkyrie game. I was aware that there was a lot of playtesting going on, but that was about it.

For me, Metatopia was a series of panel discussions. I was on nine panels in less than 48 hours, and I attended several more. The topics were widely varied—working with an editor, how not to be a jerk, working with licensed properties, women in gaming, to name a few—and the discussions often went in unexpected but almost always informative and interesting directions. Most people were intent on actual conversation, learning from talking to other people who were also intent on learning from them. Even when I was the one running a panel, the discussions often challenged me and gave me stuff to think about.

I don’t mean to make it sound perfect. Like any gathering of actual human beings, of course there were some uncomfortable “Holy shit, did that person actually just say that?!?” moments. But considering some of the topics that were discussed, including potentially inflammatory issues like sexism, cultural appropriation, and stereotypes, those uncomfortable moments stand out for their relative rarity.

Many of the panels were recorded, if you want to check them out. Jason Pitre is releasing some of those recordings on a new podcast at Genesis of Legend Publishing. They typically last about an hour. None of my panels are up there yet, but you can hear me toward the end of Episode 2!

Some of my favorite people in the world were at Metatopia, and I was happy to spend a few days talking to them. I also met and got to know some more really incredible people, and I look forward to seeing them in the future. My list of fascinating people to talk to over drinks is getting ridiculously long.

Two weeks later, I’m still thinking about some of the conversations that happened at Metatopia. I have a post on stereotypes brewing in my head. I hope it makes it into coherent words soon.

This was only Metatopia’s second year. It’s still a work in progress, and it’s obvious that the folks at Double Exposure are really listening to feedback and doing their best to make it a fantastic experience for both playtesting and the panel track—things that make Metatopia unique. It’s definitely on our list of conventions we can’t miss.

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