I went to my first GenCon in 1993. At that time, I had to send away via snail mail for my initial registration, which returned with a magazine listing all the events being run. Games were limited to specific time slots, there were four each day: 8am-12, 12-4pm, 4pm-8pm, and 8pm-12. The slots were also sub-divided into 2-hour a/b slots for games that ran only 2 hours long. You filled out a form indicating which games you wanted to play in, as well as some alternates. You sent in the form, and eventually you got a pack of tickets back. They tried to get you into all your games, if not they tried to get you into your alternates, and if not they replaced your tickets with generics. I’m not sure if it was first come first served, or if there was some kind of lottery, or what. But it worked, and though you didn’t necessarily get into every game you wanted, I never stressed out about it and was happy with the games I got to play.
Now, in 2010, they release a CSV file with a raw data dump of all the events less than a week in advance, and you’d better know how to use excel well if you want to read the thing. They also warn you that the list is subject to change up until the last minute when registration opens. It’s not clear why, as there is an event submission deadline that was many weeks earlier. Events can be scheduled for any random time frame the GM wants, which naturally means at least one game I’m interested in is running from 11am until 3:30 pm, which totally doesn’t play nice at all with other games meaning the trade-off is usually at least two other games for this one game. When registration opens, everyone hits the website at once, overloading their bandwidth and causing the site to become unresponsive and time out constantly. You spend several stress-filled hours trying to buy your tickets, hoping the game you want isn’t getting sold out while your web browser times out.
Sigh. I miss 1993.