Minicon 50, part 1: Pre-con, and The Art & Business of Gaming

The Minicon blimpMinicon started well before the con itself for me. I’m on the programming staff, and have been for about the past decade, so I was partly involved in thinking up the panels and other events. I’ve also been doing the pocket program for about the same amount of time, so the weekend before the con I was up to my eyeballs in schedules and desktop publishing. The end product only had one true typo that I could find, so all in all, pretty successful.

Monday night — full three days before the con officially started — I ended up playing a nice game of Star Traders with Emily, Aaron and Joe. I don’t remember the specifics, but there was a lot of the usual Star Traders goofiness. And it was good to have the game before the con, because it’s gotten increasingly difficult to organize longer games at the con. Even medium-length games such as Moneyduck are getting hard to schedule.

There was a flurry of preparations for the con, including a Tuesday night work party, and then Minicon 50 had begun. Thursday night was good fun but not much to report about here.

Friday was my first panel, The Art & Business of Gaming. I was moderating this, but I ended up committing the faux pas of being late for my own panel. Especially bad as moderator. The reason was good — I noticed that there was no good list of moderators available at the con, so I printed one up and put it in the Green Room — but still, not cool to be late to one’s own panel, especially one that I was moderating. It meant that we didn’t really have time to pre-discuss anything, and that I was doing a poor job of modeling approved panelist behavior.

Still, the panel ended up being pretty good. Lindsay Nohl was great, as always. It was good to be on a panel with her again. She’s all the kinds of things you want in a panelist: she has insightful, interesting and fun things to say; she’s conversationally generous; she asks great questions. Christine Mitzuk also added a lot of cool perspectives and insights from her work as an artist and teacher.

It was clear from what Christine and Lindsay said that artists, like almost anyone these days, need multiple income streams. They do a mix of commissions, long-term projects, teaching, personal projects, curation, etc. etc. And having multiple projects also keeps the creative ideas flowing, as different images cross-pollinate through your mind.

We had an interesting discussion about artistic range. There’s a tension between wanting to be available for lots of kinds of work, and wanting to be known for a distinctive style. It’s possible to be typecast as “the artist who’s just good at demons” or “the one with the cute dragons” or “the one who does really good hands”, and art directors often want to find a particular artist for a particular job. This becomes especially fraught when the things you’re good at cease to be so in demand.

The panel suffered slightly from having a few guys in the audience who wouldn’t raise their hands before talking, and who liked to mansplain. If I’d been more on time, I probably could’ve set the tone a bit better and stopped that kind of behavior before it started. And it would’ve been good to pre-discuss things in the Green Room, so I had a better sense of what my fellow panelists wanted to talk about and not talk about. Really, Lindsay probably did a better job moderating than I did.

Also, we never really talked about what the related topic that most interests me: ways for tiny game publishers with nearly no money for decent art, and the annoyance of having our games judged on aesthetic grounds when that privileges big, established publishers with, y’know, actual budgets. But this never really seemed germane to the conversational thread, so I didn’t force it into the discussion.

And finally, Lindsay and I never got the chance to geek out about Darklands! But maybe next year.

Still, I thought this panel was a worthy successor to last year’s item, with a lot of interesting conversation and some good insights.

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