In 1990 the annual Origins™ Gaming Convention was held at DragonCon (these days it’s stationary, but in olden times it moved around). As a table-top gamer I was super excited to go and see all the new roleplaying games and board games that were being debuted. As I walked through the vendors’ hall, nestled between TSR’s Dungeons and Dragons and Game Designers Workshop were two new games that were premiering: Torg and Rifts. This year at GenCon the big talk was about the revival of Torg and Rifts. It’s the gaming industry. What are you gonna do?
But I digress.
In the past 25 years (and since the advent of collectible card games in general) I have heard that tabletop gaming is dying. With fewer Friendly Local Gaming Shops, the three tier system of delivery (publisher to distributor to store) created a bottleneck that resulted in the appearance of the death of the hobby.
Then came crowd funding.
Today the industry is not only healthy – it is thriving. You hear the term Golden Age of Gaming and it’s not far off. So, when they tell you the hobby is dying, tell them “You couldn’t tell by looking at DragonCon. “
The DragonCon Gaming Track is sprinkled liberally across the host hotels, but the stronghold lies at the venerable Hilton Hotel on Courtland Street. In the basement ballrooms, it’s wall to wall gaming. Award winning board games and card games cover every table and the gaming population fills every available seat from early in the morning to the wee hours of the next morning. The latest and greatest games share play space with classics. Gray haired veterans (like myself) shared tables with diverse groups of younger players. I looked on as a group of 50 somethings taught the intricacies of Starfleet Battles to a group of teens. Didn’t bring a game to play? The massive board game library was happy to provide you games for an hour, a day, or the weekend.
But what about RPGs? The RPG rooms on the third floor of the Hilton were packed from 8 am to midnight. Campaign RPGs like the Pathfinder Society and Shadowrun Missions were present in force and non-campaign games for first time players and old campaigners were run round the clock by some of the ablest judges I’ve ever had the pleasure to play with.
I haven’t mentioned video games have I? LAN gaming is always a big draw at DragonCon. Tournament play, casual play, and pick-up games were in abundance. Bring your own PC (or console) or rent one. Over 150 titles were available. It was a thing of beauty.
Panels from industry leaders were also in abundance. Topics ranging from “How to fix your roleplaying game” to “How to design games” were addressed by major industry names like Kenneth Hite (Pelgrane Press), Jason Buhlman (Paizo), and Monte Cook (Monte Cook Games).
If it sound like there was enough gaming going on that I had time for little else, that’s because it’s true.
So next year, if you want to get your game on, DragonCon is the place to do it and, if they tell you the hobby is dead, tell them you couldn’t tell from DragonCon.