Last month, I was able to attend Gamer’s Rhapsody, a new convention focused on the art and music of games.
As I wrote about previously when covering Arnie Roth’s A New World tour, video-game music has come a long way from the blips and boops of arcade machines and the first home consoles. As acceptance and respect for gaming music grows, so does the fanbase. And, as in my case, it pulls people who have long been fans of this niche subject out of the woodwork. Go to a con and start rattling off names of genre actors and you’ll have a lively conversation going in minutes. Not so much with game composers or sound designers.
“Heeeeeeeey what about Yutaka Minobe! Right?! RIGHT?! That wicked string quartet tho . . . Anybody? Where are you going? Guys? . . . Guys? . . . Nachos? Star, uh, TrekWars?”
Gamer’s Rhapsody provided a place for soundtrack fans to come together and geek out about things not so easily shareable in mainstream geekdom. And it did an excellent job of not only incorporating the hardcore music fandom but making a noticeable effort to be inclusive of more casual fans and even mainstream, non-music fans. The attendance was small, but it almost never felt empty or dead. Calm and relaxed, but active. From what I saw of the attendees, there seemed to be a good range of demographics.
My biggest issue with the convention was the location. The hotel—the Ramada in Bloomington—is an absolute dump compared to the other hotel convention venues in Bloomington, Minnesota. It is dark and dingy and poorly laid out, with the con suite (“the Jam Cafe”) relegated to a random sleeping room far from the rest of the con. There was also another convention or other event happening at the same time, resulting in a mix of people in the same space who were there for completely different reasons. This caused some confusion for the staff and attendees, as the hotel is tiny, and sorting out which people there would reciprocate your yelling of “Fus Ro Dah!” and who would be more likely to mace you was difficult. I also encountered several non-event hotel guests, none of whom seemed to be pleased with their arrangements. Apparently they had not known they were going to be sharing a space with multiple conventions.
For activities, Gamer’s Rhapsody had a nice array: a panel room, a performance room, a dealers room (too big for too few vendors, but what they had was quality), gaming rooms, and hangout space. The guests they were able to acquire in only their second year, including official reps from Nintendo, were solid for the most part. Several musical acts, including Do a Barrel Roll!, performed, and the convention’s guests of honor included Emily Reese and Sam Keenan, the creators of Top Score podcast. (Please check out their new project here, or visit their Patreon-sponsored podcast—a must for fans of video-game music.)
In the end, the problems with this con were circumstantial and did not seem to be in any way a result of poor planning. In fact, the best thing about Gamer’s Rhapsody was the con staff, who were enthusiastic, professional, and clearly committed to providing a memorable and meaningful experience to the attendees. Newer cons sometimes take a few years to find their footing, and I’m looking forward to seeing the Gamer’s Rhapsody convention evolve into a unique event and comunity.