It is an immense privilege to be invited as a Guest of Honor to any convention. Even more so when that convention is held overseas. Ropecon 2016 extended me the esteem of being their gaming Guest of Honor this year, and it was an amazing experience I shall never forget.
Ropecon is held in Helsinki, Finland–a beautiful city with a rich history and plenty of interesting things to see and do. The Finns, as a people, are very welcoming and friendly. Especially the Finns who are also gamers–they have a very strong and dynamic community of gamers in that nation, and I got to meet several of them over the weekend of Ropecon.
The venue for this year’s convention was very impressive: roomy, clean, well-lit, with plenty of rooms for panels, workshops, and games. The areas for card games, board games, LARP, and miniature games were very roomy indeed, and there were built-in cafes and restaurants so attendees would not need to leave in search of food.
I must first single out my handlers for special mention, Joonas Katko and Ville-Eemeli Miettinen. Ville was a fantastic translator, making sure I understood everything being said at the opening and closing ceremonies, plus a great guide to Finnish culture. Joonas spent hours showing me Helsinki and explaining the rich history of the region.
The Ropecon convention staff were also excellent, including my “Finnish big sister” Eevi Korhonnen, Arrtu Hanska, Aarne Saarinen, Heidi Saynevirta, Aaro Viertio, and many others. From my perspective, the convention ran extremely smoothly. Security and event organization was top-notch and my friend Pekka Wallendahl ensured that the systems kept running!
I caught up with many of my Finnish friends from my previous trip, including a great conversation with Tiina Uusi-Rasi, Jukka Sarkijarvi, and many others (My apologies if I forgot your name!)
It was also a pleasure to meet some Finnish game designers, especially Miska Fredman, Mike Pohjola (both of whom I remembered well from Tracon 2013), and Ville Vuorela. Miska showed off his new work on Astraterra and Cthonian Highways, while Mike showed me the amazing boxed set for Age of the Tempest. Ville signed a copy of Stalker RPG for me as well. It was amazing to meet all these creative minds and share some ideas with them.
Claus Raasted Herlovsen was the other guest of honor, a very talented and famous Danish LARP organizer. Claus taught me a great deal about his chosen field, and I left Finland far more educated about LARP than when I arrived. Claus and I couldn’t seem to stop collaborating and discussing games the entire trip–Claus even sat in on my game design workshop and turned the last ten minutes or so into an impromptu LARP about the difficulties of designing and pitching games to investors!
As for myself, I ran two sessions of Savage Rifts: The Garnet Town Gambit. One was an “All-Star” game for Finnish game designers, the convention staff, and the Ropecon Pathfinder Society organizer. It went really well and was recorded on youtube for posterity. Later that same day, I ran the game again for many of my friends from Tracon and some new friends as well–and it went even better!
I participated in panels about “Passion in the Game Industry” and “the Business of Gaming,” both of which were excellent. I got a chance to meet one of my idols, the legendary Tuomas Pirinen (creator of Mordheim among many other great games), and I ran my very own Game Design workshop. I spent the first half of the session explaining my philosophies of game design, and the second half I guided the audience into creating their own game vision: this time, the audience wanted to make “Cold War Space Race,” a competitive board game where players take on the roles of nations trying to achieve milestones in space exploration despite espionage efforts against them. It was very well received (especially with Claus’ help at the end), and I felt it was a big success.
The afterparty for Finnish conventions is legendary at this point. I shouldn’t have to say much here, but I will give the highlights:
- Fantastic food
- Excellent company
- Lots of alchohol
- Finnish Sauna!
At the end of the night, I felt that Ropecon had left a lasting impression on me as one of the finest gaming conventions I had ever attended. Keep up the great work, you crazy Finns!