Posts Tagged With: Gen Con

Handicap Awareness at Gen Con

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Gen Con is nigh! With less than two weeks to go before the best four days in gaming (as of the time I’m posting this), I’m not going to rehash what so many others have put out there; there are tons of blogs and articles out there with advice regarding large conventions like Gen Con. My advice is going to be different. I am going to rehash what I’ve posted in previous years (they’re my most popular posts!). To most of it, Wheaton’s Law applies. For those of you who are link-averse, Wheaton’s Law is this: Don’t be a dick.
However, the things about which I’m going to speak, are the sorts of things people are not aware they’re being dickish about. They’re not being malicious; they just don’t have any personal experience with these sorts of issues, so when they start breaking Wheaton’s Law, they don’t know they’re doing it. My job here is not to castigate, but to educate.

Specifically, I’m talking about dealing with those who have physical challenges at conventions. The handicapped, to be blunt. People like my wife. She can walk, but conventions like Gen Con are too big for her. So, she uses a wheelchair to get around. She has a snazzy metallic red electric wheelchair, but in years past, I’ve pushed her in a manual wheelchair. This gives us a unique experience at Gen Con.

Be Aware of People Around You

The average con goer is, shall we say, Plus-sized. OK, that’s fine. I’ve been there; I lost nearly 50 pounds a few years ago. At conventions, people often have large backpacks. Sometimes, everything they brought to the convention is in this backpack. People are not always aware that this backpack adds two to three feet to their girth. They spin around quickly. If you’re in a wheelchair, those backpacks are level with your head. More than once my wife has narrowly avoided being clobbered in the head by an unaware con-goer suddenly spinning around because something caught his or her eye. When I pushed her, I watched for this sort of thing. Now she drives herself, and I worry she’s going to get beat up.

Step to the far sides or into a booth space, if possible, to have conversations with friends or on your phone, or to look at the map, in your backpack, etc.

Moving through large groups of slow moving people is a challenge in a wheelchair. Sometimes people back up unexpectedly. Worse, they often stop unexpectedly. Sometimes it’s because the crowd in front of them has stopped. Sometimes it’s because something caught their eye. Sometimes it’s because someone caught their eye, and they’re stopping to chat. If this happens to you, look ahead a bit and see if there’s a spot in a booth where you can divert to stop. Please, please, please don’t just stop in the middle of the aisle to root through your backpack or catch a Pokémon. You’re not in a high school hallway; stopping in the middle of the aisle is hugely disruptive. Also, if you’re pushing your kids in a stroller, you really need to watch where you’re pushing them. My wife almost got t-boned by a stroller a few years ago because the mother had her head turned one way, watching something, and was pushing and walking in a different direction… in a CROWDED hall way (not even the Dealer Hall). She also almost got run into by a guy walking very fast and not watching the direction he was walking. His friend yelled to get his attention, otherwise he would have tripped over my wife’s (in motion) wheelchair. She had no chance to take evasive action because he approached from an angle that was mostly behind her. Situational Awareness is a thing. You don’t have to be a fighter pilot to practice it. Seriously.

Bathe regularly. Use deodorant.

Shower regularly and use deodorant. This has been covered by almost every blog and podcast I’ve seen on the subject. I bring it up because something most people aren’t aware of: Gamer Funk is worse when your head is at waist level to the average con goer. Think about it: you sit on your butt every day during the con, often for four to six hours at a time. Frequently, walking around the city during the Con can be like walking on the surface of the sun (i.e. it’s HOT). The chairs don’t breathe. The A/Cs in the convention center will have trouble keeping up with a roomful of gamers when it’s hot and humid outside. Except for a very few, select people, most attendees have the crotch region covered completely by a couple of layers of clothes (basically, I’m talking about everyone who can’t get away with wearing something like a swimsuit or lingerie to Gen Con). Sweat happens. Funky things happen in dark, warm, moist areas. This is not shameful, it’s just a fact of bio-chemistry. Cleanliness saves noses.

Give wheelchairs a wide berth; don’t step over them.

Often, those of us using wheelchairs move a little slower than others in the Dealer Hall. Sorry, it’s just difficult to push a large mechanical object through a crowd. Sometimes, we have to stop for a moment to wait for an opening to cross an aisle. I know you’re in a hurry. I know there’s a demo you think you’re late for, or a game in another room. But FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY: DO NOT STEP OVER THE LEGS OF THE PERSON IN THE WHEELCHAIR. This happens to my wife at least once a year. Someone will get the bright idea that they can cut a corner if they just step over my wife’s legs. That is 100% NOT OKAY. For one, these people usually misjudge how much space they need and end up kicking my wife’s feet or the wheelchair. She’s not paralyzed, OK? She has feeling in the lower half of her body. In fact, because she has a degenerative spine condition, she feels these jolts acutely. IN HER BACK.

Pain is a funny thing (and I mean funny like a heart attack). In my wife’s case (and I know many people experience this same thing), it’s like gas prices. It’ll spike very quickly, and then take FOREVER to come back down. If you kick her wheels (however accidentally) or kick her legs because you felt stepping over her was quicker than going around, or accidentally knee the back of the chair because you’re standing too close in line, all of those jolts go right into her back. The extremities are ALL connected to the spine in some way. That jolt of pain doesn’t just go away. It takes HOURS. Often, it takes her lying down for hours before it gets back down to a manageable level and it’s not something that can be alleviated by popping a couple of ibuprofen. Chronic pain does not work that way.

More than once, she has missed out on a half-day or a whole day of a con because of this pain. When you are the cause because you carelessly stepped over her wheelchair and kicked her legs, causing a flare up of pain in her back, you have taken a day at Gen Con away from her. Is that worth saving five seconds to you?

Don’t tie up handicapped accessible bathroom stalls unless you have a Potty Emergency.

