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Steve D [userpic]

Belling the cat

April 24th, 2006 (06:18 pm)
current mood: hahahahahaa! WINTER!

Brisbane's local con is in a bit of trouble this year, because it didn't get organised until the last minute. There's not many games, so the regulars aren't coming, and without advertising, the lurkers aren't coming. It may pick up again next year - assuming anyone agrees to organise it with more verve. This is unlikely, if things don't change, because the job is too hard, highly thankless and pays nothing. The following are some great ideas I picked up from British cons that I think could make the job easier.

1. Remove registration. Every single British con I went to had no rego. Sometimes it was optional, but not always. The best con I went to (Dragonmeet) had nothing. Yes, it took us half an hour or so to get through the door on the morning. But the thing is, people are much more likely to go to something that requires no thought. There's probably some insane Australia safety law that would slow this down even more but the registration would still be quicker than it is now because you wouldn't have to look up anyone's games - just take their name and move them in.

2. Sign-up Games. Even GenCon UK, the largest con in the economic union, uses sign up games. This totally eliminates any need for rego. Again, it can be slow to get everyone to look at a game and decide if they want to play. However, not only are people more willing to come something that requires just turning up, people are also MUCH more likely to want to volunteer to help for something that just requires turning up on the day. So you have helpers and barkers to speed up this and the previous process. You also might get more GMs.

I have heard it said that if you did this, no GMs would come because they wouldn't turn up if they weren't guaranteed players for their games. You don't want those sort of GMs at your con. They're idiots. You do also have to deal with first come first served, but that actually increases your turn-over - people are more excited for things of limited number. You can't charge per event then, but that's generally a poor idea anyway. You want people to see the thing as a whole, not individual elements so they are excited about the CON itself.

3. Split and delegate. Another reason why rego is so tricky with the current system is it has to cater to wargames and CCGs who require a completely different process. In fact, the whole problem with the con structure used in Australia is that its the same one that was invented for wargames in the US. The hobby has evolved, and cons need to do so too. Wargaming ideas like prizes and schedules should be removed. Alternatively, if they want to be there, they need to organise themselves. Same goes for the Living Campaign people. Admin will take people's names at the door, and arrange the venue stuff. If you want to co-ordinate scheduling or sign-ups for your branch of the hobby, then YOU do it. Roleplaying, wonderfully, doesn't need much organisation. Wargames do. So let them deal with it.

The objection to this usually floated is that wargames and roleplayers like to cross-over their hobbies hey hey we're all a great big melting pot. This is bollocks. I've spent the last five years watching and the wargamers play wargames the WHOLE TIME. Of course, there is the point that grouping together reduces venue costs, but that's a reason why the wargamers should do their own admin, so they can share with the cons price reduction, should they want to. Measures 1 and 2 should up the roleplayers too, so your numbers shouldn't drop, especially when you add the next one.

4. Events. Cons were designed for wargaming - ie competition with people. Roleplayers don't need to convene much. We all know most of each other. We all have good games at home, and the people who don't, don't come. There is nothing special about the con that I can't get by going over to Chris Slee's house one afternoon. The alternative is to add special events. Things you can't get everyday. Demos and demo-spaces. Appearances by celebrities if we can get any. Panels. Competitions. Costumes. Workshops. Sponsored events. Giant live-action games of Magic: The Gathering. A dunking-tank with a GM in it. A lot of these cost a lot of money, but the smaller things don't. If we get our thinking caps on, and focus on the special, we could do it. I'm willing to sit in the dunking tank and tell people their characters are dead. I'm also willing to front a panel on breaking into the gaming industry, or game design, or adventure writing, or anything. Frankly, I'll do anything that gets me even the possibility of an audience.

5. Run the con like a business. Granted, it's never going to make a lot of money, nor should it. Cons are effectively after-sales service designed to strengthen the hobby and hence the industry, by trickle-down effects. Still, a sound business manager at the helm, who understands promotion and an aim to make a profit could really help. They could also look at cost-cutting methods. I'm sure, for example, we could find a venue without a cafeteria but close enough to shops. That might help.

6. Here's another money making idea so important it deserves its own mention: serve alcohol. There's a reason that SteveCon's slogan is "Games, People, Beer". It's a proven economic truth that places that serve alcohol can attract more people. Of course, liquor licences are expensive as all hell. But I'm sure there are ways around this (like say, running it next to a late-night liquor store). Strippers might be going a bit too far, but scantily clad women in general are also good business sense. Look at Supanova's advertising this year. I don't know how we can do it, but these kind of thoughts should be explored - if we want to up our attendance, and make money. Alternatively, offer a discount entry to women. More women not only increases the number of men who come but you can also get them to improve their hygiene when they turn up. Of course, this does make it seem like a meat market, and we really don't want to encourage that idea any more than we have to. Which brings me to number 7...

