By Brian Woodman Jr. CTLatinoNews.com
If you’re not already in the know, then you are probably not an enthusiast, and aren’t familiar with Connecticon, a popular event that started in Connecticut eleven years ago, and now draws an estimated 10,000 attendees to the capitol city.
What is it? Devoted fans, traditionally males in their teens and twenties, gather for screenings of science fiction, video game play and participate in a popular feature: role-playing games. Originally derived in part from miniature simulation games played on tables with military figures, the new role-playing games are played using pen, paper, dice and sometimes maps. Enthusiasts of the hobby are typically science fiction/fantasy/horror fans and history buffs.
This year, one of the writers of role-playing games, who writes for numerous companies including his own, Golden Goblin Press, is 43-year-old Oscar Rios, who will be a featured guest at Connecticon. He has been described as “probably today’s most prolific writer of role-playing games,” by an Australian science fiction blog. Rios, a lifelong resident of New York, has written over sixty-five Call of Cthulhu scenarios since 2002 and tells CTLatinoNews.com why he loves the game and how he tries to bring a Latino flavor to the genre.
Q: What first attracted you to role-playing games?
A: I was always an avid daydreamer, and growing up I moved around a lot, so I didn’t really make any stable friendships until I was 10 years old. I spent a lot of time in my head. Also, the late seventies were an amazing time to be a child, with Star Wars hitting the big screen and shows like Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers on T.V. When I first heard about role-playing games, I was instantly attracted to the concept. It was the ability to go on adventures that could never happen in real life; the chance to be whatever you wanted, and live or die by your own choices…all within the safety of sitting around a table talking with your friends, rolling some dice and eating pizza.
Q: How do you try to bring culturally specific Latino touches to the games?
A: I try to show that Hispanics are, or should be, part of the tapestry of Call of Cthulhu. The game for the most part takes place in the 1920’s, and Latin culture was already a part of this country’s makeup. For example, in a New England scenario I wrote, I made my main characters Portuguese, and wrote how they changed their name from Pinero to Pine. Why? Because at that time there were lots of Portuguese immigrants living in New England, and some did change their names to sound more American. I have characters with last names like Ortiz, Vega, Hernandez, Castillo… Sometimes they are the good guys, sometimes they are the bad guys; sometimes they are people just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I am proud to say I am nearly finished with a book for Chaosium called Secrets of Peru, and I felt strongly that it should be a Latino who tells that story.
Ethnically I’m Puerto Rican (on both sides), born in Brooklyn. As for a specific Latin touch, I would say my stories tend to have a very Latino sensibility. When I was seven years old I asked for a Ouija board, that game people use to talk to spirits. My mother steadfastly refused. I asked her “Why, do you think it’s fake?” She answered, “No, it’s not a good idea to draw attention to yourself.” She didn’t think it was fake – far from it. At her core she believes such things are very real, and very dangerous to meddle with. Latinos can be a very spiritual people, possessing a healthy respect, maybe even a fear, of the unseen world around us. As a Latino horror writer, I think that sentiment is at the core of all of my work.
Q: How long have you written for Chaosium and Unspeakable Oath?
A: I’ve been writing for Chaosium for about 12 years now. I’ve also written for The Unspeakable Oath, Worlds of Cthulhu magazine, Miskatonic River Press and my own company, Golden Goblin Press.
Q: How has the game changed since its debut?
A: Over the years, players have become more sophisticated and skilled. They demanded adventures with a lot more freedom of choice and variable outcomes. There couldn’t be just one way to solve it, there needed to be multiple ways to reach any number of different outcomes. Scenarios written with little freedom of action came to be called “Railroads”, those with abundant freedom of choice came to be called “Sandboxes”. The move towards a sandbox style of play over a railroad style has been gaining speed over the last six years. This has made the scenarios longer, as writing a sandbox takes a lot more words than writing a railroad. It has also made the scenarios a lot more interesting because nobody has any real idea how it’s all going to turn out.
Q: Is the horror genre still viable in role playing?
A: Of course, I think it’s becoming more and more popular. Society will always have fears and always need a way to explore them in a safe way. Horror themed role playing games give them that. In the last five years we are seeing more and more big budget, very well done horror themed movies and television series, which shows us that people out there still crave a good scare.
Q: In your opinion, is there a shift in the demographics for role-playing?
A: Yes, but it is the same shift that is happening across many types of fandom. Comics, cosplay, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, these fan groups are drastically growing on all fronts. With big budget movies and popular TV series, what was once just known to a few fans is now being showcased to society as a whole. As such, those groups who represented a very small percentage of the fan-base are growing. I am not certain if they are now a bigger percentage of the whole, but there are certainly more of them out there.
Q: Is there a bibliography of your work available?
A: Not really, although I do have a list of every scenario, published and unpublished, on my Facebook Page. Currently it’s up to sixty-seven scenarios. That doesn’t include fiction or published articles, but I should probably start keeping track of those as well.
Connecticon will be held at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford from July 10 through 13. For more information: http://connecticon.org/