A comedian once proclaimed the virtues of the handicapped rest room stall, saying it was “the Cadillac” [of the stalls]. While it is true these stalls are often very roomy, there is a reason for that. Here’s a hint: the reason is NOT SO YOU CAN USE IT TO CHANGE INTO OR OUT OF YOUR COSTUME. I respect cosplayers. What they do is AMAZING. But if you’re tying up the accessible stall chatting on the phone, changing clothes, having a quiet moment, you may be preventing people who need to use it for its intended purposes from using the facilities they require. From what I hear, because I don’t have first-hand experience with the ladies restrooms, for every ten to twenty standard stalls, there are one or two handicapped stalls and one or two “family” stalls (if you’re lucky). The family stalls are slightly smaller than the handicapped stalls, but larger than a standard stall so that a mom can stand and assist her toddler. Handicapped attendees don’t expect the handicapped stalls to only be used by handicapped people. With some 50,000 – 60,000 attendees anticipated, it is understood that sometimes there will be a line for the facilities. People expect to have to wait their turn. The main point is to use a non-handicapped stall if one is available and to be aware that people in wheelchairs cannot choose one of the smaller stalls.

Look, I get sometimes you need a quiet moment, or have to change clothes, but that stall is that big so that wheelchairs can get into it. My wife told me of an experience last year where she was in a line three wheelchairs deep waiting for the accessible stall while two young ladies were changing clothes and giggling and were pretty much oblivious to the fact that they were not the center of the universe.  Apparently, of the twenty or so other stalls, only two others were occupied at the time, so it’s not like these young ladies had no choice (and couldn’t wait). One woman had to get out of her wheelchair, crawl along the floor, and into a non-handicapped accessible stall because she could not wait any longer. My wife confronted them and politely made them aware they were holding up the line and they cried and accused her of being rude.

When people abuse the handicapped restroom, handicapped con goers risk wetting their pants. That shouldn’t have to be one’s main concern in a public restroom.

It’s a safe bet that most cosplayers are from out of town and have hotels. Perhaps they see the bathroom, the handicapped stall in particular, as a more convenient place to work on their costume than going back to their hotel. Well, tough. That stall is for handicapped people to pee and poop. You don’t get to act put out when one of them calls you on it. Besides, have you SEEN what’s on the floor in a public restroom? I certainly wouldn’t want to get that on my costume.

NX_senior_man_wheelchairDon’t be a Dick

This last thing actually is castigation because this happens every Gen Con and it’s not a matter of people being unaware; it’s a matter of people being rude jerks. If there’s a person with a wheelchair waiting for an elevator and they were there waiting when you and your group of friends arrived, WAIT FOR THE NEXT ELEVATOR IF YOU ALL WON’T FIT. More than once we have had our elevator poached by a group of rude assholes who rush to get into the elevator before we can. That’s being a dick. That’s being rude. You are bad people and should feel bad. When that happens, we hope the elevator breaks down with you in it. Don’t make me be a bad person for wishing bad things upon you.

Let’s work together to make sure the Best Four Days of Gaming are the best days for ALL attendees!

Categories: Conventions | Tags: , | 14 Comments

Gen Con Tips for Newbies

So, I spent last week telling you how not to be a dick around folks with physical challenges at Gen Con. “But, this is my first year! I don’t even know anything about anything about Gen Con.”

Today’s post is for you!

Gen Con can be overwhelming for the first time attendee. We’ve all been there. Bask in the Nerdvana and enjoy it. You’ll never get to experience Gen Con for the first time again. When you walk into the Dealer Hall (or even just join the crowd that’s gathering for the opening, aka the “Running of the Nerds”) it is at once exhilarating and terrifying. When the crowd finally thins and you get in, tens of thousand of square feet of games and game-related merchandise await you. There really is nothing like it on Earth.

Some folks say that for your first year, don’t cram your schedule full of ticketed activities. There’s wisdom in that, and I certain recommend setting aside a large portion of time for the Dealer Hall. Why? Because you can spend all day in there and not see everything. Now, there are some things you’re probably not interested in, that’s fine. But, surely there are some new games you want to try. The Dealer Hall is perfect for that. Almost every booth selling board games has demos running all day and many booths with RPGs are running demos as well. These demos last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour and cost absolutely nothing. In theory, you could probably spend all four days playing games for free in the Dealer Hall.

If you have an interest in seeing the best products get recognized, pop by the ENnie Awards on Friday night. It costs nothing to attend and it’s a veritable who’s who of RPG designers and writers. Granted, most of them won’t have much time to socialize with you at the event; that’s what their Dealer Hall hours are for (that, and selling their new games). The ENnie Awards are in the Grand Hall of Union Station again this year, just a short walk from the Convention Center. If the weather is too nasty, you can even get there without going outdoors (though the route is considerably more convoluted, confusing, and quite a bit further).

Don’t be discouraged a game you REALLY want to play in is sold out. Grab some generic tickets and go anyway. There’s no guarantee you’ll get a seat, but some GMs will take an extra player and there might be no-shows. One thing is certain: if you don’t try to get an extra seat, or one of the no-show seats, you definitely won’t get to play. I highly recommend playing in some games you don’t get to play at home. There are tons of games I never get to try with my home group, for a variety of reasons. Were it not for conventions, I would never get to play these games. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find a new favorite. I know some people who go to Gen Con and spend all four days playing the same game they play regularly every week in their home games. They enjoy it, OK, but for my money, I like to try something new.

Be culinarily adventurous. The food truck lines are epic, but it’s a good opportunity to try new foods. “But, it’s Gen Con! I’m there to game and not eat.” Make a game of it. Create a Food Truck score card and keep track of what you eat. I dunno, play Food Truck Bingo or something. Or heck, just give your taste buds a treat now and again since 95% of Gen Con attendees are eating worse those four days than they do most of the rest of the year.

