Category: Conventions

Quiet in the Convention Center!

The following editorial was originally published in Knights of the Dinner Table #268 and is posted here with permission.

Derek W. White’s article from KODT 268, “Quiet in the Convention Center”

I’ve been going to gaming conventions for over twenty years and, as an extrovert, one of the things I have enjoyed about them is seeing all the people and hearing the joyful sounds and laughter as people play games.

I love seeing crowds of people excited about gaming, the numerous people wearing costumes, and the chaos one can find in a dealer hall. For me, this is my “meat and drink” when I attend a convention.

But that’s not true for everyone.

Over the last few years, I have become more and more aware of the need for conventions to find ways to meet the needs of differently abled gamers.

As our hobby continues to grow, we are finding more and more people with autism and similar disabilities who need special spaces to calm down and relax. As someone who counts a number of the “old guard” who worked for TSR and other various other gaming companies as close personal friends, they have mentioned to me how difficult it is for them to get around at many of the larger conventions because they are not very handicap accessible.

The noise level at conventions also makes it difficult for them and finding a quiet place to sit is not always easy.

I have become even more keenly aware of how differently others react to all the sights and sounds at a convention because it has impacted me on a personal level—my son was diagnosed with autism about five years ago.

For those not familiar with autism, it is a condition where people are characterized by having difficulty in social interactions and communication.

They also may find themselves restricted by repetitive patterns of thought and behavior. Since those with autism are on a spectrum, the ability to function around others varies from person to person with some individuals being able to function very well while others find themselves only able to interact with one or two people at a time. Many find themselves at various places between those extremes.

Those with autism experience a hyper-sensitivity to bright lights, certain sounds, smells, and tastes. Even certain types of touch can feel extremely uncomfortable. You can see how in a convention setting, this can become very unsettling and overwhelming as it is unpredictable as to when an autistic person might have a negative reaction.

As a father who has raised one gamer and is now raising another one, I wanted to find a way to incorporate my son into the gaming experience at conventions as I had done with his older sister.

I wasn’t sure how to do this. His sister is not on the spectrum and enjoyed all the sights and sounds when she was younger, but my experiences with my son at various conventions has been as different and varied as the conventions themselves.

Larger conventions would be out of the question as they are more difficult for him to maneuver due to all the sights, sounds, and crowds. It seemed my wife and I would be relegated to only taking him to smaller, local conventions.

Then, miracle of miracles, I found myself with a few weeks off this past summer and had the opportunity to speak at one of the larger gaming conventions in the United States. I wanted to take my family with me so that we might have a bit of a family vacation but wondered how my son would react to all the noise.

He had attended this convention with my wife and his older sister a few years prior and I remembered some of the difficulties we faced. We couldn’t predict when the sights and sounds of the convention would overwhelm him but when they did, we knew it immediately. When this occurs, he becomes harder to manage and settle down.

For most people, when they view him in this state, they usually make comments such as, “Oh, wow, this one’s hyperactive” or, if they are really bold they will say, “What an out of control child!” because he begins to run around and finds it hard to focus on the directions we are giving him.

As a family, we had to learn that an autistic child who has become overstimulated is receiving so much input they can no longer focus on one thing.

All of these stimuli have “overloaded his circuits” so to speak and he cannot take any new input. He is just unable to process it.

When we had attended previously, our answer to this problem was to take him back to the hotel room we had been able to secure close to the convention center.

I knew that wouldn’t be a possibility this year because the expense of the hotels close by had risen out of our price range, so we were having to stay a few miles away.

I began looking at the convention’s website and saw they were advertising a “New Sensory Friendly Gaming Room” and I thought to myself, “This is excellent! A place to take him when things get overwhelming.”

I didn’t read the “small print” on the website so I did not realize the organization which was hosting the Sensory Friendly Room had it blocked off after noon on Friday as well as for the remainder of the weekend. The group sponsoring the room were using it for their own “special event.”

So, on Friday afternoon, I found myself with a ten-year-old boy who was overwhelmed with all the noise of the convention center.

His mother had been dealing with his bouncing back and forth from one thing to another for quite some time so I thought I would give her a break and take him to the Sensory Friendly room.

When we arrived, we were told it had been reserved for those who had signed up for it, that we wouldn’t be able to use it. No one had mentioned this to us the previous day so I was very surprised.

My son had already walked into the room and had begun to play one of the games so I found myself having to go in after him and try to explain that we would have to leave. He didn’t understand what was going and was now in tears.

