Saturday, April 12, 2014

PAX East Day 2: Diversity Lounge, Cosplayers, Game Design Panels

Day 2 of PAX East was quite the doozy. Once again I tried to get to the Blizzard booth, but the line was 4 hours long once I got there, which is to say completely ridiculous. I had far better things to do with my time than stand in line for content I’ll probably end up playing no matter what in… six to eight months.

This was the line to get into the Expo Hall 30 minutes before it opened. It was twice as big by the time 10 AM hit.
Game Design Panels

I also went to a couple of panels that were absolutely fantastic looks in game design.

One was “Modernizing [Pen and Paper] Fantasy RPGs”, run by
  • Adam Koebel (Kobold, Mouse Guard)
  • Luke Crane (Dungeon World, Burning Wheel)
  • Thor Olavsrud (Torchbearer).
It was a great rundown of the history of Pen and Paper fantasy RPGs, and the concepts they think are really being brought to bear in modern game design.

The other was “Next Generation MMO Games: What’s Next for Multiplayer Trends?”, run by
  • Dave Georgeson (Director of Development, Landmark, SoE)
  • Ian Fisher (Director of Design, Robot Entertainment)
  • Kjartan Pierre Emilsson (Principal Game Designer, EVE)
  • Stephen Frost (Design Producer, Wildstar)
  • Stephan Johnston (President of Guild Launch, who seemed to be there largely to plug his product).
They talked about where MMOs have been, where they think the future is, and what are the biggest hurdles to developing MMOs.

I’ll be putting up far more in-depth coverage of those talks later here on Gamer By Design, but for now just know that some really cool content is coming. They were fantastic talks.

Cosplay Interlude

Lulu, Auron, and Lightning. Wonderful details!
Ringabel! And the book is a fantastic touch.


Diversity Lounge

Later I went to check out the Diversity Lounge. For those who don’t remember, a while back there was a kerfuffle when news of said Diversity Lounge leaked. In a nutshell, the Diversity Lounge was to be a space set aside for PAX attendees to get information on women, LGBTQ, people of colour, disabled folks, and mental health issues in gaming. The Internet being what it is, of course people blew up, panicked, and nobody on any side of the aisle was happy.

How’d it turn out in practice? Not too bad. There were actually three pieces to this puzzle.

The first was an actual gender-neutral restroom. Granted, they had to convert a ladies room into one, and due to local bylaws and rules at the convention center, that was as far as they could go, but it was pretty cool.

The second was the AFK room. A quiet space off the beaten path for folks who are overwhelmed to come sit and chill out, and talk to mental health professionals on site if they wished. I walked by it and didn’t check it out (and certainly didn’t take any photos of the space), but the concept was again pretty cool. I didn’t see how many people were using it, but having the option is awesome. Kudos to Khoo and company for this.

The third was the Roll for Diversity Lounge itself. The area had a number of booths, including a couple of Seattle-based ones (an LGBT book publisher called Northwest Press and a local gay-gaming comic strip), a transgender in gaming booth, a women in Magic: The Gathering booth, a Toronto LGBT group, an Ablegamers table dedicated to disabled people and gaming, a race and color in games booth, and an University-provided Ethicist who you could ask questions of. There were purple-pink lanyards you could use for your badge, and there were a couple of tables and a bunch of bean bags for people to use. The Northwest Press booth in particular had a fantastic sticker, which the URL gives you the gist:, but it is amazing!

On Friday the lounge was rather empty for the couple times I passed it, and Saturday morning it was also rather empty. Saturday afternoon, however, saw the tables full, the bean bags full, and every booth had two or three visitors, which was really cool to see. The folks at the booths seemed happy to be there, and excited to chit chat, and the enforcers were awesome as usual.

I talked with the Ethicist for a bit, asking him the slightly snarky question of why an ethicist? He responded quite well with everything from how people are represented (or lack of representation) in games, to things like gambling addiction and Free-to-Play models. I was rather impressed, and he made some excellent points.

I think overall, the concept is a net-positive for the show; however, the one thing that still nags at me is the fact that they’re separate spaces. Less so for the AFK room, as that makes sense, but the Diversity Lounge rightly should be a space on the Expo Hall floor, like the Indie Megabooth. The fact that there’s a sequestered space, while on the beaten path if you’re going to panels, but still to the side, still feels wrong to me. The entire show should be a safe space, and the Diversity Lounge should be placed in a spot where more people will see it and have the opportunity to ask the questions they need to ask.

#PAX, #DiversityLounge, #Cosplay, #GameDesign

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