Sunday, August 19, 2012

Gen Con 2012 Wrap-Up

It's Sunday morning, the last day of Gen Con 2012. I've been in Indianapolis since Tuesday, and I'll walk back over to the Convention Center in a few minutes for a little more gamer goodness, but the rest of today is traveling, and school starts on Tuesday, so I want to be sure to share some thoughts and fun right away.

Wednesday was Gen Con Trade Day. This was the first time I was able to attend, and I was also a presenter. It was fascinating in its variety. There were usually at least two teacher/librarian workshops and a retailer presentation running at any one time, and it was often difficult to choose. I started off with Brian Mayer's "Making Games Work in the Classroom." He advises and instructs librarians and teachers in the Buffalo, New York, area, and he explored his game library, how he selects a good educational game, and shared several fun games, which we were able to play! He is an exemplary presenter, and if you get a chance to attend one of his presentations, do, for it's quite rewarding.

Before lunch I made it to a presentation by teachers and students of Todd Academy, where they discussed and demonstrated games and role plays they use in their curriculum to explore language arts, social studies, and mathematics. The teachers and students were in attendance for the rest of the day, and I saw at least one of the kids in the Dealers Hall during the main convention. They were wonderfully engaged, sometimes in spite of a few presenters' patronizing comments. I wish I could bring a load of my own students to Gen Con and Trade Day!

The afternoon was full as well. I made it to the first hour of David Niecikowski's workshop, "Game Literacy Through Game Play and Game Design." David has provided hundreds of helpful game reviews over the years, and he continues to do fascinating theoretical and applied work in games and education. He discussed the many aspects of Gamer Literacy and what individuals bring to game experiences and then had us delve into this complex issue by designing our own genre card games along the lines of Once Upon a Time. My group chose to emulate The Lord of the Rings, and I was pained to miss the reveal of the final creations.

I had to hurry away at the last possible minute to lead my own session, "Bringing Games to Life," in which I discussed the practical questions and frameworks for creating meaningful, educational role playing games and offered some practical tools for doing so. As much as I would have liked to have included some actual game play, I only had an hour, so I elected to respect the participants' experience as teachers, librarians, and gamers and delved as far as time allowed into the complexities of game planning and implementation. Maybe I will have another chance to present someday, and I can include more game play in a longer workshop. I have posted the power point presentation and some of the templates on the Gen Con - Games ad Education Facebook page. The organizers of Trade Day asked all of the presenters to send in their digital presentation components, and when I know where they have posted those treasures, I will be sure to share that here.

The rest of the afternoon involved more jumping between presentations. I attended two talks by Al Waller of Out of the Box Publishing. Though each had a bit of the infomercial quality, they were full of great ideas. The first was "Selling to Moms," part of the retailer track. Most of his ideas applied best to stores seeking to connect with an important spending demographic, but since part of running games or any activity with young people includes explaining yourself to parents, I heard plenty of good take-aways, including offering chances to play and having a lending library. Al later discussed OTB's game day package during "Affordable Ways to Get Games into Your School or Library." He discussed the various ways such events can be implemented and the benefits they can bring. I've decided to plan my own back at Paideia!

My last workshop of the day was Joe Bisz's "What's Your Game Plan?" during which he explored how to make any topic or activity into a game. He even has a game to help you build games. You can find out lots more at The Game Crafter, which has resources galore!

Game demos came after dinner and went well into the evening, but as I live on a teacher's sleep schedule, it was soon off to bed for me to be rested for the opening of the first main day of the regular convention Thursday.

I spent most of my days trying more games, conversing with writers and publishers in the Dealers Hall, and attending a host of great seminars. I'm much less interested than I used to be in playing con games, though it would be fun to do this a couple of times at any con, and I no longer feel compelled to keep up with the latest release announcements and the-new-game hoopla. Time tests all things. Mostly I attended conversations among guests of honor, who were a more interesting lot than I've usually encountered at this sort of event. There were also some great conversations about societal issues - like gender, race, sexual orientation - and gaming. I will share more about what I heard and learned in a future blog post.

As you can see, I found lots of riches at this year's convention! Have fun!

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