Now that I'm home from Seattle, I'm right back to editing and rewriting and obsessively perfecting my PAX East keynote, but before I can give that the focus it requires, I need to talk a little bit about this year's Emerald City Comicon.
First, the good: The dungeon delve I wrote and ran was really great. We raised $500 for Child's Play, and the people who played in it (and I) had a really good time playing D&D. I wrote an original adventure that I think I may even be able to expand and publish in some form some day, which is great.
Aaron Douglas and I made a bet during the Olympic ice hockey finals: if USA won, he'd wear a USA sweater at the con, if Canada won, I'd wear a Canada sweater. So on Saturday, I wore Aaron's Team Canada jersey, and had a lot of fun explaining to the genuine Team Canada supporters that I'd lost a bet and was a USA Hockey fan, even though I've secretly thought about defecting to Canada for most of my life.
I bought Matt Kindt's Super Spy: The Lost Dossiers, which if the title didn't tip you off is set in the Super Spy universe. Super Spy is one of my favorite comics of all time, and I can't wait to read it.
I met and talked with hundreds of people who came to my table in the expo hall. I sold all of my books. I ran out of 8x10s. I posed for lots of pictures, and probably didn't look like a complete dork in at least three of them. It was, as always, really awesome to connect with people who read my blog and my books, especially the people who told me they'd been inspired to get back into gaming because of something I'd written about it, and the people who I helped to get excited and make things.
The con was absolutely packed this year, and I saw more families and casual geeks than I've ever seen at a con before in my life. On Friday morning, I did some press to help promote the show, and in the process of talking about it, I realized that I love ECC because it reminds me of everything I loved about SDCC before Hollywood moved in and took over. It's large enough to draw some great guests, but it's still small enough that you have a reasonable chance to actually meet and (depending on who they are) get to spend a minute talking with them. It's growing like crazy, though, and while I don't think it will ever turn into the giant clusterfuck that San Diego's become, I was happy to hear that they're adding a third day next year, because two days just isn't enough time to see and do all the stuff that's available at this show.
Which brings me to the bad: I worked so hard to make the dungeon delve memorable and special, I was up after midnight every night last week writing it (after working on my PAX keynote all day) and as a result, I was exhausted before the show even started.
I felt like my Awesome Hour didn't really earn its name. I would have called it The Pretty Good Hour, if I was giving myself a grade. See, I got last year's PAX and last year's ECC mixed up in my head, and ended up reading the same story that I read last year (Blue Light Special, from The Happiest Days of our Lives). I think most of the audience enjoyed it, and they certainly enjoyed it when I read Justice from Memories of the Future, but I could sense that a significant portion of the room was disappointed to hear a story they'd heard before. I also felt rushed, because I wanted to make sure there was time for at least some Q&A, and there was no way I was going to let myself go over, on account of I was essentially opening for Leonard Nimoy and Stan Lee (which was AWESOME, actually. I mean, how often do you get to do that?)
And now to the thing that's really been bothering me since I got home, The Ugly:
I was just awful when we did our Rock Band thing. I mean, I really, truly, sucked out loud. I know the people who played with me had fun, and I'm not taking anything away from their experience, but for everyone who was just watching, I could tell that I didn't give them a particularly good experience. Mostly, that's because Rock Band was scheduled at the end of the con, which was the worst possible time for me. My voice was completely shot, I was completely out of gas, and I only had an hour to play before I had to literally run to a car that was waiting at the curb to get me to the airport.
There was some great stuff in the setup that we'll carry over to future cons: there were screens that all of us playing could clearly see, there was a microphone stand with a bandanna tied to it for maximum rock, and there was plenty of space for people to get up and mosh, should they have been inspired to do so.
Unfortunately, we made a huge mistake and forgot to turn the vocals all the way down like we usually do, and I was so tired, I forgot that I could just pause the game and do it manually! There wasn't a single speaker facing the stage, so I couldn't hear myself at all … and judging by the expressions I saw in the audience, Randy Jackson would have told "From me to you, dogg, it was a little pitchy, dogg. I have to say 'no.' Dogg.'"
When I play Rock Band at home, that doesn't matter – it's about having fun and pretending to rock, not sounding great – but I'm doing it as sort of a performance for people, it's different than it is when you play in your living room with your friends. I feel like the players had fun (which was very important to me), but I also feel like I let everyone else down – I know I let myself down – and I'm sorry for that. I've only done the Rock Band party thing twice before, and I guess you could say that we're still working out the bugs in a very public (and for me, in this case, embarrassing) beta. I'm going to take the lessons learned from this experience and apply them to Phoenix Comicon in May, though, so hopefully I'll have a chance to redeem myself.
Now, to wrap up on a more positive and less self-flagellating note: I saw a lot of seriously hardcore fans in amazing costumes at ECC this year, but I also saw and talked with a lot of people who were attending their first con, and they were having a great time dancing with the geek what brought them. I also gained several levels in DM while prepping and running the dungeon delve, but all that will have to wait for another post.
Finally, if you want even more Emerald City Comicon stuff, you can hear me talk about it – including a dramatic reading of the backstory and setup for my delve – on this week's episode of my podcast, Radio Free Burrito.