Hey everyone! I went to Geek Girl Con this year and had a grand ol’ time, and I thought I’d share what I did and my thoughts on the con as a whole. This was my first time there, and well I’m not sure I was exactly their target audience, after I got over my own nervousness (this was also my first con going solo, which I’m sure didn’t help), I had a good time.
The writeup is split into two parts, each covering one day of the con. This post will cover Saturday, and my opening impressions of the convention. I’ll break down each day into rough chunks of time, and then give my overall impression of the day at the end. Sound good? Let’s go, then.
8:30 AM — I waited outside the con in line with a whole ton of other people, and the line just kept getting longer behind us. I was very glad I’d bought my tickets in advance, as there were only a small handful available at the door (and all but a single two-day pass sold out incredibly quickly). Watching people line up gave a very positive impression of how inclusive the con was. Lots of women (duh), a decent number of men (which indicates to me they did a good job making the con feel inclusive in their advertising materials), and individuals that ran the gamut from full-on crazy cosplay to average folks in average clothes (yo). We got let in only a tiny bit late, just after 9:00, and given the crazy number of people they had to admit, I can’t blame them. The volunteers did a great job letting everyone know where they’d need to go and what to do.
9:15ish AM — Got let in, got my badge with my print-out pass very quickly, including program and announcements. I hadn’t looked at the schedule a whole lot before hand, and I found out from the announcement page that the panels that I was interested in for the first half of the day were pretty much all cancelled (specifically the panel on “How to Build a Kick-Ass Brand on a Start-up Budget). Also, almost nothing started until 10 AM anyway, which makes sense but left me at a loose end. So I started wandering the con.
9:30 AM – 11:30 AM — Wandering the con. Checked out the Exhibitor Hall (the Dealer’s Den, essentially), Artist’s Alley, and Tabletop Games sections. The Exhibitor hall was good size, enough that you could take some time to wander through, but small enough you could definitely felt that you saw everything without having to spend hours digging. The Artist’s Alley felt a little small to me (it was all huddled together into a single room), but I think they were doing the best with the facilities they had. Lots of talented artists! I was a little bummed I didn’t see any there that matched what I was looking for for Nautilus stylistically, but that’s not a knock against the wonderful people there. The small space also had the benefit of making everyone feel very approachable, especially so early on the first day of the con when there weren’t that many people wandering through. I mostly radiated awkwardness, because I’m bad at people. Oh well!
I went down to the Tabletop Games area fairly early, before 10 AM. Not many people were set up, but I did have the unique pleasure of meeting Corvus Elrod, the designer of Bhaloidam. We talked for a while about the game, with Corvus showing me the base of the system (which uses a small board for each character instead of a character sheet) and the token-centric mechanics, which lend a great physicality to the game. The game’s physical materials are super-high quality as well. Bhaloidam seems like it would be a great fit for the story gamer (e.g. folks who like Fiasco, Shooting the Moon, Kingdom, etc) who’s not afraid of a little crunch. And the crunchiness of the system intrigued me as well, because one of the things I got tired of when playing story games was the lack of structure. (Which can be very beneficial sometimes, but that discussion’s a whole other post.) The crunch would make it an ideal storytelling game to introduce more traditional, wargame-y tabletop RPG players (e.g. Dungeons and Dragons, GURPS, Pathfinder) to the genre, with the crunch giving a touchstone to build off of. The game can even be run with minis, if you dig it, a rare feat for a storytelling-oriented game.
Corvus and I also talked about game development. I told Corvus a bit about Nautilus and we also talked about various styles of printing, how long Bhaloidam was in development (and the stages it went through), kickstarter, etc. Bhaloidam seems like a great game and Corvus looks to be a smart and talented game designer who I’ll be following in the future.
11:30 AM — Ducked off to an early lunch at Cyberdog, which is right next door to the convention center. Vegan hot dogs ftw. I also had an interesting conversation with a fellow who was attending the natural foods convention in the other part of the convention center, and open/young versus older/insular conventions.
After that it was killing time until the first panel I attended at 1:30. While I didn’t take advantage of the Introvert’s Alley (a quiet space downstairs for introverts to unwind), I was able to find a quiet corner in the hotel, take a few phone calls (it was my birthday and family was calling), and read for a while as I waited. Big conventions rarely have spaces like that, so being able to find one that even had seating and a power plug was a real treat, and a credit to the matching of the con’s size to that conference center.
1:30 PM — First panel: Ask the Astronomers! This panel was headed by Aomawa Shields, Jillian Scudder, Lisa Will, and Nicole Gugliucci. They took questions from the audience about anything and everything space related, and all worked together to explain things clearly. They were all really nice, too, and were never condescending or snide about any of the questions. All class acts, and amazing people. By the end of the panel, I was toying (again) with the idea of going off and studying astronomy somewhere. Space is awesome! They also encouraged everyone to feel free to e-mail them (or their local university’s astronomers) with any questions they might have about space, since most astronomers are happy to answer questions and educate people, which I thought was a nice touch. As an added bonus for Seattlites, Ms. Shields is local! (She studies at the University of Washington.) Given that she’s an astrobiologist in addition to a straight-up astronomer, she may well hear from me soon with some questions for Nautilus world-building…(insert mild evil laugh here!)
3:00 PM — The activity that was not to be, Design a Tabletop RPG in One Hour. The moderator/leader just never showed up! A disappointment, but these things happen at busy conventions.
4:00 PM — Panel: Making Your Website a Hate Free Zone. Okay, so the moderator didn’t show up for this one either. But one intrepid volunteer took it upon himself to suggest that, since there were a good number of us there (20-30, I’d guess), that we might want to have a discussion among the group. He then stayed and asked additional questions the entire time, and the entire group was respectful and I think everyone learned a lot. A neat example of an emergent activity in the middle of a big convention, and the discussion was full of respectful questions, well-considered answers, and acceptance of all points of view. Great job, everyone!
6:00 PM — Panel: Crowdfunding Without Losing Your Mind. On this panel were: Julia Haehn, Lillian Cohen-Moore, Nicole Lindroos, and Shanna Germain. It was interesting hearing about the variety of experiences, from small projects like Ms. Cohen-Moore’s book Guide to the Village by the Sea to the big Cheapass Games and Freeport kickstarters that Julie Haehn and Nicole Lindroos, respectively, were a part of. Lillian also moderated the panel, and did a fantastic job of time management and asking great questions that led the discussion along in an organic and easy-to-follow way. I may have also spent a decent part of the start of the panel geeking out over the fact that Lillian Cohen-Moore was on the panel, as she’s one of my twitter heroes and I hadn’t realized she was going to be on the panel. It was so exciting! (Seriously, go follow her for all the spooky wizard newsie goodness. You won’t regret it!)
And that was the end of the first day of the con for me. I hustled to the bus and got home pretty shortly thereafter, as while there were interesting things going on later in the evening, it was also my birthday and I had dinner plans with a few fine folks.
Overall impression of the con, day 1: While I had a bit of a slow start (that was mostly my fault; read your schedules ahead of time, everyone!) the con was full of interesting panels and any awkwardness I’d been feeling about being a dude at a very woman-oriented convention had melted away by mid-afternoon. The con felt a little small, but I quickly figure out it’s currently designed to be a very panel-oriented con, and the more panels you fit in the more of a blast you’ll have. I had a good time on the first day, and the next day was even better.
But for coverage of that, you’ll have to wait for Part 2. Also in Part 2: odds and ends from Day 1 that didn’t quite fit anywhere in here. Exciting! Coming soon! Exclamations!