Hang out in the crossroads Saturday afternoon and bask in the brillance of the parade of cosplayers (technically, it’s the Costume Contest Parade). The artistic talent on display is AMAZING. There are some truly mind-blowing costumes at Gen Con every year. If hanging out isn’t your thing, go to the Costume Contest and sit and watch, then.

Game on and have fun. See you in a few days!

Categories: Conventions | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Gen Con Tips & Advice from Doctor StrangeRoll

Gen Con is nigh! With less than two weeks to go before the best four days in gaming (as of the time I’m posting this), I’m not going to rehash what so many others have put out there, here are some links.

Sean K. Reynolds (of Paizo) says…
Gnome Stew (ENnie Awards-winning blog) says…
Erik Mona (of Paizo) says…
DoingIndy.com says…
Examiner.com says…
The Illuminerdy (ENnie Awards-nominated blog) says…

OK, enough about that. As you can see, there are tons of blogs and articles out there with advice regarding large conventions like Gen Con. My advice is going to be different. I am going to rehash what I posted last year (it was my most popular post ever!). To most of it, Wheaton’s Law applies. For those of you who are link-averse, Wheaton’s Law is this: Don’t be a dick.

However, the things about which I’m going to speak, are the sorts of things people are not aware they’re being dickish about. They’re not being malicious; they just don’t have any personal experience with these sorts of issues, so when they start breaking Wheaton’s Law, they don’t know they’re doing it. My job here is not to castigate, but to educate.

Specifically, I’m talking about dealing with those who have physical challenges at conventions. The handicapped, to be blunt. People like my wife. She can walk, but conventions like Gen Con are too big for her. So, she uses a wheelchair to get around. She has a snazzy metallic red electric wheelchair, but in years past, I’ve pushed her in a manual wheelchair. This gives us a unique experience at Gen Con.

Be Aware of People Around You

The average con goer is, shall we say, Plus-sized. OK, that’s fine. I’ve been there; I’ve recently lost over 40 pounds. At conventions, people often have large backpacks. Sometimes, everything they brought to the convention is in this backpack. People are not always aware that this backpack adds two to three feet to their girth. They spin around quickly. If you’re in a wheelchair, those backpacks are level with your head. More than once my wife has narrowly avoided being clobbered in the head by an unaware con-goer suddenly spinning around because something caught his or her eye. When I pushed her, I watched for this sort of thing. Now she drives herself, and I worry she’s going to get beat up.

Step to the far sides or into a booth space, if possible, to have conversations with friends or on your phone, or to look at the map, in your backpack, etc.

Moving through large groups of slow moving people is a challenge in a wheelchair. Sometimes people back up unexpectedly. Worse, they often stop unexpectedly. Sometimes it’s because the crowd in front of them has stopped. Sometimes its because something caught their eye. Sometimes it’s because someone caught their eye, and they’re stopping to chat. If this happens to you, look ahead a bit and see if there’s a spot in a booth where you can divert to stop. Please, please, please don’t just stop in the middle of the aisle to root through your backpack. You’re not in a high school hallway; stopping in the middle of the aisle is hugely disruptive. Also, if you’re pushing your kids in a stroller, you really need to watch where you’re pushing them. My wife almost got t-boned by a stroller a few years ago because the mother had her head turned one way, watching something, and was pushing and walking in a different direction… in a CROWDED hall way (not even the Dealer Hall). She also almost got run into by a guy walking very fast and not watching the direction he was walking. His friend yelled to get his attention, otherwise he would have tripped over my wife’s (in motion) wheelchair. She had no chance to take evasive action because he approached from an angle that was mostly behind her. Situational Awareness is a thing. You don’t have to be a fighter pilot to practice it. Seriously.

Bathe regularly. Use deodorant.

Shower regularly and use deodorant. This has been covered by almost every blog and podcast I’ve seen on the subject. I bring it up because something most people aren’t aware of: Gamer Funk is worse when your head is at waist level to the average con goer. Think about it: you sit on your butt every day during the con, often for four to six hours at a time. Frequently, walking around the city during the Con can be like walking on the surface of the sun (i.e. it’s HOT). The chairs don’t breathe. The A/Cs in the convention center will have trouble keeping up with a roomful of gamers when it’s hot and humid outside. Except for a very few, select people, most attendees have the crotch region covered completely by a couple of layers of clothes (basically, I’m talking about everyone who can’t get away with wearing something like a swimsuit or lingerie to Gen Con). Sweat happens. Funky things happen in dark, warm, moist areas. This is not shameful, it’s just a fact of bio-chemistry. Cleanliness saves noses.

Give wheelchairs a wide berth; don’t step over them.

Often, those of us using wheelchairs move a little slower than others in the Dealer Hall. Sorry, it’s just difficult to push a large mechanical object through a crowd. Sometimes, we have to stop for a moment to wait for an opening to cross an aisle. I know you’re in a hurry. I know there’s a demo you think you’re late for, or a game in another room. But FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY: DO NOT STEP OVER THE LEGS OF THE PERSON IN THE WHEELCHAIR. This happens to my wife at least once a year. Someone will get the bright idea that they can cut a corner if they just step over my wife’s legs. That is 100% NOT OKAY. For one, these people usually misjudge how much space they need and end up kicking my wife’s feet or the wheelchair. She’s not paralyzed, OK? She has feeling in the lower half of her body. In fact, because she has a degenerative spine condition, she feels these jolts acutely. IN HER BACK.