All he could say to me was, “This isn’t fair.” After a little conversation, I was able to take him out of the room and after some searching, we found a place to sit down.

At this point, I knew our day was pretty much at an end even though it was barely noon.

I posted about this on social media because I was upset, my wife was upset, our son was upset, and I was hoping for some answers. I wanted the convention to know what we were experiencing and find out if others had something similar occur to them.

The convention pointed me to the place on the website where it showed the room was reserved by the hosting organization during the most active hours of the convention.

If you’re going to advertise a sensory friendly space, then it should be open to all those who might need it as those with sensory overload do not know when they will be requiring it.

I’m sure many of you may have, at times, experienced some type of sensory overload at a convention.

Now—imagine you can’t filter out all of that extra stimuli. This was what my son faces on an almost daily basis. You may have also seen people in wheelchairs jostled and pushed about as they travel the halls and corridors of a convention.

I know of vendors with accessibility needs who are limited to a short time at loading and unloading zones and have been ordered to move along because they’ve taken too long. Accessibility at gaming conventions is difficult!

As the chaplain at Gary Con, people often ask me where they might be able to find quieter spaces because things can get pretty loud in the designated gaming areas.

It’s not always easy to find those spots but we’re fortunate to have plenty of people who have opened their on-site rooms to people who need a place to chill out from all the noise.

We also have a GM lounge for those who run games and it provides a place for them to get away from all the excitement. It’s not a perfect solution but we are working to make it better each year.

In my day to day job, I am a full-time United Methodist pastor and have served a variety of churches. One of the first things we are asked to do when we arrive at a new site is conduct an accessibility audit.

To be honest, many of our churches are over a hundred years old and not as accessible as we would like. It’s very difficult to get them to a place where they would be compliant, but we are trying. Since these are religious institutions, they are not required by law to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but we do our best to make sure we follow the law as closely as possible to make all people feel welcome.

Some of our churches are even working on providing special worship services where people on the autism spectrum who have sensory issues will feel more at ease.

We have seen this need and it’s my hope more conventions see it as well. If more gaming conventions would provide spaces for those with sensory issues—as well as better physical access to its attendees—it would open their doors to people who could not previously attend.

With the CDC reporting that 1 in 59 children have some form of autism and the Pew Research Center reporting 12.6% of the American population have some type of physical disability more and more families are trying to find accessibility options.

Conventions could increase their attendance by finding more creative ways to meet their needs. While it would be nice to see conventions do this out of a desire to meet the needs of a very diverse community, finding new ways to open their doors to people with accessibility needs might increase their bottom line.

There are organizations such as Game to Grow which use tabletop games in weekly “therapeutic social skills groups [to] help young people become more confident, creative, and socially capable.”

Game to Grow recently had a Kickstarter for a tabletop RPG called Critical Core “that helps kids on the autism spectrum build confidence and social skills, one dragon at a time.”

The Bodhana Group “advocates the use of tabletop gaming as a directed therapeutic and clinical practice that can benefit personal growth as well as enhance social and educational services to individuals and families.”

It’s not like autism and similar disabilities are unknown within our community. Shows like Community, The Big Bang Theory, and Stranger Things feature characters who, while they may not be identified as autistic, have some of those distinguishing traits.

Many of us have or know someone with social anxiety issues who has found solace in tabletop RPGs.

These are our brothers, sisters, children, parents, and friends. We should be making it easier for them to come and be a part of our mutual gaming experiences.

I want to end this on a positive note by pointing the reader to a major convention which has made great strides toward providing the spaces I have mentioned above.

The convention which provides a space “for anyone who feels overwhelmed and needs a place to regain their calm” is PAX. These spaces are run by Take This and they provide what they call an AFK room which is run by local volunteers and clinicians.

When I went to check it out, I was wondering which PAX conventions used it and was excited to see all of the PAX conventions use them to provide these spaces.

It also appears these AFK rooms are used at other conventions but, as of this writing, I could not find a list of those conventions on their website.

So, at this point, I hope you’re asking yourself, “What can I do?” Do you attend conventions? Would you like to but are worried about accessibility issues?

Contact these conventions via social media and email to ask them about accessibility for people with autism—as well as those with physical disabilities.

Point these conventions to established organizations such as Take This, The Bodhana Group, and/or Game to Grow.

Believe me when I tell you that conventions do respond to attendees’ requests—if there are enough of them talking about it.

It may take some time to work it out but, eventually, we could see the tide shift enabling more people to have access to these spaces.


