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And that was The (Small) Weekend

I can say I was disappointed, as the dictionary definition of disappointed is:

dis·ap·point·ed (adj.) - Thwarted in hope, desire, or expectation.

While it was exactly what I expected, it didn't live up to my hopes or desires.

Total numbers according to St John was about 150 total. Since the last two years were each over 400, this means that this years was about a third. However, the numbers are actually worse than that. If you take out the miniatures gamers, and the Living gamers, and the CCG and CMG gamers, I doubt very much if the total number of actual roleplayers was over 20. I would expect more likely about 12.

My Paranoia game ran twice, once in the first session with 5 people and once in the last session with 6. However, one of the people in the first session was a GM who wasn't running anything that session, and one of the people in the last session was also a GM who wasn't running anything in that session, so that means only 9 "players" (ie paying players) in my game. I think the most times any of the RPG's ran was 2 or 3 times, and all the other games were 5 player ones.

My freeform didn't run at all. However, it is written, so I'll probably submit it for Unicon this year, that way I don't actually have to panic during the lead up to it.

However, I'm not blaming the organisers for any of this. They did a marvellous job with the time they had. Since half the committee quit in December, and then it took a while to replace the positions, I think they did well in the few months they had to organise it.

Also, they have put a lot of background infrastructure in place so that there shouldn't be these sorts of problems in the future. We can always hope.

On that note they are intending to have a meeting sometime in the next month or so to discuss what went wrong and how to improve it in the future. Travis and I chatted with the committee members a lot about suggestions, since we both have been to so many other conventions and we've seen how a number of other people do it. So, one of the things they are looking at is an on-line rego system, and both myself and Travis told them about AON. Damien, would you mind if I give them your contact details if they want to talk to you about AON (mainly how it works, that sort of thing)? If so, what contact details do you want me to give them?

So, what did I do at The BIG Weekend?

Turned up Friday evening after work to talk to them as they were setting up and doing late rego. Chatted with St John and Michael a bit.

Turned up first session on Saturday morning and ran my first session of The Reunion Mission, making most of the details up as I went along. One clone ended up completely dead about 10 minutes before the end of the game, and everyone else lost at least one clone.

Played board games the rest of the day (mainly Settlers of Catan, Roborally and Ticket To Ride) and went home about halfway through the last session.

Turned up near the end of the first session on Sunday and played more board games for most of the day. Almost had enough players to run Homeward Bound, but didn't quite, so it didn't happen and went home near the end of the last session.

Turned up near the end of the first session on Monday, and having actually remembered to go to a hole in the wall this time, actually had money so bought some Shadowrun books, and was given some Marvel Power Dice Starter boxes. Giant D6 for the win! :)

Then ran my other session of The Reunion Mission, using what I ran the first time as the plot line. This time we ended up on two completely dead, two on their last clone and two on their second last clone.

Then wandered back to the rego hall and helped pack up and clean up, followed by the shortest prize giving in memory (there were about a dozen people there, it didn't take long). After that Travis, St John and I wandered off to Cold Rock for the post con "party". No one else turned up.

Then home.

As for next year, I will submit some games to the next BIG Weekend (I already have a few ideas), whenever that happens to be.

Much as I hate to say it, I actually hope it doesn't run next year. People in Brisbane have gotten so complacent that the con will be running over the Labour Day long weekend, that I think it not running for a year might not be a bad idea, to hopefully wake people up to the fact that it needs volunteers to be on the committee and to run it, other wise it won't run at all.

Perhaps this years completely lack-lustre event will wake people up. I don't know.

I much prefer the southern conventions.


( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 2nd, 2006 05:20 am (UTC)
Aw hugs. If you bring paranoia to to unicon i can garuntee i'll go though at least 18 clones... theres a reason why i always pick "help desk operator" as a carreer choice when given the option.
But seriously, I'm sorry thigns went poorly, even if it was expected to run poorly. We still love ya tho random, even if we cant afford to come up to brissie for a con.
May. 2nd, 2006 06:00 am (UTC)
Question: St John & Michael - full names?

Off journal answer please. I have my reasons.
May. 2nd, 2006 07:08 am (UTC)
It's Brisbane.
You need to have confirmed AT LEAST 6 months in advance that the event is going to happen.
You need to remind people of this AT LEAST once every two weeks. These reminders need to be visible and widely distributed across a variety of media and in a variety of locations.

