So, why is this taking me so long to write out? Where did my November go? Why don't I have a new game up? While I hinted at it in my previous entry, let me go into a little more explanation into what METATOPIA did to my brain before we talk about the games.
METATOPIA broke my brain.
What I learned at METATOPIA is that some people don't really need METATOPIA. They have the capacity on a reliable basis to make games and get them played. Whether they have local gaming groups, good friends who are local and interested in such things, or simply more conventions they can attend as a designer, their games can get out there. When they show up to METATOPIA they bring whatever game needs the "big hammer" that is METATOPIA to hammer out all the last little pieces. I got a lot of advice to only bring one game to run, rather than multiple. Whatever game "needed the most work". The problem I found in preparing was that all of my games needed the most work. None of them had really ever seen actual play, and while they worked in my brain I wanted to run them all at METATOPIA because frankly, I didn't know when I would be able to run them otherwise. I don't have the same ability to playtest, and almost none of my games see playtest regularly.
But, I was no stranger to playtesting. I played Ten Candles dozens of times before it was finalized making little tweaks here and there. Plus, my games were basically done. Psh, I'm an ennie-nominated game designer, I know how games work, right? All three of the games I brought to METATOPIA worked in my brain and were complete and playable games. I wanted to just play them through a couple times, verify that they worked as designed, and then boom - three complete games.
Ha. Ha. Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.
What I found was that every game I brought to the table, despite being "complete" was really no more than an idea. Fun and pretty and "complete" ideas sure, but not complete games. Every single playtest brought vast amounts of feedback and suggestions from my playtesters, and every ounce of feedback opened my eyes to things I'd never even considered before.
While I'll get into the specifics of feedback for each game when I discuss them, the impact here is what I'm really trying to get across. To bring something to the table that you think is complete, only to find that you're really still at an alpha stage with a project is an experience that shakes you. It takes a lot of the confidence you have and sort of jumbles it up. It breaks you brain, and emotionally I found myself very vulnerable in a way that I wasn't expecting. I could see how these sorts of experiences could really burn you out, and I learned a LOT about how I'm going to approach METATOPIA in the future to minimize the potential negative fallout, but at the end of the day none of this was bad. It was a vastly important experience for me to have, and opened my eyes to a lot of stuff.
METATOPIA does a really interesting thing in that it is inherently a very vulnerable place. The crew behind the convention do an amazing idea at making METATOPIA a safe space, and I think they do so because they realize that in order for designers to be ready and willingto put themselves in a vulnerable mindset, they need to know there's a community here that supports them. Because when designers bring their ideas, ideas that they're passionate about, in front of others and do it with the express intent of asking "so, what did you think?" that is a hard and vulnerable thing to ask. However, that vulnerability is important, because only when putting yourself on that pedestal can you really be open to transformation, and to really taking the advice that's offered, processing it, and acting upon it.
I left METATOPIA feeling transformed - not just with my games but as a designer and as a person. I was happier with each of my games than I'd ever been, and I was confident. Not just confident that I'd made good games, but confident that with the feedback I'd received that we could make some really awesome stuff.
While I recognize that everyone has different convention experiences, and that despite the effort that was put in by the organizers to create a safe and welcoming community that I undoubtedly still benefited from my personal privileges (being able to afford a hotel room to myself for example) which likely shaped my experience in uniquely positive ways, I think that the experience of METATOPIA is one that every designer should at least consider if not prioritize among their convention attendances. I think it holds the potential for a lot of positive encounters, networking, and if you're lucky with your players some really transformative gaming sessions.
Okay, let's talk about games.