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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:
Monday: Load the car Monday morning. Then RE-load it, so it all fits. Around noon, set off on first leg: 450 miles to parents' place in Pennsylvania. Take it easy, arrive about 10 pm.
Tuesday: Sleep in, slack off Tuesday morning, visit Wal-Mart to buy the stuff I left home (this year it was socks...), hit the road about noon again. Settle in for a long drive.
Tuesday afternoon thru Wednesday: Drive the remaining 800 miles to Milwaukee. If everything goes right, hit Chicago about 3 am, shoot right through, pray that motel has a room vacant, since reservations are for tonight. If everything goes wrong, hit Chicago about 5 pm in a severe thunderstorm, with tornado watch.
Wednesday: Check in with exhibitor reg. Find place to unload, preferably one not equipped with ticket-writing cop or towtruck. Assemble cart. Haul stuff inside. Pray some more. Luck out, find a few friends to help heave stuff. Assemble tree. Set up booth. Assemble tree again. Hook up and test computers. Fix the blasted tree. Head for RPGAMES forum dinner. Goof off. Find motel. Take first shower since Monday.
Thursday-Sunday: Jump out of bed early, join commuter rush. Hope the parking garage isn't full. Clean up, restock, and generally fiddle with booth. Stick branches back on the tree. Maybe steal 10 minutes to check out other people's booths. Be sure to be back before they let in the teeming throngs. Sell. Scream loud enough to be heard over everyone else screaming loud enough to be heard over...etc. Room closes, grab stuff and get out. Maybe meet with some of those other industry folks and rant a while, then go back to motel. Grab dinner. Head out to CompUSA to buy discs, Kinko's to copy whatever I didn't bring enough of, K-Mart for (whatever). Go back to motel again. Fall over. Sleep.
Sunday afternoon: Tear booth down. Ceremonially throw out the branches from the friggin' tree. Get it all back in the totes, and all the totes back in the Honda. Rearrange so that Honda handles somewhat less like a beached walrus. Wrench at least one major body part. Head back to motel. Sleep like a corpse.
Monday: Check out of motel, grab some breakfast at Zorba's, hit the road. Drive all night, make it to Pennsylvania about 3 am.
Tuesday: Get a decent night's sleep, get back in car. Drive that last 450 miles home. Arrive about midnight.
Nine days on the road...over 2500 miles on the tripmeter...nights in Motel 6 or Motel Honda...backbreaking physical work, draining sales work, and just plain work work.
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-)
Wintertree Software, http://www.io.com/~wtsoft
"If not me, then who? If not now, then when?"