One of the gripes I have with the Big Weekend is that the people who DO turn up are the SAME people. I never seem to see the dozens of folks who walk into the comic shop every week and say, "Do you know where I can find a gaming group?"
These people - the first timers - are the ones the organizers need to reach.
And it's for THIS reason that 'not having it for a year' is a Bad Idea.
Sure, it'll wake up the ones who turn up every year, but seriously, they aren't the ones the organizers need to be worried about.
They need to be worried about the ones who won't go if they have to look up a website to get details.
They should worry about the ones who'll only go if they can see a Con Booklet.
They should be worried about people who won't go to Hendra unless there's a detailed map and guidelines on how to get there.
They should be worried about people who WANT to contribute but can't get hold of the organizers or keep getting fobbed off and end up getting frustrated and throwing their hands up at the whole thing.
They need to make the Big Weekend as open, inviting and intriguing to people who've never been to a gaming con as it is to the regulars who eagerly anticipate it every year.

That said, they were operating under a number of adverse conditions this year and coped admirably. Next year is the test.
What have they learned and how will it be put into practice?
Needless to say, I am very interested in the answers to these questions.
May. 2nd, 2006 08:31 am (UTC)

You might be right about that if a lack of players was the real problem, but it's not. Brisbane gamers need a wake-up call to remind them that a games convention needs organisers, writers and volunteers.

You ask, what have the organisers learned? I ask, why can that matter, when there were only four organisers, and one of them (the most experienced one, at that) will not be involved next year (if any con does happen)? Three organisers cannot put together a good convention - not on the scale of the Labour day conventions of old. Five writers cannot write enough RPGs to draw in the roleplayers, or occupy the roleplayers once they are drawn in. (I travel interstate several times each year to play at conventions, and if I wasn't a writer, I wouldn't have bothered signing up for this convention myself, despite it being only a 20 minute drive from my house.) Zero volunteers cannot take enough/any load off the organisers to let them even get a evening's sleep and meal breaks.

Even when The BIG Weekend had more roleplayers over the last couple of years, the work was being done only by a small number of people. Look at the names of the writers. I think we had one year when five of the games were written by one person. Organiser and volunteer numbers have been similarly low, though you can't tell that from the website.

The miniature gaming side of the con is still chugging along nicely, though perhaps somewhat smaller than in recent years (probably due to late organisation). Partly this is because miniature gaming tournaments are a lot easier to organise than roleplaying, but another part of it is the fact that the miniature gamers are willing to put their hands up to make sure their events run. It's just a pity so few of them will volunteer their time to help run the convention itself.

None of this is new. I know from experience that this has been going on for well over a decade now, and I have seen written records dating back to my primary school days which showed the same complaints from convention organisers in Brisbane. It's just reached a particularly low point this year.

I don't think next year will test the organisers at all. Next year will test the roleplayers of Brisbane. If the orgs say, "We don't think the con can run this year, and we intend to let it lie and try later," then a challenge is out there for the roleplayers of Brisbane to stand up and organise a convention themselves. If the orgs say, "The con will run if we get enough support," then we will see whether the roleplayers will give that support. I don't see any other stance the organisers can take.

May. 2nd, 2006 10:33 am (UTC)
Hmm, I find it rather funny that you say roleplayers need to wake up and get involved in the con. If there had been any communication about what was going on with the con, I can guarantee more people would have been involved. Organising a con is a big job obviously, but the most important part of that is communication. The con organisers did not communicate with anyone. The usual game writers, some of whom had games planned, were either not contacted or contacted too late. The people who might have helped organise the con were either antagonised or fobbed off or not even asked. The people who wanted to come to the con were fobbed off with `wait and see' responses or no response at all. A CCG event was cancelled because the organisers couldn't be bothered getting back to the people who wanted to run it. There was no advertising for people who didn't already know the con was on and no information for the people who knew it was on. Whenever people asked questions that were too difficult to answer whole threads on the discussion boards disappeared. The con was disappointing because the organisers didn't organise for the most important thing - people.
May. 9th, 2006 02:44 am (UTC)

Last week, I wrote a big, detailed reply here, but when I tried to post it LiveJournal crapped out on me. I didn't save a copy before trying to post. Since I haven't had time to rewrite it, you get the budget version.

If so many roleplayers in Brisbane were so interested in helping the convention run, why were there at least five positions unfilled in the committees for TBW and its parent body, the QGG, during a significant portion of the lead-up time for TBW2006? One of those unfilled positions was that of Event Coordinator - the very position that covers the responsibility for communicating with writers. So a big reason that RPG writers weren't communicated with is the fact that nobody ever accepted that duty. (And no, it doesn't cut it to say, "The other organisers should have done it." They volunteered to do something, but they didn't volunteer to do that. Other people didn't volunteer for anything at all. The only people that I can fault for a lack of communication with writers would be those who volunteered to do that duty, and that was nobody.) Eventually an Event Coordinator was found, and then communication started happening. Funny that.

