or, How a Room Full of Gamers Can Give a Guy a Heart-Attack
by Frank G. Hablawi
On July 4, 2012, Dexcon 15 opened its doors to more than 1,500 participants as one of the biggest gaming conventions of the world prepared for a weekend full of nerdery. Over the next few days, there would be contests and board games, and rpgs, and video games, and all manner of geektastic exploits, but the con began the way it always does: Opening Ceremonies.
Opening Ceremonies are a tradition at Dexcon, and like all good traditions it is rife with annoying features. It’s long. It’s formulaic. Your Great Aunt Sally is there. Maybe we’re thinking of Thanksgiving.
But also like all good traditions; while you might debate its usefulness before attending, once you are in the thick of it you get swept away by the nostalgia, goofiness, and fun of it all. Yes, Dexcon wouldn’t be Dexcon if it weren’t for the strange opening slideshow, the obscure in-joke trivia, Vinny’s vibrant pants, and all the fabulous prizes!
And it was during Opening Ceremonies that we premiered our teaser trailer for “Playing with Comedians” to our first ever live crowd… and I have never seen a room’s atmosphere change so quickly and in so many different ways.
Because of the ridiculous last minute rush, we didn’t have a copy of the trailer on hand – so James and I had to find a computer with internet connection and download a copy off of our networked drive. Then, we rushed through registration, sat at a table nearest the front we could, and kicked ourselves for not bringing a night-vision lens to properly film the audience reaction to our trailer.
Regardless, the show had to go on, and as prizes were given out (a family of four at our table each received a prize in turn – the lucky bastards) we got to see some of the other special presenters at Opening Ceremonies.
Finally, our trailer was announced, and as the lights dimmed and our clip was loaded, we braced ourselves for what was to come…
First, our comedians introduced themselves…
The audience seemed uninterested, at best. They were here for prizes and for prep for a gaming con. These comedians meant nothing to them.
But then the comedians describe where they come from…
And some laughs do trickle in. The audio quality it terrible, but everyone seems to enjoy a lonely coke head.
And we get to the part of the trailer where we ask our comedians what they thought about gaming…
My. God. The silence. No, not complete silence, an eerie uncomfortable stillness where you can hear labored angry breathing and the creaking of chairs. Throats are cleared impatiently as these tried and true gamers, people that have given up their 4th of July to be at Opening Ceremonies for Dexcon, sit and listen to the type of people that would mock them as kids, now mock them as adults on the big screen. They paid to see this. My mind reeled; what the hell was I thinking? People gave up actual money and actual time to sit in the dark and have all their least favorite stereotypes hurled at them. People were making noises that I can best describe as “the sounds someone makes when they are too upset to yell at you.” There were a few chuckles here and there as the comedians totally get the basics of the hobby wrong, but even those people in the audience that couldn’t help but laugh where silently shunned into silence. Someone full-on hissed when the comedians suggested women didn’t game. I meant straight-up 1930s audience hisssssed!
James and I both eyed the exits and were prepared to give up a friend of ours at the table as a sacrifice to the angry nerd horde.
“And we asked them to play their first… Role-Playing Game”…
When those words flashed across the screen, the audience suddenly gasped. It was as if they had seen the shark in JAWS. Suddenly, they instinctively feared, or knew, or needed to know what was happening. On some level, they got it. This was going to be a trainwreck for the comedians. A delicious trainwreck.
Shots of the shock and awe on our comedians’ faces….
As the comedians looked more upset and confused, the audience began to laugh louder and louder. Now, at last, they were the ones mocking the know-nothing douche-bags that mocked them. This was gonna be sweet!
And the Fiasco book flashes across the screen…
Some cheers and applause to go with the laughter. I can hear people mumbling about how awesome this will be. Some gasps of awareness as well. Someone says, “Ah great! That’s the game to do it!”
And we get a quick montage of the madness of actual play…
And the audience can barely hear the next line of dialogue as they are too busy laughing with/at the comedians last lines. Every gamer in that crowd has had the idea to “burn the entire place down” during a game, and they are pleased to know that even amateur gamers will gravitate to such genius moves.
So yes, there were lots of pre-show screw ups. And yes, we didn’t get a chance to ask people for help with our upcoming fundraiser. And yes, one of us may have stolen a prize from the family that was at our table – but the important thing is this:
We didn’t get lynched.