Pain is a funny thing (and I mean funny like a heart attack). In my wife’s case (and I know many people experience this same thing), it’s like gas prices. It’ll spike very quickly, and then take FOREVER to come back down. If you kick her wheels (however accidentally) or kick her legs because you felt stepping over her was quicker than going around, or accidentally knee the back of the chair because you’re standing too close in line, all of those jolts go right into her back. The extremities are ALL connected to the spine in some way. That jolt of pain doesn’t just go away. It takes HOURS. Often, it takes her lying down for hours before it gets back down to a manageable level and it’s not something that can be alleviated by popping a couple of ibuprofen. Chronic pain does not work that way.

More than once, she has missed out on a half-day or a whole day of a con because of this pain. When you are the cause because you carelessly stepped over her wheelchair and kicked her legs, causing a flare up of pain in her back, you have taken a day at Gen Con away from her. Is that worth saving five seconds to you

Don’t tie up handicapped accessible bathroom stalls unless you have a Potty Emergency.

A comedian once proclaimed the virtues of the handicapped rest room stall, saying it was “the Cadillac” [of the stalls]. While it is true these stalls are often very roomy, there is a reason for that. Here’s a hint: the reason is NOT SO YOU CAN USE IT TO CHANGE  INTO OR OUT OF YOUR COSTUME. I respect cosplayers. What they do is AMAZING. But if you’re tying up the accessible stall chatting on the phone, changing clothes, having a quiet moment, you may be preventing people who need to use it for its intended purposes from using the facilities they require. From what I hear, because I don’t have first hand experience with the ladies restrooms, for every ten to twenty standard stalls, there are one or two handicapped stalls and one or two “family” stalls. The family stalls are slightly smaller than the handicapped stalls, but larger than a standard stall so that a mom can stand and assist her toddler. Handicapped attendees don’t expect the handicapped stalls to only be used by handicapped people. With over 56,000 attendees anticipated, it is understood that sometimes there will be a line for the facilities. People expect to have to wait their turn. The main point is to use a non-handicapped stall if one is available and to be aware that people in wheelchairs cannot choose one of the smaller stalls.

Look, I get sometimes you need a quiet moment, or have to change clothes, but that stall is that big so that wheelchairs can get into it. My wife told me of an experience last year where she was in a line three wheelchairs deep waiting for the accessible stall while two young ladies were changing clothes and giggling and were pretty much oblivious to the fact that they were not the center of the universe.  Apparently, of the twenty or so other stalls, only two others were occupied at the time, so it’s not like these young ladies had no choice (and couldn’t wait). One woman had to get out of her wheelchair, crawl along the floor, and into a non-handicapped accessible stall because she could not wait any longer. My wife confronted them and politely made them aware they were holding up the line and they cried and accused her of being rude.

When people abuse the handicapped restroom, handicapped con goers risk wetting their pants. That shouldn’t have to be one’s main concern in a public restroom.

It’s a safe bet that most cosplayers are from out of town and have hotels. Perhaps they see the bathroom, the handicapped stall in particular, as a more convenient place to work on their costume than going back to their hotel. Well, tough. That stall is for handicapped people to pee and poop. You don’t get to act put out when one of them calls you on it.

Don’t be a Dick

This last thing is actually a castigation because this happens every Gen Con and it’s not a matter of people being unaware; it’s a matter of people being rude jerks. If there’s a person with a wheelchair waiting for an elevator and they were there waiting when you and your group of friends arrived, WAIT FOR THE NEXT ELEVATOR IF YOU ALL WON’T FIT. More than once we have had our elevator poached by a group of rude assholes who rush to get into the elevator before we can. That’s being a dick. That’s being rude. You are bad people and should feel bad. When that happens, we hope the elevator breaks down with you in it. Don’t make me be a bad person for wishing bad things upon you.

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Guest Post! — Gen Con Tips & Advice Series

Jakub Nowosad a.k.a. Arathi: master of Law & master of Political Science, Polish convention organizer since 2004, RPG player since 1996. Redactor and reviewer in Polish RPG websites. He is trying to popularize board games and RPG in his region in Poland. He has also served as an ENnie Awards judge in 2014 and 2015. He has a tumor in his spine resulting in muscular atrophy of the left side of the body. You can reach him online: Google+ at +JakubNowosad, Twitter @Arathic. 

As a disabled person sometimes I have a problem with conventions. In this text I want to tell organizers, participants and other handicapped persons a few words. Most of the things below are an outcome of my career as a convention organiser for almost ten years.

For organizers:

I know we don’t always have a possibility to choose a place with good infrastructure that will be helpful for disabled. But as an ex-organiser I think you can make some convenience. First You can make a special point for buying tickets with priority for disabled. Second You can sensitize volunteers and helpers on the needs of the disabled. It’s always helpful when a physically impaired person can ask someone from the staff for help. Having a spare wheelchair and a medic is helpful too. In Poland most conventions require from underage attendees to show a permission slip from parents. I think parents can write down in a permission slip  helpful information about theirs kid: allergies, chronic illnesses, and disabilities. Adult people can have an ICE card (In Case of Emergency) – i.e. special card in a wallet where is written information about family (address, phone number), blood type and other medical info. Organizers should have a few spare ICE cards for people who want it (You can find them on the Web).

Special symbols (such as badges or an armbands) could be useful with identification of disabled. Organizers can save first row of seats in the seminars just for disabled.

With all this, physically-impaired people could have a better time in the convention.

For convention attendants:

A lot of people have some medical problems. Sometimes hidden. When you are in the crowd remember people are around you may have medical issues. Try not to be the one who is always rush others. When you are entering a room don’t scuffle to enter as fast as you can. Rush is not a good advisor and can be harmful for others.

A good thing to do is to find another chair if you sit in the last one in the room. Sometimes at a convention or conference I feel powerless when I can’t find a place to sit. And a lot of people are sitting around and pretend they don’t see me or other handicapped. So look around, try to help if you can (with luggage, chair, box etc) and don’t just think of yourself – convention should be a fun for everyone.

