The photo above shows much of what my weekend was like, except there was more tea. I had been looking forward to Arisia for months, a fan-run, New England geeky convention. It would be a weekend away, hanging with my son, and seeing or learning something new. Alas, the weekend came along and found me sick with a bad cold and in a walking cast. As I groggily packed my bags, I looked longingly at my couch, only wanting to curl up with a blanket and some tea for the weekend instead of traveling. But my son and I headed out to Boston as planned, and Arisia was a lovely vacation from reality despite my physical woes. Even with me hobbling and sniffling, we were happily busy. Here are my top five highlights of the weekend:
Spending chill time with my son, now eighteen and in college, was the best. I homeschooled this kid and miss our days together. Taking him along meant help with driving, someone to sit next to, and always good conversation and laughs.
The fans running this convention, from our press liaison to fellow gamers to random people in the walkways, were sweet and excited to be there. In just our first hour we bumped into a steampunk man who engaged us in passionate conversation about his outfit. I wish I could hang out more with all the people we randomly met to play games. And I was impressed with the level of consideration the staff brought to the weekend, from gender-free bathrooms to encouraging everyone to wear their personal pronouns on their badges (see photo above with my “she/her/hers”).
Heard the Dice Hit the Table: Games as Fiction
This was a fantastic panel, skillfully moderated by Kate Nepveu and featuring Mehitabel Glenhaber, James Hailer, Lauren M. Roy, and Henry M. White. The panel was about how games and fiction influence each other while highlighting the differences and similarities of each. It focused mainly on role-playing games, both table-top and online. It was an insightful discussion from the panel and the audience on collaborative storytelling versus a solo written work. So much to say about what makes prose, visuals, and/or game mechanics establish mood, build character, inspire, and entertain. I scrambled to jot down all the game examples mentioned.
Inspiration: Kittens of Doom
Walking out of the Games as Fiction panel inspired me to create a game with my son over the course of the weekend. A couple of years ago he programmed a video game called Kittens of Doom about players being kittens that insanely mess up a house–simple and fun. We took that concept and turned it into a board game. We chatted about it while waiting here and there throughout the weekend. At our final dinner, we formed a ripped paper version and play-tested it. We bounced more ideas about how to improve it and feel mighty accomplished!
Art! Art! Art!
Holy crap there are talented artists in the world! So lucky Arisia gathered them in one place for me to enjoy. Every day of the con, my son and I spent time in the Artist’s Alley and Vendor’s Hall to take in the talented crafters, illustrators, and visual creators on display. My son is a graphic design major, and he could truly appreciate the skill and talent involved.
Madame Swan, maker of fine hats of The Blonde Swan, chatted with us about her work and inspiration. We had a blast trying them on. Wendy Ellerston Studio also impressed us with her leather sculptures and books, talking with us about how she strives to make her work about inspiring others. I bought a valentine’s day card from Geek Calligraphy. My son purchased an adorable kitty and dragon print by Sarah Clemens. And we “oohed and aahed” over so many of the works in the Artist’s Alley.
Of course, Stephanie Law, the Artist Guest of Honor, stood out as our overall favorite. She had an impressive display of watercolors that was impossible to take in all at once, which is why we came back every day. I fell in love with the dark mood of “Magpies,” while my son stared and stared at her paintings of lush landscapes, finding new details every time. For my birthday last year, my daughter (also an art major in college) gave me a dragonfly print of Law’s. So we are a family of fans. Law’s panel about the course of her career was engaging and inspiring. I loved hearing about the different periods of her work: what inspired her to change her focus or techniques and the challenges and joys of it all.
RPG: Bad French Accent
At this moment, I would like to apologize to everyone who speaks French; our role-playing game absolutely massacred every phrase attempted, and my accent kept morphing into Russian or Indian or… whatever, but we had so much fun! Brian Liberge of Beer Star Games was our GM, and he led my son, myself, and four other players on a 1930s-era, spies and intrigue three-hour romp set during the first Olympics in France. Our table kept getting looks from the room because our guffaws of laughter rang out frequent and loudly. It was the Fate system–very versatile, and Brian ran the game to follow our silly heart’s desires. Fun before plot.
Finally, quick shout-out to the musicians entertaining me everywhere I hobbled around the con. Last time I was at Arisia, I was a musical guest. Perhaps when I return, I will join you all again. On the subject of music, “HEY BRIAN! If you read this post, check out Django Reinhardt, the music I mentioned would enliven the setting of your game.”