Well after an 8-hour drive back from Columbus, Ohio last night, Origins Game Fair 2022 is in the books! It was a solid four days of gaming, meet-ups, and interacting with nerds from across the country.
This was my first years at Origins, having only attended Gen Con in the past. My first takeaway is that Origins is a slightly different beast than its Indy cousin.
For one, the attendance is roughly 30% of what Gen Con pulls in (20K people vs 70K people). However, the Gen Con ‘campus’ is also much more spread out. In Indy you have the stadium, ballrooms, meeting rooms, exhibit halls, open gaming, etc. Origins is primarily in the convention center itself, so it’s more compact. Because of this, both conventions have a similar feel as far as person-to-person density on the show floor.
This was also the first time that I was on the other side of the booth, actually working at the show. I was at the Pandasaurus Games booth running game demos for the duration of the exhibit hall’s hours. This meant about 200% more talking than I normally do at conventions, and I was on my feet for the majority of the day.
However, demoing games was really rewarding. While shuffling through the many different games that were on tables for convention-goers, my favorite part was always saying something where the game suddenly clicked for the people I was teaching. Sometimes it came in the form of an ‘Oh!’ or maybe it was more like “I love that!”. You catch that little gamer glimmer in their eye and know that they’re having a good time.
I also got to meet sooo many friends that I’ve been talking to for years, but hadn’t yet met in person. Being recognized by random people is sort of surreal, and so is picking up a conversation with someone that you’re meeting in person for the first time, but talking like you’re just picking up a conversation where it left off. That was a huge highlight for me; making those connections and touching base with friends.
Based on the chatter from the show floor, my Origins 2022 Preview article didn’t have any misses! I have it on good authority that Akropolis sold out relatively quickly, and I picked up my own copy of Tenpenny Parks in the middle of them flying off the shelves.
I wasn’t able to pick up Cat in the Box because of the high demand and the timed release of inventory, but I definitely saw multiple people playing it both outside the gaming floor and on tables outside the exhibit hall. Ark Nova had a strong presence of demo tables that were ALWAYS full.
Trailblazers had a large sticker map of the game on the back of their booth wall, which you can see below (photo credit to Bitewing Games). It’s always fun when convention goers can participate in something collaborative like that. And, despite neither being released yet, people got to take a look at Oak and Castles by the Sea in form of a preview. Both looked exceptional with amazing table presence.
Overall it was nice to be back at a convention for the first time in a couple years. Conventions have a very interesting effect on people, because you’re gathering a huge group of people with a shared interest into a single place for multiple days. These are people that love gaming, are interested in gaming, or just checking out Origins without any gaming background.
All of those people can have an equally great time at a convention like Origins. Seriously.
By demoing a variety of games, I could point people in the direction of games that might pique their interest more than the one that I was teaching at a given moment. Do they like 2 player games? How about cooperative games? Are you looking for something simple or something more complex? There is literally something for everyone at conventions.
There was a guy who came up to me and asked where he should start, and I asked whether he meant in terms of Pandasaurus Games or how he should walk the exhibit hall. He meant where should he start with board gaming in general. He said he wouldn’t classify himself as a gamer, but he was really intrigued by the hobby. He was “blown away” when he walked through the hall because he had absolutely no idea that there was this whole other world of board gaming seemingly hiding in plain sight.
We talked about some of my favorite entry-level games and I pointed him in the direction of some other booths (besides Panda) that might have games that would interest him.
And that’s exactly the reason why I love being a part of this industry. When you peel away BoardGameGeek and Kickstarter and all of these hobby-specific niches, there are countless people who have no idea how expansive the world of tabletop gaming extends. And those are countless people who we can share our love of gaming with, because they haven’t experienced it yet.
That’s what conventions are all about. They are a direct transfusion of excitement, passion, and energy into an industry that craves a full table of people. It’s direct affirmation that board games bring joy, and that what we are doing matters to a whole swath of folks.
I had a blast at Origins 2022, and I can’t wait to meet you at a future convention! We can nerd out over games and good food.