If you do not live in the Greater Boston area, you have perhaps not heard of this institution so let me illuminate you. Arisia is the largest and most diverse Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions in New England, now in its 22nd year, its fourth at the Westin Hotel. The diversity piece is actually one of the coolest things about the event: unlike Comicon, or a Star Trek Convention, it isn't one particular sub-culture of geek culture, it's all of them. Books, television, films, comic books, RPG, technology, philosophy and counter-culture, you name it. Another peculiarity of Arisia is while the convention does have guests of honor (SFF writers and artists), for the most part the convention is about fans. And the costumes, also the costumes:
Fans come up with the topics for the panels, fans are usually chosen for the panels on all manner of topics and fans run the organization and volunteering for the event. In the three years I've been to Arisia, I've seen panels on topics ranging from the latest discoveries of exo-planets, questions concerning the copywriting of 3-D printer designs, an Isaac Asimov retrospective, movie year in review, and a reading of the worst fantasy book ever written, "The Eye of Argon." As you might guess, in a convention this big, not every panel is amazing, but if you approach the weekend with curiosity, it's a lot of fun.
This year, as I've mentioned, I will be joining two panels, both on Sunday. The first, "RPG Gaming: Rails vs. Sandbox," the first at 10:00 am Board Room and the second at 8:30 pm, "Worldbuilding for Games." I'm looking forward to both obviously, but for slightly different reasons. I'm going to offer my thoughts on the difference between highly structured games tomorrow, but in a nutshell, I almost feel the question is somewhat anachronistic. Every game mixes some elements of structure and pre-set planning with more free-form experimentation, the real question is finding the system that strikes that appropriate balance. The other panel is on a topic very near and dear to my own heart and one I'll try to elaborate on Wednesday in a preview post.
But whether you go or not, expect more than a few blogs this week and weekend about the event. It's a high point of my year and one of those things I truly believe makes New England winters endurable.