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Monday, April 24, 2006


Where was I?

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend a game convention that was practically in my backyard. It was more quiet than some that I've attended, but it gave me more time to chat with folks and (as always) learn a few new games. I actually brought a few copies of my Working Daze book with me (which has nothing to do with gaming, but the few folks brave enough to pick it up seemed to like it).

Small gaming conventions like the one I attended cannot succeed without the gamers that are willing to shell out the big bucks to come (sometimes from long distances) to play their favorite games. The challenge is to make that journey worth their while, usually by offering an experience that they cannot get by a regularly scheduled game at their local game store. Most often that experience is to play with players from other distant locations, which creates a sort of catch 22 situation, since one needs to get the gamers to come why would one come if he thinks the others aren't going to show up?

One solution is to go beyond the base - let folks from the local community know about the upcoming event (most local papers and some radio stations are more than happy to post notices about things going on in their community so folks have new things to try). To make that more successful, you have to make the experience more open to the casual visitor. Here's my radical idea - let them in free. In other words, it's free to look, but you gotta pay to play. That way folks can come in, see what's going on and if they want to try a game, they have to pay the admission. To make the admission worthwile, make sure there's plenty of free events (demos of games, etc.) going on 'round the clock. Save the tickets for the torunaments and signature events. That's the second thing to help bring in visitors. Have one or more events that make your eyes pop out and make you determined to return the following year to play (you couldn't play this year because it was sold out long before you heard about it) - that sort of thing. At Gencon I'd see this game played with huge fleets of Lego pirate ships that looked like tremendous fun to play. Of course, being one of the two biggest gaming conventions, Gencon was loaded with signature events - grand dungeon crawls involving huge, meticulously detailed castles and a team of runners with wired headsets making sure every monster and trap was being sprung at the right moment during the 4-day long event. Try doing that at your local gaming store every week!

Well, that's enough rambling for today. See you later!
That sounds like a great strategy. Everyone loves a free event; it's a good family and community draw. Look at any number of festivals and conventions, art and craft festivals, music festivals, food festivals etc. It's free (or just a couple bucks) to get in and you can go around and see everything. Let people get into the event, get the feel for it, then hit their wallet when they know specifically what the’re paying for.

A more open, interactive family friendly convention would be a great way to get more of a grass roots growth in gaming. Gaming is so much an insider's industry and many like it that way because they’re part of the cool, underground geek gaming thing. But there are so many games (console, online, board) out there that appeal to all types of people. If people could get together for a neighborhood con, not only would it boost the local industry, but also it'd bring a human connection that seems to so often be sadly lacking.

Gaming isn't as cut and dry as it used to be. It's more interactive, immersive and universal. If the industry would do a better job of marketing it that way (i.e. making cons a full family even more than comics and game playing) it'd be more supported from mothers to the legislature.

Two cents.
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