GenCon Worship Service videos

The Christian Gamers Guild, in association with Love Thy Nerd and Tom Vasel, again held a worship service at GenCon. Here is the program for the event: http://www.christian-gamers-guild.org/files/ConventionHistorical/gencon-church-2019.pdf

Here are some videos, courtesy of our Vice President Dave Mattingly:

Love Thy Nerd brings the love of Jesus to nerd culture, through content, outreach, and community. We speak redemption and love into nerd culture, and teach Christians the value of nerd culture and how to love our nerdy neighbors better.

Bubba Stallcup is Love Thy Nerd’s Chief Community Nerd, and cohosts the Free Play podcast. He serves at his church in Texas.

Tom Vasel is a noted game reviewer and hosts the Dice Tower podcast. He has been a pastor in South Korea and a youth pastor in Florida.

Dave Mattingly is a former atheist who found the Lord. He’s the longtime VP of the Christian Gamers Guild, and former publisher at BlackWyrm Games.

CGG Events at GenCon 2019

Once again the Christian Gamers Guild will host a Christianity and Gaming panel discussion with Q&A time on balancing faith & gaming, starting a gaming group at your church, & other topics on how to be both a Christian and a gamer.

Friday, 2:00 p.m. in Westin Ballroom III

Session ID: SEM19157484

https://www.gencon.com/events/157484


We will also offer a non-denominational Christian worship service. We’ll read scripture, sing familiar hymns, hear a sermon, and offer an optional communion.

Sunday, 9:00 a.m. in Westin Ballroom IV

Session ID: ZED19165541

https://www.gencon.com/events/165541

Thirteen Months in Review

Last November we published Overview of the Articles on the New Christian Gamers Guild Website, in which I attempted to index everything that had been posted to the site in the previous eighteen months–the time from when our capable webmaster Bryan launched the new web log-driven format through the republication of the entire Faith and Gaming series.  It was a lot of material, and a long index.

I decided not to let it run quite so long this time, but to try to index the entire year plus only one extra month, those articles posted in December 2017 after the Overview had been released.  It really was the beginning of this year, because the first articles in the two major monthly series appeared then–that’s right, Faith in Play and RPG-ology have now both been running for thirteen months, a baker’s dozen of each.  There have also been quite a few articles on other subjects and from other authors.  So before we reach an overwhelming amount of material, here’s a look at everything we released in 2018, and a bit earlier.

Let’s start with the first article of December, and put all of that series together this time.  Faith in Play was envisioned as a continuation, thirteen years later, of Faith and Gaming, tackling the same kinds of issues and perhaps expanding from the focus on role playing games to look more broadly at leisure activities of all kinds–without forgetting the role playing games.  The series included:

  1. #1:  Reintroduction December 5, 2017 introduces the new series as a second volume of Faith and Gaming, an exploration of how our Christianity impacts our leisure activities.
  2. #2:  Portals January 2, 2018 looks at how the fantasy and science fiction connections between universes become a metaphor for the reality we experience as God is moving us to the new world.
  3. #3:  Javan’s Feast February 6, 2018 recalls an event in a game in which a character had a positive impact on the players.
  4. #4:  Bad Friends March 6, 2018 discusses the people in life who mistreat us, and how we respond.
  5. #5:  Fear April 3, 2018 looks at the cause of in-game fearlessness and applies it to the rest of our lives.
  6. #6:  True Religion May 1, 2018 begins the alignment miniseries with the focus on what we believe controlling what we do.
  7. #7:  Coincidence June 5, 2018 discusses syncronicity and events which seem almost to have been manipulated.
  8. #8:  Redemption Story July 3, 2018 considers stories which mirror the redeeming act of our salvation, and whether that can be done in a game.
  9. #9:  Clowns August 7, 2018 returns to the archetypes subseries with a look at the importance of comic relief characters.
  10. #10:  Goodness September 4, 2018 continues the alignment series with a consideration of what it means, in game terms, to be Good.
  11. #11:  Halloween October 2, 2018 presents a defense of the celebration of what is essentially a secular holiday.
  12. #12:  Fiction and Lies November 6, 2018 discusses whether telling fictional stories is a “sin of lying”.
  13. #13:  The Evils of Monopoly® December 4, 2018 delves into the dangers the game poses to our theology.

