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A Tale of Two Cons: Gamefest 2019

Fact: Some conventions host mini conventions to self promote months before the main event.

Fact: Very few conventions actually host mini conventions within themselves.

As a native to the Texas convention scene, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing the rise and fall of “mini” conventions.

That’s a miniature, often one day, convention promoting a larger convention that happens later in the year.

San Japan’s MiniMini Con is the largest free one day convention in the San Antonio area. Hosted in the Wonderland of the Americas Mall.

In one day, attendees can see a performance by local idol groups, shop all the handmade vendors, participate in the cosplay contest and sit in on panels.

Then we have …or had? Project A-kon’s Mini A-kon and Micro A-kon. These were also a one day, free con hosted within various local libraries for a few years.

Similar to mini cons, the programming of larger conventions is broken down into what is called “tracks”.

Tracks are often used to share with attendees a specific niche experience. You can find these labeled as such in programming guide apps that tag events as “Sci-Fi Track” or “Comics Track” or “Anime Track” etc.

However, a mini Convention within an established Convention might become a new trend.

I volunteered for the first year convention doing just that within the same space as AnimeFest. GameFest in Dallas, Texas.

Gamefest Dallas is a convention dedicated to the industry of Tabletop Gaming and caters to fans of the industry.

Another interesting tidbit about this con was the badging process.

If you purchased a pass for Animefest, you also had free access to Gamefest and vice versa. Which is great if you wanted to test the waters of this first year con while still venturing throughout Animefest events.

Occupying only two floors of the Sheraton Dallas Hotel, (37th and 38th floors) Attendees had access to game rooms for Tabletop and Digital gaming discussions.

The 38th floor housed open gaming and rentable games library of varying play styles in exchange for leaving your badge while playing.

Just don’t forget it when returning the game!

The 37th floor had dedicated rooms for Tabletop RPGs hosted by local organizations for Pathfinder, Star Finder, and Adventure League DnD.

There was a room for Paint-n-Takes, a room for panels, a room for Wargaming, a room for Battletech gaming, another room for Open Gaming and a room for Live Action Roleplay (LARP) opened. Where you could find games for Werewolf and Vampire: The Masquerade enthusiasts.

There were plenty of tables for attendees to bring their own games to play all weekend.

I was volunteering under Programming and was assigned to the panel room(GP).

As a badge checker to the only panel room, I had a front row seat to listen into discussions of Game Designers, Podcasters, and other game related topics.

Foxtrot Games Co-founder and lead developer, Randy Hoyt discussed their company’s beginnings and present line of games.

They are known for their most popular game, Lanterns: The Harvest Festival. Which was now available in card game form. As seen on Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop via Geeky and Sundry.

We were treated to a preview announcement of their latest game, The Search for Planet X. A game where Players are astronauts competing to discover this mystery planet first.

The Kickstarter launches for The Search for Planet X this October.

Attendees asked Randy what Foxtrot Games’ advice for how best to prepare for a Kickstarter (Pros and Cons) and what sort of vetting process was used when choosing to take on new games.

As true to their company mantra, “Foxtrot Games is committed to providing engaging, interpersonal experiences through beautiful, approachable tabletop games.”

I especially enjoyed the process for breaking down visual novel games by Pixels and Pins.

If you’re unfamiliar with what a Visual Novel game is. It is an interactive game genre, which originated in Japan, that features text-based stories with pictures and sound.

Think of it as a choose your own adventure book with multiple endings. A narrative game that’s a mixed media book.

Most commonly played on mobile or handheld games. Popular VNs currently out now are The Arcana, Love Nikki, Backstage and Doki Doki Literature Club to name a few.

Ashe Thurman, a one woman company who also had a hand in developing a Visual Novel Story Engine called Ren’Py.

During her panel, she broke down the stages of creating a Visual Novel.

How to graph the rising action, climax, and falling action of storytelling. As well as explaining the branching narrative planning stages for player choices when designing a story.

