The first couple of times I attended the Origins Game Fair, I found the experience very enjoyable. The exhibit hall was packed with people, games, sights, and sounds. I was relatively new to gaming and everywhere I looked was something to be experienced. I can remember getting a demo of Bonaparte at Marengo from Bowen Simmons himself. I’m not a miniature gamer but I held the giant layouts in the miniatures room with great respect. Such effort put into the art of the landscapes. The detail was amazing.
Fast forward a few years and I can’t bring myself to purchase more than a $5 day pass and spending a few hours walking around the exhibit hall. GAMA seems to have derailed the gaming train for me. Many vendors were conspicuously missing from the exhibit hall (or tucked away in an area and not prominently displayed e.g. Rio Grande Games, no Queen?!) Mayfair took up a huge quadruple (at least) section in the middle of the hall and there were so many people packed into their play area I couldn’t have gotten a demo of Automobile had I tried. I ended up standing next to a table where it was being demoed just for a chance to see it in person.
GAMA’s website and gauntlet of passes, badges, ribbons, and events is mind numbingly complex (and costly) and to make matters worse, this years events seemed spread out over large portions of the convention center. I wasn’t willing to purchase a Board Room Ribbon given that I would have first had to pay for a full day pass but I never saw a sign that directed me to where the board room was located even if I were interested! Was this one convention or a bunch of mini-cons going on?
The open gaming room was gigantic, much larger than needed, and the number of empty tables gave the impression that the convention was lightly attended. There were enough empty tables to host numerous wedding receptions in there!
The number of games for sale and the number of games being demoed in the exhibit hall, seemed very limited this year when compared to previous years. I buy most of my games from online vendors where I can save drastically more than splurge buying in person so I can only assume I’m part of the problem.
I don’t regret spending my $5 (plus $5 parking at the arena) but the money I lost by not working the afternoon (I’m self-employed) wasn’t worth it. Next year I’ll be attended only after work, if at all, or I’ll just organize a game night at my own house with some close friends and get my game on in the privacy of my own home. With the rise of readily available online information from sites like BGG and handfuls of online vendors selling games at cut-throat prices, conventions that focus on the commercial aspects of gaming may be a thing of the past. Cons that focus on the act of gaming itself e.g. BGG.con, WBC, GoF, GeekWay, etc. are seeing steady increases in numbers. BGG.con sold out in 5 days and that was almost a year ago!
Sorry GAMA, but you’d be lucky to find a shark to jump over; they’ve already left for other waters.