And finally as a physically-impaired person I have a few words to other people like me – don’t be macho. I know it’s hard to live when you have a serious illness. But pretending that you can lift those boxes or luggage by yourself, will not help you and can be harmful for your health. It’s not shameful to ask someone for help – in Poland we say: Your crown will not fall from your head. 😉

Note from Doctor StrangeRoll: The Indianapolis Convention Center is an ADA facility; they are supposed to adhere to all the laws for ADA accessibility. If you find this is not the case, please let a member of the Convention Center staff know immediately.

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Guest Post! Conventions & Canes — Gen Con Tips & Advice Series

This week I’ll be posting my Gen Con Tips and Advice, but I’m shaking things up from the past two years and I’m leading off with a guest post!

Jacob Wood is the founder of Accessible Games, a small press publisher devoted to making games available to everyone. He’s a writer, designer, layout artist, and accessibility advocate for the gaming industry. You can find him online at http://www.accessiblegames.biz, on Twitter at @AccessibleGames, or on Google+ as +JacobWood.

Conventions and Canes

This year, for my first time ever, I’ll be heading to GenCon. It’s the nation’s leading tabletop gaming convention and attracts 50,000+ people. I’ll be attending as an industry professional, a small press game publisher and member of the Independent Game Developers network. I’m thrilled to be going and excited at the opportunity to meet dozens of people I interact with on a regular basis. People I work with, game with, and otherwise enjoy spending time online with.

 

As excited as I am though, there’s one significant thing that makes me nervous. I’m legally blind, and I’ll be travelling solo. By itself that isn’t scary–I get around just fine in my daily life, from home to work and back again. I travel around my home city with little to no anxiety (most days) and don’t think twice about jumping on a bus or even catching an airplane. What makes me anxious is the large crowds of people who will be, by and large, not paying much attention to anything that isn’t shiny and attention-getting.

 

From my experience, when people (in general) gather in large crowds they tend to become less aware of their surroundings. I get it–it’s easy to get lost in a sea of people and more difficult still when you’re just trying to find your own way through the horde because you’re late for a game or need to locate a restroom. For those of us trying to get around with a physical impairment though, it can be a panic-inducing nightmare (and I don’t even get panic attacks… or nightmares).

 

With that in mind, if you’re heading to GenCon (or any other convention or large gathering, for that matter) I’d like to offer some advice on how you might be conscious of others even while you’re understandably focused on yourself.

 

Stowe the Electronics

It’s hard to believe this has to be said, but it does. If you’re walking, you shouldn’t be texting or checking e-mail. You also shouldn’t be checking your calendar appointments or, for goodness sake, taking pictures of yourself or others.

 

There’s always time to pull over and check these things later. Seriously. If you’re in so much of a hurry that you simply can’t slow down to read your messages, you should at the very least invest in a good Bluetooth headset and some hands-free messaging software (of which there are tons of free options available for any platform you choose). There’s also no reason to be taking selfies or snapping images of cosplayers if you’re not prepared to stand aside and focus the picture.

 

This doesn’t apply just to using electronics and walking though. It means don’t stand still in the middle of a hallway to do any of these things either. The bottom line: if you find yourself reaching for your phone or tablet, pull over to the side of the hall and make sure you’re not in anyone’s way. Everyone, not just people with disabilities, will thank you for it.

 

Be Aware

I wrote about this a couple years ago on my own blog (link: http://www.accessiblegames.biz/gaming-people-disabilities/) but it doesn’t hurt to repeat it.

 

We’ve already discussed how it can be difficult to be aware of your surroundings when you’re in a huge crowd, but you can still control how you behave and react when someone approaches you or is in your immediate vicinity. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stopped to ask a random stranger for information or directions and they completely missed the fact that I was carrying a red-tipped cane (which, in the U.S. at least, is the common sign that someone is blind). Using phrases like “it’s right over there” and pointing at something is sort of lost on someone who can’t see what you’re pointing at.

 

If you do interact with someone who has a noticeable physical impairment, try to be aware of it and what that might mean in terms of the requests they’re making or the questions they’re asking. That doesn’t mean you need to fall all over yourself trying to help, but it does mean tailoring your responses with their needs in mind. If you don’t know what those needs are, you can just ask. It’s not impolite, it’s awesome for you to do that.

 

Navigating Crowds

Just about everyone has difficulty navigating through large crowds, but people with physical impairments have it even more difficult.When you’re walking through a sea of people, you constantly make split-second decisions about how to turn and where to place your next steps in order to avoid collisions and make progress toward your destination. People with disabilities have to do this too, but it can be a little more tricky.

 

People in wheelchairs, on crutches, using canes, or pushing strollers are far less maneuverable than others around them. They don’t always have the luxury of avoiding you, so if you spot a less agile person then try to be aware of their needs and make your own efforts to go around them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run into (or nearly missed running into) people because  I was headed their way with my cane in front of me and they simply didn’t bother to notice. Oftentimes it’s I, the blind person, who winds up doing the evasive maneuvers and, frankly, I’m not very good at them.

 

With that being said, just knowing where to go in a new location filled with billions of bodies can be difficult. Occasionally I’ll stop and ask someone for directions. Sometimes those people will offer to show me where I need to go. That’s completely awesome, but as a fair warning you’re very easy to lose in the crowd. Would you be so kind as to let me take your elbow? I promise I bathed today and you won’t catch “gamer funk.”

 

If you find yourself being the lead for someone who has a physical impairment, it’s okay to ask them if you’re walking too fast or if they need some additional assistance (like an outstretched elbow or a held door). If for some reason you’re just not comfortable with that, I think most people would prefer you be upfront about that so they can find someone else to help before getting too frustrated.

