Sunday, 20 July 2014

Icon 2014: I Confirm It Happened

I wrote two years ago about Icon 2012. I was much more involved in Icon 2013, as a player, module writer and wearer-of-Starfleet-uniform, plus I knew way more people who were there that year, but I never got around to writing about it. I'd love to write a lot about Icon 2014, but I was barely there. It was my shortest visit to any Icon since my first in 2000; I was only there 3 hours, when normally I manage an average of over 12 hours per year, and have managed close to 24 hours over 3 days at the longest. I also didn't do much while there. But such is wossname.
Traditional Icon overview photo

I haven't seen official numbers, but it looked like a great crowd, for several reasons. There was less of an obvious gender imbalance than in the past, though some of the specific events (notably the wargaming) were still obviously boy-heavy. I think part of the reason for this is that keeping a good vibe is one thing the organisers have managed to get right. A week or so back, I was peripherally drawn into a sexual harrassment case involving a past Icon, and it all worked out pretty well in the end, with a clear, uncompromising message from the organisers and a lot of general support from other participants. Only one twit was stupid enough to throw the defamation card at the victim. Next goal: Make it not so very, very white.

It also seemed like a really active Icon. Some past years have felt more like glorified geek markets, with little actively going on beyond the selling of shit at the stalls. But this year, there was masses of gaming and geeking, sprawling out much wider than usual, and with a greater variety of games to play, plus the non-games like cosplay and artsy stuff. I might be biased by my short visit, smack in the middle of the weekend's busiest hours, but there was definitely a lot to choose between. Even DeeTwenty, the excellent general-purpose geek venue I spend my free time at [EDIT: I no longer associate with DeeTwenty and can not endorse it in any way], which is not an active purveyor of geek products, had a little mini-lounge set up there, to show off the sort of comforts they offer. I've never experienced an Icon with comfortable seating before. It was amazing.

Boardgames seemed to get a huge boost this year, with way more games played by way more people in way more space. Wil Wheaton may have had something to do with this, but I think it's been a slowly bubbling growth for a few years already, and my crowd have often borrowed the demo boxes to try out new things in past Icons.
Nearly as many different games there as some private collections I know.

The only disappointment I had was the roleplaying. I didn't play in any of the modules on offer, so I can't comment on the quality of those, though I regret missing Guy Scandlers's Friday module, Henchmen, a superhero story from the villain's mooks' point of view. That looked like a lot of fun, and Guy's stuff is always great. What I mean by being disappointed was that roleplaying seemed to get such little support outside of its designated play area. Outer Limits had only one small ground level shelf, right at the back of their area, of 3 or 4 different systems' books that I know they've been struggling to sell for a year or so. They gave geek-themed kitchenware more prominent position than this. And in all the other stalls, I think I found one roleplaying book accidentally tucked among some graphic novels. I know it's awkward timing, with no chance to get the shiny new D&D Next books in on time, but that's far from the only game in town. It's like nobody wants to encourage or support that glorious hobby, which is obviously the objective most important one there, because it's my personal favoured one. It's a trend I've noticed getting worse over a few years now. (I will also point out again a technical worry I have with the competitive roleplaying there.)

But all the other games and hobbies seemed to be doing really well. The admin, which I've mocked in the past, seems to have improved too. So all seems good. I really hope I'm feeling better for an equally good one next year.
15 mugs on my shelf now.

Oh, and for loot, I got myself, on impulse, the boardgame Flash Point, which I'd never heard of before. It's a similar structure to the excellent Pandemic, with a cooperative whackamole troubleshooting style and different difficulty levels. But you get to play as firefighters, who are one of my favourite categories of people! (The first thing-I-was-going-to-be, aged 3, was a firefighter, and that's never fully left me.) I have not tried it yet, but I'm very eager to.