JESSE PARRINO 22-FEB-2016 This weekend I attended Dreamation, a convention I’ve been to many times as both press for AmberUnmasked and as a general attendee. It’s a con that’s generally focused on tabletop gaming with some LARPs, video games, anime and cartoon showings among other assorted gaming topics. It has a focus on small press games which can be hit or miss. It’s always a well run show and the people running it care very deeply and do an excellent job. But this year I didn’t have that great of a time. Read on and I’ll go over both the good and bad of this year’s show.
I got in fairly early on Friday morning and kept an eye out for new games to get in on. In doing so, I walked around the indie game area and there was very little that caught my attention. That isn’t an overall negative of course, since as a gamer, what works for me might not be your cup of tea. But the offerings this year were either overly complicated (which is a problem I notice for many games; publishers tend to get very involved with making a complicated game system) or overly simple that can be played in two minutes with little depth.
After my jaunt through the indie games, I hung out in the con suite for a while. This is something Double Exposure (creators of Dreamation, Dexcon and many others) do exceedingly well. If you’re tired you can come in, grab a drink, make a bowlful of snacks and just chat with other attendees to see what games they liked and what they didn’t. The whole concept really fosters a community feeling for not just this show, but all of their shows and it’s always one of my favorite things about Double Exposure events. This year they even had some of their video game programming set up so people could play if they were so inclined.
After I sat back for a bit, I noticed it was nearly time for the Dealers’ Room to open. Dreamation is one of those conventions that consistently has the same dealers selling the same kinds of merchandise year after year which isn’t usually a bad thing. You know exactly what you’re getting into. But this year the room felt a bit more sparse. I counted seven dealers. Three of which were selling the same kind of items. It was a bit underwhelming. This weekend had three moderately sized conventions going on competing for the same vendors so I can understand where there might have been some issues. I didn’t pick up a thing in the dealers hall this year.
I decided to check out the artist area at this point. The artist area is what I look forward to the most at these events because it’s usually varied and they’re pretty good about not only switching it up, but also not overlapping on concepts. However on Friday it was a bit more limited because some of the artists hadn’t gotten onsite yet. I did see an artist (http://www.sinisterstudios.storeenvy.com) selling 8-bit styled bead art. She had a few Marvel characters and was taking commissions so I had her create one of Ms. Marvel’s Kamala Khan. A series I’ve been enjoying a lot lately. Other than that there were quite a few good artists, but I didn’t pick up anything else on Friday.
By this point I headed to the video game area since I saw they were doing video pinball and I had signed up for a Super Smash Brothers tournament. The staffer who was running the video pinball was exceptionally helpful and playing the games and chatting with him about the history of pinball, favorite machines, and the game itself was a lot of fun. After a few good runs, I played some Street Fighter on a machine they had set up and pretty much just killed time until the Smash Brothers event. The event itself was set up strangely if you’re familiar with how video game tournaments usually go. Rather than one-on-one it was set up as a free for all with whomever was first to five victories won. Needless to say I lost. But I had fun.
By this point I had to go as I had something else I needed to take care of for Friday, but I went back bright and early on Saturday. Though I wasn’t feeling great, I wanted to see as much of the con as I could to give as fair a review as possible. I again sat in the Con Suite chatting up with people about the events of the night before. Apparently the S.H.I.E.L.D./Marvel LARP had some good buzz based on the people talking about it.
I then headed back to the dealers where one more vendor opened up shop which helped the issues of the sparse dealers’ hall. Then I went back to the artist area which was opening up a bit more. I saw a few interesting vendors including Sugar Happy which I commissioned to do a piece on a personal project I’ve been working on and off with for some time. This show is great for giving consumers time to talk with the artists and vendors. I did a little more wandering before I started to feel badly enough that I really had to go.
I had missed a few indie game creators in the back area. They had a few interesting game concepts. Sadly, they weren’t set up to run demos as I was very interested in learning how a game about living with migraine headaches played. Though that might have been because I was in the midst of suffering one. That same vendor also had a game dealing with consent. But again I really started to have to head out. I did however take a card and I plan to follow up with some of these games and, hopefully, I’ll do a follow up game review in the near future.
All-in-all I enjoy Dreamation. It’s got great staff that works like a well oiled machine. But it’s also got a focus on independent games which can be very hit or miss. This year I found it to be a miss and I found myself bored a lot. Though I admit a lot of that had to deal with a migraine so I can’t very well fault the con for that. But except for those games I mentioned, nothing reached up and grabbed me. Also the last time I covered one of these conventions I mentioned how figuring out where’s and when’s of what’s being played was difficult. But I figured it out pretty quickly this year. Nothing changed. It’s just I’ve done this show enough to understand it. To conclude, I’d recommend Dreamation if you’re a gamer looking for something a little different…..if you can deal with the uncertainty of being a beta taster for a new game in a lot of cases.