Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Event Review - Texas State Fair

Hi. I'm Matt, and I'm an addict.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about gaming in general. Well, mostly about my gaming. It happened while I was playing a game with my family. None of us was having fun, but we still felt some need to continue playing. For my part, I think I was convinced that if kept trying, I would end up having fun at some point. Basically, I was playing to recreate an experience I had years earlier, when I really enjoyed some particular game, and spent years trying to recreate that fun experience. Sort of like a junkie chasing his first high.

In fact, I took a long look and realized that a whole lot of my gaming hobby had a lot in common with a drug addiction. I sometimes spend money I can't afford to buy games I don't need, then never even play them. I spend copious amounts of time playing games, to the exclusion of taking part in life as a whole. I make terrain I never use, read rules for games I won't play, and create custom pieces I don't even try to get into play. Sure, it's fun, but I could spend that time actually seeing what life has to offer.

So I'm changing things. I still love gaming, and I'm not going to quit, but I'm going to make a point of, you know, doing stuff. And once a week, instead of a game review, I'll tell you about what I did. This is (hopefully) going to wind up in some amusing stories, and might also let you find out about some cool stuff you could try to broaden your own life. Then you won't have to feel so bad about spending three nights a week playing crappy Euro games. The first article is going to be about my recent trip to the Texas State Fair, which will hopefully let you know if it sounds like something you might enjoy. So without further ado, enjoy my thrilling tale of an incredibly bizarre day.

Last week, my employer had Fair Day. We took a day off work and went out to the Texas State Fair.

For those of you living somewhere civilized... I mean, outside Texas, the State Fair is a really big deal in North Texas. They hold this huge shindig once a year for a month or so, and have car shows and animal shows and an absolutely stultifying quantity of fried food. They'll fry nearly anything - Twinkies, Oreo cookies, bacon and peanut butter sandwiches. The big draw this year is fried butter.

So my co-workers and I decided that we would take the train, cruise Fair Park for a few hours, and then take the train home. We boarded the Dart Light Rail and were promptly joined by what has to be one of the weirdest people I have ever met. An art student on her way to class felt compelled to show us the children's book she was illustrating, and what followed was a scene that could have stepped out of an hallucination fueled by psychedelic mushrooms and sleep deprivation.

The first page has a kid in his room surrounded by butterflies. That would have been cute, but the girl explained that the butterflies were there as representations of locusts found in the book of Revelation. The book got weirder, as did the explanations. Here are a few intriguing excerpts:

"Jesus was the first vampire."
"I preach the Gospel, but I do it in a really sinister way."
"The boy is hallucinating about the flour, because his mother bakes with love."
"The cats told him to tell Long Tom that ol' Coot is dead."

Those might sound odd to you, but these were actually far more bizarre in context. I asked her if she did a lot of drugs, but she assured me she did not. That was actually more disturbing, because if she's not doing drugs, then she's just naturally that weird.

When we switched trains, we had the dubious pleasure of enjoying the company of yet another strange person, this time a drunk man who claimed to have fourteen kids, but couldn't remember their names. He told us he lived with his mother and taught people how to play pool for a living. I was disappointed when that trip ended, and we all agreed that taking the train was a fantastic idea, and that we should do it again soon.

The fair itself? OK, I admit we didn't do much. We gave it the old college try, but we were bored. The fried peaches and cream was delicious, and the slice of pizza the size of my head filled my belly just fine. The car show bored hell out of me, and I can't pretend there's any part of me that wants to spend an afternoon smelling pig crap and looking at baby cows. So when it started raining, we got back on the train and went home.

I found the fair mostly boring. So what if there's a ton of food? Most of it will give you the runs within twenty minutes, and if it doesn't, it's probably because your arteries are already clogged with bacon grease and hardened vegetable oil. If I go to a car show, I want to see flying cars and glass roofs and body styles that look like the Batmobile. All we saw was a bunch of new cars, and I could see that in a shopping mall parking lot. I didn't even see any bitchin' Camaros. And like I said, I'm not a fan of barnyard animals.

However, if you want to see parts of your town that are usually hidden, I highly recommend taking a local train. We saw incredibly cool abandoned buildings, fascinating architecture, parks overrun with rampant vegetation, and the kinds of people you can't even meet at GenCon (and that's saying something). If you really want to see a cross-section of your environment that you usually take for granted, I highly recommend some public transportation, especially if it's a train (way more fun than the bus, because you're not on the road).

I feel better already. I'm going to review a game Friday night, and I'm playing Chaos in the Old World this weekend, so there's a cool game review for next week, too. If you have suggestions for stuff I can do instead of playing games, let me know. For this weekend, I think I'll try geocaching. There's gotta be some ludicrous jokes in there somewhere.


