On Saturday, my girlfriend and I ran up to the Origins Game Fair in Columbus, OH. I knew ahead of time that I wouldn’t be playing in any events. The plan was simply to see what there was to see, and try to make it a positive experience for her (an aim which I hope she reciprocates, the next time she wants to go shoe shopping).
Arriving in downtown Columbus, the first thing that I noticed was that there was a lot going on. In the short distance from the parking lot to the convention center, we encountered street vendors, musicians, some type of festival, a fellow dressed up like Superman, and a woman who was bare naked, aside from tassels on her nipples and a pair of “granny panties”. All of these, with the possible exception of Superman, had absolutely nothing to do with Origins. I guess Columbus is pretty lively on the weekends.
Entering the convention center, I was met with a familiar sight. Gamers of every shape and size were everywhere. From the door to the registration desk, you could hear debates, laughter, cheers, and even a Monty Python quote. There was no doubt that we were in the right place. I must have done a good job in explaining what to expect, because my girlfriend didn’t even bat an eye when a buxom young lady in a chain mail bikini sauntered past us.
We stopped for a moment to dig through our “swag bags”. For the non convention-going folks out there, these are simply little shopping bags, filled with assorted advertisements from various manufacturers. Among the many flyers and pamphlets we also found 3 micro d20s from GameScience, an Origins d6 from Crystal Caste, bottle opener/key chain from Mayfair Games, and a random package of temporary tattoos.
From there we made our way into the Exhibtor Hall. Fairly self-explanatory, this massive room is simply row after row of dealers, all set up and selling their wares. The room was filled and every bit as large as those which I experienced at Origins and Gen Con, back in the 80s and 90s. However, there were some differences which really stood out to me.
There seemed to be a relatively small RPG presence among the exhibitors. As I recall, Origins always had more of a wargame & board game slant to it, but I would have expected (based on my experiences 20 years ago) to see WotC & Paizo represented. For that matter, I didn’t see many smaller publishers of RPGs in attendance either. I’m guessing that this may have something to do with the fact that everything is available in PDF form these days. Perhaps it’s too risky for small publishers to do a convention-season print-run.
As I’ve newly discovered Savage Worlds, I was glad to see that Studio 2 Publishing did have a small booth. The Savage Worlds Deluxe PDF was available but unfortunately, the hardcover won’t be available until later this summer. They also had a number of the hardcover “settings’ books on sale for $15 each. I imagine I’ll be kicking myself for not grabbing a few of them.
I was a bit surprised at how popular card games continue to be. I’ve mentioned that I was bowing out of the hobby, at about the time that Magic: The Gathering hit the scene. However, that was nearly 20 years ago and I didn’t realize how many different games were still out there. Hell, it seemed that even most of the board games that I saw being demoed, were using cards as a mechanic.
Finally, it seemed that there were a higher percentage of small companies represented than in the “olden days”. This didn’t bother me at all and I found it rather encouraging. Costumes, weapons & weapon replicas, t-shirts, bumper stickers, and gaming tables were all readily available. These were sprinkled in with a few retailers who had come to do their thing. I was especially pleased to see Crazy Egor. He’s a long-time retailer and mail-order wizard from Western New York (and just happened to graduate from the same high school I did).
I believe we spent about 2 hours in the Exhibitor Hall. My girlfriend was hanging tough, but I didn’t want to press my luck . We decided to wander our way to the other end of the convention center and then head off to grab dinner. Along our walk, we discovered some other things that Origins had to offer this year. Yoga, nutrition, and craft classes were offered, as well as wine-tasting and even church services. While I don’t imagine that these would appeal to every gamer, we found it to be a very nice touch and possibly a way to occupy other family members.
All in all, not a very exciting day but that was my fault. I look forward to next year when I can spend longer and engage in more. More than anything, it’s nice to know that there still are big game conventions. Despite subtle differences, they’re clearly still very fun.