Anyone’s Game Convention

Early February, I attended Anyone’s Game Convention in Sarasota, Florida. It took place on the Ringling College of Arts and Design campus, and I was honored to participate in the first year of its making. I found out about it through the Indie Game Designer Network, and was invited to explore game design with the students designers. I went there unsure of what to expect, and so found myself constantly in awe of the city, the students, and the staff of this unique event.

I arrived Friday afternoon, with events slated to kick off later that evening after a meet and greet with other invited guests. The guests were other game designers and industry professionals such as Omari Akil, Zev, Banana Chan, Jason Morningstar, and more. We had all come to hold panels about different aspects of game design, as well as to play test student prototypes. What I didn’t expect, and why I’m writing this, was that the event was so much more of an experience than I anticipated.

Friday evening was supposed to be more of a social meet and greet with a few big group games (quick minute LARPs) led by Jason Morningstar. Everything took place and a cozy student art gallery, where the walls were covered in epic works of art that left me in awe. In the center of that gallery was a giant pile of trash. Clean trash, but trash nonetheless. This was our setting for Jason’s LARP, The Pile.

Jason Morningstar would call for victi- volunteers, and once he got enough for the scenario, he would set up the scene. Then he would step back and let the volunteers go at it, enabling them to end the scene as they chose. It made for a wild spectacle as each scenario required everyone to play, search through and scavenge from the giant pile of trash. If I hadn’t gleamed it from the impressive architecture or the ridiculously talented paintings, then this was the moment I truly knew I was in an art school.

Friday was mostly about socializing. Saturday was when the prototypes came out and the panels began. Everything took place in two rooms. Panels were done in the art gallery, and gaming happened in one big room in a separate building. The con was very small, but even so, nearly 200 people came through. The con had a huge student presence, but nearly half the attendees were local designers and gamers.

This was the first convention where I was the industry professional, and people came to me with questions about design. I hosted a panel on finding the emotional core to your game with Banana Chan, and found the gallery full with curious students and designers alike. I found that this change in dynamic made this con feel more easy-going and organic for me.

As a designer, it also felt very productive to me, because I was able to get in continuous playtests as the player counts I needed to work out kinks in my game. For me, I found it helpful to dedicate one part of the day to testing other people’s games, and the using the latter half to test my own. Afterward, I socialized with the other guests, then made changes to my prototype for the next day.

Something interesting about this con is it feels very short, but extremely effective. The gaming started 10am on Friday, and ended around 8 or 9pm. For Sunday also it started at 10 and ended around 5 or 6. The day would fly, but I managed to get so much done. Since everyone was concentrated in one of two rooms, and everyone had the same spirit to make the most of their time, no second was wasted.

On Saturday, the con also allowed attendees to go onto the campus letterpress and create a gorgeous custom poster made specifically for Anyone’s Game by one of the students. I was really hit with nostalgia being on an art campus, but also I was impressed by the strength of its presence within the con. While this convention is still very new, it gave a unique and extremely positive experience. It is a designer-focused convention, where you also get the chance to connect with budding designers and artists. There’s something beautiful about small, intimate cons like this where you can see everyone in the room at a glance. There’s a camaraderie there. Many of the people I played with hadn’t heard of trick-taking or some of the many game mechanics I’ve learned over the past two years, but that meant nothing. Everyone there loved games, and you could tell.

I look forward to seeing the growth of this convention. It got off to a strong start, with sleek graphics, excellent communication, strong community presence, and a welcome atmosphere. I will definitely be returning next year, and should you be in the area, I encourage to check it out as well.

(Editor’s Note: Fertessa Scott’s visit and this wrap up were before distancing measures were put in place for the Covid-19 crisis. Girls Game Shelf encourages everyone to adhere to the guidelines set out by the World health Organization when traveling or visiting conventions! Stay well!)