ConCarolinas 2012, Gaming Director Report

ConCarolinas 2012 Gaming Report

ConCarolinas 2012 marked a year that put us up against Origins on the same weekend.  In some ways, that effected us while in others it did not.  I did not try to plan around Origins, I just did what I do and hoped for the best.

Overall, I feel that ConCarolinas gaming went pretty well.  I tried to be more connected to it this year however because of circumstances and certain events I was not able to be as connected as I wanted to be.  Most of you know that one of my best friends passed away and so Friday especially, I was not able to be as involved as I wanted to be.

This year I had a lot of help.  Thanks to Dawson K, Steve C, Heath M, Jerriann A, Joe C, Alyssa H and Jessica S for helping out.  They were all a big help all weekend.  Also, thanks to SCARAB and their help with Pathfinder.  Their presence was definitely felt and appreciated.  Although many of their folks were off to Origins, Del was kind enough to have a handful of people on hand to run PFS and bring cool prizes.

I am glad that most people understand my ticket system, are trying to help make it work and being more accepting of it.  It continues to work better than the book system I used in the past, as both ConCarolinas and MACE grows.  Sure there are some areas that it doesn’t work 100% but I continue to hone the system to make it work for a majority of the games.

By the week before the con, I felt like the schedule was pretty well set up.  The schedule was pretty packed Friday and Saturday, with only a few table openings because of last minute cancellations.  All that needed to happen is every GM show up and run their games.  My plan was pretty well laid out.  Unfortunately, you know the old quote of best laid plans.

It started with one person not contacting me until the day before the con and then it went from there.  You guys know me – at least some of you do.  I will work you in my schedule one way or another.  I hardly ever turn down a game.  This is probably my failing.  So the night before the con, I am adding last minute games.  On top of that, I am getting last minute cancellations in email.  Although I get cancellations every year, I rarely get them this close to the con.  So I am scrambling to make games fit, move games around and add in games I did not have tables for originally.

Forewarning:  Part of this report will be about how I do things in my scheduling.

One thing I like to do is have a few extra games with no tables assigned to them during my peak hours. Peak hours or peak slots for ConCarolinas are usually Friday night and Saturday afternoon.  So I sometimes have 1 or 2 games as back up to fill in games that either cancel or don’t make.  Yes, I run the risk of having a game with no table if all games make, but at ConCarolinas especially, that rarely happens.  I want to make sure there is enough on the schedule to keep all my players happy.

So in part, that was what I was doing Thursday night, with some of these games I was adding to the schedule while the cancellations opened up more tables.  With all that I had going on, not all that planning worked out though.  After doing this for so long, I should be used to that but it always seems to mess up in a different way every year, despite all my planning.

Setting up for gaming has become a routine for me.  I only wished I had more help Thursday night or Friday morning.  Arriving Friday for setup, I discovered a fascinating thing about one of my rooms – that I have room enough for a whole other row of tables.  We have been at this location 4 years now and I was shocked to find out I can fit more tables in Lakeview.  Their dimensions on their web site are not quite right then.  So I plan to put more gaming in Lakeview.

Friday first slot, gamers began to pour in.  Not in droves but at a good pace.  This was a good sign for gaming, I feel.  I did not want to be overcrowded but I wanted a good flow of players playing games but also enjoying the rest of the con.  I felt like we got that.

It was Friday that I found out that one GM had not shown up and his tables had players with no GM.  That’s frustrating but I can’t do anything about that when the GM never contacts me.  I still have not heard from him and he’s a guy I can usually trust.  I apologize to the players for that. The ones I talked to seemed to understand.

More games also cancelled on site because of other last minute emergencies.  Again, I was disappointed but there was not much I could do about it.  Murphy was in full swing.  Meanwhile, some games that I added last minute seemed to get double booked on tables that were already taken.  This is why I don’t like to wait to last minute. But everything worked out.  We found tables for everyone.

Most games made from what I saw.  I would guess a 80% to 85% make rate for Friday.  GM reports are welcome, but all seemed to be having a good time as I did my rounds.

