Saturday, July 4, 2009

Surreal Saturday: Origins Game Fair 2009

I went to the Origins Game Fair a couple of weeks ago (Trying to recuperate from the event is what has kept me from posting).

For those of you not familiar with Origins, it is one of the largest, if not the largest, game fairs in the world. When I say "games", by the way, I do not mean video games. This is old school, table top, role-playing and even collectible card gaming. And lots of it.

Over 14,000 people from all over the world descend on Columbus, Ohio each summer and pack the very large convention center they have there. Gaming started on Wednesday and went -- 24 hours a day -- until Sunday evening. My son (this was his graduation gift) and I got there at 0900 and did not leave until after midnight most days. The place was never less than half full and during peak times you had people gaming in the hallways. Literally hundreds of exhibitors (see picture at right) were there with every conceivable type of game.

I know, I hear you. "Odd," you say, "But how does this approach surreal?" Mostly because of the wide variety of games and gamers represented. On the one hand, you had Army Command and General Staff officer types recreating cold war nuclear scenarios and lecturing to the assembled grognards about the intricacies of 17th Century tactical formations while, on the other, you had people dressed as cats participating in some sort of bizarre anime-based role-playing game.

There were cool-sounding games like Oh My God! There's An Axe In My Head: The Game of International Diplomacy along with the truly cool Aerodrome, a WWI aerial combat game. Watching all these people criss-cross through the convention center and picking and mixing snippets of conversation from these extremes (and many others, e.g. "You mean there really are people who play Settlers of Cataan competitively??!!") led to a sort of cognitive dissonance that was, truly, surreal.

But surreal in a good way. These people were not causing any trouble. They were just having fun and, frankly, stretching their minds in ways that video games cannot. Don't get me wrong; I like video games but I think you get a much better appreciation for a system when you have to learn the rules and figure out how a game really works. This appreciation for the way systems work translates, I think, more or less directly into the creation of a better analyst, for example.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]