This last week I boarded a bus and made my way to Go Play NW, a weekend con in Seattle, WA. It’s hard to encapsulate that many wonderful hours, so the best I can do is a highlights reel.
Go Play NW? It’s a con for playing games. No ceremonies, no panels, no formal meet and greets. Slot after slot, you have the opportunity to game with dozens of people.
It’s a great way to meet people, try out games you haven’t had a chance to check out, and kick the tires on games currently in development.
There’s a “donut” at the start of slots, when facilitators short or without players can be matched with interested players. It reminded me of Games on Demand’s matching facilitators, games and players together. I can see parallels between what I enjoy and Games on Demand and GPNW, though the tone is radically different. Games on Demand is nestled inside busy conventions and players often carry that bustling energy. GPNW is far more relaxed and paced as environments to play in go.
I played in two of Logan Bonner’s games currently in development, both of which had a good mix of numbers, pulp and peril. I’m the first to admit my sensory issues often make learning rules incredibly difficult for me, but Bonner’s rules were intuitive for me across both games. To clarify, intuitive under my definition means that the rules make sense to me.
They follow consistent logic, they’re written with very clear language, “stick” to the brain well, and conform to the game narrative. If you’re not neurotypical and want fun games that are easy to learn but refrain from being infantile/condescending, keep following his independent projects.
I also played Monsterhearts, by Joe McDaldno, a brutal little gem where you play monsters in their teens, attending high school. I’m kicking myself for not buying it during GPNW, because it’s damn brilliant. I have some quibbles with the system (highlighting alone is an article in itself) but I enjoyed how fast setup goes and how consistently emotionally truthful the game is. We may not go to school with blood sucking fiends in our real lives, but the monsters in Monsterhearts magnify the struggles and terror of being a teen in a very real and honest way.
I observed Brendan Adkins run Ryan Macklin’s Mythender, and am grateful to both Adkins and his players for allowing me to observe. While I can’t seem to click with actual play podcasts, I would now strongly endorse people observing actual play (with permission, of course.) I walked away with a lot of food for thought about player management, character generation, dice mechanics, narrative structure and games in general. If you want to question your own assumptions about gaming, watch other people play and run games.
I watched a game of Ghost Pirates, and can say the art and quality impressed me, and as a synesthetic I would grade it as “highly edible” as far as it aesthetics go. There was also a game of Cards Against Humanity that threatened to never, ever end. I can also that after seeing Cambria played, that the game may be physically small but the rules carry a number of fine-point details.
Over the course of the weekend I had meals with friends and strangers, safely left my bag alone for hours while I adjourned to other areas to game, and had a splendid time, travel exhaustion aside. GPNW is an invaluable to play games, meet new friends, and engage in plenty of thoughtful, positive communication about what you love and don’t love as much about games and gaming.
7/2012 Correction: The title of Ghost Pirates was initially corrected listed as Ghost Ships.
Have a story about a treasured GPNW experience? Play a great new story game? Feel free to share in the comments!