Saturday, August 18, 2007

Gaming events, big and small

I was thinking recently of games events that I go to now as well as games events that I used to go to and games events that I either will or would like to go to in the future.

One significant impact on my attendance at these events has been, what can best be described as, which phase of life I am in. For me there have been three main phases that have been relevant.

a) Single
b) In a couple (for some people this would be in a couple with a gamer or with a non-gamer), but I have never really spent time in a relationship with a non-gamer so that's not an issue for me
c) Married with small children

Future intended stages include
d) Married with older children
e) Empty Nesters

As some readers may remember, my background in gaming can be summarised boardgames, then wargames, then roleplaying games and now mostly boardgames.

The types of gaming events are:
1) Home or group based games night
2) Club based games night (club being a formal group, i.e. not just a bunch of friends)
3) Home or group based games day
4) Club based games day
5) Home of group based games weekend
6) Club or convention based games weekend
7) 3-4 day group based
8) 3-4 day club or convention
9) Longer events

As a single I attended all of the above. Particularly when I has heavily involved in roleplaying. A group of us used to travel from Melbourne to Sydney and Canberra for three and four day roleplaying game conventions as well as run one of our own in Melbourne. On top of this there were regular games nights either board gaming, roleplaying campaigns. There were also the day long events, either roleplaying sessions or tournaments, or games of Diplomacy or Civilization. Amongst the group of friends from Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney we also had what could best be described as a mini gathering of friends. A place would be booked roughly halfway between Melbourne and Sydney and thirty or forty gamers would meet for around three or four days of socialising and gaming. We also had some regular Christmas holiday sessions down at a beach house and this involved ten or more people for anywhere up to a week or more of gaming interspersed with visits down to the beach.

I remember discussing this with one of the Canberra based gamers who said that meeting up three or four times a year for three of four days of gaming each time was a good way to run a friendship and it was a regular occurrence for around a decade.

When I became part of a couple, nothing really changed. Melissa has a similar gaming pedigree as I do, just without the wargames. We had both attended the same events and done the roleplaying games convention circuit before we started going out, so we continued to do it.

During those days most of the games conventions were primarily roleplaying games conventions, other games were more of a sideline. Canberra's CanCon was the only real exception to this, it had a large non-roleplaying component as well, although we only went for the roleplaying. To my knowledge boardgame only conventions, especially if you exclude Diplomacy and wargames, are a relatively recent concept in Australia. Ditto with trade fairs, i.e. conventions were there is a significant presence of vendors and/or publishers. Usually the most we would have was a retail outlet with a stall, it was all about the playing of games not so much the purchasing. The Australian Games Expo is the only event in Australia that I know that has a significant vendor or publisher presence.

The arrival of mortgage and children has curtailed both the amount of disposable income and free time that we can devote to gaming. I used to often travel interstate to a games convention and crash on the floor or a spare bed at a friend's place. When you are travelling with a family of four this is rarely a viable option, paid accommodation is required and suddenly everything has got much more expensive. Otherwise the options are leave the children behind (not something we are willing to do at their age), take them with us to the convention (also something we are not willing to at their current age) or arrange activities or babysitting. This makes travelling to a convention logistically challenging and we have only started doing this again last year. Locally based conventions are much more viable, but I don't think we are ready to go back to the solid three or four days of gaming that was the normal occurrence at roleplaying conventions. With the Australian Games Expo we travel with the children and bring along babysitting with us.

When the girls are older they may either be interested in attending such a convention or, more likely, could go off and stay at a friends house for the weekend. A roleplaying convention is still something I would prefer to be able to commit a large amount of time to. This is because there are normally up to ten or so three hour playing sessions that you can book for different games. A boardgame event is much different in that you are really only committed for a game at a time, unless you pre-arrange something. It is possible to drop in and play something, leave and come back later.

I find that, even if you are playing regular rolepaying sessions at home or at a friends or even a club, that a roleplaying convention still gives you an opportunity to play, or be exposed to, different games and styles of games that is difficult, if not impossible, to come by in other settings. With a boardgame convention this much less the case. With regular games at home and club based games night there are very, very few games that I would not be able to play if I wanted to play them. The other possibility is different opponents to play against, but again with home and club based evenings I have quite a large body of people to play with already. Thus, to me, they are not as necessary an event to be able to scratch that gaming itch as compared to a roleplaying convention is to scratch the roleplaying itch.

It used to be that everyone I gamed with was at some stage a roleplayer, however there are people I now play games with who have never roleplayed at all. I must ask them about the concept of two or three day conventions and if they have a different concept due to a different back ground.

Then there are also the fantasy conventions. Being in Australia it is hideously expensive to get to Europe or the United States (and in the case of the former it requires a whole day sitting in an aircraft). We would love to go to Essen and BGG.con to name but two. I wouldn't even say no to Origins or GenCon if I happened to be in the neighbourhood at the appropriate time. I hope you people with relatively easy access to these conventions realise just how lucky you are, for some of thus they are really nothing much more than pipe dreams. Especially since we are raising gamer children and it is not like they are going to let us go to an overseas convention without them :-)

So what is my current gaming fix?

1) Home or group based games night - Once per fortnight (every second week)
2) Club based games night (runs once a week, I usually try to make it every second or third week)
3) Home or group based games day (up to once or twice a year we would organise one of these)
4) Club based games day (there is a once a month regular event in Melbourne, we drop in when we can)
5) Home of group based games weekend (a thing of the past)
6) Club or convention based games weekend (there's a couple of these each year, depending on commitments we try at make it to at least one day)
7) 3-4 day group based (a thing of the past)
8) 3-4 day club or convention (restricted to the Australian Games Expo these days)
9) Longer events (a thing of the past or for the future)

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