Saturday, 15 November 2014

PAX Aus and the sad state of roleplaying (article)

I volunteered at PAX Aus last weekend and it was awesome. Exhausting, but awesome.

However, I can't help but feel that the area I was in was a tack-on. Supporting cast. Ballast on a ship that would be happy to offload us for more tech. We're a holdover Easter Egg given a wink by the die-hard players.

In short, we're obsolete technology given as much respect as the archaic 8-bit consoles in the retro gaming area. A museum relic of bygone times with only the goodwill of sage gamers keeping us alive.

It's sad, but it is so.

Don't get me wrong; I had a blast and PAX staff were wonderful! The venue was great, too.

I got my ticket for free because I was volunteering running edible minis games in the Tabletop area, which was great fun. And I'd happily donate my time again in exchange for free entry, and hope to do so again next year. But I'd like to see the Tabletop area get more focus.

It's an understandable problem, and nobody could blame PAX for it. Tabletop games just aren't as flashy as the latest Call of Duty booth, or Oculus Rift, or ZOMG there's Hex from Good Game dressed as a Jedi hold my bag I've gotta ask her if she'll take a selfie with me! We don't have that level of impact.

Money's a part of it.

PAX basically has five areas; the big flashy digital games area; the low-key digital games area; the spot where all the people talk about stuff; the place where you queue up to watch people talk about stuff; and the tabletop area right up the back.

It's an awesome environment full of great stuff and awesome people. But there's nobody chucking t-shirts into the crowd for a Roborally game, or showing a Settlers of Catan championship on a big screen. The larper (Chimera?) intro to D&D5 was gorgeous, as was Swordcraft's Polly Woodside battle. Board games hit the mark with jumbo sized Jenga and some cog game or other, while a round of Werewolves nearby was a perfect way to turn a convention into a festival. (I'd like to think that Tiny Teddies Go To War was also a highlight of the weekend.)

We don't have a local games industry. Not with money to flash about. So nobody gives a fuck about us.

And before anybody responds, check the opening section of the PAX booklet with an introduction from some politician giving support for the convention and games in general. Not once in the whole intro did she mention gaming (nor the local gaming industry) in any context other than in digital format. She doesn't give a shit about the Tabletop area. I guess it's only fair that I've forgotten her name, position and everything else in response, seeing as that she doesn't feel the need to represent me and my hobby. And I can't blame her; we're not doing anything to make her notice.

But I don't want PAX to follow that fashion. I don't want to have our hobby ignored and forgotten due to the power of digital gaming, and I'm sure digital gamers agree with me. So we need to step up and get noticed.

Question: How do we get Tabletop gaming noticed?

In short, we need to make our hobby accessible to spectators. And that's a post for another day.

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