Day one of ECCC 2012: Gaming has come to Emerald City
My first day at ECCC encompassed a panel on GM-less tabletop games, Seattle’s comics history, and exploring the new gaming area at the con. This is the first year Emerald City Comicon has a dedicated gaming area, and it was getting lots of attention. Vendors were selling board games, classic video games, and other gaming accessories. Downstairs! there was plenty of Heroclix and Magic The Gathering to keep people happy, as well as some board games and tabletop RPGs.
My first panel was GM-less gaming with Ben Robbins. I’ve talked with Ben about these games many times before, but it was interesting to see other people’s reactions, and hear a deeper explanation of the premise of games like Fiasco, Polaris, Shock, and Microscope. These games, as Ben discussed, are surprisingly good for shy gamers; they force you to get out of your shell and even surprise yourself with your own creativity. The creative input is (in theory) balanced between the players, rather than resting almost solely on the GM’s shoulders, creating a more fulfilling and creatively challenging experience for everyone.
The crowd seemed intrigued, and I saw many of them downstairs in the gaming area later, where I chatted with them about
story games. Story Games Seattle has a group of tables at the con across from their weekly host Gamma Ray Games, so if you’re at ECCC this weekend and want to try some indie roleplaying games, come check it out!
Next I caught Fantagraphics‘ panel “Northwest Noir: Seattle’s Legacy of Counterculture Comix”. Larry Reid, curator at Fantagraphics Bookstore and Gallery, gave a fascinating history of Seattle’s comics scene, beginning with Charles Burns, Lynda Barry, and Matt Groening attending Evergreen University. Lynda Barry’s and Charles Burns’ work on the Sub Pop zine (later to become Sub Pop records, publisher of Nirvana, Soundgarden, and other grunge era bands) arguably helped found the alternative comics movement simultaneously or even before the famous underground comics magazine RAW, marking Seattle as an important part of comics history.
Around the time these three artists left Seattle, Jim Woodring and Peter Bagge moved here and helped define the alternative comics and grunge music scene. Cathy Hillenbrand, publisher of Real Comet Press, reminisced about the five years she owned the now-famous Comet Tavern in Seattle’s capital hill neighborhood, where she first met Lynda Barry when Barry won a matchbook art contest for the bar. Cathy and Ellen Forney both spoke of being initially drawn to Seattle for it’s eclectic visual art scene as well as it’s ability to attract artists and performers from around the world. Ellen also noted the many terms used to describe non-mainstream comics over the years; underground comics, alternative comics, comix, art comics, and now, indie.
Larry showed images of grunge-era comic and zine art, including comics
from The Rocket, a bi-weekly music magazine that had contributors such as Harvey Pekar, Robert Crumb, and Charles Burnes. He wrapped up the panel discussing Fantagraphics’ move to Seattle in 1989, and their subsequent growth in popularity and influence on the local comics scene.
A nice first day at the con, and I’m definitely looking forward to the show floor tomorrow. Shameless plug: Check out my panels Saturday, Queers in Gaming at 11 a.m. and Old School RPGS Still Matter! at 6 p.m.