Since 1996, the Origins Game Fair has been bringing people from all over to play miniature games, wargames, LARPs, card games and more here in Columbus. With a convention that runs from Wednesday until Sunday (this year from June 11-15), Origins was an exhausting marathon of gaming, with events running around the clock. No matter what the game, no matter how odd or obscure, chances were someone there was playing it and happy to bring one more chair to the table.

 There’s a tendency lately for geek culture cons to experience a drift in their scope, but Origins hews close to its roots. There were no panels on TV shows or movies, only games, games, and more games. The furthest from its original concept Origins got was a series of seminars on the writing craft, and even then the focus stayed on the speculative fiction genres that are at the core of most modern games. Even those panels were directed straight at the role-play enthusiast, with topics such as Writing for RPGs and Writing Tie-In Fiction.

 This focus was kept by the communal nature of the show. There were big companies such as Hasbro-owned Wizards of the Coast there to demonstrate and sell their wares, but the biggest draw was the number of games run by small publishers, independent developers and gaming clubs. And there were a LOT of games being played — the official schedule listed almost 4,200 individual events between Wednesday morning and Sunday evening. Anyone wanting to run a game could sign up for a space in which to do it, and it kept the show from being dominated by the big companies.

 There were costumes as well, though nothing on the scale of something like Ohayocon. Cosplay at Origins was more of the LARP — Live Action Role Play — variety, with people dressing up as their own characters rather than as established game characters. This create-it-yourself attitude also helped maintain Origins as a strictly game-centered convention. Tabletop games and LARPs especially focus on giving players an outlet for their creativity rather than competing, and there was as much of a celebration of that individual creativity as there was of any established fiction.

 It was a bit too overwhelming, though, and even with such an unusually long schedule there were so many overlapping events that hard choices inevitably had to be made. We’re fortunate to live in a city with so many good game shops so that none of those decisions had to be final — an interesting game could be noted and then found and played after the show. I felt sorry for those people, some of whom I gamed with, who had to go back to small towns where their only hope of playing any of these games again may be online or at next year’s Origins.

 Next year’s Origins is scheduled for June 3-7. Be sure to take the whole week off — and the next one too. You’ll need it to recover.