Practice in NYC, day 1

I am in NYC this weekend for the NYC Game Center’s Practice 2013 conference. It’s two days (and change) of game design talks, and I’m super psyched about it. Here’s a brief recap of day .5 today:

Yesterday – Tourism
I got into town yesterday, and got some tourism in with my friend KR and her husband Dan. KR and I took in an audio tour of the statue of Liberty, and got to climb to the top of the “pedestal” on which she stands, looking up her skirt. (She’s standing on a glass ceiling!) The guy who worked there gave us some interesting factual tidbits including the fact that the inside of the statue is black because of “our friend asbestos”, and as they remove that in the upcoming years, the inside of the statue will eventually turn as green as the outside. I am now a fount’ of Statue of Liberty knowledge (though I will likely soon forget it all) and it’s got a much more interesting history than I’d imagined previously.

Getting There
I slept in today, and eventually got to Greenwich Village around 1 pm, but the email said this afternoon’s event started at 3:30. (Playtesting and board games until 5:30!) So I hung out for a while at the nearby Monument park, avoiding the homeless-looking chess players (it’s a bit sad to me that they all appeared to be over the age of 50), and instead sitting on a bench people watching, listening to a pretty amazing saxophonist, and eavesdropping on one side of a tarot card reading by a man wearing a pointy silver hat and cape. Eventually I wandered into a coffee shop called Think Coffee, and lost myself in Oceanhorn for an hour or so. (Prognosis on Oceanhorn: MUST PLAY!!!) I looked up and it was almost 4, so I headed to the location.

Unfortunately I then figured out that the games and playtesting were over in Brooklyn, at the actual NYC Game Center. Fortunately that was only a 15 minute train ride away.

NYU Game Center
The Game Center space is pretty sweet, and there were lots of folks crammed into their “game library” playing a bunch of different games, many of them on machines that are clearly permanent, but several people were demo-ing their own wares on laptops or iPads. There was only one board game being played, a werewolf-like (why are these so popular now!?!), and when I sat down to maybe get in on the next game, it was explained to me that all the cards had different abilities, which you had to memorize, because the rules were in German, and there wasn’t that much time for the next game, so maybe they didn’t want any new players, thank-you-very-much. It was honestly just fine with me, although the game did appear to have more interesting mechanics than your average guess-who-is-who, but Eric Zimmerman, who was organizing, was very apologetic about it afterward, which was nice, and probably as a result, agreed to break out his new game Quantum, so I could at least get a look at it, even if we didn’t really have time to play a full game. (I am hoping to get a game in this weekend sometime. I think it looks very promising even if there is the occasional die roll.)

After that, a group of about 7 or 8 of us took the train together back to Manhattan.

Practice Begins
We got to the venue and got our badges with only ten or fifteen minutes of mingling before everyone filed into the auditorium for the first session.

Well, actually before the first session, this pretty amazing video played:

(Hysterical.)

Then (after some preamble), the first session was by two female break dance event organizers (and themselves breakdancers) explaining some of the game mechanics of break dance competitions. I’m sure I was not the only person in the audience to be surprised that there are international competitions, or that a one-on-one competition is referred to as a cypher. (Was totally not aware of this meaning for the word, though apparently — at least according to wikipedia — it is also used with similar meaning in poetry slams.)

Following the talk, there was a party / reception featuring a demonstration of some of the breakdancing, as well as an open bar (so I could feel doubly slothful). There are some pictures on the NYU Game Center blog, where discerning viewers can probably find some entertainingly candid photos of me.

There were a bunch of games set up for multiplayer fun, and I particularly enjoyed a 2D top-down capture-the-flag game called Slash Dash.

I also had a really great talk with fellow (but former) Minnesotan Ben Johnson, of Babycastles. We both agree that the Twin Cities is rife with potential for game developers and art to collide and make spectacular games.

The Subway
I left with a small crowd of fellow attendees heading toward the subway, to be greeted by this street-performing duo. I think everyone else got on a train before this started though, and I may have been the only Practice attendee to witness how awesome it was:

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