7. Zero tolerance. One of my fave American game designers brings a supa-soaker full of soapy water to every Gen Con. If a smelly gamer approaches his booth (he works for Shadowrun) he drenches them. Probably a good way to get done for assault, I guess but the principle is good. And unfortunately, increasing attendance does increase the number of losers through the door. But the losers drive people away. 2004 was my girlfriend's first con, and within the first five minutes, she was hit on by someone, then played a game with a certain Brisbane GM who actually ignores women when they talk to him, because he doesn't consider them to be people (let alone gamers). I wouldn't have come back after lunch if that had happened to me. We need to kill these people. Failing that, I want to see lots and lots of opportunities for attendee feedback. Any GM that generates that kind of complaint or anything like it simply isn't invited back. We don't need them. They lose us two attendees for every one they ensure gets a game. It also doesn't matter if we lose a few GMs because the focus is on the con and the day, not the individual events.

8. Reduce the time. One final way to reduce costs and adminstrative work is to reduce how long the con runs for. We don't need three days. Not even the wargamers need three days. The best con I ever went to lasted eight hours. Two days is more than enough. Attendance always goes down on the second day anyway. This also means you can schedule it whenever you want, and avoid the may day long weekend when everyone is out of town. You can also get venues more easily, and you can attract merchandisers more readily.

A short con, with no need to register beforehand and a distinct focus on events, with gamers left to organise themselves, should all reduce the preparation time hugely, which means all that there's more time to promote the hell out of the thing with the scantily clad women. Attendance goes up while costs stay steady, and you earn more money to get better promotional events next year - screw giving the profits to charity, invest them in the con itself! Or failing that, use any profits to buy the dedicated admin staff gifts and bonuses. It's never going to be a job that pays the bills, but I bet you anything more people would do it if they knew they got, say, a free beer tab for the time they were at the con. Organisers drink free, and the head organiser gets a complimentary fifteen minutes in the Infinite Crisis Jelly Wrestling with the girls dressed as Wonder Woman and The Huntress.

And jugger matches are held on the oval. Hereendeththelesson.


Posted by: Adrian Forest (dalziel_86)
Posted at: April 24th, 2006 09:07 am (UTC)

Good luck getting anybody currently running the con to do any of this stuff though. Hell, I don't need to tell you this, we've both experienced that particular futility firsthand.

Posted by: jody_macgregor (jody_macgregor)
Posted at: April 24th, 2006 09:15 am (UTC)

Those are some excellent ideas, but I suspect that promoting the scantily clad babes would only attract the idiots and people who need to be killed in greater numbers.

Posted by: Blake (blakesrealm)
Posted at: April 24th, 2006 08:00 pm (UTC)

At least they'd be easier to cull out of the good gaming stock, right? Then you just have 'em offed and the con is that much better.

Plus there are nakid women running around, that has to be a good thing right? =p

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: April 24th, 2006 09:42 am (UTC)

As someone who actually sat on this committee at one point, you should know roleplaying as an activity is essentially a loss-making enterprise economically, markedly so in comparison to all other events and activities.
Solve that problem, and you'll have better chances of running a better con.

These other ideas are nice, but economics is about as objective reality as these things get. You have so many ancilliary concerns, particularly 3rd party insurance, to worry about thesedays.

When you've got gamers who balk at $40 for a 3 day con, you've got a problem.

For the record, I think a certain someone (whose now in self-imposed retirement to raise his son) did a fantastic job in keeping the Con alive.
That said, he's not going to go back to running the Con.
I suspect this event, much like Cons in other states, will die a death of sorts.
Re-birth, in another form, may occur in time with new hands and/or new ideas.

-You Know Who SA.

Posted by: Steve D (d_fuses)
Posted at: April 24th, 2006 11:56 am (UTC)

I'll definitely agree that Mr H was doing an INCREDIBLE job, but I'm also happy he has left because he wasn't getting much value out of doing it.

Posted by: Blake (blakesrealm)
Posted at: April 24th, 2006 08:02 pm (UTC)

The thing you said about the $40 hit a cord for me. I wanted to attend a local con coming up, but they want $35 just to walk in the door -- that's not playing or attending anything yet. No chance I'm paying that much to go to the dealers and demo rooms, which is all I wanted to do.

