This is my review of Big Bad Con 2018. I’ll be including shoutouts at the end, below the **. Mkay? Mkay. Let’s begin.
Big Bad Con is a contradiction. In comparison to the conventions in my experience, it isn’t incredibly big. The entirety of the con runs inside of the Walnut Creek Marriot, across the street from a (looming) Maserati car dealership. A large majority of the con-goers took residence inside of the hotel, and all of the official gaming events ran on basement levels 1 & 2, and floor 5.
As someone who was there, none of what I just said feels important in the slightest, besides the first sentence. That information was very important to know, and it gives some scope to where the whats were when, but (most of) the tangible parts of Big Bad Con were definitely the least important.
Big Bad Con is a contradiction because it was, in my experience, not bad. At all. That isn’t to say that people didn’t have problems. Or that there isn’t any helpful feedback I or others can/did/will supply. What it is to say is that every tangible bit of that convention became alive. We lived it, together. From Thursday to Sunday.
The code of conduct for the convention wasn’t where the care for one another ended. People didn’t treat me better as a PoC or a queer person or as a non-binary person because of the rules. They did it because that’s what you do. No one looked at one another oddly as bodies and genders and persons of all kinds shared the same bathrooms, because why would you? We didn’t share the best parts of ourselves simply because we were trying to. It was actively supported by the collective culture.
I can’t speak to all experiences, but I can speak to… maybe 30 of them. Possibly 40. Maybe more. Because that’s how many people I shared deep, significant time speaking with over the course of the weekend. Approximately 80% of those people are folx I now consider friends. Most of the remaining are people I didn’t get much time to spend with at all. What’s important about all of this isn’t to say that Big Bad Con is a love fest, although it kinda is. It’s a community.
I didn’t understand what a community could be until this weekend. I’m a part of many that I sincerely love and appreciate tremendously. But it took me two days of speaking with friends at Big Bad to figure out what the empowering swell in my chest was. The swell that bonded us all so clearly and gently and openly.
It’s funny that I was with Nathan Black when I realized that community was the word I was looking for since he’s one of the best examples I have of what the Big Bad experience can be for a person.
Nathan Black was beaming all weekend. Imagine a kid on Christmas, shoveling snow for their neighbors, handing out presents to other children, building snow-figures with strangers, and giggling along the whole way. That was Nathan. I knew that the con was going to be good, due to the great deal of people I knew who would be supporting me there. But I didn’t know what Nathan wasn’t a singular high. He was much closer to a standard.
That standard became clear to me in many ways. I was on three panels, and I attended a few more. I was surprised to find older cis white men sitting in front of me, taking detailed notes on how to be better about diversity and inclusivity in setting creation. They were in panels on gender fluidity and non-binary players and representation. On working with children. On all sorts of things. They didn’t sling white guilt at me or my co-panelists. They didn’t raise their hands to make statements. They didn’t approach me after with emotionally draining stories. They said thank you, told me how much they appreciated my work and time, and maybe had a question that came from their 3 pages of notes.
Where the fuck was I?
As I walked around seeing nametag after nametag hanging from the necks of congoers, I was comforted to see all of the they/thems. I was comforted to see a large number of PoC who didn’t need to have their guard up for a weekend. How great it was to see the result of action instead of hearing the self-centered woe-is-me speech about how hard it is to promote diversity and inclusive spaces. It was just there. I honestly can’t remember how many people told me, especially PoC, that Big Bad is their favorite convention every year. And sometimes, the only convention they will go to.
I think that I’ve gushed enough, so I’m going to lay down some X/10’s.
As a person of color looking out for other people of color, this convention is an 8.5/10. I’ll just give you the not-so-goods I noticed. First, there could still be more of us. Literally just more. I want you to come flourish with us there. Yes yes yes. I know that this is being worked on. Reaching out more more more. But we need to be in there poppin off en mass. Secondly, I did notice that there was still some unconscious poor treatment in conversation, and possible colorism. Besides my own panel and conversations, spaces where I facilitated the focus, I often spoke last or was spoken over at times in a way that deferred to white persons before anyone else. This was obviously not a conscious effort, as I kept a keen eye on that, but it was an issue none the less. I bring up colorism because the other Black people at the convention who were more centered or heard in conversations were, consciously or based in the natural responses we have to these situations, pushing themselves into those positions. We shouldn’t have to. So it’s something to work on.
As a queer and non-binary person, this convention is a 9/10. Literally my only complaint is getting misgendered a bunch, even with my pronouns being on my badge like 99% of people there. That should be baked into the Big Bad cake like everything else, which comes down to reinforcing something that is already reinforced even more. Very good now, could be great later.
As a player and Facilitator, 10/10 the fuck? I was accommodated in every way I can think of. My friends began our conversations with how shocked and stunned they were by how great the games, players, GMs, and spaces were. Not every game is going to be the best, but that’s just a part of gaming. What was solid was that safety tools were required, talked about, and expanded where necessary. Pickup games were all over the place. Pings went out on Discord for all sorts of different openings and opportunities. I was never pressured to play or to continue playing when I was tired or low energy. And people checked in on one another so often, fed each other, and asked for consent before moving into any territory that wasn’t covered already in prior safety tools. I don’t know what could be better that isn’t just a part of the human experience, like preferred games styles and whatnot. I had no issues myself.