Including how and when to source artwork (Sprites) for the game and the importance of finding voices for a project. Or leaving out voices and source an independent composer for a project.

Lead Programmer of Ren’Py, Tom (twitter: @RenpyTom) explained his reasoning for creating a program engine for Visual Novel developers as a tool to streamline GUI (graphical user interface) coding in games. The success of the engine being implemented in over 200 games (and counting) since its release was impressive.

There was even an announcement for a new addition to the Ren’Py program that could revolutionize the Visual Novel market. Check out their Lemma Soft Forums to find out.

I learned so much about the process of creating a game from concept to marketing to gaining traction with an audience.

I even sat in on a couple panels discussing how Podcasting for DnD (Dungeons and Dragons) has changed with the rise in Streaming programs for the game.

Now, as far as first year conventions go, Gamefest was a successful run of a mini convention.

It maintained space for events, held a panel with industry guests and fan made panels of the industry, and offered samplings of some broader activities.

Here’s what I hope for Gamefest to add in going forward.

A dedicated demo space for upcoming developers to showcase new work to the public. Rather than having a booth in the AnimeFest Dealers Hall.

Invite more local Streaming Celebrities to host events and cover additional panel rooms producing fan run topics.

There was some streaming of the panels done on Twitch, but not all events were captured for Gamefest.

Maybe have a ticketed BYOC ( Bring Your Own Computer) area.

And finally, a dash of late night programming for those dedicated to the long hour campaigns.

Did you attend Gamefest in Dallas? What did you think of their first year?

Leave it in the comments below.

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Navigating RTX, Austin

It is becoming an increasingly rare habit that I travel with a group these days.

Let me tell ya, solo travel is great and all. But, sometimes you want to share a special moment with at least one other person. Rooster Teeth Expo would be the first con that I introduce my partner to conventions and boy, did I pick the best con to do so.

First timers to a con are so precious.

Navigating RTX, Austin
Attending RTX for the first time and bringing a first time con goer was exciting!

Their excited because everyone around them is excited about the same thing. Right before the first line of the day drains them of said enthusiasm.

On a whim, I decide to try a new con this year. The Stars and planets aligning, mi amor happened to have some left over vacation time. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure if introducing him to the world of cons through RTX would be a good idea. I’d fallen off the Rooster Teeth scene since the early days of Red v. Blue. Circa season 5, if you will. Besides the occasional binge watch of Always Open and FunHaus episodes. (Yes, I am that kind of fan.) I was in the dark, but still revving to go.

To ease him into what Rooster Teeth was about, I started watching some their latest shows out there. Camp Camp, Off Topic, and RWBY. And that’s when I fell in love with Gen:Lock.

Cosplayers Left to Right: Iambokun ( Julian), Galaxy Queen Photography (Cammie)

The futuristic, mecha infused battles for the human race was enough to suck me in for a whole week of binge. A few times, I found myself rewatching episodes because I really needed to understand what was up with Julian and his new family. My boyfriend was relieved the cartoons were in english therefore no subtitles. (He’s gone numb from my Anime marathoning in the background while I work from home.)

Badges were bought, hotel booked a few blocks away but still close enough to hit up all of Austin’s downtown hotspots. Downloading the app was interesting, but essential to keep track of line status, the exhibit hall times, and events we wanted to attend simply because it sounded cool.

Picking 25 events to go to , but only going to 5 was still a win.

Everything is fine: Running a Community Panel.

We were together all weekend, wandering up and down the convention halls for panels while nursing our coffees was grand. I made it a priority to have him pick where we would go next. For every panel I wanted, I had him pick two more. That way, depending on the time of day or what building we still happened to be in, there was no shortage of things to go to. In the end, it was less stress and more time to spend with each other.

Yes, I’m sappy sometimes.

As a veteran con crawler, I had learned that while it would be great to do all the things. You just can’t; Taking care of yourself and visiting with those were able to go for the weekend is the highlight of any trip.

