This article originally posted at The Gamer Effect on April 17th, 2013.
At PAX East 2012 they added a new small theatre called the Tabletop Theatre. It was different from the other panel rooms in that it was set up with actual tables, allowing people to run workshops. In addition to workshops, it had some Tabletop Gaming panels which often took in smaller crowds than the Video Game panels.
I saw Cam Banks speak there, along with one of the fine fellows from DriveThruRPG. The topic was digital publishing. I think there were about fourteen of us in the room for the panel. FOURTEEN. For Cam F-ing Banks. Cam Banks whose new game, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, was easily the most popular new RPG of the year. The same game that I casually offered to run at Games on Demand – and the woman there ran around the table and hugged me because the demand had been that high. Fourteen people wanted to hear him speak. He didn’t even come in 2013.
Speaking of 2013, let’s do a little comparison. I was on three panels this year. The first two of which were in the Tabletop Theatre. A few local friends came with me this year and we decided we wanted to check out one of the Friday Morning panels with Vincent Baker, Meg Baker and Luke Crane. We showed up 15 minutes early and they had cut off the line. At first I was upset, since I wanted to see the panel. I got over it quickly and became joyous. A Tabletop Panel was so popular that they had to cut off the line!
We got there extra early for the next panel, which was right before my own. They ended up cutting that line off, too, but we were safe. There was a 30 minute buffer between panels. As soon as the panel we saw was done my friends literally ran from the room to get in line for my panel. They came back about 10 seconds later. The line had already been cut off. I found later that every panel but one had been filled to capacity on Friday for that Theatre.
They rearranged the room overnight and added 30 more seats (without tables for those seats). Our Saturday panel was almost full, but I feel like less people tried after having been turned away the day before.
The Tabletop Freeplay area was just as crowded. The doors opened at 10. By 11 AM on Saturday and Sunday you had to fight for a seat. The tabletop game borrowing library had a 15 minute line to check out a game. Things had changed. It was the year of the Tabletop Gamer.
But what changed from the year before? The most obvious answer is the new Geeks & Sundry Show, Tabletop. You’re probably familiar with it by now, but just in case, Tabletop is a YouTube show where Will Weaton plays a different RPG or Board Game each week, with varying guests. It’s well edited to teach you the rules, but also shows the fun nonsequitors that often happen when playing games. It’s gotten so popular that Target marks their board game aisle with signs and stickers that say ‘As seen on Tabletop’.
I’m not saying Will Weaton is solely responsible. His show came out at time when the hobby was doing pretty well. The game section was already increasing in stores like Barnes & Noble, and digital publishing was getting better all the time. However, I think it obviously helped grab a larger chunk of the nerd audience. He’s a man that has become well-connected to PAX by reputation, and his influence holds especially well there.
As a Designer, as a Gamer, heck even as a Father, I couldn’t be happier.