Pax Unplugged was the first boardgame convention to ever feel like we were reaching the mass public. While most people who came to the convention were regular gamers, an overwhelming number of people who came to sit at my table were new to boardgames, and some were simply just residents of either Philadelphia, PA, or from the surrounding area, looking for a good time. That's where the magic happened.
My PAX Unplugged magic occurred with the 20% of people who came to the convention who were not gamers.
The look in their eye was familiar. They'd go through the booths, 'ohhhh and ahhhh' over the weird trinkets and new glistening games, but they weren't really moved. This was the equivalent to going to a light show. Big, bright lights, and a lot of 'wow' but that's the end.
And then some of them stumbled to my table. Some of them sat down to play Cutthroat Kingdoms. And it was glorious. Because Cutthroat isn't like a conventional boardgame in that it plays much more like an interactive movie, people immediately didn't feel burdend with typical boardgamey conventions. There was even a couple who also married in-game, who were adorable to watch as the husband begged his budgeting wife after the game was through to purchase the game. And he pleaded with her for a good long time.
From incredible political discussions, to hard negotiations and marriage proposals, Cutthroat stood the test, that 20% test, of bright and shiny new faces. I stood there and welcomed them to boardgaming, and I think they're the better for it.
So next year, if you are a designer, or even a demoer, remember to welcome that 20%, and never forget your first time playing a boardgame. There's magic there, I promise ;)