 

Conclusion

As GenCon grows, the likelihood of you encountering someone with a disability increases. If you see someone who appears like they may be in need, it’s okay to ask them if they’d like any help. If they don’t need it, they’ll tell you they’re okay. Otherwise, it’s a great relief to know someone else was being aware and being willing to lend a and.

 

I hope everyone has a fun and safe time at GenCon this year. I’m looking forward to it being my first. If you’re going to be there, stop by the IGDN game room and say hello.

Categories: Conventions | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Gen Con Tips & Advice

Gen Con logoGen Con is nigh! With less than two weeks to go before the best four days in gaming (as of the time I’m posting this), I’m not going to rehash what so many others have put out there, here are some links.

Sean K. Reynolds (of Paizo) says…
Gnome Stew (ENnie Awards-winning blog) says…
Erik Mona (of Paizo) says…
DoingIndy.com says…
Examiner.com says…
The Illuminerdy (ENnie Awards-nominated blog) says…

OK, enough about that. As you can see, there are tons of blogs and articles out there with advice regarding large conventions like Gen Con. My advice is going to be different. I am going to rehash what I posted last year (it was my most popular post ever!). To most of it, Wheaton’s Law applies. For those of you who are link-averse, Wheaton’s Law is this: Don’t be a dick.

However, the things about which I’m going to speak, are the sorts of things people are not aware they’re being dickish about. They’re not being malicious; they just don’t have any personal experience with these sorts of issues, so when they start breaking Wheaton’s Law, they don’t know they’re doing it. My job here is not to castigate, but to educate.

Specifically, I’m talking about dealing with those who have physical challenges at conventions. The handicapped, to be blunt. People like my wife. She can walk, but conventions like Gen Con are too big for her. So, she uses a wheelchair to get around. This year, she has a snazzy metallic red electric wheelchair, but in years past, I’ve pushed her in a manual wheelchair. This gives us a unique experience at Gen Con.

The average con goer is, shall we say, Plus-sized. OK, that’s fine. I could stand to lose 40 pounds myself. At conventions, people often have large backpacks. Sometimes, everything they brought to the convention is in this backpack. People are not always aware that this backpack adds 2′ – 3′ to their girth. They spin around quickly. If you’re in a wheelchair, those backpacks are level with your head. More than once my wife has narrowly avoided being clobbered in the head by an unaware con-goer suddenly spinning around because something caught his or her eye. When I’m pushing her, I’m watching for this sort of thing. This year she’ll be driving herself and I actually worry she’s going to get beat up.

  • Be Aware of People Around You

Moving through large groups of slow moving people is a challenge in a wheelchair. Sometimes people back up unexpectedly. Worse, they often stop unexpectedly. Sometimes it’s because the crowd in front of them has stopped. Sometimes its because something caught their eye. Sometimes it’s because someone caught their eye, and they’re stopping to chat. If this happens to you, look ahead a bit and see if there’s a spot in a booth where you can divert to stop. Please, please, please don’t just stop in the middle of the aisle to root through your backpack. You’re not in a High School hallway, stopping in the middle of the aisle is hugely disruptive. Also, if you’re pushing your kids in a stroller, you really need to watch where you’re pushing them. My wife almost got t-boned by a stroller last year because the mother had her head turned one way, watching something, and was pushing and walking in a different direction… in a CROWDED hall way (not even the Dealer Hall). She also almost got run into by a guy walking very fast and not watching the direction he was walking. His friend yelled to to his attention, otherwise he would have tripped over my wife’s (in motion) wheelchair. Situational Awareness is a thing. You don’t have to be a fighter pilot to practice it. Seriously.

  • Step to the far sides or into a booth space, if possible, to have conversations with friends or on your phone, or to look at the map, in your backpack, etc.

Shower regularly and use deodorant. This has been covered by almost every blog and podcast I’ve seen on the subject. I bring it up because something most people aren’t aware of: Gamer Funk is worse when your head is at waist level to the average con goer. Think about it: you sit on your butt every day during the con, often for 4-6 hours at a time. Frequently, walking around the city during the Con can be like walking on the surface of the sun (i.e. it’s HOT). The chairs don’t breathe. The A/Cs in the convention center will have trouble keeping up with a roomful of gamers when it’s hot and humid outside. Except for a very few, select people, most attendees have the crotch region covered completely by a couple of layers of clothes (basically, I’m talking about everyone who can’t get away with wearing something like a swimsuit or lingerie to Gen Con). Sweat happens. Funky things happen in dark, warm, moist areas. This is not shameful, it’s just a fact of bio-chemistry. Cleanliness saves noses!

  • Bathe regularly. Use deodorant.

Often, those of us using wheelchairs move a little slower than others in the Dealer Hall. Sorry, it’s just difficult to push a large mechanical object through a crowd. Sometimes, we have to stop for a moment to wait for an opening to cross an aisle. I know you’re in a hurry. I know there’s a demo you think you’re late for, or a game in another room. But FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY: DO NOT STEP OVER THE LEGS OF THE PERSON IN THE WHEELCHAIR. This happens to my wife at least once a year. Someone will get the bright idea that they can cut a corner if they just step over my wife’s legs. That is 100% NOT OKAY. For one, these people usually misjudge how much space they need and end up kicking my wife’s feet or the wheelchair. She’s not paralyzed, OK? She has feeling in the lower half of her body. In fact, because she has a degenerative spine condition, she feels these jolts acutely. IN HER BACK.

Pain is a funny thing (and I mean funny like a heart attack). In my wife’s case (and I know many people experience this same thing), it’s like gas prices. It’ll spike very quickly, and then take FOREVER to come back down. If you kick her wheels (however accidentally) or kick her legs because you felt stepping over her was quicker than going around, or accidentally knee the back of the chair because you’re standing too close in line, all of those jolts go right into her back. The extremities are ALL connected to the spine in some way. That jolt of pain doesn’t just go away. It takes HOURS. Often, it takes her lying down for hours before it gets back down to a manageable level and it’s not something that can be alleviated by popping a couple of ibuprofen. Chronic pain does not work that way.

