I was able to attend Strategicon's Gamex 2020 this May 22-25 Weekend! The group opted to go for an online event, which meant the bigger possibility to attend regardless of one's geographic location. The hours were quite certainly a challenge, however, given the time different between the Philippines and California. But I truly missed being able to go. Despite having only gone to two Strategicon events in the past (with one of them being a guest), both instances have been quite memorable in all the good ways. And both were events where I had the good fortune to make awesome connections and meet with wonderful friends.
This year, thankfully, would be just as awesome.
The first few days had me extremely passive. Anxiety and fear welled up from old trauma, keeping me from opening up and connecting with others. I couldn't even find the courage to log onto Discord to participate in the event despite some friends telling me I was welcome. I pushed harder, later on, logged in and while I entertained participation in some game demos, I ended up chickening out and begging of. It was a bit sad, the way I was just... not being myself. Eventually, I found myself listening to a talk on game design and staying camera off despite practically everyone else in the room openly sharing ideas and discussing their thoughts. It was an amazing talk at that, with the discussion talking about the design process, the importance of sensitivity readers, the realization that in the end, when you write what you write and know you are coming from a good place, there will always be the possibility of others asking if you did the due diligence to check your material for cultural concerns. What struck me was the admission that everything we are doing now will probably be seen as "insufficient" years down the line. So its important to at least be sure to make your intentions clear as well in the text.
Deep down, I was scared. I felt like the moment I tried to participate, people might question why I was even there. I saw discussions on running games came up and I wanted to offer a session or two. I was tempted to volunteer. But still the fears shut me up.
I opted to join instead a game. My dear friend Tomer, who I feel is one of the most generous and passionate people when it comes to gaming in Glendale, was running a game called, Dreams of the Aquarium. It was a game still being developed, and I sincerely felt in my heart that if I didn't find the courage to join any game, I probably never would ever again. I joined the game and prayed I did not make a mistake.
Thank the geek gods it was not.
After introducing myself, I immediately felt welcomed. I should give a small spotlight on Gerrit, an online friend who previously featured my photo in a comprehensive article on Live Action Online Games expressed joy in finally having a chance to game with me. His outburst of joy truly shook me out of my funk and brought tears to my eyes. I realized I had to stop being afraid. I had to simply reach out to the community and say hello. After some brief technical issues, we soon were working on the set up for the game. It was a GMless game, and each of us played a sea creature. Tomer was an excitable new fish named Tommyasha, Steven a grumpy goldfish named Kingyo, J an atypical loner hermit crab named Masaya, Gerrit a somber hard-working cleaner fish, and I played the friendly seahorse who was pregnant with his babies, Larry. We mapped out the game's setting. mood, and feel, which included what expectations we had in the game, what safety tools we were using, and had the location as a outdoor pond which had an indoor aquarium area facing the basement of a mystery house. There was the annoying owner and the truly frustrating intern who just didn't seem to be interested in doing his job.
While this might sound like the game has player elimination, that was not the case. Players whose fish were eliminated still contributed to the story, as they now had the option to introduce events and twists using the humans, and the environment surrounding the game. By the end of the game, Masaya was our final survivor and the tough little hermit crab found itself forming an amazing bond with the intern who had then falling in love with the aquarium and used social media to rally the people to support it more.
The game was beautiful.
It helped me celebrate how much I love my father, who passed away last April, as I embodied (briefly) a man willing to do anything to give his children a chance in the future. And from the short sharing after with the group, I also learned more about the significance of the game and the roots of its creation. I felt truly happy to have played with friends and I realized in my heart that I truly should continue to reach out. To make connections with the community. And celebrate the joy we share when we play together.
Thank you so much, Strategicon for Gamex 2020.
I do hope you consider having more online events for people like me who live so far away from California to have a chance to join the wonderful event. Thank you so very much!