On Labor Day Weekend, a friend and I drove up to Seattle for CozyCon, a “game convention” that basically consisted of Tori Brewster inviting a bunch of friends and acquaintances over to her spacious house to sleep over and play story games all weekend. It was a great time.
I really dug the relaxed hangout atmosphere of the con. Drinking beers on the lawn, playing card games in the kiddie pool, staying up till 2AM being silly—it was more than just casual, it was…community. It was a beautiful thing that allowed us to be friends and people, not just “gamers,” with each other. It was intimate in all the best ways.
And that was reflected in the games. Every game I played was touching and tender (though sometimes awesome and hilarious as well!) and grounded in a deep trust at the table. I ended each day with all kinds of warm feelings humming through me.
I played The Dreaming Crucible, with Harry and Morgan, and got to play Light Faerie while Harry took on the Dark. Morgan’s heroine was a girl dying of Leukemia, pursued in Faerie by Harry’s ravenous dog-man, who she eventually tamed. My Companion was the Faerie manifestation of the boy she wanted to ask out. He gave his life so that she might live in Faerie, even as her body died on the operating table!
I played Jackson Tegu’s silver and white with Tori, Morgan and Marcy, in which four teenagers explore a house with a strange machine that transports them to a mysterious city. A tender and reflective game; the kids’ fates change when they touch each other. One girl gave her life for her best friend, who wandered off mesmerized into the unearthly city, while that girl’s brother parleyed secrets stolen into a fabulous career, leaving his best friend destitute. A Lovecraftian coming of age!
I played Joe McDaldno’s Monsterhearts with Ross, Joe, Xander and Morgan. A Mortal girl moved to a small town and fell in love with the murdered Ghost girl who haunted her bedroom. A Straightedge punk Witch boy had his sights on the Mortal, though, and managed to consummate his desire in a hospital room, after casting Ring of Lies on himself to try and purge his punk hypocrisy. His Werewolf pal figured out that the Ghost was dead, and flipped out (not to mention wolfed out!) in a crowded club, but the Witch got her away and invited her to his coven!
I played Sage LaTorra and Adam Koebel’s Dungeon World with Orion, James, Reid and gamemaster Ross, who decided to run it more like Apocalypse World, and asked questions to create a community-grounded map of a fantasy land. Good-natured Halfling Fighter Finnegan and besotted Wine-Goddess-worshipping Dwarf Cleric Rastar forged unlikely alliance with plotting necromancer Rath and homeless sociopathic thief Cubby. Great fun, and memorable characters.
I played Drew Henderson’s deeply personal game The Ruins with Drew, Orion and Jackson. You play yourselves, carrying bags loaded up with your Burdens, exploring a strange ruins through random cardplay, encountering symbolic manifestations of your thoughts and memories. It’s a game “about talking to one another, and sharing the weights that keep our hearts heavy.” It was late at night and we only explored a short while, but in the trusting exploration of father issues, masculinity, past loves and more, I felt the lifting of burdens, and the deep comfort of friendship.
Even the more lighthearted games, like the wicked satire of Monsterhearts, or the fantasy cliche hijinks of Dungeon World, felt more real and personal and emotionally resonant than a lot of games I’ve played, and EASILY moreso than most convention games.
I’ve experienced that level of trust, intimacy and creative synergy before…but usually only in small, closely knit groups. When 3-5 friends with shared history and sympathetic wavelengths gather in an intimate setting, it makes sense that magic can happen. But when 20-30 people converge on a house, some friends, some acquaintances and some strangers, and the magic still happens? That’s a fucking miracle.
The best I can explain it is that acting like community forms community. Crowding a bunch of bodies into a convention hall or a game store feels like an activity, but it doesn’t feel like a community. I’ve had wonderful experiences and formed great friendships at cons and meetups of all kinds, but it usually feels like a prelude to the “real” friendship and bonding. CozyCon took me from Zero to Friends-for-Life in nothing flat.
CozyCon was magic. It still IS magic, coursing through me right now. Tori, and everyone else, thank you so much.