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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.