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Opinion Rant
Nathan Letsinger

 

Editor's Preface:
What follows is the opinion of the author, and does not neccissarly reflect the views of the other contributers to A Mimir @Gen Con. Also the author vehemently denies any dealings with yugoloths. Any. Vehemently.

 

Now that you've been lanned the chant on what Gen Con is about, I would like to give some of my own opinions on some features of Gen Con.

First, let me say that Andon has done an excellent job at taking the reigns at running the convention. The Staff is courteous, helpful and unobtrusive. The convention seems to go off without a hitch, which is saying a lot for a convention of its size. This has a lot to do with the attendees as well, this isn't Stugis after-all, and guests tend to behave themselves. Having worked for 2 years at a large conference center, I can vouch for the headaches that come with coordinating various departments, mediating problems with the site management, and negotiating guests' special needs. Overall Andon and TSR does a splendid job. Coupled with the new convention center, things couldn't seem to be better.

In fact the Con seems to have gotten bigger as well as better. Where once CCG players filled the hallways of the MECCA, the Midwest Express Center (MWEC) has them located in a comfortable, and, importantly for some, easily avoidable area for both CCG tournaments and general game play. Likewise, every year computer gaming commands more and more exhibit hall space ranging from huge Battletech simulators to big screen promos to networked 1st-person shooters or marching host of online wargames.

"...it's the smaller companies...which remind us what the hobby is all about - having fun creating, despite the lack of a large budget."

This could be good or bad, depending on how much you invest in the argument that computer games, rather than being an extension of role-playing, is actually its antithesis, due to its isolationizing and depersonalizing effects. Guessing by shear numbers, most gamers don't have this concern as they flock by the score to the game demos. I am a bit more skeptical, having had my fill of the lonely hacking of wandering monsters in Baldur's Gate, but must admit I'm anxiously awaiting Torment's release.

Bigger doesn't always mean better either. I've heard some concern that smaller gaming companies are having a hard time affording exhibit hall space, thus there is a decline in the variety of choice as compared to previous years. While I personally do not have the experience to judge if this opinion is correct, I would have to agree that losing small gaming companies to increasing space from the giants would seem like a betrayal of TSR's own past. While not dismissing this observation, I'll say that the TSR castle does anything but cast a brooding shadow over a corporate controlled exhibit hall. It's a great thing that you may find TSR and its competitor's marketing under a single roof. And often, it's the smaller companies, such as Sancho Games, or Pennicle a few years back, which remind us what the hobby is all about - having fun creating, despite the lack of a large budget. Cheers to Wizards and TSR for keeping the Exhibit Halls policy open for as long as it has. Let's hope it continues to do so, celebrating the diversity of the gaming industry, and let's hope the industry stays vibrant enough to continue to produce such diversity.

I titled this editorial as a rant, but so far have given relative praise. So what is it I have to rant on? Well, it is just a small thing after all. In years past, in a move to encourage people to game master, DMs could charge a fee (around $2) per player per game, and they would be re-embursed this money - meaning DMs paid less to go to the con. There was stipulations concerning the minimum hours, or minimum number of games, which would entitle you to the reimbursement. But the point was that DMs found it worth their time to run a game at the convention. It was a little reward for your time and efforts to make Gen Con the game-oriented convention it is known as.

"But, don't be surprised if you see me holding up a sign that says 'Will DM for food' "

There may be plenty of DMs (not of Planescape games I might add!) descending on the Con this year, but what irks me is the fact that games still cost around $2 each, unless you find one of the few free demos. Where does that money go? It's not clear, but clearly it doesn't go back to the DMs. Andon's, or WotC's, libertarian 'pay as you play' philosophy may keep the general admission cost of down across the board; but, it is hard to understand what the difference between the $55 Onsite Weekend badge and the $40 Visitors badge is, if not the ability to buy ($2) tickets to games to play.

My guess is that, with the opening of the much demanded, and much appreciated 24-hour gaming areas, more and more DMs will turn to playing without Andon's help of finding players for them. In fact - with 20,000 plus people wandering about over the weekend, it ought to be simple to find a few players to join you. Also DMs can be a bit more selective in their choice of players, and their game times. The advantage of the Andon system is that there will always be games scheduled through the day, and as long as you have a ticket the DM must accommodate you at his table.

I can understand if the reimbursement is a bureaucratic headache, but why not drop the ticket costs entirely? Maybe I am being a bit reactionary here, but not cheap. I wouldn't mind paying DMs for their hard efforts. But paying for the rights to play a game (which may very well not be too enjoyable) after paying an admissions fee, seems a bit over the top.

Well, think of it what you will. But don't be surprised if you see me holding up a sign that says "Will DM for food" at the 24-hour gaming tables.

(Note: all food must be purchased in the convention center, so make sure you buy the required bribe before they close the snack bars.)

 

 

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  Copyright 1999, Nathan Letsinger.. Graphics by Jeremiah Golden.