Origins 2014 has come to an end, and a great time was had by (mostly) all. Here is part one of my show wrapup thoughts.
Origins is all about games, and I’ll have detailed thoughts about the things that I played in my next post. In general, however, gaming at Origins is thriving. The Pathfinder and Shadowrun rooms, driven by organized play, were booming. The Indie RPGs on Demand room was also hopping the whole time, and the cavernous D&D room was better-attended than it looked. As usual there were a large number of Call of Cthulhu events. Even oddball games like Traveller and Rolemaster were sellouts. Massive tournaments dominated the board gaming area, and deck-building card games like Ascension and Dominion were very prominent.
I’ll have a separate post up about the events I myself participated in.
The Exhibit Hall
The dealers’ room this year was a paradise for boardgamers. So much so that some prominent publishers like Mayfair and Asmodee got their own sales areas — but in the Board Gaming hall.
The dealers’ room was not so strong for RPG players and wargamers of either the hex-and-counter or miniatures variety. Many major players, including WotC, Paizo, Games Workshop and GMT did not exhibit, but the Steve Jackson James/Atlas/Chaosium booth had a big presence, and they were dealing both Paizo product and Numenera. Kenzer also exhibited, and there were both sellers of indie RPGs and a number of smaller publishers on hand. The big booths selling old and out of print RPGs and wargames were entirely gone. Columbia Games and Decision Games were there to represent old school wargaming.
As Origins evolves, the number of dealers selling cosplay and LARP stuff continues to increase.
As in previous years, show management was very disorganized. Lines were long and slow for those unfortunate enough to try to get in on Saturday morning, the events book suffered from many, many misprints and many events had to be moved at the last minute, with no notices posted. Thankfully, random people on hand were generally happy to point you in the right direction. Events were frequently listed in the book at the wrong times or with the wrong prices, so folks kept showing up early or with the wrong number of generic tokens in their pockets.
Origins is changing — not necessarily for the worse, but it is changing in directions away from where GAMA’s expertise lies. Wherever that is. Every year, for example, there are more and more cosplayers, and GAMA has no idea how to deal with or appeal to them.
The Origins Awards, which should logically be the gaming hobby’s equivalent to the Oscars, were again bungled. Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop, which is both a great and entertaining show and is driving large numbers of people into boardgames, won a well-deserved award, but when folks started congratulating Wil on Twitter, it turned out that nobody had told him he was even nominated. This kind of incompetence would be laughable but something like it seems to happen almost every year, and for every step forward there seem to be two steps back.
What GAMA needs to do is hire a professional event management firm to run the show for them. They did so before, and in comparison the convention was very well-run in those years, but politics of the anti-WotC variety caused GAMA to end their arrangement with Andon.
Now, I’ve seen worse, at both Origins and Gen Con. It was better than some years, and no issue was so devastating as to completely torpedo the whole show. But it was very sloppy in a number of places, and the Origins Award thing is just a goddamn embarrassment.
There are many, many worthwhile places to eat around the convention center. My schedule was so compact, however, that I didn’t have the opportunity to go anywhere but the Hyatt’s food court, where the grub is merely serviceable but very cheap by con food standards, with a sole jaunt to North market on Friday, where I had some excellent curry followed by ice cream. Alas that I did not make it to Barley’s or the Flatiron, my two favorite places to eat in the area.
GAMA’s blundering aside, in general I had a great time. I did not get to spend as much time playing or attending as I would have liked, but that’s par for the course for folks with adult responsibilities.
Origins has historically been and remains a great show to attend to play actual games. Get gamers together and the magic happens, despite whatever mistakes the convention organizers made.
Lessons for Next Year
Every year I find some things that I would have done differently, and that list reflects changes in the hobby, changes in the show and changes in personal circumstances. But here’s what I’d like to do differently next year:
- Budget more money for the convention. This year I bought very little aside from dice, but my food budget could have been bigger.
- Play more Pathfinder. I’ll have more to say about this in the next post, but I found the Pathfinder Society stuff to be very enjoyable. But I still want to do other games as well, so…
- Budget more time for the convention. This means taking two days off from work, which I have not done for the last few years. This would give me, minimally, a full day to play games on Thursday as well as the opportunity to get in on stuff on Wednesday as well. There were things I wanted to do but couldn’t because I had to go to work on Thursday night.
- Maybe run a game or two. It occurred to me that I have never done so at Origins. There are all kinds of available avenues for this, but stuff for Indie Games on Demand would be a possibility, or I may try to do Rolemaster or Traveller or something else similarly underserved. It would be nice if my RPG was finished by then, but that’s very unlikely to happen by next year.
- Have a better way to do online blogging from the show. Partly this is a function of time, but there were also equipment and battery issues, and I didn’t do as much reporting from the show as I would have liked.