It’s Sunday morning here in Philly. Quiet, a little rainy; the early folks are on the move. It is an easy morning here in the Starbucks of my hotel. This is the magical space of game conventions for me, the last morning of the event. I’m not a “goodbye” person, more of a “see ya later” gator. I’ll slip away to the airport this afternoon headed home.
This was a feel-good reunion con, my last convention was Strategicon 2020. In-person gaming is still the undisputed champion. I didn’t know how the COVID pandemic would impact gaming conventions, how we as people re-connecting would be changed. Omicron arrived and I wondered should I even be going to a convention. PAX used an app by Clear for vaccine and ticket checks —I was cranky about that, it’s a nosy assed app! Getting into the venue was super fast though. There were masks as far as the eye can see! Some on correctly, others not so much, some double-masked, a few exotic masks - lots of themed colorful masks. Sanitizer and more extra masks positioned in bathrooms, and other various easy spots throughout the convention hall. So yeah, con life has changed and we’re managing.
I usually run games and panels at cons but I leaned into the unpluggedness of PAX and I left my GM and speaker hats at home. I left my schedule open. I got into a few demos of new games. I attended Burning Wheel’s 20th-anniversary shindig. I visited with friends I haven’t seen in a couple of years and talked with vendors of games I’m enjoying right now. I have missed all those faces, old and new. It was a good feeling to see print products on display and chat about them with gamers I don’t know. And hugs…yep, I know… but some folks you hug. Damn the 6 feet rules. It’s been rough for all of us, and more so for others. Hugs and tears. I’ve missed these faces, the banter, the games, and meeting new gamers.
Hell, even the non-gamer folks were eager to chat. Other out-of-towners in the hotel bar, restaurant staff, and randos on the elevator. There was some weirdness at first. We’re checking ourselves about how to proceed —am I too close? Am I loud, and clear enough through the mask? Lots of second-guessing and awkward space positioning. We’re managing.