Storytelling Is Not Dead: Gen Con Review

Here it is: my second Sunday reflection.  Please check out my previous Storytelling posts here.  And my 365 Reviews here.

This past weekend I was lucky enough to not only attend the nation’s largest gaming convention, Gen Con, but our crew also presented three panels on Wednesday for Trade Day.  You can check out the resources we discussed here.  I will keep them up for one week, so if the link is broken, that’s on you for not being here sooner…

Gen Con is a beast of a show.  If you’ve been, you know what I mean.  Since there are not any other conventions like it, it gets crazy busy.  So much so that if you do not get to the show floor at the break of dawn, you might be trying the next day to get the exclusives or releases that you came for.

I was lucky enough to get this little gem below (although I had to wait in a long line, continue to wait through the booth’s credit card connectivity issues while cash buyers were able to walk up and buy and head over to get other games while a good number of us waited, only to have our credit cards entered manually, which they could have done in the first place…and when we got to other booths, the games we wanted were gone for the day: common story at Gen Con):

Nyctophobia is a game for two-five players where all but one player is blindfolded.  The seeing player plays the “Hunter,” hunting the other players as they navigate a pitch black forrest.  It’s an unconventional concept, and that’s what drew me to it.

I demoed a few games at Gen Con, and Nyctophobia, although I have not yet played it, seems to be the most original title to cross my weekend.  The problem is, most of the new games that I played are almost identical to other games.  I understand that game mechanics are common; a lot of designers and companies use and borrow game types and mechanics.  They just put a new skin on an old concept.  It’s rare that you find something new…fresh…original.  And that’s a problem: hoards of people getting excited about something just because it has a different skin.  And I get it, there are a lot of games like Cards Against Humanity, heck, I’m designing one right now…people can love all the different versions of a game type; how many first-person shooter video games are out there?  We get comfortable in what we like.

When I told my friend Jeff about Nyctophobia, his first question was, “Wait, so a stranger might have to touch my hand?”  Then he found a handful of other things that he might not like about the concept.  He would rather play a straight-forward trivia-type games because that’s what he’s comfortable with.  Ad I respect that.  Me on the other hand?  I say bring on that stranger’s touch!  If it means an interesting game that I have yet to experience.

This brings me to education.  I feel like a lot of what we do, in the classroom and on the administrative side, is like the games at Gen Con that feel familiar but with different skins.  And when someone comes in to break the mold, people are afraid to “touch a stranger’s hand.”  They are afraid of the unknown.  They are comfortable with what they know, and that’s fine with them.

I’m encouraging you to go into every school year looking for the Nyctophobia in your classroom.  What can you do that shakes up student expectations?  I was presenting with Jason Nisavic at Gen Con, and he made a great point.  I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was something to the effect of students appreciating you when you try something completely out there even if it fails.  The students understand that you are trying to break the status quo for them and their learning; they appreciate it.

Experimenting like this also opens you up to having valuable stories that you can share with other educators; what works, what doesn’t?  Go create failure stories of your own!  After all, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

I’ll be back on Wednesday with my four issue reviews for New Comic Book Day!


Happy gaming!

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