This past week (October 5th-7th) I found myself in Oakland for BigBadCon, which seems incredibly appropriate for a self-proclaimed Little Red Riding Hood. BBC is different from other cons I’ve been to. In 2011 the convention donated $500 to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and 230 pounds of food to the Alameda County Food Bank. While there are other conventions and events that put that heart into donating to excellent non-profits, that wasn’t the only thing that makes BBC a different con experience for me.
My first game of the con was a session of Monsterhearts ran by David Gallo, had a total of 5 players, and was held in one of those private rooms. A near-zero degree of noise pollution—prepare to be surprised—really helped me pay attention to the game! For those who have played at a table with me before, I rarely checked my phone while at that table. I honestly think that had a lot to do with the minimum of distractions in the environment. I was better able to be focused, and concentrate on the game. Hard to remember to Tweet when I’m busy picking what axe to bring to the fight with the Big Bad. I’m used to convention game spaces being loud, with as many GMs, players and tables crammed into one wide area as anyone can make possible. A quieter atmosphere for games I play at cons is almost exclusively obtained by decamping to someone’s hotel room, which often requires going off-site. At BBC, a number of private rooms were available. The Games on Demand rooms had a number of tables partioned from each other with fabric, which made me wildly intrigued about why I don’t see that in other places. It seems like such an easy fix to reducing noise/distraction, but BBC is the first con I’ve ever seen do that. I also didn’t see a single person leave one of the LARPs do anything but surf a genuine euphoric high from their experiences.
As for what else I played aside Monsterhearts, I managed to get in Deadbolt, The Stork, and Houses of the Blooded. Monsters and Deadbolt were both my second sessions of either game, ever, and The Stork was my first brush with that game. Like Deadbolt, The Stork has a definite potential to be emotionally transformative. At the very least, it was both emotional and very freeing. Houses of the Blooded was my first brush with it ever, and it was wonderful. Josh Roby was a lovely GM for us first-time players, and despite being rusty after a few years of not LARPing, it was a great time. It was tragic, melodramatic, and funny in the most darkly Shakespearean of ways. I’d happily play Houses again, and I’m confident that the game will continue to be an enjoyable one to dig into.
Since the bar closed particularly early, I did a lot of my socializing in the hall that held all the game spaces. I met a number of people from Twitter, and got to have some time to say hi to friends I’d known going into the con. There wasn’t a crush of panels and events to go to—between that and the focus on play I can see some cultural similarity with GoPlayNW. People told me I looked relaxed, which I was. I went into BBC tired, and travel does take a bit out of me. But I was honestly relaxed during that con, and that’s very rare for me. I didn’t need to be professional or “on,” which meant I got to enjoy the several very strange and highly enjoyable conversations I was able to have while I was there.
BBC is small. It’s out near the airport, so it’s slim in options for food, and you’ll have much better luck with food if you have a car with you. But it’s reg desk was staffed by friendly people, ordering my badge online didn’t make me want to kill someone, the culture was amiable and exceptionally laid back. I got to leave my dark, drizzly village for a weekend for the much brighter climate of California, and enjoy a few days of restful, happy gaming. I’m looking forward to going back next year.
Have a favorite small con you attend that I might want to know about? Went to BBC and want to say hi? Leave a shout-out in the comments!