And my comment about only having five writers doesn't just refer to this year. I'd have to pull out the old booklets to check which year (since the old TBW web sites aren't up any more), but I know that one year there were five games written by one writer and three by another. Half the tabletop RPGs (not counting Living games) written by two writers... Just what do you expect to happen when one of those writers isn't available one year? I'm not just talking about them being contacted too late. In any given year, there will be at least some chance of those people being unavailable for some reason. (That's why I took a three-year hiatus. Or was it four years?) For conventions to work long-term, the community needs to support them well enough that any one person being unavailable for a while doesn't cause major problems.

We just don't have that sort of support in Brisbane. The conventions are routinely run by people who hold the hold shebang together by sheer force of will, and who devote far more time and energy to the effort than is really good for their own lives. That shouldn't be the case. A convention really needs a dozen people willing to organise, so that it can survive any one of them dropping off the face of the planet, and two dozen writers. Some of those people might end up doing next to nothing, but they should at least be there to take up where others leave off if necessary. I've never seen Brisbane get those sorts of numbers, even in the good years, and I've been involved in conventions in Brisbane for well over a decade now.

May. 9th, 2006 03:36 am (UTC)
How can you be interested in something you have no information about? The first point of call should have been getting the event coordinator position filled and if it wasn't filled it shouldn't have gone ahead. I'm also sorry to say that communication still did not happen once the event coordinator position was filled. many of my questions on the message boards remained unanswered and were then deleted. This is ultimately why I decided not to attend.

There is a difference between writers going on hiatus, writers not being contacted and writers who have actually contacted the committee being ignored. I'm sorry but I know writers and players and potential volunteers who were all ignored. Again I have to say that if communication is the sole responsibility of the event coordinator, which seems unlikely, the con should not have gone ahead because communication is the most vital factor.

In the end, the people who organise conventions do it because they want to and the people who play at them do so because they want to. If a convention fails the organisers can't blame the players for not wanting to attend. Similarly, if a convention doesn't go ahead players who don't want to organise a con themselves can't blame the organisers for it not going ahead. However, organisers can decide not to organise and players can decide not to attend and if you decide to organise something you have to expect people who attend to want value for their money whether it's a financial venture or a volunteer based venture. Even charity events like the walk against want have enticements for attendance, fun, freebies, good organisation, and they don't cost anything other than asking a few people to sponsor you or just turning up.

I'm hardly going to spend my money to support something that I'm not going to get any fun out of and if I decide to be involved in organising something I can't blame other people for making me do it whether it turns out to be successful or not. If people don't turn up to a con or help out with a con, it's because there isn't enough enticement. In this case there was hardly any enticement because the communication was almost non-existent. If I didn't know other people who had some contact with QGG I wouldn't have even known the con was on.

I appreciate that organising events takes a lot of effort, after all I've done it myself. Still, if you decide to organise something, that's your decision and the reality is that if you don't do a good job of organising it people aren't going to attend, or they'll attend and complain. So you'd better actually like organising things and think that you'll be able to do a good job at it. You can't blame other people for making you do something that you didn't ask them to do. Kudos to people for trying to organise an event, more kudos if they do it well, but if I decide not to attend or I don't enjoy myself when I do attend, don't blame me for not getting involved because if there wasn't a con it would be a shame but I wouldn't be blaming anyone for not organising it.

May. 9th, 2006 05:57 am (UTC)

What you are missing is that I haven't levelled any blame at players for not attending the convention. In fact, I stated that I wouldn't have attended myself had I not committed to running a game. I, too, don't expect players to come when there is nothing to draw them. For roleplayers, there really wasn't much. Six tabletops, one of them a repeat of a previous year's game, doesn't cut it.

But it would appear, from previous years' conventions, that there is a body of roleplayers in Brisbane do want to attend conventions. There is certainly a body of roleplayers who complain about conventions being inadequate to meet their convention desires. And yet very few of those people are willing to put their hands up and do the job themselves.

And bunnitos, I haven't blamed you for anything. I haven't said that anything is your fault. I haven't said anybody is at fault for anything. The blame game isn't useful, and won't build Brisbane a new convention, and so I examine responsibility. Who is responsible for running the annual roleplaying convention in Brisbane? My answer: everybody who wants to see the convention run, and run well. Yes, that includes me.

