Peder and I have now returned from our first AcadeCon experience — and what an experience it was!
AcadeCon (pronounced like the first three syllables from the word “academy” + con) is a small (and growing) convention run by the RPG Academy. It was held in Dayton, Ohio this year, so Peder and I decided to make a mini-vacation of it and make the trek via roadtrip. We were so glad we did!
Peder ran two gaming sessions as a GM (game master), and I got to take part in several games as a player. Having only done RPG gaming via the Dungeons & Dragons system up until AcadeCon, I was stoked to get the chance to try out a few new systems. We did play a couple of D&D sessions, but I also got to try Star Wars: Age of Rebellion, Nefertiti Overdrive, and Cold Steel Wardens (more about that last one soon!).
As someone who’s only been to cosplay/panel/general-nerdery-type cons before attending AcadeCon, it was a whole new ballgame going to a gaming con. I found it to be a lot more hands-on in some ways, and since games are played in four-hour chunks, sticking to the schedule was a lot more important than at other cons (as was making sure we’d left ourselves enough time between sessions to grab a bite to eat!). While there were a few panels, and some really great vendors to check out (I am now the proud owner of a baby ice dragon sculpture and a new set of glow-in-the-dark dice), the main focus was definitely on gaming, whether it was through the RPG sessions, check-out-able board games, the Artemis space battle simulator, or just general geeking out with other con-goers.
And for me personally, one of the main themes of this con was stepping out of my comfort zone. This is an inescapable part of any con for me, but there was definitely something very next-level about playing games for four-hour stints with groups of mostly strangers (or all strangers, in the case of the Cold Steel Wardens session I was part of while Peder was GM’ing). As an introvert, I find things like this to be quite a stretch, especially when I do it several times in one weekend. And while it definitely was that, it was also worth it every single time.
For example, I may have struggled sometimes when the GM would turn to me to say “Okay, your character is doing such-and-such — what do you want to do next?”, and may have had to beg for help a little when I got super stuck (let’s just say random generation is decidedly not one of my strong suits…) but I’m really, really glad I confronted those moments and pushed through them. When I’m suddenly put on the spot (even when, as in RPG sessions, it’s not in a bad way), I tend to freeze up and forget what English is. But because of the format of gaming sessions, I had to offer up whatever I could come up with next and just run with it — and I found that, while there may be some silly answers, there are no wrong ones.
One of the things I’ve often found challenging a gamer is pushing past that initial crippling indecision/fear of embarrassment/any number of other things that come with role-play style gaming. But by the end of the weekend at AcadeCon, while this was still tough at times, it was a lot easier than it had been, and I was much better at trusting myself and letting the story take me where it would. And that, in my mind, is a win that I’ll get to take with me beyond the momentary in-game wins of the weekend.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed AcadeCon (despite being ready for a ton of sleep by the end!) and am already looking forward to/plotting for next year. I can’t wait to try out even more gaming systems and meet more amazing people!
Did you attend AcadeCon this year? Give us a shout-out/share what you loved about it in the comments or on Twitter! Have you gone to a different gaming con near you? What did you enjoy about it? What would you try next time?
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