Ari Goes to Origins

I had plans for this article. One plan was to joke about being internet famous at the Con (I’m not) and the other was to do a day to day account of how it was going to my first ever convention, but it turned out I was too busy having fun. Is that possible? Completely possible. After coming back home on Monday, having Tuesday to recover, I remember getting into the office Wednesday slowly, so slowly. I had gotten up early for a walk/jog. It turned into a walk on my way back as I wished my legs worked as well as my dice rolls. Suddenly, home didn’t feel like home. I’ve lived in Nashville, Tennessee a total of 3 ½ years, I work near my community, I know the streets and I know my co-workers, but suddenly all of it felt slightly alien to me.

I went to Origins cautiously. As a woman, playing mostly table-top games online and having heard so many horror stories, I didn’t know what to expect.  I had never taken a road trip before in my life and by the end I was internally screaming to get to our arrival destination.  We arrived Tuesday  afternoon to a two bed hotel room when I requested one; they squeaked with every move we made. Wednesday morning we woke up, got dressed and went to the convention center.

As we stood in line, the people behind us started to complain about the line being too long. I did the assessment I do in my head and it’s the same assessment I do every time - I count the number of minorities I can spot. So far none. The guests behind me were men who kept remarking about how they were going to miss their 8 am game (it was 7:40ish) and I had my resting bitch face on full gear. My defenses were up. There is always that prickling worry that when you enter a geek space as a woman you might get asked about your nerd-credibility. They would look at me and go “You must be here because of your husband, right?” when I happen to be the one who got him into gaming. I was also one of the few people of color standing there. Mind you, this is me not knowing what to expect as I listened to people complain about the con being too packed, the line too long and wondering if I was going to have a good time.

We got our badges, walked around for a bit. Games On Demand was not going to be available until the next day, so we looked at the Origins book.

If you’re a first time con goer, these things are so damn confusing.

Origins really doesn’t have an information booth. In fact, the FAQ on their website isn’t very ‘new con goer’ friendly. Your best bet is to ask a friend who has gone to a con before or the internet.

Let me give a quick overview of what I learned:

  • Generic Token:

They look like poker chips and cost 2 dollars apiece. They let you play games you haven’t registered for. (Yes, you have to register for certain games.) We found this out when Matthew McFarland from Growling Door Games invited us to play Chill and then asked if we had tickets. I honestly thought people were calling newcomers ‘Generics’- a lovely couple in front of us during Games on Demand said that there was no way the Generics were going to to be able to come in since the line was so long.

So basically… generic tokens are for you to play games!


  • Tickets:

These are for specific events. Say you want to play Shadowrun and you want to make sure your spot is reserved, you get a ticket. Although the GM/DM is allowed to give up those seats after a certain amount of time.


  • Ribbons:

Those are things that go below your badge to show how cool you are. Honestly, I tried to figure it out, but just know - you can walk around showing that you did an event or were a GM/DM, or just how much you love ribbons.


  • The map for Origins is a little… weird. Games on Demand is usually in the same room, but Origins really doesn’t have a clear indication as to where. Do you love indie games? Then please join us for an adventure in X room, which you will then go ask a volunteer or worker where X room is and they will stare at you for a few minutes blankly while muttering they don’t know.


This is not on Games on Demand; this is on Origins.

So now that I’ve explained that, let me go on about my experience- the most important factor in this whole damn article.

Wednesday night we finally found the Games on Demand room after Mark Truman Diaz from Magpie Games invited us to play a game. My significant other was somewhat hesitant after the long day of walking around and because Mark pulled into the room in a silver convertible (this is just a story, it was red one).

It was the best thing ever.

Now you might be thinking ‘Ari, this was the perfect time for you to explore OSR games for once!’ But since Liz and I made a blood pact that I would do that first with her or Sarah, I didn’t. What I did was play mostly at Games on Demand because they had the games that interest me lately.

It was a very much a ‘come as you are’ experience for me.


Tips for Con Going:

  • Bring comfortable shoes:

I bought some slip-ons thinking this would work out fine. I ended up wearing my boots because they were worn in already. There will be a ton of walking during these events. Between games, going out to eat, trying to find the bathroom or whatever. This is a must.

  • Bring water:

I talk to a lot of people at work, but gaming two or three times a day involves oodles of talking or gesturing or both. Keep hydrated by any means necessary.

  • Be social:

I didn’t know if I would be able to do this, but the good thing about going to this convention was that we all had one thing in common and that was games. We could sit down and talk about it if we felt we didn’t want to talk about our personal lives. It leveled out the playing field for a lot of us because we weren’t going by tiers of social economics or careers, instead being a large group of nerds enjoying a hobby and having fun.

  • Let people know you like their work:

One good thing about going to a con is realizing the people who create games are… wait for it… people. There are a lot of times people clash online, some people have strong opinions that don’t come off right or maybe they’re a little intimidating. Seeing them there and running games. It’s awesome. Even more awesome is to let them know you like or love their game. It’s a labor of love and just letting them know could make their day. In exchange they may ask you questions or maybe not. Don’t be offended if they’re quiet, they may be tired from walking around the convention center forcing people to play their game, or they may be shy themselves. They might let you see a printed proof of their work or give you a book. I had a few people say they liked my stuff on this site. (I can’t offer anything in exchange except smug smiling because I have a cursed soul or I am poor.)

  • Play games that you never heard of before:

There will be playtest games, and that designer might be running it. Play those games because they are fun and because you might be able to witness how games change and evolve.

  • Have fun:

I didn’t go into Origins with a plan of self-promotion (cursed soul issue). There are people who go there needing to promote games, make connections, show off art, but they also do go in having fun. Have fun! Go play all the demos! Go play board games which are free of any tokens or tickets! Eat all the food at the North Market! Have a blast and then post on social media to make everyone jealous. Be safe, be yourself and just enjoy yourself.