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The Insider Scoop to Con Work

a Usenet essay by Jean McGuire

Subject: Re: Rant: What's 'wrong' with games today
Date: Wed, 27 Nov 1996 02:32:28 -0800
Organization: Wintertree Software
Steve Barr wrote:
>Put simply, I don't have much sympathy for people who both love
>their jobs and want to publically whine about them, especially if
>they get to write off conventions as a business expense. :-)

Steve, what do you think I do at a convention? GenCon, for instance?

Do you think I play in tournaments? Enter my miniatures in painting contests? Look at the art show? Hit the video rooms and watch some anime tapes? Go to the seminars, panel discussions, demos, and talks? Get in a game of Ironclads?

I. Work. At. My. Booth.

If you really want to torture a gamer, put her in the middle of 30,000 people all having a great time, enjoying the hobby that's the center of her life, playing games like crazy, and then make her Work. At. Her. Booth.

In the three years I've been to GenCon, my total gaming has been one game of Magic -- played in the O'Hare Airport terminal, waiting for the local hop to Milwaukee. (that was the first year, before I found out that driving thousands of miles was easier than shipping my business, but that's another story) I have never been to the art show at GenCon. I have never played in a tournament. I have never tried a demo. I have seen, let alone entered, the painting contest. (Do they have one?) I have never attended a seminar, or watched a video. I work. Then I go back to my motel and sleep. Then get up and do it again.

There's a very good reason why I get to write off conventions as a business expense: They're work, and hard work. The kind of fun I have at a convention is the same kind of fun I used to have when I worked for Tandy Leather -- meeting people who share some of the same interests I do, and selling them neat stuff they can use to have even more fun. But for me, a convention is not much like it is for you.

Here's my GenCon schedule, for what it's worth:

What part of that shouldn't I be writing off as a business expense?

I'm not saying that GenCon isn't *fun* for me -- it is. But it's fun in the way a good job is fun, not in the way that a convention is fun when I'm there as a customer.

> I really, really don't care for posts from industry members along
> the lines of "don't get into the industry because I know some
> things which I'm not going to mention but I am going to mention
> that I know them so you'll know that I know more than you do."
> Yo, do the gaming community a favor and become a Fundamentalist,
> OK? :-)

There are no big secrets. It's like any other business, just with less money.

You mortgage your cat to publish The Greatest Game Ever and none of the distributors will touch it...something about that puce-and-mauve cover they don't like. You come out with a great RPG product just when the CCG craze takes off. You find out that there just aren't enough gamers who want to play games about superpowered crustaceans, no matter how much you spend on advertising. You spend all your advertising money on a magazine that promptly goes under and disappears. (with your money, of course) Your printer sends all the manuals back printed upside down and/or backwards...and you have to ship an overseas order last week. Your theme artist quits and goes to work for the competition. You get threatened by [insert company here]. You get sued by [insert company here] and can't afford a lawyer. You get sued by your lawyer. You get a great review -- from someone who has obviously never used your product, and totally confuses it, so that your likely customers will think it's something they don't want, and the people who do buy it will be disappointed. You get to the convention that promised you 400 attendees and they barely have 60, if you count the concom. You run out of ideas for tasty things to do with Mac&Cheese.

Obviously, not all of those have happened to me. But some of them have, and I've heard of most or all of them happening to other people. You can fill in the industry of your choice; all that changes are the details.

The RPG industry is as tough a business as any other -- but, because it's so much about dreams and fantasies, about creation, more people seem to put their souls on the line than they do in, say, the wholesale hardware business. It's kind of hard to get really passionate about selling 7/16" washers and shelf brackets. But most people getting into the RPG industry *are* very passionate, very personally involved, in the project they've spent possibly years of their lives on. When their heart-and-soul project runs headlong into production schedules, advance orders, returns, ripping reviews, and all the inevitable icky-dirty-business-things that go with the territory, it hits a lot harder than a customer rejecting a shipment of washers because they're not round enough.

> > And for those of us who just want to rant for a while about the
> > industry, or our employers, or the market, or whatever...where _else_
> > can we find an audience who understands what we're yammering about? 8-)
> Preferably with other industry members at all those conventions
> you get to write off. :-)

You kidding? They won't listen. All they want to do is rant about the industry, or their employers, or the market, or whatever.... 8-)

-- Jean
Wintertree Software,
"If not me, then who? If not now, then when?"

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