About a month ago I went to Lunacon, the premier New-York-area science-fiction convention.
Now, before you tell me that there are other cons in the NY area, let me formalize my definitions: For me, a genre convention (whether it's science-fiction, fantasy, horror, comics, Buffy, soap-opera, etc.) is a "real" convention if it's organized and run by fans. If it's organized by media companies, it's just an advertisement.
I'm am old-timer when it comes to cons. I was at the 1976 Star Trek convention when Leonard Nimoy showed up unexpectedly. When the cons shifted from being gatherings of fans to organized media circuses, I lost much of my interest. Lunacon, Philcon, Disclave, Arisia, Boskone, Capricon, Windycon... those are CONS, man! Comic-con doesn't cut it.
Well, Lunacon is a con, but I hadn't been to one in about 12 years. Why not? The answer requires a bit of a tangent:
In addition to be an old-time con-goer, I'm an old-time gamer. I was playing Diplomacy back in 1974, D&D back in 1976 just after the first books came out. I was a tabletop RPG gamer even before people claimed it was Satanic or caused kids to commit suicide. I ran a game that lasted almost a decade. (It used a rule system that I wrote myself; I have issues with the D&D system that are older than some of my Wicca students.)
Time passed, my gaming friends got lives and jobs and moved away. I couldn't find gamers of my own maturity level with whom to play who lived nearby.
I found a substitute: live-action role-playing (LARPing). It dovetailed nicely with my love of Ren Faires. Once a month, I'd get into my costume, walk in the woods, speak in a phony Elizabethan accent, and throw beanbags to represent magic spells.
LARPs are normally held at Scout camps, and those camps are usually only available to non-Scouting organizations on those weekends that Scout troupes don't want them. Science-fiction conventions are held at hotels, and those hotels are normally only available to non-high-profile organizations when, let's say, the Shriners or the AMA don't want them. As a result, Lunacon was normally held the same weekends as my LARPing groups.
Lunacon is held once a year, and LARPs perhaps ten times a year (it's hard to do an outdoors event in the winter). Perhaps the choice should have been clear. But I usually held a position of responsibility in a LARP: editor, logistics, director, or something like that. Over the course of time, I picked LARPing over con attendance.
I grew older... as the youngsters who mainly attend LARPs stayed the same age. (Could it be that new players came in to replace the old? Nah...) I found the social environment of the LARP changed for me. Also, I was no longer a youngster, and my physical limitations became an issue at an outdoor camp. I finally had to give up LARPing.
I found another substitute: World of Warcraft. I enjoyed it and I still do...
But it ain't the same, man! In WoW, you're limited by what the game designers permit the computer to do, and you can't accomplish anything by role-playing; it's all numbers. In a LARP, you're limited by the realities of having a physical environment in the woods that's occupied by at most 200 human beings. In a tabletop game, you can tell much better stories.
So after a 12-year absence, I returned to Lunacon. There I re-discovered an old love: tabletop gaming. No, not D&D or some other role-playing game (though I would have enjoyed that). It was strategy games, including Munchkin.
I spent most of the Lunacon weekend in the gaming room. I spent way too much money on getting a complete Munchkin set.
You don't know what Munchkin is? It doesn't really matter; it's a card game with humorous thematic elements based on the tropes of D&D and other fantasy genres. The point is, it's fun, and a great way to spend time with other people.
It turned out that I could talk some of my current group of friends into trying Munchkin, even those without the time or interest for a role-playing game. Now there's a semi-regular Munchkin game at my place.
I'm a gamer. I don't have to win a game; in fact, I lose far more often than I win. I enjoy playing.
Come to me, my love! Let us roll a D6 and see if we can escape the dragon. And if we cannot, it's been a good game... and the next one is but a shuffle away.