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GAMA Expo Recap

It’s been just over a week since I returned from this year’s GAMA Expo, and I finally have a bit of energy to share all the amazing things I saw and did at our new location in Louisville, Kentucky. 

Firstly, I was pretty nervous about this new location. I had preconceived ideas about what Kentucky was going to be like. And I will freely admit, I was totally off base. The people there were fun, kind and welcoming…and SASSY! OMG! I loved the servers at the restaurants! And the workers in the convention hall. My favourite food experience was at the Troll Under the Bridge Pub, where our server was merciless and I adored her for it! 

The new official hotel, The Galt House, took a little getting used to, as it was a bit of a warren, but no worse than navigating the Peppermill my first year attending Expo. And the raised walkway bridge that connects the two parts of the hotel is a beautiful glass conservatory that doubles as a coffee and snack shop by day and a hopping bar by night. There were big comfy chairs that I had little time to use, but I loved seeing everyone gathered all week playing games there! 

All morning and evening events were held in the Galt House including Game Nights, which were still too crowded for me. There is talk about improving that next year, so I look forward to hopefully actually sitting down and PLAYING a few games then! This year I managed to walk through the game hall and scope out a few games that I had wanted to try, and watched them being played so I could decide if they would be good for the store.  

During the day we were at the Kentucky International Convention Centre (or KICC). This is where Seminars and Workshops were held. I really liked the KICC, and found the facility comfortable, easy to navigate and well set up for our event. There were two overarching complaints that will hopefully be remedied next year, the horrible lines for food and registration, and the WIFI. The food was actually pretty good at the concession stands, but with over 2500 people in attendance and only 4 food stands, it was a long wait for lunch. I gave up the second day and chose to find meals in nearby restaurants, which was delightful, as I got to eat so many awesome meals! One thing that DID surprise me was that many of the restaurants ran out of food early on during the convention and they really didn't seem prepared for an influx of nearly 2800 people. I’m hoping next year we can maybe alert the community, possibly through the Chamber of Commerce, that the ravenous gamer horde is approaching! 

For some bizarre reason I never struggled with my internet at all while in the KICC. And speaking to most Canadians, they didn’t either. I really have no idea why, but I was grateful! But for most attendees, Wi-Fi AND cell coverage was pretty much non-existent in the seminar area, which is very difficult when so many of us depend on staying connected to our stores while away. From what I hear the powers that be are looking at options for next year to improve those pain points.

Seminars and education for retailers was exceptional, with excellent speakers and panels. This year I ran two seminars, Effective Game Demos and Small Store Check-up. They were both revamps of seminars I have done in the past, but this year, with some very dramatic changes in my store, there was a fresh new perspective on them. I saw retailers that have been to my sessions before, which was very cool, and it was amazing to see so many new faces as well. 

I also had the privilege to facilitate a panel on Social Media for Retailers with some very knowledgeable speakers. And I had the very humbling experience of speaking on a panel for a session about how publishers can connect with retailers. THAT was an incredible and eye opening experience, and I have resolved to work on ways to give small publishers opportunities to show off their games to us retailers! 

Admittedly, this year, without my manager with me, I struggled on the show floor. I got overwhelmed pretty fast and needed frequent breaks, so I didn’t get to cover as much ground as I really wanted to. But I made a point of visiting all the small publisher booths and checking out those new, unique, and hard to find games that I know the people who come to my store are going to be looking for this summer. And I think I found some great new gems! 

One of the biggest highlights of the entire show happened on the very last day. I was one of only a handful of people invited by Darrington Press to playtest Daggerheart Critical Role's new RPG system! I've been excited to try it ever since I heard it was in development. And because of the awesome mechanics of the game, where much of the narrative is shared with the players, we ended up battling a Displacer Beaver of my own making! It. Was. Awesome.

All in all it was a great week. I got to connect with some of my very best friends, who I only see once a year. I ate some great food, played some great games, and fell into bed exhausted every night! And I can’t wait to do it all over again next year! 

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