The train ride was fascinating, and a thrilling way to see things I don't usually get to see

The State Fair has virtually nothing I want to see
Fat food with a side of fat food topped with fat food
Boring car show

For more information about the State Fair:
And for more info about the Dallas Light Rail:


Al the Pal said...

Wish you the best of luck on your adventures, once a week or more. Also, a welcome move I think because every week I have to hear about some game that I'd love to play or buy, but don't have the money for, so I'm just left wanting it. Now, I can know I didn't miss anything at the Texas State Fair, and can sleep a bit better!

Fredrik Claesson said...

Great idea and I hope you continue.

Parduz said...

I like to see someone that feels the train travels as i do... a way to see things near to you from the worst perspective.

I dunno how it is in USA; from what i see on TV, USA have a lot of "empy space" between one town and another.
Here in Italy there's a lot of tiny town and villages that starts just after the end of another, so your "train experience" is almost doubled.... a never ending sequence of ruined, old, or just sad buildings near to the railway.

You might like it :)

Anonymous said...

When you started I thought you where going cold turkey on us - I was a little scared since my wife is having a bad week with work - well she actually had to work all week from a mistake she made and waiting to do the book work on her gift shop for over 10 months - and was on my case about gaming and partying - but in my defense this is our month off of work and she has to work and see me do nothing.

State fairs Rock, you will so get freaks of society there also, and wait a second are you getting old or trying to change your way, that lady was crazy - weird is a bad hair day and not having matching colors or being goth - she sounded Grade A Nuts to me, which also sounds really fun, makes for great entertainment. I

I love traveling by train. Great place to get a few drinks if they have a bar car also.

Did your wife put you up to this? So games have gone beyond a Hobby for you is what you are saying?

oh yea, did you not find the arcade at the State Fair - um games, could be new ones, your a game reviewer, you so could have worked in something there, just think if they actually had old school Pineball games, now that would be a great review!


Matt Drake said...

Al, I'm just pleased I could help you slake your appetite for new games.

Parduz, I would LOVE to ride the train in Italy. That would be fantastic. You're right - there's a lot of dead air between civilized areas in the US.

Hendal, my wife actually talked me out of quitting cold turkey. I was going to write all my contacts and give it up completely.

And I didn't see an arcade at the fair.

Thanks for the positive vibe on this. I was a little concerned how this would be received, and I'm still not 100% confident in my ability to deliver relevant material if it's not about games. But if you'll stick around and give me a chance, I'll do my best to create something you want to read.

Enrique said...

OK, you see, seeing you moan and cuss at boardgames is fascinating...but seeing you do it at the whole world is simply frightening, as in "Chaos Reigns" frightening. I can't wait to read more of you making the world your playground!

Anonymous said...

My favorite report from you so far - and that is saying something! I can't really relate to the whole too much time spent gaming thing since I'm lucky to get one gaming day a month, but maybe someday.

If you're taking suggestions, I would love to hear a real life report after you and your wife take a couple ballroom dance lessons. Get the group lessons - not the private lessons so you can tell us about the other participants.

Keep up the good work Matt


Matt Drake said...

Ballroom dancing is a great idea! I'll definitely add that to the roster. My wife tore ligaments in her knee about a month ago, so we'll probably have to wait on that until she's a little more agile, but I think that sounds like a blast.

Anonymous said...

Wow - no arcade, what is the world coming to I tell you, oh yea everyone has their own arcade at home!

lol, cold turkey, he he, yea right you have kids you will never get away from games, and your kids are going to be like Stephan Kings kids should be to scary books but only to games, that is all they will see the world as, a giant game, just gotta figure out the best angle. Think how many different games you will have played with your kids by the time they finish high school? Those are some game happy campers I tell you - best collection in town.

I try and hit different parks to walk and ride bikes in when state side but that is not that exciting. I would say some sporting events since it is a game you could write about.

Geo-caching - you could leave a game somewhere for someone to find, make it one of your proto-types and ask them to play test it, then write an evaluation and hide it for you to go geo-cache and find. Someone local or semi-close I would reckon.

All you can eat Chinese buffet, you know you got one near you. Go at prime time, they are always fun to people watch - lunch buffet is so cheap.


Anonymous said...

I ride DART rail several times a week. My experience is that people rarely talk to you, but if they do, there's about even odds they're crazy, drunk or both. In any case, that just adds a bit of extra excitement.

The real annoyances (and this is going to sound racist) are certain black people who insist on playing rap music at max volume on their tinny cell phone speakers, trying at all times to be "more gangsta than thou," and throwing their garbage everywhere. Those people, when present, make the ride miserable for everyone.