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Before | After

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.


May. 11th, 2006 03:24 am (UTC)

Ok, I don't want to keep going round and round with you on this one, but I do want to point out that you've taken my comment out of context. [...] It was probably a clumsy way of putting it

Fair enough. I won't disagree with you here. I'm just saying that given how it was put (clumsily, as you say), I think it's obvious how we got to my response.

I do still think you're blaming roleplayers for the as you put it `scaled-back' con, you're just using different words.

In which case, I'm blaming myself equally, aren't I? Because I'm a roleplayer in Brisbane. But I don't think I've done anything wrong. I feel no guilt over this. Something doesn't add up with that interpretation, does it?

I was at the award ceremony, and there really weren't that many people there

Which illustrates my point. If roleplayers are so interested in seeing this happen, why are there so few at the awards ceremony? Functional, long-term conventions require a community to support them. Communities have strong response to feedback. When a community is strong, events go well, more people are inspired to get involved, the community gets stronger. When a community is weak, events are disappointing, people turn away, the community gets weaker. The organisers of TBW have done a good job the last few years, but there hasn't been a sense of community behind the event, thus preventing positive feedback from occuring. Thus, a boom/bust cycle in Brisbane conventions which can be traced all the way back to the 80s.

There also are many people who aren't on the qgg boards, don't check them regularly, and aren't on the con email lists

So, precisely how do these people expect to be informed?

Just because you happen to be in the inner circle and are well informed and get answers to your questions doesn't mean that everyone does.

There's an inner circle? I'm in it? Could have fooled me.

Before TBW2006, I hadn't seen John Collins since the TBW2005 Cold Rock party after TBW2005. The only email contact I had with him was when I received submission forms and responded to them. The only phone contact was when he chased me up for prize lists (and he only caught me, like, five days before the con). I didn't know who Michael Molywhatever was until John introduced me at the con this year. I still don't know who the other organisers this year were. (There's a couple more listed on the website.)

And yet I knew they needed more committee members. I dunno, maybe I just pay attention to what I'm told. When I had no contact by late December, my thought was, "Hooly's finally done the right thing for himself and walked away, like he has said he would, and nobody's running the show." When February came around and there was no news, I told people who asked me, "The event is still officially on, but I wouldn't count on it happening. Someone needs to sign up to do the job if it is going to happen." When I got an email in March from John, I knew he had finally given in and taken the job that nobody else would do. There was never really more to know than that.

So if I'm so informed, and the only member of the organising committee I could have even recognised wasn't on the committee until March, why doesn't anybody else know anything?

May. 11th, 2006 07:55 am (UTC)
So, precisely how do these people expect to be informed?

E-Mails. Other forums. Mailing Lists. Flyers in stores. Posters in stores. Advertising in standard print media. Convention booklets. School Newsletters. Television and readio advertising. Banners at the venue prior to the event. A functional website that has all the info in it and looks good (OK, that sound's bitchy). By getting stores to support the event so they talk up the event - which requires stores to be spoken to to about the event and kept appraised of what's going on so that they can inform their customers.

Take your pick! How many of these were done?

1) Website became functional 2 weeks prior to first cut-off.
2) One e-mail was sent out about the con 1 week prior to cut off and that was only John advising people that he was disappointed that not many people had registered with them.

I will spell it out:

C-O-M-M-U-N-I-C-A-T-I-O-N. There simply wasn't any. That's how you get people to attend a con. That's how you raise the numbers by over 40% each year for 3 years running. It's not rocket science. Its not through getting people to come aboard the committee (that comes if you follow most of which I've mentioned above). I just through using every communication tool you have to inform as many people about the event as you can.
May. 11th, 2006 09:20 am (UTC)

We are talking about two different things here, Ian. I was asking how people expect to be informed that nobody had volunteered to fill positions on the organisational committee.

Now, we are talking about informing people who are not on email lists and do not visit forums. Physical mail, flyers in stores and advertising in print media are all very expensive when you consider the complete lack of monetary return expected from simply recruiting an organiser. Television and radio advertising is just beyond the pale expense-wise when you are just trying to recruit an organiser. Getting around to visit stores is time-consuming, and just won't happen when you don't have organisers, because the whole point is that nobody willing to commit time to doing that sort of thing has been found.

And obviously doing all that work to have a successful convention does not cause people to come aboard the committee. If that was true, you wouldn't have been a committee of one when you stood down. A successful convention plus a strong community might be enough, but I don't think we have a strong roleplaying community in Brisbane.

BTW, some of the southern cons gathered some data about advertising, and found that convention booklets had such a low response rate that printing them was costing considerably more than the revenue generated through bringing attendees to the cons. That's why some southern cons don't distribute convention booklets to stores at all any more. Conquest distributes an A3-size sheet folded into a flyer, I think. I think Arc might be doing nothing more than a single poster to each store. I don't know whether they've tried TV, radio or other print advertising, but I'm pretty sure they have the greatest success with online advertising.