The five panels we did manage to attend were to learn more about the RTX community. The “Everything is Fine: Running a Community” talked in depth about aspects of running a community. How to get involved as a fan, how to set up events and catch up on the latest news. Like a brand new forum rolling out some time this year.

It was interesting to hear what the staff wish people knew. That every question is read and it does matter how you present yourself as a member of community. Being kind to one another and following through on requests for changes.

We also attended the “Cosplayers vs. Photographers” panel which went over the unspoken rules of getting together for a photo shoot. I especially loved how the panel was a broad range of skill levels from both sides of the camera. As a former, seasonal portrait photographer, it was nice to see that setting expectations from the beginning was reasonable. I came away with a ton of notes and a found new discord to join for next years Cosplans.

But, my absolute must go to panels were the “The Dungeon Drunks” and “FunHaus” live shows.

DD picked up a one-shot campaign of the gang trying to collect marshmallows from a Confectioners. The single humanoid ant chef turned out to be three giant ants in a chief coat. I still loved you, Ant-thany.

Dungeon Drunks Live!, Our heroes discovering D’Antonie in the Marshmallow Mission.

FunHaus pulled all the stops with the usual celebrity introductions to raunchy bits. We were even treated to a sneak preview of their latest video. Unfortunately, I can’t tease anything from that panel. So….Definitely attend sometime if you can!

We had a day of venturing outside the con which gave us a break from the bustling crowd.

The view from our hotel window.

As a first timer to the Austin area, I had to show him a few favorite spots. Con weekends can get so crammed with activities. It’s nice to take a breather with choosing a place to dine while exploring a small part of the city.

Day 1 was a brunch excursion to Paper Boy, a mobile diner that was nestled just a 10 minute walk from our hotel. Of course, in the heat of the day it was a bit more challenging to walk and talk about our plans. The poached egg on sweet caramelized potatoes, listed as Texas hash, was still worth it.

Paper Boy, Texas Hash

Day 2 was a lunch date at a Mexican restaurant. Austin is well known for its taco joints, but for a full plate of home style dishes, you have to do some digging. Lovely dish by Fruta Feliz with a live Mariachi band.

Fruita Feliz, Lunch Special.

That same night, we ventured to Backspace for some brick oven pizza and a draft of house beer. The ambient lighting was just enough to make our eyes adjust from the outside.

On the final day, we made the “Sunday Deals” shopping worth it.

RTX Austin, Row 400.

Sundays are the best for shopping in the Exhibit hall. If the treasures you are after don’t have the words “Limited” or “Exclusive” attached.

Come to think of it, missing out on the Cosplay Photo shoots was replaced with browsing the wares of sellers and watching demos.

I had the chance to play a round of Swapette Showdown, a magical girl puzzler by some spunky indie developers.

Swapette Showdown, RTX Austin.

There was also, Shot One was top down battle demo that was fun to watch.

If you are skilled in the market haggling( Mot low balling, HAGGLE), sometimes the last item in a vendors possession can go for less. My other favorite thing to do is collect all the free giveaways, like the giant mouse pads and water bottle via AT&T Fiber booths.

We were very lucky to take advantage of the 50% off for the Rooster Teeth store. However, many of the popular items were already gone. Save for a few figures, tees from different shows, and very very few pins.

RTX Store, picked down to the bones during the last day; 50% off remaining and buy 1 get 1 half off!

Spending time together was still worth the weekend of RTX.

We went in with very little planning; Aside from where we would crash, eating out and sightseeing. The entire weekend was played by ear and lead by stomaches.

I was impressed by the community of RTX. Many polite and helpful souls amongst attendees. Not too large a crowd, but just enough to feel whisked away into a private nerdvana with the occasional eCelebrity in the crowd.

My love and I officially decided that we’ll be making RTX our anniversary con in the near future.

My better half and myself. Pre-Dungeon Drunks Panel at RTX, 2019.

Where to Find Cheap Eats at Dragon Con

Where to find cheap eats at Dragon Con in less than 10 minutes walk from a hotel.