Two weeks later, the RPG-ology series launched.  Discussions about the Faith in Play series suggested that we should also cover subjects from the long-lost Game Ideas Unlimited series that had run at Gaming Outpost–articles about game theory, design, and play–but that this should be distinguished from the other series as its own set.  This series so far has included:

  1. #1:  Near Redundancy December 19, 2017 introduces the other new series as a return to some of the Game Ideas Unlimited topics, ideas for game theory, design, and play.
  2. #2:  Socializing January 16, 2018 explores the fact that those of us who have trouble relating to people have created a game that teaches us how people relate to each other, through a relationship process.
  3. #3:  History of Hit Points February 20, 2018 explains why hit points are still popularly used, and what they contribute to game play.
  4. #4:  The Big Game March 20, 2018 gives instructions for running games with large numbers of players.
  5. #5:  Country Roads April 17, 2018 discusses how to design the main roads connecting places in a fictional world.
  6. #6:  Name Ideas Unlimited May 15, 2018 suggests ways to provide names for everything in the fictional world.
  7. #7:  Playing Fair June 19, 2018 explains why a good referee can’t kill any character any time he wants.
  8. #8:  The Illusion of Choice July 17, 2018 gives the basics of the “directorial” technique of organizing an adventure such that the encounters occur in sequence wherever the characters choose to go.
  9. #9:  Three Doors August 21, 2018 uses the Savant logic problem to introduce the concept of understanding your referee’s motivation and adjusting your play accordingly.
  10. #10:  Labyrinths September 18, 2018 explains the concepts of labyrinths and mazes with design ideas and examples.
  11. #11:  Scared October 16, 2018 discusses what frightens people, and how to use that.
  12. #12:  Aphorisms November 20, 2018 suggests one way to build cultural variety within game worlds.
  13. #13:  Cities December 18, 2018 talks about where cities will appear in the world and why.

R. C. Brooks gave us more of his D20 game, Lands in the Clouds, with:

  • House of Wren (Renewal) by R. C. Brooks, December 12, 2017 presenting a clerical order focusing on stress relief.
  • House of Arocon (Knowledge) by R. C. Brooks, January 9, 2018 presenting a clerical order that deals in knowledge and books.
  • House of Beyan (Earth) by R. C. Brooks, February 13, 2018 presenting a clerical order that deals with all things related to matter, from vegetables to stone.
  • House of Keen (Air), by R. C. Brooks, April 10, 2018, presents the clerical order related to air and gases.
  • House of Sukan (Fire), by R. C. Brooks, June 12, 2018, presents the clerical order related to fire and burns.
  • House of Coursan (War), by R. C. Brooks, July 10, 2018, presents the clerical order related to military defense.
  • House of Curren (Travel), by R. C. Brooks, August 14, 2018, presents a clerical order related to vehicles and mounts and all aspects of travel.
  • House of Foura (Luck), by R. C. Brooks, September 11, 2018, presents a clerical order involved in the manipulation of fortune.
  • House of Wold (Prophecy), by R. C. Brooks, October 9, 2018, presents a clerical order whose task is to warn of impending ill.
  • Multiple Gifts, by R. C. Brooks, November 13, 2018, discusses the possibility of a character having more than one spiritual/magical ability.

And Michael Garcia continued to enthrall us with recountings of adventures in his games, including:

  • Screams in Store by Michael Garcia, December 26, 2017 in which the now familiar Winchester team walks into a trap and discovers that goblins are not easy opponents;
  • Ants in the Darkness by Michael Garcia, February 27, 2018, in which the Beckett group of adventurers on a dungeon crawl encounter serious trouble.
  • Battle on the Beach by Michael Garcia, March 27, 2018, in which the Winchester team pursues a group of robber knights with a hostage, catching them on a beach.
  • Treasure Identification by Michael Garcia, April 24, 2018, in which the Beckett team argues about magical treasure.
  • Bandits Rock by Michael Garcia, May 22, 2018, in which a contingent from the Winchester team gets into serious trouble while spelunking on a scouting mission.
  • Terror in the Tower, part 1, by Michael Garcia, July 24, 2018, in which the Beckett group approaches and enters what they believe is a ruined temple.
  • Terror in the Tower, part 2, by Michael Garcia, September 25, 2018, in which the Beckett group encounters trouble at the entrance to the temple.
  • Terror in the Tower, part 3, by Michael Garcia, November 27, 2018, in which the Beckett group sends an advance team into the tower, and out again.

…and also notes on his world and his special rules, such as:

We had a few insights from Bryan Ray, including:

  • What Does God Think About Hacking?, by Bryan Ray, January 30, 2018, which explored several different meanings of the word and which of those might be sinful.
  • Monkey Business, a Circuit Breakers adventure, by Bryan Ray, May 29, 2018, with a sequel to last year’s Prime Time Adventures play report giving the extended story of a game session.
  • Tales From the Loop, by Bryan Ray, October 30, 2018, a review of a role playing game of that name.
  • Controlled by Fear, by Bryan Ray, December 11, 2018, recalling the benefits that came from running a horror role playing game for a church group.

