We all want to play, write, or be a part of great games. We all have some internal list of dos and don'ts to help us find great gaming experiences. But there's one ingredient consistent across all great gaming experiences that I've ever heard of.
It's the People, Stupid.
Playing with friends or like-minded strangers who will soon be friends makes for a far richer gaming experience than playing solo. I'm not going to get into gaming with people who hold definitions of fun which conflict with your definition of fun - that's a different post.
When you play a game, the real world melts away and every player ends up on an even playing field in the world of the game. There's no starstruck awkwardness, no entitlement issues, nothing else that has any useful definition in the world of the game. You play your part, whether a faction, a member of a team, or a set of colored tokens, and all that matters is that you play your role to the best of your ability.
At the Game Table, We're All Equals
What does this have to do with PAX? PAX East has the highest rate of Cool People per square meter that I know about. I have never met anyone at PAX that I have disliked.
It goes beyond that. PAX's environment encourages people to drift in and get involved with each other. We're all there to enjoy gaming in all its forms, and it pays to strike up a conversation or start a game with someone next to you in line or at a table looking bored. We all take responsibility for each other at PAX because every last person there shares a passion for gaming.
That passion trumps everything else at PAX. Gamers are the Us instead of the Them at PAX. You're allowed to be awesome in the geekiest way you can imagine. Nobody even flinches when you laugh maniacally holding a pawn above your head with that look of joy on your face. Everybody shares in the experience around the table, even if they're not playing. And that, my friends, that is magic, pure and simple.
If there's something magical about the environment, then I have to ask...
How Do We Clone PAX?
How do we create the environment of gaming inclusion? How do we get over ourselves, over the parts of us afraid of rejection, over the discomfort of reaching out to another human being and finding out if they're a member of our tribe or not? How do we generate a bubble of PAXness reliably in public without mistakenly scooping up trolls intent on controlling the situation to their exclusive advantage?
I don't have a reliable answer. But I do have friends. And I have enough space at home for 3 game tables to run simultaneously, albeit barely. So I will have Potluck Game Nights, and I will invite people over who I know will enjoy games in the company of others, and I will do my best to weed out the trolls.
It's imperfect, but it's what I have available to me, so I'll use it until we can figure out a way to reliably recreate PAX at the drop of a hat.
How do you create your zones of PAXness?