Alright. One more thing to say and then on to shoutouts.
Sean Nittner: I just fuckin love you. Rest well. You done a big good. You’re a good person and you’re living in the world of action rather than empty words. And you know exactly what that means because of Big Bad. We all see that in you. Homeroom soon plz.
Alex/Aket: You fucking rocked this weekend. I’m so glad that you were staffing, because you have the mind and energy and tone and heart to be right where people need those things. Bless ya. And thank you for playing Mutants with me! You were incredible.
Disco: We just keep getting closer and I love it. You are much appreciated. The fact that you’re always checking in with the people around you to support them in whatever ways you can is such a great good. That comfort may have an impact greater than you’re aware of. Here is some of that awareness shared.
Yoshi: Goddamn it’s just good to be around you! We have a secret handshake. You shared the micro-root beer. Our hugs say it all imo. Being around you feels like being a few steps closer to the ocean.
Andi: I solidified memories of the moment I said everything I wanted to say to you. And I’m always so pleased to see how much you are so passionately and truly loving people. Caring for them wholeheartedly. Many hoots.
Beau: You went in! So much positive work was done thanks to you. All the preparation and energy and time turned into some real change for a lot of people. Chillin with you at the dance and just hanging out was so natural. You’re a good friend. AND A HUNK.
Lauren: I super want to spend more time hanging out with you. I dunno when, but let’s make some time. Thank you so much for being on my panel.
James: I wish we lived closer, because you’re the kind of person I see myself spending a lot of time with just hanging out. The range of topics you can talk about, and how naturally you can move about them makes it really easy to converse with you! I am definitely running Mutants for you online sometime soon. LOVE.
Darcy: More time more time more time. Our schedules didn’t line up well at all. But your panel was both fantastic, and work that is so necessary right now. And JESUS your smile. It brightened rooms and hearts.
Will: The homies finally got to kick it and I am so glad. We fell right into a smooth energy and had some really fun talks. I’m extra glad that Sacremento peeps got in contact with you too, cuz the other folx I met from there are great and I’m glad that those connections were formed. Also don’t think I didn’t see you BUSSIN MOVES on that goddamn dance floor! Fire.
Meguey: Talk about vibin. I didn’t understand why you cared about me so much at first, honestly. It’s just something I’m not used to. But it became clear quickly. You’re so amazingly sweet and caring and mindful. You are a garden of a human being. I am truly thankful for you, for all the time you spent caring not just for my game, but for me as a person. And for so many others! I feel so loved, and I can see that so many others do as well. SO GOOD.
Nathan Black: We’re comrades now. Family. Community. You’re such a light to so many people. I honestly can’t even say enough. Just know that you were a focal point in so many conversations surrounding the convention, and the energy it provided. I’m out here cheering for you with a big ass smile on my face.
Atlas: I’m so glad that you came for the days that you did. Knowing that you’re close by home is wonderful because we have a chill vibe together. You had an impact on people, and having you around felt like my squad was with me. It was comforting, and our conversations were dope! Let’s go see a movie.
Stras: We didn’t hang out at all, but in passing you were really caring. Checking in and introducing me to people, and being really sweet. Some friends and I saw you hosting a game for 6–7 people, and you looked the most Stras I’ve ever seen. So happy and full. It was inspiring.
Eric: Can we just be best friends? I wish we had the time and space to hang out like neighbors or something. I honestly believe that the progression of the ttrpg industry wont make it where we want it to be without you and people like you. Hands down.
Alex Roberts: Jeez. I could see us being real good friends. You’re a great designer, super funny, very welcoming, and a 100% true to the core Littlest Hobo fan. That was an amazing night through and through. This is another “more time please” situation. I feel like we need a secret handshake. That’s the kind of relationship I aspire to share here.
AMBER AND RICK DEAN: Walking sunlight. So refreshing. I vibe with both of you in a different but similar way. I can’t stop sharing your wishmaker game with people btw. It’s such a good game a such a good toy. Besides that, thank you for showing your care for me so much. I really hope that I accurately shared how much I appreciate you both, cuz it’s a lot.
Everyone who played Mutants in the Night with me: You’re who I do it for. Some days I get out of bed only because of you, and people like you. The things you create. People, places. How much you honor one another. Room 569? Y’all made my paradise. I don’t know if I can convey how much it means to me that all of you step into Mutants. And how much it means when you step out, smiling and laughing and carrying that experience with you out the door.
There are a lot of other people to shout out because so many people invested their time with me and their care with me, and I want to thank everyone. This is my official thank you to everyone I didn’t shout out individually. You’re all wonderful and a blessing and a treasure to the convention and to the world around you.
Andi told me something along the lines of this: The world sucks. But we get to be here (at Big Bad) and take this goodness, this community, with us back into the world.
Hopefully it heals your wounds like it’s healed some of mine. That it was a haven for you when you needed it. That what you took away from it will fuel you and keep you filled for a time.