But responsibility isn't obligation. Nobody has done anything wrong by not being involved with convention organisation. I myself made a conscious decision to no longer be involved in convention organisation in Brisbane, long ago. I just don't think we are entitled to complain if nobody else shoulders the responsibility for us.

Furthermore, I haven't heard the convention organisers complain about attendees not turning up to the convention, or writers not writing for the convention. The complaints I have heard from organisers are the same complaints I have heard from organisers of Labour Day convention for well over a decade, and have nothing to do with a lack of attendees or writers.

As for your questions on the message boards, I know that the TBW organisers were quite offended at the attitude displayed by some posters on those boards, and posts were deleted as a result. With the posts not being there any more, I can't see for myself what it was like. Maybe your posts should have been acceptable, and were deleted in error. Maybe your posts were unacceptable, and deserved to be deleted unanswered. Maybe your posts should have been acceptable, but other posts were so unacceptable that the moderators just deleted whole conversations to try to get things in hand again. Maybe the organisers had no reason to be offended at all. I don't know. I can see, however, that two organisers attempted to respond to questions in that forum, including yours. (You are Evil Bunny there, right?) John Collins even posted his mobile phone number, so I doubt he was terribly difficult to contact. And when John took over as Event Coordinator, I found I received appropriate communications from him and had no problems getting information in return.

Unfortunately, it looks like John hasn't been as prompt about some things as some would have liked. I'm not surprised, since I seem to recall that this is precisely why John didn't accept a bigger role in TBW organisation six months earlier. It is also unfortunate that people wanting to contact John urgently don't seem to have called him on the phone number given in those forums.

May. 9th, 2006 06:12 am (UTC)

Just two questions then:

1) What is it that they are complaining about?

2) About your last comment, are you suggesting that every attendee to a convention be given a mobile number of 1 organiser, and they are to call him/her and discuss their complaints, questions, and insights of or about that convention tp them?

I am interested to hear your responses.
May. 9th, 2006 06:30 am (UTC)

1) What is it that they are complaining about?

The organisers of the most recent Big Weekend? From discussion with them, mostly having been treated very rudely by certain people. To an extent, they also complain about the convention being too much work for such a small group of people, but they don't complain about that much because they also know what to do about it. (In the case of one, walk away, but he's been planning to do that at this time for ages now. In the case of others, one talked to me about scaling the event back in certain ways.)

2) About your last comment, are you suggesting that every attendee to a convention be given a mobile number of 1 organiser, and they are to call him/her and discuss their complaints, questions, and insights of or about that convention tp them?

Huh? How do you get that suggestion from what I wrote?

I mentioned John's mobile number only because its availability makes it obvious that the Event Coordinator was generally contactable, for those who took the trouble to call him. Forums are a good medium for discussing generally how to improve conventions (but prone to bouts of rudeness, sometimes to extremes). For time-critical communication involving a specific problem in progress, though, I would have thought that calling a mobile phone would be ideal.

May. 9th, 2006 07:07 am (UTC)

By the way, hooly1138, I never heard the TBW organisers complain about your standing aside, or your handing over too little information to them when you did so, and I spent quite a bit of time at the convention talking with a couple of them. They did say that your leaving was unfortunate and a blow to the committee, but that's to be expected. You did a good job organising the convention, and they haven't yet learnt all the skills you brought to it. They have said that they believe that documentation is lacking, but they were talking about documentation of processes, a "how to" manual for running a gaming convention, not any materials that you could have failed to hand over. They certainly didn't seem to expect you to have written such a thing. They just think it would be a good idea for them to start doing so.

(no subject) - bunnitos - May. 9th, 2006 07:52 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - travisjhall - May. 9th, 2006 10:20 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hooly1138 - May. 9th, 2006 01:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - travisjhall - May. 10th, 2006 01:32 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hooly1138 - May. 10th, 2006 08:03 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - travisjhall - May. 10th, 2006 10:35 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bunnitos - May. 10th, 2006 03:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - travisjhall - May. 11th, 2006 03:24 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hooly1138 - May. 11th, 2006 07:55 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - travisjhall - May. 11th, 2006 09:20 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hooly1138 - May. 11th, 2006 11:20 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bunnitos - May. 11th, 2006 02:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bunnitos - May. 11th, 2006 02:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - travisjhall - May. 12th, 2006 01:49 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bunnitos - May. 16th, 2006 04:57 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 9th, 2006 08:10 am (UTC)

Just for the record - that was me who walked away.

