Monday morning rolls around, and invariably with it the question of, “What did you do this weekend?” If you spent your weekend at GMX Volume 5 in historic Franklin, TN, you may have a hard time answering. Chased by a life-sized Dalek? An all night bender of board games? Learning how to program apps for iOS? GMX offered a plethora of different answers that would raise an eyebrow or two.
One of the best things about this convention is the variety of fandom that it caters to. Panels were offered on almost anything you care to geek out about, from anime to beer. I sat down in a few panels over the weekend, and enjoyed all of them. Beat the Geeks was a fun trivia competition that allowed attendees to show of the depths of their knowledge. It was entertaining to watch people trying to recover obscure facts from distant memories. The panel leaders of Minecraft : Surviving Your First Night did an excellent job of improvising a new direction for the panel after learning the crowd of about 30 players were all well pass their first night. They facilitated a great discussion, and everyone walked away with some new knowledge about the game.
I’m prone to dabble in most of the interests that the panels of the con offered, but my two hobbies are video games and board games. GXM distinguishes between the two by labeling them as digital gaming for video games, and the increasing popular term “analog games” to note more traditional style games including board, card, and tabletop role playing games.
The moment I heard this years digital gaming room was sponsored by GameStop, I knew what to expect. Entering the room, I noticed seven displays set up, as well as a low resolution projector on the back wall. Console selection was limited to Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii, which is no surprise because these systems move the bulk of GameStop’s inventory currently, and as a company, they don’t offer any older systems. Fighting games and first person shooters were found at most of the stations. An area set up to play Dance Central 3 had a good draw, thanks in part to a young attendee challenging people to take his place at the top of the high score list. A Wii U station was conspicuously missing. While the system is not a runaway hit, it really shines for 5 player games and it’s a missed opportunity to bring a fun, easy-to-play variety of games to the digital gaming area.
The analog gaming area was handled very well. A decent sized library of games was available for checkout. The room also included a dealer to purchase new games from. Members of the local gaming community were on-hand to help teach new games which is helpful for getting more players involved. Cards Against Humanity, a card game that feels like Apples to Apples if it had been developed by Sarah Silverman, was spotted often at the convention. The popularity of the game at the con may have been increased by the release of a special expansion offered exclusively at one of the panels.
The convention was hosted in the Marriott Convention Center of Cool Springs. The convention center space did not lend itself to this type of event very well. The corridors of the area were lined with vendors and autograph tables making an already small space smaller. During its first two years, GMX featured a main stage in an open area, which is a great because it provides a central location to congregate. Without it, there wasn’t an easily identifiable central hub of con related activity.
The most notable guest that I saw was Timothy Zahn. Local celebrity Bill Byrge was on hand, which some people may know from several of the Ernest films. There was also an actress that I believe was in an episode of Game of Thrones. Whenever I passed her table, she was more interested in whatever was happening on her iPhone than greeting people and trying to sell autographs, so I never figured out exactly who she was.
The hotel lobby provided a nice area to escape to if you didn’t want to be elbow to elbow with fellow geeks. A piano was available for people to sit and play at their leisure, and a number of very talents fans entertained passersby and patrons in the lounge. It’s fun to watch the reactions of other guest as the enter the hotel lobby. Obviously, the hotel employees do not warn people when reservations are made that a convention is taking place. I suppose that anyone who had never been to a con before might be alarmed if after their room was booked, they got a warning from the hotel staff not to be surprised if Gandolf or a Slenderman greeted them upon their arrival. Some guest might start wondering about the hotel’s cancellation policy shortly afterwards.
With a price tag of $45.00 for all three days of the event, I feel it’s a solid convention for people within a hundred miles of the mid-state, who have a broad interest in geek culture. The different panels and board gaming room were big draws for me, with the venue and the nothing-out-of-the-ordinary video game room were disappointments, but not deal breakers.