May. 11th, 2006 11:20 am (UTC)
Sure. So many topics in the post - its easy to get confused. I think as far as the RPG community goes, you might be surprised, and I'm sure most of the RPG community who have been very suipportive of TBW, BrisCon etc in the past might take offence.

I would also suggest that the findings conducted were a lot more specific that what you have mentioned. I for one know that one of the larger complaints many RPGers that I spoke to in 2005 said that they really wanted a Con Book. The other thing to mention is that if done right (by selling advertising space), the booklet will cost nothing and in actual fact can make money. I know the TBW2002 and TBW 2003 booklets did. I can't recall the TBW2004 booklet though.

Online advertising is good, but you have to know what you are looking for and where. The net is a big place. Take this blog for example. How many people are reading this?
May. 11th, 2006 02:35 pm (UTC)
Travis, I agree with what Ian has said about communication and it applies not only to getting people to attend but getting people involved. You need to look beyond just the people who are already involved and access other email lists, put a notice up in game shops, ask around at roleplaying groups. As strange as it sounds there are people who aren't regularly on the internet or don't have enough time to be subscribed to every roleplaying list. A flyer of some sort is a really good idea because that way you can get to roleplaying groups and gamers who wander through comic book stores. That way you can get more people involved. And as a side note, convention booklets are very important, most of the roleplayers I've talked to want booklets, including me. If that's too expensive there should be flyers or posters at the very least.

There weren't that many people at the award ceremony because there weren't that many people at the con and the award ceremony was on Sunday evening. Some people probably had work to prepare for the next day, or were just tired from being at the con all weekend. Besides what is said at the end of a con is not always what happens. Before last year's con got under way, there was follow up about what was going on and things had indeed changed from what was stated at the end of the con the year before. You're not seriously suggesting that roleplayers aren't putting enough effort in because they didn't attend an awards ceremony to get information on next years con are you? And what about the people who didn't attend last years con, how are they supposed to know and how are new people supposed to get involved?

Also, how exactly are people supposed to know there are QGG boards? I only know because someone else told me about them, and I had to track down the con website because it was down for a while and had then moved. And when I say I'm not on the con email list, that's not because I don't want to be, it's because despite providing my email address I haven't been sent any email regarding the con. If you're not in the inner circle, you certainly have more luck getting answers out of people than I did. I didn't get any answers to my questions other than wait and see. And good on you for paying attention to what you're told, but it's a bit hard to pay attention when you're not actually told anything.
May. 11th, 2006 02:48 pm (UTC)
Oh, and on the matter of cost, a few photocopied notices asking if anyone wants to be involved in organising The Big Weekend, put in a few comic shops and given to a few gaming groups are not going to break the bank and are going to get the message through to a lot of gamers who wouldn't otherwise know.
May. 12th, 2006 01:49 am (UTC)

I didn't say that southern conventions weren't producing con booklets. In at least some cases, con booklets have been produced but have been distributed only at the convention itself. That way the people who really want the con booklet get them, and the convention isn't paying to produce ten times as many con booklets as are actually used. Also, make no mistake, no matter what roleplayers say they want, they generally don't use booklets to enter. IIRC, when those cons looked at their data, they found that response rate from booklets was below one in ten and falling with each passing year.

Also, remember that I was an organiser back in the darker days of 1996-1998. In 1996 (after Briscon that year), the President of the Briscon Association stood down. It was a long, long time before anybody could be found to take over. I personally visited stores and the meetings of Briscon-affiliated clubs as part of the campaign to inform people that a new President was required for the con to go ahead. Nobody wanted to be involved. Eventually John White agreed to do the job - the same John White whose parents own Napoleon's Military Bookshop. He got the job done - barely - but the committee had to endure complaints about how a person associated with a store should not be running the convention. And before that, in 1995, the NonCon organisers widely advertised that their convention was too much work for only two people to hold together, and if nobody volunteered, there would be no NonCon 96. Nobody volunteered. There was no NonCon 96.

Don't forget that the major problem with recruiting through stores is not cost, but time. Somebody has to visit each store. These days, if I was the only person willing to do that, it would probably take me a couple of months to get it done. I just don't have the time to visit stores. Precisely who was supposed to do this, considering that we now know that after Ian resigned, there was nobody at all on the convention committee?

It comes back to the fact that nobody was in charge, and nobody was willing to take charge. It's not enough to be willing to help out if somebody collars you. Somebody needs to be proactive enough to say, "Hey, I think this convention needs my help. How do I get on the committee?" (Heck, if somebody isn't proactive enough to do that, should that person be in charge of a convention at all? Yes, I am saying that anybody who does not directly ask a question has not put enough effort into finding the answer.) The roleplaying community in Brisbane just isn't getting this.

Okay, there is the issue of questions put to the forum, but I can't judge what happened there either way. Michael and John were quite offended at how things went, and I can see questions asked and answered in that forum now, and that's all I know.

May. 16th, 2006 04:57 am (UTC)
Obviously you think that what I have said is not the truth and you will not be dissuaded no matter what I say. I think the issues I have raised are important and need to be dealt with before anything will change. So I'm going to have to disagree with you and leave it there.

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