Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Metatopia 2014

This weekend I went to Metatopia, a Double Exposure convention aimed at professionals and playtesters. I was invited by Phoenix Outlaw Productions, lead by Shoshana Kessock and Josh Harrison, and got to room with them over the weekend. The convention is aimed towards giving games some testing and development with the help of the visiting convention goers. It's designers helping each other out and fans of games getting an early taste of what people are doing. More importantly though, it's game designers hanging out, talking and networking. 

I went to Metatopia for a few reasons. The first was that, if I was going to start developing games and selling my skills as a writer (as well as the reviewing section of this blog) then I needed to get out of there. I wanted to get to know the faces of the people at the core of this thing and for them to get to know me. I also wanted to learn about the culture of the convention, how things played out and what the attitude was going in. One of the reasons I didn't present a game for a Focus Group was because I didn't want to be anxious about the convention AND the games. Now I can just have a freakout about the games next time.

Most importantly, I went because I needed to de-stress. Times are tough here, the outside world was getting to me and I needed to take the time to leave my normal world for some me time. I got that during this convention. It was by far one of the most chilled out and casual conventions I've gone to. Much of this has to do with the fact that everyone who was there wasn't there to necessarily put on a show, as is sometimes the case during big gaming conventions, but to help one another work with one another in developing good games. The energy was different, more relaxed and less full of pretension.

I got the chance to test out three games. The first of this was Aftermath (now referred to after the session as simply 'After...'), a zombie apocalypse larp developed by Ericka Skirpan of In the Moment Productions. It's a great concept, set in WWII where no one won the war and zombies now invade. I've known Ericka for several years, with her being my in and out of character mentor for Mage the Awakening. She and I have similar beliefs when it comes to role play, in that it's an experience with game rules attached. She's also a storyteller for the Massachusetts branch of Dystopia Rising, she knows how to evoke pathos in a larp. I'll be looking forward to what this becomes in the future.

My next game was Dreamdiver, a Fate Core game developed by Josh Harrison of Phoenix Outlaw Productions. It focused on the ability for people to dive into dreams and a conflict between two different groups over the future of the collective unconscious. It was my first time playing a Fate Core game. The game has potential for epic scenes, terrifying visions, and absurd moments that all make sense in the game world. I also have an idea for how this could be spun into a larp, but that's neither here nor there.

The next game was Smoke and Glass, a steampunk fantasy Fate Core game designed by Abigail Corfman of Phoenix Outlaw Production. Smoke and Glass recently had a successful Kickstarter campaign, and production is scheduled for some time in February. We spoke mainly of some of the expansion settings, trying to develop some aspects. It was fun to work on creating settings and creating characters, which is something I'd very much like to do as a freelancer for game companies. I'm looking forward to Smoke and Glass when it comes out, I know of at least one game that will be played in New York when it comes out.

The rest of the weekend was spent on panels. Most of them focused on worldbuilding and creation, picking up small tips and tricks and being surprised that I knew and agreed with a lot of what was being said there. I attended a panel on harassment in gaming lead by Shoshana Kessock and Elsa Henry of Phoenix and Avonelle Wing, one of the heads of Double Exposure itself. While the discussion was focused on the demented 500 pound gorilla that is the Gamergate community (Hello boys, I still think you're scum), it also focused on ableism, and the steps the community wishes to take to combat these problems.

I also went to a panel discussing taboos in gaming, things we aren't comfortable with playing out in gaming, like sex, extreme violence and especially neither of those aimed at children. This lead to a discussion on Sex in general, which is often seen as a taboo whether it is regarded in a positive or negative light. This in turn lead to a discussion about Emma Wieslander's Ars Amandi technique to simulate intimacy between characters during a larp.

The final panel that I went to was a focus on Indie Games and Indie publishing, hosted by Shoshana, Tim Rodriguez and Fred Hicks of Evil Hat Productions. They talked about the struggle of building up your production companies, including having to learn business, working with friends, and the balance of creative and corporate responsibilities and duties. Watching this panel made me realize that I don't want to make my own production company any time soon. I'll be quite happy and quite comfortable freelancing myself until someone wants to adopt a geek.

This panel also marked the first time I've gotten to meet Fred Hicks. I've known of him since I first started reading Jim Butcher books as he's part of Jim's Beta Reader asylum, several of whom I've known for years. Considering the odd coincidences that is my life in regards to larping and the Dresden Files, meeting Fred was definitely something on my geek bucket list.

Most of what I remember though was sitting at the bar or lobby with a bunch of the chairs smushed together and just listening to people talk. It was nice to talk to people when they weren't busy selling themselves or their product or coming down from a post larp high. This was people looking to improve the craft they were in. I like the thought that this community is really looking to improve everyone's game, and not just their own. There aren't many communities that do that, though that may be the cool-aid talking.

I got to speak to the folks at Eschaton Media about their upcoming games for their Chronos line, including Ex Arcana, which focuses on Mages and the resurgence of magic as well as New Dorado, which focuses on dieselpunk Shamans. I am thoroughly excited for both games, and I'm looking forward to the release party for Ex Arcana later this month, which I will be reviewing.

Metatopia helped me to nail down some of the fine points on games, as well as come up with a few others. I'm working on the notes for a Fate Core based game set in Space and focusing on Bounty Hunters. I've the setting down, now to write out the material. I've also come up with a more freeform larp in the style of the Battlestar Galactica larp I saw last July. It's based around a hospital that caters to the supernatural.

Then of course, there is Kensei. People were telling me to bring it up as a focus group. To be honest, I'm at the point where I need it to go through a clinic to get it fleshed out. There is something here that can be fun, that could be something run at conventions. I didn't because I wasn't prepared to. I wanted to know more about Metatopia and the overall vibe of the convention space. If I'm going to have a panic attack, it's going to be about having a panic attack about my game, and not about the convention itself.  I've come to the point where I'm not going to rush the development of Kensei. Kensei is doing a lot, it needs time. When it's done, I want it to come out kicking ass on a literal and figurative level.

So yes, next year I'll be presenting at least one game at Metatopia, possibly more. You'll hear more about em as the time comes. And to close off...



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