Also, I got my comment from what you suggested to Bunnitosabout her being a potential attendee having to ring someone to find out what is going on. QGG and the TBW organisers had huge communication problems or lack of communication should I say. Where were the TBW flyers in the stores?

I think that the things that happened across the board with me, the committee, and the lack of people wanting to be involved impacted on the convention. However, I believe that if my leaving was such a blow, then perhaps the event should have been cancelled instead of running a sub-standard event.

Don't get me wrong, I think that what they worked with and the time they had to do things was fairly good, but gamers (of which I am) are impressionable creatures, and if something major goes wrong they won't forget easily. What I'm saying here is that there will be an uphill battle to get the gamers who avoided the con this time back.
(no subject) - travisjhall - May. 9th, 2006 10:48 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hooly1138 - May. 9th, 2006 01:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 10th, 2006 12:30 pm (UTC)
Calling the communication before the convention from the organisers to the community incompetent would be kind. I'd be happy to dissect it sometime over a coffee/beer, if you're interested.

It's doubtful the convention would have even happened were it not for Blackleaf.

And for the record, no, I don't care enough about that to run a convention myself. And yes, I'm pissy with them because I got tired of giving them the same advice over and over again and being ignored or middle-managed.
May. 11th, 2006 03:53 am (UTC)

I drink neither coffee nor beer, but it'd be nice to catch up sometime. Maybe we can do ice cream.

Who is Blackleaf?

And precisely whom are you pissy with?

May. 5th, 2006 03:36 pm (UTC)
Hey Guys,

I'm certainly not a regular poster, so I'll explain who I am and what I have done in the past.

My name is Ian Houlihan, and since 2002 I have been heavily involved in the Brisbane gaming scene, namely the organisation of TBW2002-2004, the Treasurer of QGG, coordinator for ORK-toberfest, Times of War and the venue coordinator for Team and Doubles GT (most of which are miniatures events - as someone pointed out, minis tournaments are much easier to organise, manage and raise funds through).

My event coordination life all started with my disappointment with TBW2001 and that I felt I could make a difference. By using a bit of marketing knowledge (most of which I was learning as I went) and a "take it to the public" approach (by visiting people, stores and manufacturers), I was able to take the 150 attendee numbers in 2001 to the 470 that we had in 2004. We dropped to 430 in 2005, but that was because we had a change of venue (one that didn't charge close to $10,000) and a dramatic change of committee.

Now some have suggested that the failure to draw people to The BIG Weekend 2006 was a little of my fault, and that I did not provide the organisers with much in the way of information). The main reason for this was that in December 2005, I hit a rather large hurdle in that I was in charge of a PCYC in desperate need of attention. This meant that my focus was there, and that I could not devote enough time to the convention, having committed to organising TBW2006 way back some time just after TBW2005.

As a result I resigned, informed all involved, and provided the QGG committee with a copy of eventthing that I had ever produced for QGG and TBW (including every e-mail I had ever recieved). This was a challenge I'm sure for the QGG (the organisers of the event), and was something I wasn't proud of having to do - but work is work, and pays the bills.

Unfortunately, this year, as has already been pointed out, had little to no communication with the masses, nor to any of the organisers, hence the reason for a lack of game choice. Unfortunately this is one of those things that has plagued TBW in the past, mainly because of some of the people involved (who were responsible for communicating with registrants) had difficulty communicating. Some of these people volunteered their time to run the con this year. I don't mean to dis some of these people, but some of their organisational skills are limited. Having said that though, some of them at least volunteered their time, and their efforts were valiant.

I must say that in my opinion TBW2006 should have been cancelled, even though this goes against what I suggested (and voted on) at the last Management Committee Meeting I was present for. TBW has always had volunteer and organiser issues (i.e. a lack thereof), but this year has highlighted what can happen when people don't step forward. When the QGG knew it was going to be difficult, perhaps the best option was to say sorry, we'll try again for TBW2007. But maybe I'm wrong.

One thing that has been mentioned is that the process this year was documented. That's a really, really good idea, and maybe by having the event smaller allowed the documenters to get a grip on things across the board, rather than trying to juggle that, and run a large con. I can only hope that TBW gets the numbers back that it saw in 2003 and 2004, but without a serious rethink of how it all happens (including timelines, budgets, etc), where it happens, and that the organisers actually start listening to the organisers and attendees, then I doubt it.
( 32 comments — Leave a comment )

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