That's the biggest hurdle, I think. I'd probably spend $50 - 100 in the dealers room, god knows how much the wife would spend, now they're out that money because we won't spend $70 more just to enter the building. Tough situation for the con and casual people like me.

Posted by: Pantmonger (pantmonger)
Posted at: April 24th, 2006 09:54 am (UTC)

I would also like to throw into the mix (unpopular as it may be) but quality control on the games. From the player side of the fence the con is a product, you are being asked to pay (however much or little) for this product. If the people ‘selling’ the product have no quality control then they become snake oil salesmen promising amazing fun in a tonic that is just as likely to send you blind.
This is the reason I’m not attending this year, but in the past the games have been such a mixed bag that maybe 50% were worth playing. With only something like 6 games on the offer this year, 3 ain’t worth the time.

However put quality control in place, with an iron hammer on the refusal, and a helping hand to get the close up to par and you will instill trust in your clientele that the games will be quality. This is the currency you build a con on.

Posted by: Steve D (d_fuses)
Posted at: April 24th, 2006 11:56 am (UTC)

I agree, but you'd need to get these kind of ideas going first to support this kind of system.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: April 24th, 2006 10:44 am (UTC)
reverend Kinesys Responds

This is nothing short of fucking genius. It's almost POETIC!

I suspect that within the next couple of days i will send this to every single person i know.

Steve, Do you mind if i repost this on my blog as well?

Posted by: Steve D (d_fuses)
Posted at: April 24th, 2006 11:07 am (UTC)
Re: reverend Kinesys Responds

Go for it, but send me the link!

Posted by: former_pirate (former_pirate)
Posted at: April 24th, 2006 11:47 am (UTC)

"a certain Brisbane GM who actually ignores women when they talk to him, because he doesn't consider them to be people"

The fuck?

Anyway, good points all. I'm not even entirely convinced that cons should be more than one day, though I've only been to one multi-day con and it was very good.

Of course, the reason I don't go to multi-day cons is because they're generally too expensive, too big a time commitment sight-unseen, etc.
SteveCon is still my favourite in many ways. Short and to the point.

Posted by: Steve D (d_fuses)
Posted at: April 25th, 2006 03:41 am (UTC)

The really scary thing is that guy's the head GM for the RPGA around here. The RPGA is pretty much the reason why you need quality control.

Posted by: Craig Oxbrow (craigoxbrow)
Posted at: April 24th, 2006 05:57 pm (UTC)

Of course, the result of all this would be something like UK cons, where we just have to find other things to worry and complain about.

(Quality control on games would be great, but probably unworkable without a lot of space to bury bodies of Shitty GMs You Can't Stop GMing While They Draw Breath.)

Posted by: Blake (blakesrealm)
Posted at: April 24th, 2006 08:04 pm (UTC)

"There is nothing special about the con that I can't get by going over to Chris Slee's house one afternoon. "

Well I hope that you're not able to get people like #7. We call 'em 'Cat Piss Men' here in the US. People like them are half the reason I don't like going to cons, or even hanging out in the FLGS more than I have to.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: April 25th, 2006 12:17 pm (UTC)

Chris' Noir campaign was indeed fun.
And I think that's half my problem - while I like to game, I also bathe and like to wear nice clothes.

So does Chris Slee.
Hell, Cathy makes a good living making costumes for the theatre!

Point being, the Unwashed are undesirable, even by nerd standards.

Posted by: Blake (blakesrealm)
Posted at: April 25th, 2006 02:59 pm (UTC)

What gets me is how their breed continues to exist at all. You'd think in all the years of gaming somehow they'd all be pushed out of the hobby -- or at least the stores. Apparently their the gaming version of the cockroach.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: April 26th, 2006 03:14 am (UTC)

Remember that young gamers come into the hobby every year. Of course, the real worry is the forty year olds who act like this...

Posted by: Blake (blakesrealm)
Posted at: April 26th, 2006 10:41 pm (UTC)

Yep, very true. I just really don't like them. If that wasn't obvious. =) The sad thing is that stereotypes come from someplace, and they're the ones that give gamers the bad image.

Posted by: IMAGinES (ext_2136)
Posted at: November 5th, 2006 02:14 am (UTC)
Damn you, Darlington.

Now you've got me thinking! (http://imagines.herstik.com/000985.html)

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