More than once, she has missed out on a half-day or a whole day of a con because of this pain. When you are the cause because you carelessly stepped over her wheelchair and kicked her legs, causing a flare up of pain in her back, you have taken a day at Gen Con away from her. Is that worth saving 5 seconds to you?

  • Give wheelchairs a wide berth; don’t step over them.

This last thing is just actually a castigation because this happens every Gen Con and it’s not a matter of people being unaware; it’s a matter of people being rude jerks. If there’s a person with a wheelchair waiting for an elevator and they were there waiting when you and your group of friends arrived, WAIT FOR THE NEXT ELEVATOR IF YOU ALL WON’T FIT. More than once we have had our elevator poached by a group of rude assholes who rush to get into the elevator before we can. That’s being a dick. That’s being rude. You are bad people and should feel bad. When that happens, we hope the elevator breaks down with you in it. If I’ve had a really bad day, I hope the elevator breaks and falls back down to the ground floor with you in it. Don’t make me be a bad person for wishing bad things upon you.

  • Don’t be a dick.
Categories: Conventions | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Gen Con Tips & Advice

Gen Con is nigh! With only 6 days to go before the best four days in gaming (as of the time I’m posting this), I’m not going to rehash what so many others have put out there. What would those be, you ask? Here:

Sean K. Reynolds (of Paizo) says…
Gnome Stew (ENnie Awards-winning blog) says…
Erik Mona (of Paizo) says…
DoingIndy.com says…
Examiner.com says…

OK, enough about that. As you can see, there are tons of blogs and articles out there with advice regarding large conventions like Gen Con. My advice is going to be different. To most of it, Wheaton’s Law applies. For those of you who are link-averse, Wheaton’s Law is this: Don’t be a dick.

However, the things about which I’m going to speak, are the sorts of things people are not aware they’re being dickish about. They’re not being malicious; they just don’t have any personal experience with these sorts of issues, so when they start breaking Wheaton’s Law, they don’t know they’re doing it. My job here is not to castigate, but to educate.

Specifically, I’m talking about dealing with those who have physical challenges at conventions. The handicapped, to be blunt. People like my wife. She can walk, but conventions like Gen Con are too big for her. So, she uses a wheelchair to get around. This year, she has a snazzy metallic red electric wheelchair, but in years past, I’ve pushed her in a manual wheelchair. This gives us a unique experience at Gen Con.

The average con goer is, shall we say, Plus-Sized. OK, that’s fine. I could stand to lose 40 pounds myself. At conventions, people often have large backpacks. Sometimes, everything they brought to the convention is in this backpack. People are not always aware that this backpack adds 2′ – 3′ to their girth. They spin around quickly. If you’re in a wheelchair, those backpacks are level with your head. More than once my wife has narrowly avoided being clobbered in the head by an unaware con-goer suddenly spinning around because something caught his or her eye. When I’m pushing her, I’m watching for this sort of thing. This year she’ll be driving herself and I actually worry she’s going to get beat up.

  • Be Aware of People Around You

Moving through large groups of slow moving people is a challenge in a wheelchair. Sometimes people back up unexpectedly. Worse, they often stop unexpectedly. Sometimes it’s because the crowd in front of them has stopped. Sometimes its because something caught their eye. Sometimes it’s because someone caught their eye, and they’re stopping to chat. If this happens to you, look ahead a bit and see if there’s a spot in a booth where you can divert to stop. Please, please, please don’t just stop in the middle of the aisle to root through your backpack. You’re not in a High School hallway, stopping in the middle of the aisle is hugely disruptive.

  • Step to the far sides or into a booth space, if possible, to have conversations with friends or on your phone, or to look at the map, in your backpack, etc.

Shower regularly and use deodorant. This has been covered by almost every blog and podcast I’ve seen on the subject. I bring it up because something most people aren’t aware of: Gamer Funk is worse when your head is at waist level to the average con goer. Think about it: you sit on your butt every day during the con. Often, walking around the city during the Con can be like walking on the surface of the sun (i.e. it’s HOT). The chairs don’t breathe. Except for a very few, select people, most attendees have the crotch region covered completely by a couple of layers of clothes (basically, I’m talking about everyone who can’t get away with wearing something like a swimsuit or lingerie to Gen Con). Sweat happens. Funky things happen in dark, warm, moist areas. This is not shameful, it’s just a fact of bio-chemistry. Cleanliness saves noses!

  • Bathe regularly. Use deodorant.

Often, those of us using wheelchairs move a little slower than others in the Dealer Hall. Sorry, it’s just difficult to push a large mechanical object through a crowd. Sometimes, we have to stop for a moment to wait for an opening to cross an aisle. I know you’re in a hurry. I know there’s a demo you think you’re late for, or a game in another room. But FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY: DO NOT STEP OVER THE LEGS OF THE PERSON IN THE WHEELCHAIR. This happens to my wife at least once a year. Someone will get the bright idea that they can cut a corner if they just step over my wife’s legs. That is 100% NOT OKAY. For one, these people usually misjudge how much space they need and end up kicking my wife’s feet or the wheelchair. She’s not paralyzed, OK? She has feeling in the lower half of her body. In fact, because she has a degenerative spine condition, she feels these jolts acutely. IN HER BACK.

