It’s the first day of Summer. I’m sitting on my front porch with a just-too-warm breeze blowing past. The laptop’s hot on my leg, but it’s fine for now. I’ve got a cold Corona next to me and I’m working to transcribe… transmute? …distill how this year’s Origins Game Fair played out. I sip my beer and I settle on is distillation, part raw fermentation, the yeast still chewing away at the sugars

Origins isn’t a good convention, not in the traditional sense. Not a year goes by where I don’t hear about some major screw-up on the part of the convention organizers. Events that didn’t get put in registration, con-goers whose events weren’t turned into event tickets because they mis-clicked the antiquated website and didn’t realize it, things just seemingly not addressed by the powers that be.

In my experience, all of those things are tangential to the real draw of the show: the people and the subsystems within which those people move for a few magical days.

It’s been an investment to get to this point. It took years of attending, of finding the right circles and subsystems where I could find the people with whom I wanted to spend my time and energy. This convention has grown for me from something I covered as a blogger to a place where I am near-guaranteed to spend time with some of the people who have come to mean the most to me.

That confluence of events doesn’t come easily. It takes the lumbering, ignorant bulk of the convention itself. The spaces and people I love are found there, in the crevices and caverns of the beast, established enough to garner a hand that scratches at an annoying itch, but not offering the hulk enough reward to be given a place less prone to being crushed when it rolls around in the smell of its own leavings.

It takes a city that welcomes guests with food, drink, beds, and ease. Columbus that makes up for its lack of identity with enthusiasm for those who would come and visit, be it for hours, days, or longer.

But the heart of how these spaces are created comes down to the people. Those who ask for things to be better, more accommodating, equitable, those who, finding little space for themselves in the established structure, worked to create a space of their own.

Games on Demand is the beating heart of that space for me. I recognize that it is one of the smaller niches in the cavern system carved into the convention beast, but every year, it breathes more deeply. Every year its mass grows, drawing more eyes, more attention, and carving out more room for itself.

People come to that space looking for things. Maybe they want something specific, a repeatable experience that uses the same rules as before, but which doesn’t march to what they see as a monolithic, 20-sided drumbeat.

Some come looking for variety, to be stretched a bit, to push their boundaries. Perhaps they exchange the clatter of dice for the clink of tokens for the first time, or see a the vague shape of a story in an unrolled cloth map.

Others seek the unknown. They look beyond their own expectations and take what is offered, diving into the experiences and flavors even if it might not suit their particular palate. They savor it nonetheless and always leave their compliments to the chef.

Games on Demand at Origins is sculpted and curated. It is constantly refining and redefining itself. The people who organize it work hard to make it happen every year, and their efforts pay off in ways large and small. Origins is where I first has a taste of what games could be. Games on Demand at Origins annually redefines for me what games are.

And so, the like-minded come, and we game. We eat meals together. We drink and talk, looking around year after year to find that the space we are making for ourselves is larger and more comfortable. Forget the stumbling beast; we are creating our own animal.

Every year I find myself saying “this was the best Origins ever.” It’s not the convention getting better, I don’t think.

I’m the one improving.

Every year I’ve come to this convention looking for different things. Every year I’ve found them because this convention draw people who are also looking for some of the same things. I want interesting games, chances to show the little bits of magic I’ve made, time to talk, drink, and share. I’ve found these things at other conventions, to one degree or another. In no other place do I find them as regularly.

The people who make their pilgrimage to the lumbering beast make it more than it would be left to its own devices.

Those people, with their ideas, smiles, acceptance, and love, they make me better than I would otherwise be as well.