Hey hey. Metatopia 2018 wrapped up Sunday and I want to get my thoughts on the event written down before they slip away…
Metatopia is a small-ish convention held in Morristown, New Jersey, by Double Exposure (a demo program in which I’m involved) and its pretty different from your standard convention. Metatopia – “The Game Design Festival” – revolves around game development and the focus is almost completely on playtesting board/card/war games, role-playing games, and live action role-playing games. (Playtesting is the process by which a game designer tests a new game or a game in development for bugs and design flaws before bringing it to market.) Participants at the convention sign up for some 900+ playtesting slots and then sit down to playtest the game with its designers and other attendees. There were also panel discussions and seminars. Metatopia is self-described as “both a freeform exchange of gaming AND a tightly scheduled Double Exposure convention. Rather than having the gamemasters focus on the attendees, we have turned the tables and are creating an environment where the Players are there to focus on the Designers!” This is really different from the conventions I’m used to and it was pretty cool. While I was usually busy with behind-the-scenes stuff I did get to sit in on a few playtesting sessions and I had more fun with this than I expected. I have volunteered as a playtester before and haven’t always enjoyed it, but these sessions at Metatopia were fun and engaging. I felt as if I could provide solid and valuable feedback directly to designers who were (largely) open to critiques and criticism. I really enjoyed supporting and encouraging them…I was also immensely saddened for some – I believe they have worthy games and deserve to be successful, but I also believe they have a pretty long road ahead of them to get those games published. This was a unique dichotomy – energized and excited, sad and burdened.
Usually at this point in a review I’d have shared a few photos by now…I don’t have any (not a single one!) to share with you this time. That’s because I worked my butt off at this one and didn’t prioritize pic-snapping. Sorry (genuinely, I wish I had taken at least a few). As I said, this convention is put on by Double Exposure and, not only do I do volunteer work as an Envoy Herald with this company, but I’ve also recently been hired by Double Exposure, as an assistant to the President of the company. Metatopia was the first convention I have worked with them officially and wow! This was an eye-opener. I’ve been attending and working at conventions for a couple of years now, but this was my first real look behind the scenes at convention planning and execution. I’ve always been aware that a lot of planning and work goes into every convention, but now I have a slightly better grasp on just how much. And let me just say again, wow. So. Much. Effort. I worked harder, and for longer, at this convention than ever before. For this reason, as well as for convenience sake, I really appreciated the fact that my hotel room was in the same building as the convention. I had a few opportunities to slip away and being able to return to the privacy and quiet of my room was a boon. Access to food and water was plentiful – water stations were positioned throughout the convention and were always serviceable, and the hotel bar served a small menu of decent food and drinks.
I had a great time and really enjoyed being able to support and encourage so many designers. I appreciated the brisk but relaxed feel of the event and the ability to rest during downtime. If you enjoy playtesting or are a game designer I highly recommend attending Metatopia. More information and future con dates here: https://www.dexposure.com/m2018.html