I had heard a lot about if from friends that have attended in the past as well as from various online forums that had discussed how open and welcoming it was to those in the LGBT community. The convention had a Kickstarter for this year’s event and I backed at the level necessary to get my Badge to the convention. It was a long flight from Kentucky to Oakland California but it was so worth it.
First, the convention, it’s staff, and the attendees are very welcoming bunch. I arrived on Thursday at the host hotel and had time to pop over and visit Endgame Oakland with a friend who met me at the convention. The next morning I woke up and attempted to follow the path of the 5K run that was to occur that coming Sunday. My poor direction sense turned a 3.1 mile run into six beautiful miles along the canals of the bay. When I got back to the hotel, I sat on one of the benches in front of the lobby collecting myself. I was approached by Nathan, whom I later discovered was the community coordinator, and asked if I was there for the convention. My Flash workout gear had betrayed me! I answered in the affirmative and he asked how my day was going and where the convention was being set up. I pointed out where they would be setting up soon and let him know that I was doing great and had just got back from a run. It ended up being a pleasant little conversation that set the tone for the rest of the convention.
I got cleaned up and decided to have breakfast. As I was headed over to the restaurant, I met another attendee who had arrived early and was waiting for the convention to start. I had breakfast and he had coffee while we talked gaming. It was pretty awesome. I went and picked up my things and headed over to the building housing the convention proper. It was a hive of activity as everything was being put together. While I was waiting around, several people took the time to speak to me and find out where I was from and how I was enjoying the area.
This scenario repeated itself over the entire course of the convention. I have never experienced this level of connection or welcome at any other convention. Even when playing games and there was another game to be heading towards, people stayed to discuss the game, how it went, and how much they enjoyed playing with the others around the table. I met so many nice people that I have forgotten most of their names. I feel bad about it because they were all so awesome to be around and fun to game with.
One of the unique things, at least to me, was that most of the games were held in their own individual room. I am used to playing in large ballrooms crammed full of tables where hearing the others at the table is difficult due to the din that fills the room. This gave the experience an intimacy that I had never experienced at a convention. It was like playing at home with a group of friends but I could just step outside and find another game in another room. There were three rooms where this was not the case. The convention had Games on Demand where there were plenty of tables in the room games were ran in two and four hour slots. You just had to show up and join a group for one of the games on offer. There were also two rooms where there were a few tables in the room and several games going on at the same time. Despite this, the room never felt loud or overwhelming nor did it interfere with the games that shared the room.
Big Bad Con created an atmosphere that was open and inviting. It appeared that everyone one from the con organizer down to the people from the food trucks that kept us games fed were invested in creating this feeling of welcome and inclusiveness. It made the entire weekend feel like a floating world outside of the realm of normal. It made we wish that every convention was like this and all the people that I ran into at convention wanted to talk about games, design, accessibility, and creating safe spaces for all within the community.
Big Bad Con gets four bear paws out of four from this geek bear. I have never had such a great gaming experience at a convention as I did here. I am crossing my fingers that I can make Big Bad Con happen for me again next year.