Why I’m Not Made For Cons Anymore

Over this past weekend, I attended Gamehole Con in Madison, WI. It was very last minute due to the way my work schedule gets released, and I was there only on Friday, the first day of the con, for a few hours in the afternoon. I knew full well that I wouldn’t be able to get in on any scheduled game, since they had pretty much all sold out prior to the show, but I figured it would still be a nice opportunity to be around games and gamers, especially because I didn’t go to Gen Con this year. So off to Madison I went.

Gamehole Con was a nicely put-together con. It’s a smaller show, but it had a dedicated fan base that was there bright and early to support it, managed to bring in a good amount of special guests (big benefit of being in Wisconsin/the Midwest, since there’s a large concentration of gaming luminaries in the area), featured a small but diverse Exhibitor Hall, and even had a special owlbear plushie unique to the con! The staff was also super nice and helpful, and I was impressed by the quality of the core con paraphernalia, like the badge, con booklet, goodie bag (with a d6, button, and sticker!), and branded merch that was useful at the show, like the plastic tumbler that included unlimited soda refills throughout the weekend. I would recommend this con in a heartbeat, especially to the D&D/Old School Fantasy crowd, as that was a big part of what I saw represented there.

My visit was nice, but I didn’t really do anything other than walk around, check out the vendors, oogle at the minis terrain, talk to a couple of friends I happened to see, and take some pics. It was nice indeed to be around games, but I didn’t have the chance to play anything, not even a demo. There were no pick-up games available, and while there was a game library, since I was there by myself, I had no one to play with. I walked the vendor hall three times, looking at pretty much everything, which took about an hour of my time. I ended up leaving about an hour before I had scheduled simply because I was bored and a bit bummed. This is when I realized that I may just not be made for cons anymore, at least not cons smaller than Gen Con.

Because of my hiatus from gaming since the start of nursing school, and continuing over the last 2-3 years, I feel like a long-lost expat visiting the motherland whenever I go to a con: it’s familiar, but unknown at the same time. I can remember the things I did, the things I liked, the good moments, but I can’t find the connection to the present, to creating new moments. Nursing allows me a good amount of free time, but it is also quite random in its availability, especially since I started working nights. In general, I tend to be off when most people are at work, or vice versa. It isn’t conducive to getting back into regular gaming; every time I’ve tried, I end up bowing out due to scheduling issues. So the itch remains unscratched, but it dulls out with the passage of time. Gaming is a thing I did, but that I don’t currently do at all now.

Because of my recent moves across the country in the past 2 years, I don’t have a set group of friends to go on gaming adventures with either. I have lots of good acquaintances all over the states, yes, but we don’t meet regularly at all. At Gen Con, at least, I can count on the largest concentration of these far-flung acquaintances and friends being in one place, but that’s not the case with most cons. Not attending with friends means not having built-in play partners, and while I’m outgoing with those I know, I am actually fairly shy and not likely to just reach out and meet new people to jump into a game with.

I also have an issue with cons-within-cons and the extra price these carry. If I’m paying $30-$90 for a convention badge (whether 1-day or full-weekend pass), it bothers me to have to pay separate charges for scheduled events. So to use an example from my trip to Origins last year, Games on Demand was running a few games I would’ve jumped into, but each one cost an extra $4 (or just about, from what I recall). So I ended up playing two GoD games with tickets I already had (still an extra $8 added to my badge cost), but if I had played in all the games I wanted to, that extra cost could’ve been $40 or more. GoD is just an example; this goes on for basically all scheduled events.

All these factors, which I have been musing on, and thinking about, since last year’s Origins, are things I can’t deny anymore. This is why I say I may not be made for cons anymore. Gen Con, due to its sheer size, may get a pass: I can spend lots of time in the Exhibitor Hall, find/create pick-up games with friends without paying extra, have lots to see if I just feel like wandering around for a while. Smaller cons, however, unlike I happen to know well in advance that I’ll be able to attend, can sign up for some scheduled games, and/or attend with people I know, may just be events I skip, rather than attending with the faint hope that I won’t feel like a spectator of a life I once had and enjoyed.

Next local con coming up is Midwinter Gaming Convention in Milwaukee, WI, from Jan 14-17, 2016. I still don’t know if I’ll have that weekend off (or of my baby daughter will have been born by then!), so I can’t make plans. So I’ll probably skip it.

But still a part of me dreams.

