I discovered something unfortunate when I swapped my con partner from a male to a female (due to Ben getting the stomach bug): sexism, stereotypes and a lack of common courtesy still live among us.
One offender was the Ascension booth. We asked to play and were eventually pointed to a young guy to demo the game. As we were about to sit down, another guy arrived with his group and ordered us to the other end of the table. We brushed it off and moved but were only halfway through the demo game when he arrived with another group of guys, shoved them in next to us, and proceeded to lean in front of me as if I wasn't there. The guy demoing our game excused himself and left us to finish the demo on our own. We were also left to fight for the end of the table while the obnoxious guy proceeded to run and sell the game to the group next to us, all the while acting as though we didn't even exist.
I would have chalked it up to one rude guy, or even oversensitivity on my part, but the difference in attitude from many of the vendors compared to the day before was overwhelming. When Hannah began to get angry over the lack of courtesy as we were not taken seriously as gamers, I knew I was not imagining things and this was a genuine issue.
We left the area and decided to check out a panel. The panel was supposed to be on modernizing fantasy RPGs, with a blurb that mentioned racism and gender issues. It turned out to be a timeline of fantasy RPGs. While interesting, it wasn't quite what we'd expected.
We returned to the tabletop area, became discouraged by the attitude, and decided to rest and then hit the pub. After dinner and the best cocktail I've ever had (Ultimate Winter at MJ O'Connell's), we returned once again to the tabletop area. Despite the bad experience, I loved the Ascension deck-building game and decided to give them a chance to redeem themselves before finding somewhere else to order. There were only a couple of guys working the booth at this point and they were much friendlier. I left with the game, a promo card, and hope that our earlier experience wasn't as widespread as we'd begun to fear.
This hope was reinforced Sunday morning as we demoed Castle Dice. The guy manning the booth was friendly, humorous, and respectful. He did not assume we were there with our significant others or teenage sons. He did not assume we were at Pax with no gaming knowledge or background. He did not assume we were there merely to waste his time. He simply assumed that we like to play games and he explained, played and sold his game well. We walked away having bought a copy and discovering that while sexism is alive and well, there are also those who are excited to share in your love of gaming whether or not you fit in some preconceived gamer stereotype. Thanks, Castle Dice dude.
The rest of Sunday was spent in line for and then enjoying Acquisitions Inc. This was the second highlight of my weekend (playing Thornwatch receives first place). Who would have thought that watching other people play D&D could be so much fun? We laughed, we laughed some more, we enjoyed the experience with hundreds of other people and I'd definitely love to attend again. I hope this becomes a regular offering at Pax East!
Despite the bumps along the way, Pax East remains one of my favorite cons and something I look forward to every year.