This past week (July 11-14) was the national convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Orlando, Florida. It was an unexpectedly intense experience, and I'd like to share some of it with you all.
Materia Magica had a single-table booth along the back wall of the hall, which was a good location with plenty of traffic without being crowded. It was even better than we realized when our neighbor rearranged her booth in a way that allowed us to bring people behind our table. We had a nice banner to go across the front of the booth, and a Braille name plate for the front center of the table. We laid out some of our Brailled cards along the edge of the table also, and as people walked by they trailed their hands across the front edge of the tables, reading the nameplates. This placement of our cards meant they read our cards as well. It was surprisingly loud in the exhibit hall, so this system was a good way to get our name in front of people who didn't want to stop to talk.
We had a bowl of candy set out which was quite popular and brought a lot of curious people to the table. A bowl of dog biscuits collected a smaller crowd, but did attract a few "customers" whose handlers might not have planned to visit us but found themselves at our table nonetheless.
That said, there was a gratifying amount of interest in Materia Magica. We were the only game represented and many people came to talk to us out of curiosity and surprise at seeing a game in the exhibitors list.
Among others, we talked to
* Many families and groups of friends excited to learn about the game because sighted and blind members wanted a game to play together.
* A gentleman who said he had played MUDs "back in the day" and then graphical MMO's as they became prevalent instead. When he lost his sight, he thought he was out of luck. We were happy to tell him that MUDs not only still exist but can be accessible to him.
* Quite a few teachers and other educators who thought their students would be interested.
Using the opening in the row of tables created by our neighbor, we were able to set up two stations where people could sit down and actually play MM for a bit. We had a few characters premade for a smoother start in the limited time available, but quite a few people wanted the entire experience including character creation. We also had USB drives set up with the MM MUSHclient package on them so that those who played at the booth could take their settings home with them. I can honestly say that every person who sat down and played at the booth left us excited about MM and eager to play at home.
I gave two interviews to podcasters and made contacts with several others. We are following up our work at the convention with advertising and other media through the rest of the year. Years of work have gone into readying the world of Alyria for this moment, and I've been thrilled to see the influx of new players this week and am excited for our future.
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