We also had a few articles giving information about upcoming conventions where chapel services or other Christian opportunities were scheduled:

  • Con Chapel: Beginnings by Eric Van Denhende, January 28, 2018, covering information on February and March as available in late January.
  • CGG Events at Gen Con 2018, by Bryan Ray, July 31, 2018, giving information about the Sunday morning worship service and the Friday afternoon Christianity & Gaming panel.

—M. J. Young

Chaplain, Christian Gamers Guild

Con Chapel: Beginnings

Over on the CGG listerserver (click on Join the Guild!) there was a question about chapel services at cons. I thought it would be a great idea if someone were to gather that information from not only the CGG members, but other Christian groups, and post it here. As you might guess the person who makes those great suggestions is the first one to be asked to do it. So I’ve got the job.

I’m just getting started, and despite my desire to get the list and all the details perfect before posting anything, I quickly realized that what little I’d gathered so far had cons coming up pretty soon. So I’m taking the approach that perfection is the enemy of good enough and presenting what I have through March now. It’s basic info right now. The cons information should all come up in a search. The rest, well, it’s a work in progress. Depending on the con website you might be able to find it there.

Date

Con

Sponsor/Contact

Organization

Location

Type

4-Feb

Statesville Comiccon

Hector Miray

Faith & Fandom

Statesville, NC

Booth

16-Feb

RadCon

Rodney Barnes

CGG

Pasco,WA

Panel Guest

17-Mar

NC Comicon

Hector Miray

Faith & Fandom

Oak City, NC

Chapel

30-Mar

ConGlomeration

Dave Mattingly

CGG

Louisville, KY

Chapel

If you’re associated with a Christian group that holds events at cons, let me know through the comments below.

Overview of the Articles on the New Christian Gamers Guild Website

Over the past eighteen months, our diligent and dedicated webmaster Bryan has been republishing much of the material generated by and for the Christian Gamers Guild over the previous two decades in a new web format which is thought to be more accessible and is certainly better looking.  That has included material from our e-zine The Way, the Truth, and the Dice, a couple of articles from elsewhere, some new material, and of course my own Faith and Gaming series.  The upside of this is that many readers have discovered these articles for the first time.  The downside, from my perspective, is that it became just a bit tougher for me to refer people to the articles—not individually, but as a collection.  The old site had a single “Chaplain’s Corner” index that described and linked the entire series plus quite a few other articles on and off the site, and when people had questions about role playing or other hobby games I could (in addition to addressing the specific questions) refer them to that page for more information than they perhaps would have wanted.  That page still has some valuable links, but Bryan agreed with me that now that the entire series has been relocated there ought to be a page that indexes it all at the new locations.

Several thoughts occurred to me as I undertook this.  One was that there were a few articles I wrote which are excellent pieces not originally part of the Faith and Gaming series, and they should be included here.  The second was that it would seem particularly arrogant of me to index my own contributions and ignore those excellent articles by everyone else, so I am going to attempt in essence to map the entire site—not in the old directory tree mapping style, but in something more useful. Read more

Gen Con 2017 Events

The Guild’s primary convention activity takes place at Gen Con, where we offer a Sunday morning worship service and a panel on the intersection of our faith and our hobby. As of last year, we also help to coordinate a memorial service for those who have passed away. Unfortunately, we’ve been priced out of having a booth the past couple of years, so if you want to make contact, these events are your best bet.


Christian Worship Service

SEM17108454  — 8/20 — 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. — Westin, Capitol III

Join us for a non-denominational Christian worship service sponsored by the Christian Gamers Guild. We’ll read scripture, sing familiar hymns, hear a sermon, & offer an optional communion.


Christianity & Gaming Panel

SEM17108467  —  8/18 — 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. — Crowne Plaza, Victoria Stn C/D

Join us for discussion with Q&A on balancing faith & gaming, gaming as a ministry, defending gaming from attacks, the use of evil & magic in games, & other topics.


Fallen Gamers Memorial Service

SEM17108656 — 8/20 — 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. — Westin, Capitol III

In 50 years of Gen Con, many of our friends have passed on. Join us for a few minutes to help us celebrate their lives & honor their memories. A brief prayer service will be held at noon.