Convention Concerns

OK, I’m back.  Road of Kings is out there and doing well, and I think I can breathe now and think about other things.  Time to get this blog back on track.

I want to talk about GenCon.  I was not able to go to GenCon last year due to moving, and again this year I won’t make it for various reasons.  That said, I do still keep an eye on things, and anyone reading this blog will know I’ve posted several times about the growth trend it’s been experiencing for the past several years.  Now, however, it’s getting a bit ridiculous.

Housing for GenCon sold out this year in less than a day.  According to the email:

To put this in timing perspective, last year, open rooms existed in the block through March 18. In 2013, housing took seven weeks to ultimately sell out. This year’s sellout of rooms with three or more consecutive nights happened in less than three hours with all other rooms selling out quickly thereafter.

Coincidentally, last Thursday’s Big Bang Theory featured a plot whereby the main characters try and fail to buy tickets to the San Diego ComicCon.  Four guys sit poised over laptops timing the moment tickets go on sale, then rapidly start refreshing their browsers trying to get into the system’s queue to buy tickets.  Yup, for the past several years, that sounds exactly like my experience with GenCon’s housing and event registration systems.

To be honest, I’m kind of scared by this trend.  Is it a bubble, and will it pop?  If not, will the experience of going to this convention worsen as it continues to bloat and become impossible to get into anything?  Will this flood of interest spill over into smaller local conventions, and if so what effect will that have?

In Big Bang, Sheldon decides to try and start his own competing convention.  I’m already there my friends, I’ve been running a small local convention for a close group of friends now in it’s 7th year — HelgaCon.  To be honest, these days I’m way more excited about HelgaCon than any of the other conventions I attend.  It combines the joy of playing games with the pleasure of seeing old friends I haven’t seen in a long time.  There’s no dramatic rush to get housing or sign up for events, and the best thing is, none of the games ever suck.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward next year to finally getting back to GenCon, assuming I can get in.  This year though, I’m sure I’ll still get plenty of good gaming in, and I’m kind of glad to not be spending two Saturday afternoons sitting at my desk hitting the refresh button over and over.


5 thoughts on “Convention Concerns

  1. Well, I’ve never been to GenCon, but it is harder and harder to get into the games I want to get into each year at North Texas RPG Con. The guys have said that they don’t want it to get bigger than a size they’ll probably reach in another few years, and then even getting a ticket will become a gamble.

    It would be nice if conventions could find a way to actually deal with these issues rather than just ignoring them. Indeed, I’d like to know that even if I have to give up a seat for it to happen, that someone who has never had a chance to play with some of those GMs could get that chance in a way that makes more sense than the “log in at the right time and pray” dance.

  2. I think I may sit out gencon this year, too. Partly because one of the main reasons I like to go is to see you guys, but also because I’m worried about what this news means for the convention.

    I’ve never had a good experience getting into games. Mostly this is because I just don’t react well to situations where I have to be online at a particular time and keep hitting submit or risk losing out. I tend to either be busy that day, or just not up for the hassle.

    I do really love the experience of going out there and being among people that are closest to what I’d call a ‘tribe’ as might exist, but I admit that the lines and the crowding and such grate on me after a while.

    I also found out the hotel I stayed in last year is closed for renovation, and that honestly made me sadder than I expected. I had really liked that place.

  3. Holey gamoley. My instinct would be that exponential pressure like that is not sustainable; it has to pop somehow.

    “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.” — Yogi Berra

  4. @Robert – I think the problem is really one of scale. I’ve solved the problem for our little local con using a rather unique approach that I know could never work for more than a couple dozen people. At these ridiculous sizes, I’d be pretty hard pressed to come up with a reasonable solution.

    @Yogund – You should consider coming out for HelgaCon or even TotalCon. Smaller conventions may lose some of the grandiose spectacle of GenCon, but gain a much more even keeled experience. More like hanging out with friends, even if they are friends you only actually see once a year at that particular con.

    @Delta – 10 points for making a Yogi Berra quote actually sound profound. 🙂 The one thing I actually hope might come out of this is an increase in the number of smaller local conventions. I’d hate to see all this growth end in an anticlimactic bubble pop.

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