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Run Your Own DAMN Convention!

Posted by Jarad Labels: , ,

Run Your Own DAMN Convention!

Seriously, do it. Run your own damn convention.

    This is not exactly a new topic. Most gaming conventions started small; in the beginning, there was just a bunch of friends getting together to share their favorite hobby with the public. And that kind of thing is still going on. I remember hearing about Camp Nerdly in Virginia over a decade ago although I never made it out to play. What has changed is that gaming and geeky conventions have become big business.

    You may be thinking to yourself, “Oh, man. Another guy whining and ranting about how for-profit corporate suits can march into a situation and screw everything up,” and yeah, you’re partly right. I’ll try to get that over with as quickly as possible.

    I used to attend a cosplay, comics, and gaming convention in Central Florida every year. It was owned by a single person, and 100% of the people working the convention were volunteers. I volunteered as well. I ran indie role-playing games, live-action games, and organized the Zombie Walk for a couple of years when that kind of thing was hot. Honestly, it was kind of magical. I would work very, very hard to run some games and then enjoy walking around the convention, dropping in on the anime room, the board game room, the card game room, the retro video game room… You get the picture. There was always something to do.

    The convention was big, and it kept getting bigger. I was invited back every year because the owner’s goal was to keep convention-goers entertained. She did not want anyone sitting around in the halls looking bored. They had paid their way into the convention, and she was determined to give them their money’s worth. Eventually, however, a company running a chain of celebrity events offered to buy her convention. She sold the convention to this group and retired. The results were felt almost immediately.

    I helped the anime room people set up that year, and they told me this was their last year. They had been volunteering at the convention for over a decade, but the new owners had already started micromanaging their involvement. I shrugged all of that off. I mostly dealt with the gaming room, and that area was well-handled and well-attended. I came back next year, and I helped run the live-action games at the convention, but a lot of the fun things I had enjoyed in between running games- playing board games with friends, hitting the video game room with my daughter- were all gone. Other areas had become part of a “Deluxe Experience” behind literal walls that you had to pay for, beyond your general admission, to access. A friend that was helping out with the live-action games turned to me and asked, “So- you know what you get with a general admission? Us. I have checked out the whole convention, and the gaming area is the only thing you can access without paying an additional fee.”
    This new company did an excellent job of monetizing almost everything at the convention, and it destroyed the heart of what made that convention so much fun. The heart of that convention was not paying $200 for a photo opportunity with a celebrity. The heart was meeting other people that shared your love of whatever obscure, nerdy hobby or media about which we felt most passionate.

    Two weeks ago, I attended CondoCon, a convention hosted by a bunch of the guys that were my regular players at the big convention. I credit that big convention for creating the opportunity to meet all those awesome people, but man, I was so happy to reconnect with those guys outside of the convention hall in, you guessed, a rental condo. I loved it. I paid a modest share for the room I stayed in for the weekend, and in exchange, I did not have to pay for an entrance fee, for expensive convention snacks or meals, or for parking. Everyone pitched in to bring food and drinks, and we all ate well for the entire time we were there. In addition to that, we had access to a private pool and a lazy river. Best of all, we all got together before the convention and set the agenda of what games we would play and who was interested in trying out which rpgs. It was a blast.

    Our hobby is changing. The success of D&D 5e, Geek and Sundry, and the Nerdist is great. I love the new inclusiveness of the hobby. The diversity and newfound popularity we are beginning to see in gaming, comics, and geekdom in general is wonderful. As a guy that has been gaming for almost four decades, it is both thrilling and deeply humbling to see a new generation of fan embrace activities that I had felt since childhood had a stigma attached to them.  Along with this new popularity, however, are groups out to just make a buck at our expense. It's only a matter of time before gaming at conventions becomes big business, and people start paying hundreds of dollars a pop to play a game with Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day, Chris Hardwick, or Matt Mercer. We should come together as a community to share our love for this dorky pastime, but we do not need to pay a ransom for access to this community. We can, and should, do it ourselves.

So, yeah. Run your own damn convention. I dare you.


  1. Impossible Realities Gaming and Cosplay Convention

    Right on. Been doing that very thing for nearly 20 years. For all those complainers out there who like finding faults in everyone else's conventions, but do nothing to offer their time and sweat to making an event, I dare them to run one on their own time and dime, and see what has to happen behind the scenes to make a con work. It's too easy to be critical, but it takes effort to make improvements.

    It's all a labour of love, and if you can't/won't step up to the plate to volunteer your time to make it better, then shut yer piehole. :)

  1. pious agnostic

    I had a similar experience a couple years ago...a bunch of us loaded up a car and drove to TN to visit a gamer buddy who had moved away and we set up a great 3-day convention in a hotel suite. Lots of fun. I live in Central Florida and think I know what convention you are talking about....

  1. DoctorDuckbutter

    Seems like this trend is more popular than we thought. I am glad that people out there are finding ways to get around the larger for-profit cons. Find people you like and game with them!

  1. AnDrew

    Couldn't have said it better myself! Definitely will not miss the $115 pricetag of the big con, not to mention the the parking and all the walking. Thanks for being a part, looking forward to Condocon 2020!

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