Pain is a funny thing (and I mean funny like a heart attack). In my wife’s case (and I know many people experience this same thing), it’s like gas prices. It’ll spike very quickly, and then take FOREVER to come back down. If you kick her wheels (however accidentally) or kick her legs because you felt stepping over her was quicker than going around, or accidentally knee the back of the chair because you’re standing too close in line, all of those jolts go right into her back. The extremities are ALL connected to the spine in some way. That jolt of pain doesn’t just go away. It takes HOURS. Often, it takes her lying down for hours before it gets back down to a manageable level and it’s not something that can be alleviated by popping a couple of ibuprofen. Chronic pain does not work that way.

More than once, she has missed out on a half-day or a whole day of a con because of this pain. When you are the cause because you carelessly stepped over her wheelchair and kicked her legs, causing a flare up of pain in her back, you have taken a day at Gen Con away from her. Is that worth saving 5 seconds to you?

  • Give wheelchairs a wide berth; don’t step over them.

This last thing is just actually a castigation because this happens every Gen Con and it’s not a matter of people being unaware; it’s a matter of people being rude jerks. If there’s a person with a wheelchair waiting for an elevator and they were there waiting when you and your group of friends arrived, WAIT FOR THE NEXT ELEVATOR IF YOU ALL WON’T FIT. More than once we have had our elevator poached by a group of rude assholes who rush to get into the elevator before we can. That’s being a dick. That’s being rude. You are bad people and should feel bad. When that happens, we hope the elevator breaks down with you in it. If I’ve had a really bad day, I hope the elevator breaks and falls back down to the ground floor with you in it. Don’t make me be a bad person for wishing bad things upon you.

  • Don’t be a dick.
Categories: Conventions | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Gen Con 2012

Another Gen Con is behind us. Conventions like Gen Con are a paradox: when you’re working the convention, 5 days (4 days of convention + set up) is too long, but at the same time, it’s too short to do everything you want to do and see everyone you want to see. Since I have duties as Submissions Coordinator of the ENnie Awards, I have too little time to game at Gen Con. I played exactly three games while I was there (four if you count a demo): Pathfinder, Bulldogs!, and Project Ninja Panda Taco.

Pathfinder: I ran a Ptolus/Pathfinder game for some friends Wednesday evening. The PCs were reformed monsters from the Brotherhood of Redemption. There was a budding romance between the minotaur gunslinger/rogue and the troll fighter; my wife was a good sport to go along with the silly banter. It was interesting that they chose to bypass the Bluesteel door by chopping THROUGH the adjacent wall with an adamantine greatsword.

Bulldogs! Sci-Fi That Kicks-Ass: My wife and my first FATE game. I already loved what I read about the game and really enjoyed the system. My wife thought it was awesome and wants to play FATE (particularly Bulldogs!) again. Yeah, I’m down with that.

Project Ninja Panda Taco: You may remember this from the Kickstarter. We played with the creator of the game, Jennifer Steen (of Jennisodes). It’s sort of a hybrid improv/RPG. It was a lot of fun; another game my wife judges as “Awesome.” Actually, I think she may have said “Totally Awesome.” My Mastermind, Otto von Schnitzelpusskrankengescheitmeir was horribly ineffective and by the end of the game, he completed 0 projects. His minion, Larry the Loitering Lisper, however advanced to Mastermind status by the end of the game. I look forward to playing it more when I get my copy from the Kickstarter.

I also demoed a game of Edition Wars with the good folks from Gamer Nation Studios. It’s a card game that reminds me a bit of the good parts of Chez Geek, but with simpler mechanics. It was a lot of fun. I bought a copy at the con, but now I wish I’d supported their Kickstarter when I had the chance.

I bought way too much stuff. The games I’m most excited to play are Deadlands: Reloaded and Call of Cthulhu (I’m a late bloomer). I also picked up the Beta of Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, the new Star Wars RPG by Fantasy Flight Games. Despite my misgivings about the custom dice, (at least the Beta has stickers you can apply to create the dice yourself) I’m finding myself liking what I’m reading about the mechanics. I hate required fiddly bits and custom dice in RPGs, probably because I have SO many dice already, not being able to use them for a game is a barrier to entry for me. Of course, there is a conversion chart for regular polyhedrals, but that’s a pain in the butt.

The production values are really good. I was thrilled to see actual ARTWORK in this book, rather than having it crammed full of movie stills. It’s already my favorite visual presentation of a Star Wars RPG since WEGs 2nd edition (not the Expanded & Revised; I think they overdid the “Look! We can print in color now!”). For some reason, having original art in a Star Wars RPG book inspires me more than movie stills. Probably because it gets me thinking about how I can use the world instead of how it was presented to me (there’s a lesson there for people making licensed games).

The class & talent tree system reminds me a bit of The Old Republic MMO, but only so far as they have classes & talent trees. They’re not really implemented the same way. It uses a dice pool mechanic. I have no idea how it compares to WFRP, but I’ve heard it similar. It actually looks pretty easy once you get used to the symbols on the dice (and a small cheat sheet will help with that).

Edge of the Empire offers a smattering of species: bothan, droid, gand, human, rodian, trandoshan, twi’lek, and wookiee. I would have preferred mon calamari to gand, though, but it’s still a nice mix. I guess I’ll have to run a few sessions of it and see how things work.

The ENnie Awards ceremony went very well. The venue was the Grand Hall at Union Station and featured cathedral ceilings and stained glass. As Monte Cook said, we “leveled up” (the first ENnie Awards ceremony was held in an internet chatroom). You can see the complete list of winners here. Carlos, the official ENnie Awards photographer put pictures of the ceremony up on his Flikr account.

I’m still working on the Doctor Who post. I thought I would finish it up after I set up the booth Wednesday night or before I got started on Thursday. We all see how that worked out. The next Doctor StrangeRoll game will take place on Friday, August 31st, wherein the PCs will begin exploring the tomb of Pharaoh Amun-Re.

Categories: Conventions, Star Wars RPG | Tags: | Leave a comment

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