Of course, noise is always an issue in Glenwaters but that’s a reality that everyone has to deal with.  I can’t change that without reducing the amount of gaming I have on the schedule.  And even if I do, pickup games will end up filling in anything I don’t schedule.

Saturday really picked up.  I was being pulled all over the place to solve problems in just gaming.  I finally got the Cornhole tournament started though.  Some folks have to learn that sometimes when we say 9 am, we mean that we start assembling teams then with a plan to start the tournament at another time – perhaps 10 am or so.  Gamers need to learn to be more flexible.

Cornhole went well, although I still do not like the abbreviated scoring system we use.  Steph and I won the tournament and not long after that, we were able to get the Celebrity tournament going.  That was awesome!  This took up a lot of my time.  This is when my disconnection from gaming on Saturday started. After the Cornhole, I went to lunch (with Jeffrey Combs!) and then started work on the auction.

As for the rest of the weekend, I did not hear anything major about gaming issues except about table conflicts and noise.  The table conflicts were mostly because of the last minute schedule changes and those were easily fixed.  Thanks to very capable volunteers, I think everything went fairly smoothly.  By Sunday, things had slowed down and there was gaming in the rooms until the very last hour.

One lesson learned however came from Saturday afternoon.  It is something I have known since I started doing gaming for cons and I thought would be fairly obvious but since every con is different, I suppose people don’t think beyond their own personal concerns.

ConCarolinas is a sci-fi con so I approach a little differently than I do MACE.  I also have less space to shoe-horn gaming into.  On top of that, I have gaming programming to deal with (which is a whole other subject).  However, to the regular gamer, there is very little difference and I can understand that.  So first and foremost, let me be clear.  There is a huge difference between ConCarolinas and a gaming con like MACE.

Given that difference, at ConCarolinas I cannot have pick-up games just popping up wherever they feel like it.  I just don’t have the space for it.  And you can’t rely on volunteer that does not know the intricacies of my schedule to give you permission to run a pick-up game.  I know – I have a game library and so that is very conducive to pick-up games.

However, the timing is very important.

Saturday afternoon is the worst time to have a pick-up game.  You cannot just grab a table and use it without talking to me first.  Me!  Not a volunteer that is only trained in signing people up for games.  Me!  At ConCarolinas, I am almost to the point that I have to ban pick-up games during peak times.  But I won’t.  I will have signs or something that will state that pick-up games must be approved during these particular times where space is at a premium.  I realize that there are open tables because of cancellations but you never know when I might already have a fill-in planned.  That happened that Saturday afternoon.

This issue may be alleviated simply with the new space I am opening up in Lakeview.  We’ll see.

As far as I could tell, everyone had some traffic, and had a majority of their games make.  I would like to hear any GMs reports if they want to post them.  If you have any major complaints, I would like to hear those too.  I do apologize for noise issues but as many know, that’s a reality and you as GMs need to police the noise as much as the next table does.  Thanks again to all the GMs for a great gaming weekend.

As for gaming programming, I honestly have no idea how that went.  The feedback I got was sporadic but good.  I left a lot of it up to Clint and Jodi Black.  With yet another last minute addition to the guest line up, as well as a couple of cancellations, I left the panels to whatever ended up working out.  I did not have as many gaming guests as I have had in the past, partially because of Origins, and I was not able to full the room throughout the weekend.  There were times that the gaming programming room was empty and I hate that.  Next year will be different, I hope.

I would love to hear any reports on the gaming programming panels.

Overall, ConCarolinas 2012 did well.  We had nearly 1500 people at the convention.  I would guess around 350 to 450 of that were gamers.  That kind of puts things in perspective for you a little.  Originally, two thirds of the attendees at CC were gamers, when CC was a 500 to 600 attendee con.  That’s really how we got our started.  Gaming continued to stay strong throughout the years but the non-gaming areas of the con also grew.  Gaming has never really dropped at ConCarolinas.  Everything else has just grown around it.  I continue to push gaming as one of our foundational aspects of the con and You all have a lot to do that with that.  Thanks again for all your help.

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