Origins 2013 Report – Arrival Day

Wednesday. June 12.  Arrival Day

When a friend of mine, Heath Medlin, asked me to attend Origins with him, I jumped at the chance.  We had attended GenCon together (with another friend, Neil Spicer) back in 2008 and that was one of my bucket list things to do.  Attending Origins at least once was another one of those bucket list things.

Having had an amazing time at GenCon, I expected no less from Origins.  My initial impressions from a preregistration, press pass registration and game registration was a mixed bag. Registration was easy enough.  Getting a press badge turned out to be even easier.  So when I had to refund the paid badge, the Origins staff were amazingly responsive.  Erica Gifford, GAMA Media Liaison was an amazing contact and was incredibly kind  and helpful when I arrived.  She is one of those con talents that a con can not afford to lose.

The downside to my pre-con experience was their online game registration system.  I will have to admit that I may be a little biased because I wrote my own system for MACE and our other events (called OGRe).  However, even with this bias, I think some basic functionality needs to be in any game registration system that is just not in Origins’ system.  I think they focused a little too much on the money transaction portion of the code and not enough with that general functionality.  On top of that, because your schedule is linked to your badge, when preregistration closes, you can not access your schedule again, not even just to look at it, print it out, etc..  So my first advice – print off your schedule first chance  you get, before preregistration closes.

The 8-hour drive seemed to go by pretty fast. Heath and I talked about everything from various gaming experiences to spiritual topics; from movies to politics (we happen to be very similar in our political views so that was a safe topic).  We had left fairly early in the morning and arrived in Columbus around 2:30 pm.  It was a rather pleasant drive.

Arrival into the city was a little underwhelming.  I fell in love with Indianapolis back in 2008 when I went to GenCon.  Columbus, OH just did not live up to that expectation.  I was a little underwhelmed by the city.  I had no intention of letting my impression of the city affect my outlook on the overall con, but I did want to make a note of it.  Maybe I should not be comparing but it’s hard for me not to.  The center on the other hand, is awesome.  Not as big as GenCon but still a pretty big space for a con.  What I could do with this space!  It’s a great convention center for a con this size.

We immediately journeyed onward to get our badges.  Registration lines were very small on Wednesday.  If you can get here on Wednesday, I HIGHLY recommend it. Both Heath and I had to go to two different places for badges – he was regular pre-registration and I had to get my press pass.  Both took a matter of minutes.  The only snag I ran into was my tickets for my games were missing.  And this began my exposure on the ticket bureaucracy that is Origins Ticket System.  They are pretty Nazi about these tickets.  Pack some patience when you arrive because if there is anything wrong with your tickets, it’s going to take some time to fix the problem.

The upside to this is they have a good customer service structure in place to deal with this and some great volunteers handling it.  Amy Miller immediately took my name and number down and told me she will find them.  They could not just print them out again because she knew that they were out there somewhere.  They had to be found or they had to at least verify that they are 100% lost.  They apparently have a lot of problems with table/seat fraud and because they have a pay-to-play system like most big gaming cons do, they have to be very careful about reprinting tickets.  I understand to some degree but I am still not a fan.  There has to be a better way.  As of now, I have still not gotten my tickets (but there is a good reason for that – see below) and I have a game at 1 pm tomorrow.

Heath and I left to eat a late lunch after I spent way too much time waiting at customer service.  After a good meal, we returned to the main hall only to find the doors closed and people being turned away and being told it will be a few hours before they are open again. I was quite confused. I wasn’t sure if this was normal.  Come to find out a transformer blew and caught fire (probably air conditioning related because it is rather hot for Ohio today) and the fire department had to clear everything before anyone could go back in.  This took several ours.  Heath and I gave up and returned to our room.  In our room, the road fatigue finally hit us and we fell asleep.

I did find a second wind after a few hours of sleep and walked back over to see if things were opened up again.  They were but the halls were all but empty.  Some RPGers were going at it in the various rooms, as well as board gamers but I would guess maybe 300 to 400 people total were out and about.  I took some pictures that I hope to upload soon.

What is in store for the weekend?  I hope to get several interviews in, perhaps check out some demos, and maybe attend some press conferences.  I am basically playing it by ear each day, like I did at GenCon.  At GenCon, I was able to find a ton of stuff to write about so I expect it will be no different here.  This should be fun!