DragonCon 2016 – Day 3

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Sunday was a rather lackluster day.  A friend and I began the day with a revisit with Mike Grell, author/artist of many of the Green Arrow comics and a number of comic series.  Great tales of past bosses, editors, promises of fame and glory… in other words, the sordid tale of a working in the industry by a revered survivor, for the dozen or so gathered anyway.  In any case, factoids included that for a comic to be successful, a print run would be 100,000 and 1/3 of them would have to sell.  The conversation then went to comics originally being intended for 8-10 year olds and the resulting need for character development to satisfy teens and beyond.  A point of pride for Grell was when his parents found out that he paid more in taxes than his father earned, thus ending pressure to find a real job.

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We toured the Sales hall, noting moderately more walking space between the vendor aisles.  That was a good thing. 

And then it was off to “Robots in Pop Culture.”  The speaker was Katie Correll, a self-described “maniacal engineer” and roboticist.  Telling others her title, people frequently reacted with general concern for her as robots were evil.  This prompted the fairly recently Masters graduate to pursue why this perception came to be.  She set about classifying robot behavior in movies as either good or evil, to see what could be gleaned.    The word 'robot' was first used to denote a fictional humanoid in a 1920 play R.U.R (Rossum’s Universal Robots), which put forward that robot drones drones are mindless, but sufficient to phase out humanity. Isaac Asimov introduced the term “robotics” in 1941, as a term applying mechanics and hydraulics to robots.  He later adapted laws governing robot ethics which were positive. 

Japanese movies such as Jet Jaguar, Doraemon (1969 manga animation), and Astro boy (1952 manga android) showed robots as helpful agents, possibly because the society had already experienced its apocalypse.  They continue to be used widely in restaurants and concierge services.  The short of it is that in 168 movies, she found robots to be 58% evil.  When Star Wars arrived in 1977, robots suddenly became friendlier, as up to that point, robots had been 76% evil.  In any case, the presentation wasn’t terribly formal, but I’m hoping she puts more work into the subject with TV shows and literature… with more pictures.

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Her site is www.k80bot.com, and she’s done some interesting things already including working on automated performance stages. 

Lastly, we attended a panel on “Designing Board Games” which was hosted by four people successful in the field, most notably the guy who imported Settlers of Catan for American audiences.  ($$$).  This was an awkward conversation, essentially suggesting that all there is nothing new under the sun, just repurposing an existing game for a new theme while introducing a different game mechanic for the one that aggravates you most in the other game.  This was made most obvious by Thomas M. Gofton, conveniently not included in the picture below, an entrepreneur who hires a a bunch of designers to pump out movie or TV related games under studio licenses, such as the forthcoming update to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Just based on his smugness, I’ll look elsewhere for satisfying games.  In any case, there were a host of people attending, presumably with their own ideas. 

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There are about 1,000 games introduced each year, and a successful game has to sell 3-4,000 copies to turn a profit.  Also, no game should be built without plans for expansion sets if it turns out well.  As games sell at around $50 each, good reviews play a huge role.  A surprisingly enjoyable and humorous introduction to board games can be found on Wesley Crusher’s, oops, Wil Wheaton’s Table Top web series, featuring various guests.  It makes up for his most notorious role, I think…

Anyway, that concluded the 30th anniversary of what began as the Dragon Alliance of Gamers and Players.  Well done, though with 77,000 reported in attendance this year, one wonders how they can continue to grow by 7,000 participants each year.  Perhaps next year should be Dragon Con: Critical Mass.

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