Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Metatopia 2012 - Overview

It's election night, but early enough that almost all the projections are nonsense, so rather than chew my nails and start at red and blue maps, this seems like I should take the time to write about Metatopia.
Now, I wrote about it last year and you can read that to find out more about the origins of it, but the short version is this - it's a convention for game designers and people looking to design games. It's full of panels, focus groups and playtests, and last year it was completely fantastic, so the question was how the sophomore attempt would go.
The answer is "amazingly". Even with Hurricane-induced complications (which, regrettably, reduced the number of attendees and forced the cancellation of some events) things hung together perfectly, largely as a result of the fantastic Staff making things go. I have greatly curtailed my con-going since the arrival of my son, but my (long suffering) wife completely gets that Metatopia is THAT important, and it gets prioritized.
Explaining why it's amazing is difficult. Sure, there are amazing people, but that's true of many conventions, so it's not that in and of itself. Rather, it's the focus. This is not a gaming convention so much as a convention about games - it's a place for people who are excited by the prospect of if the prospect of discussing differing points of game design theory or which games influenced which games or just hearing Ken Hite tell you why you're wrong.[1]
Even more importantly, I do not know of anywhere else to get this kind of experience. You can get slices of it at bigger cons, or focused pieces of it elsewhere but having it all in one place is simply incomparable. The term 'Critical mass' seems almost a little too on the nose, but I can't think of a better term for it.
But what's crazier still is that we've barely scratched the surface on this. The origins of it are very much Indie (it ultimately was born out of events like the Double Exposure[2] Indie Roundtable) but it's already overflowed those banks. There was plenty of "mainstream" representation there, and there's a strong desire that there be more in the future, but that's still only part of it. Double Exposure has a huge LARP tradition, and that was represented as well. What's more, there was representation for boardgames (including no less than James Ernest) and game retailers. The only gaming segment notably missing was electronic, and I expect that to change too.
This is the ground floor of something fantastic. it's still growing, and I hope that if you're even a little curious, please consider checking it out next year.
Next post will be a breakdown of things that actually happened this year.
1 - That one may just be me
2 - Double Exposure is the umbrella organization that runs Metatopia as well as the Dexcon and Dreamation conventions among others.


  1. So it's basically a writer's workshop for game makers. That's a fantastic notion, and I'm glad it went well!

  2. Critical Mass is absolutely the correct description of Metatopia. The braintrust in those rooms was phenominal, and it's evident when listening to the recordings (say, GM'less play) that the discussions were at a high level of sophistication.

    Whereas I have found many GenCon panels are by necessity, collage or undergraduate level in complexity, I found Metatopia panels were closer to Masters or Doctorate level. Perhaps less useful for the budding designer, but absolutely priceless to those of us with a enough of a foundation to participate. Pity there wasn't enough time.


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