Roll for initiative because it’s upon us! Gary Con is an annual game convention celebrating the life and works of Gary Gygax, the Father of Role Playing Games. It’s also where my career in the game world got its start.
It seems like a lifetime ago now, but it was only a few months before Gary Con V that Luke Gygax contacted me and asked if I could provide some artwork for his first adventure module. There was some discussion about a bear defecating in the woods, and I went to work.
Luke’s first module was my first module to illustrate, and I was very green with digital art and illustration. The temple of the fire elementals in that project came up as nearly a black square on the page (Sorry about that Luke). It marked the beginning of something special for me. I always dreamed of becoming and RPG artist, and fantasized that maybe I could create an adventure someday.
That first module set the wheels in motion and I knew I HAD to get to Gary Con somehow. I maxed out my credit cards and emptied my bank account to get on a plane for Lake Geneva that year. I had a pretty crude portfolio, some business cards and a new focus. (along with bologna sammiches in the hotel room)
At Gary Con, I met Zach Glazar from Lesser Gnome- Now Frog God Games (It was his first convention too). He would press me for more art on his project daily later on. I met Jeff Easley, a Dungeons and Dragons artist of great inspiration to me. The names of many people in the industry that inspired me were there: James Ward, Chris Clark, Frank Mentzer, Tim Kask, Jeff Butler, Jeff Dee, and a long list of others.
It’s hard to believe that it has only been four years since that start, and Fail Squad Games was created and is growing. I long since quit my “real job” to pursue adventure writing, design and illustration full-time. I was “On Staff” with the con soon and still cling to that title happily. Graphic design, illustration, web site services, shipping/receiving are services I provide and whatever else comes up in between. This year there was the surprise of being given a badge as a Special Guest of Gary Con. A real honor!
Luck is only a marginal thing in this journey. What doesn’t show are the hours of work, focus and drive to create something from nothing. The days worried about bills, marketing, deadlines and contracts. This is my work and I love it, I also do it 24/7. Even this blog post, is part of it. Building a game company and surviving on it is no small feat. Folks in the RPG industry say, “The best way to make a million dollars in the tabletop gaming industry is to start with TWO million.”
Every day that I do it though, I do it because I went to Gary Con V that first year.
Gary Con IX is at the Grand Geneva in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. It has followed the early paths of Gen Con from the horticultural hall, to the lodge and now here. Gary Con is about to begin March 23-26.
Currently, I live in Milwaukee, and that means boxes arrive on my doorstep daily filled with incredible convention things. Shirts, cups, badges, dragon heads, dice…. this is Nerdvana! …l and chaos.
Some days the convention is a friendly little Flumpf that wants to play a game. Other times it’s akin to riding a terrrasque through a spiraling gateway to the chaos realm – but it’s always worth it!
Folks have a feeling of connected home and friendship at Gary Con. For me it’s the yardstick of my progress as an artist and writer.
I am ALWAYS proud and grateful for all my Gary Con friends and family. Walking through the doors of the thing we created is wonderful.
Why we are there is clear when I see the table of honor for Gary Gygax. “Celebrating a life well-played” That is what we do at Gary Con.
I am also reminded that Gary really did alter the world – and it began in a little home in the small town of Lake Geneva. Anything is possible.
Don’t just sit there – make the hero’s journey. It is worth the trip and there are over 1,000 games to sit in on over the weekend. All of Gary’s friends and family gather in memory of the things he loved the best – gaming, friends, family.
Come to Gary Con and celebrate a life well-played!
~Lloyd Metcalf – Fail Squad Games