#RPGaDay2015 Day 21: Favorite RPG Setting

Forgotten RealmsAnother easy answer. My favorite RPG setting is the Forgotten Realms. Although it has existed for various editions of the game, my absolute favorite version of the campaign is the first one, the gray box released for AD&D 1st Edition, in 1987. This was the first campaign setting product I purchased for myself, because I wanted it, independent of the wants/needs of my gaming group, and it left a mark on me. I didn’t understand why exactly back then, but it is clear as day now, looking back.

The Forgotten Realms would go on to be super developed by TSR/Wizards, to the point of becoming a joke. But back then, the gray box? That wasn’t the case. That box was brimming with possibilities. There was a lot of detail about the world, yes, but it wasn’t an exhaustive encyclopedia, more like a catalog of bits of fact, myth, and legend. You would get just a few words, a few sentences, about a place, a group, a situation, and then it was up to you to fill in the blanks, to figure out their future. The gray box was a snapshot in time of the Realms, and what happened next was entirely up to you, up to me.

I ran with that. The Realms became my home away from home, my default fantasy world. All my adventures took place there. I became a citizen of this world as much as I was of my own. In many ways, I still am.

A few years ago I wrote a post titled Why I Love Thee, Forgotten Realms, in which I go through my history with the campaign setting, and write about why I fell in love with it. Check it out.

#RPGaDay2015 Day 20: Favorite Horror RPG

vtmThis will surprise no one. My favorite horror roleplaying game is Vampire: The Masquerade. I’m not a fan of horror in any form, as much as I may have enjoyed the couple of Call of Cthulhu games I’ve played in the past.

Vampire is different. It is personal. It is internal. It is about the horror of what you become when you let yourself go. It is about letting go.

I’m going to cheat here. A few years back I wrote a post titled Why I Love Thee, Vampire: The Masquerade, and you should just read that to know why this is my favorite horror roleplaying game.

[Answers in Sociology] Chapter 12: Family

As part of my BSN program I’m taking a Sociology course. Each week we have to answer questions from each chapter and post them to our online discussion board. I’m reposting some of my answers here if I find them to be insightful or conducive to conversation. Our textbook is You May Ask Yourself: An Introduction to Thinking Like a Sociologist, by Dalton Conley.

CHAPTER 12: Family

Define Nuclear family and elaborate on how it became the norm.

According to Talcott Parsons (Conley, 2011, p. 428), the nuclear, or traditional, family is the term given to the family unit consisting of the idealized model of a male breadwinner, a female homemaker, and their dependent children. This model emerges after the end of WWII and the return of the troops to the labor force, and the women who had taken over their duties to the home space. In the 1950s, it accounted for the majority of families in America, with 86% of children living in a two-parent household, and 60% of children born into homes that fit the description (Conley, 2011, p. 428-29). Parsons argued that the nuclear family was the ideal family model because it fulfilled “society’s need for productive workers and child nurturers (Conley, 2011, p. 432).”

Is this still the traditional family form in the United States?

Not by a long shot. According to Livingstone (2014), based on a Pew Research Center analysis, “Less than half (46%) of U.S. kids younger than 18 years of age are living in a home with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage[,] a marked change from [73% in] 1960, and [61% in] 1980.”

If not, what other forms of ‘family’ have emerged and discuss the social causes for their emergence?

There’s quite a variety of family arrangements beyond the traditional model; many of them have always been present, but were silently ignored as they were not the norm. Whether divorce rates are rising (Ingraham, 2014) or falling (Cain Miller, 2014), remarriages are actively on the rise, with 15% of children, whether born to the remarried couple or from a previous union, living in a remarried household (Livingstone, 2014). There is also cohabitation, where couples are in an intimate relationship not formally sanctioned by a legal or religious body; single-parent households, like the one I grew up in, with my mother raising three children; extended or multigenerational families, with various generations of the family living together for cultural or economic reasons; and even no-parent families, where children live with another relative.


Cain Miller, C. (2014). The divorce surge is over, but the myth lives on. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/02/upshot/the-divorce-surge-is-over-but-the-myth-lives-on.html?_r=0&abt=0002&abg=0

Conley, D. (2011). You may ask yourself: An introduction to thinking like a sociologist. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Ingraham, C. (2014). Divorce is actually on the rise, and it’s the baby boomers’ fault. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2014/03/27/divorce-is-actually-on-the-rise-and-its-the-baby-boomers-fault/

Livingstone, G. (2014). Less than half of U.S. kids today live in a ‘traditional’ family. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/12/22/less-than-half-of-u-s-kids-today-live-in-a-traditional-family/