For a con that draws well over 85,000 attendees both domestic and international, finding a good place to eat can be a challenge.

So, I set out this year with a focus in finding recommendations from locals, veteran attendees and happenstance while wandering between panels.

Here’s a tiny, but mighty list of go-to eateries to try during the next Dragon Con.

Gibney’s Pub

Finding Gibney’s Pub just a two-minute walk from Atlanta Marriot Marquis was a happy accident. My original intentions were to find another Burger Joint but this was a pleasant switch.

A cozy, Irish pub with windows facing the parking garage across the street served up some wallet-friendly dishes. The most expensive dish for the weekend happened to be $20.

I had the shepherd’s pie ($9.95)and a glass of Powerade ($1.45) to wash it down. Added a house salad (lunch special, $4.75) to top it off. Remember to show your D*Con badge for a discount.

My partially devoured Sheppard’s Pie and Salad

The following day, I asked around for other go to places. As I’m also alternating my meals with vegan options, I figured asking some veterans would be great.

Panbury’s Pie Café

Panbury’s pie cafe had vegan-friendly options. However, do read the ingredients as some dishes may contain eggs or dairy. You can find them just a 1 minute walk from the Atlanta Marriot Marquis.

While I did not eat a full lunch here, I did stop in for a cup of coffee ($1.75) and a couple mini pies (per $2.57). The most expensive, one person meal of a pie, a drink and a side would run about $10-12.

Sweet Mini Pies image via Pansbury

Panbury’s specialty pies have won awards for the last few years and with good reason.

If I had to choose a ”must-try” pie, or would be the Spinach and Feta pie and the chicken and bacon pie.

Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken

Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken was another surprise stumble upon, just another step or so down Peachtree street.

Gus’s Sign image via Google Maps

Despite the name, I actually went out on a limb to try the fried catfish ( the Dinner $6.50) by the piece ($1-2)with a side of okra as suggested by a local.

The crunch of flaky flesh was satisfying for another lunch in. To bad, I didn’t take any pictures of that marvelous dish.

Anytime you find yourself in Atlanta, have a tasty of that soul food.

Publix Supermarket

Then there’s the famously known, but often overlooked grocery store with a mini food court, Publix.

Image via Google Maps

Publix Supermarket at the Plaza Midtown is the equivalent of any Kroger or go-to grocery store for a hot, and ready to carry home meal. Who says, you can’t still cook while on vacation? Also, the Hilton Atlanta offers kitchenette rooms.

This one is a bit further, as in a 9-minute Lyft ride to downtown, however…Still on W. Peachtree Street. You can also order groceries and have them delivered to the hotel, if you wish.

Having the option to make meals is perfect for dietary restrictions.

Amafli Pizza

For lunch time on the third day, Amafli Pizza. Just a minutes walk from the Westin or two blocks down from the Marriot Marquis.

Serving up a variety of pasta, pizzas, seafood and vegan-friendly dishes. The object of my hunger that day, the Calamari Fritti ($13.50).

Image via Almafi’s Pizza

I loved the house-made sauce and seasonings used for this dish.

Pitty Pat’s Porch

Now, we come to the end of the con foodie finds with another Southern Dish at Pitty Pat’s Porch.

Image via Google Maps

Round the corner from the Westin and there you can find the best, old-fashioned cocktails. While I didn’t have time to try an entree, I can say for $11 a large mason jar of mint julep can be yours.

Pitty Pat’s restaurant serves the classic comfort dishes with a slap of Atlanta flare. Just looking at the menu again, the prices may be pushing over $20. The trade off, harty meal, sweet treats and less time waiting to sit down in a two story, house styled restaurant.

Looking at the buffet options alone, it maybe worth a night out and away from the hustle of the con crowd.

And there you have it; Suggested eateries around the Dragon Con that are almost worth the walk.

May this mini-guide help you the next time you’re looking for a good sit down or a brief recharge before that next event.