The Secrets of Organizing Convention Gaming 2 – Know gaming!
Know gaming and the industry.
I tend to gravitate to two things – role playing games and war or sci-fi oriented (Ameri-trash) board games. In the beginning, I thought that was enough to coordinate gaming at the events I was doing. I was wrong. Many of my convention/events became known as RPG events and not friendly to other pockets of the gaming community. And that is a hard reputation to shake. At first, I thought it was as simple as “gave them games, and they will come.” To shake he reputations we had, I had to change the way I did things.
Staying plugged into the gaming community is very important but do not limit yourself to your personal interests. Just because you may not play miniature games doesn’t mean you can’t stay plugged into them. I found it easy by being peripherally involved in a little here and there, and then delegating out certain facets to others that are more plugged in. These people became my staff coordinators for these particular aspects of gaming. Organized play games, for example, has specific coordinators at my events. Specific tournaments like Warmachine or X-Wing have dependable coordinators as well.
In relation to that, I also do not recommend getting too heavily involved in one specific area. For example, someone deeply involved in organized play RPGs like Pathfinder Society will tend to treat all games the same and that is a huge mistake. Organized play is a totally different animal from other gaming facets. You need to treat each facet in its own world and make them connect all together.
When I say facet, I refer to a type of gamer. RPGers, board and card gamers, miniature gamers, collectible card gamers, and live action gamers are all facets of gaming. Within each facet, there may be subgroups that need special attention like Organized Play RPGers, historical miniature gamers and fantasy LARPers. Each needs to be approached differently based on the gaming communities needs and expectations. How I treat my local Organized play gamers may be different from the way someone would in Ohio, for example. These are things the coordinator needs to learn over time and adjust where he can.
Another very handy thing to do when delving into running gaming for a convention is visit other conventions in the region. Learn what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong. Learn how you can make your experience competitive to theirs. Also visit some of the bigs ones – GenCon or Origins, for example. Learn how the big boys do it. They have more money and bigger staff, but some of their techniques can be utilized on a smaller scale.
One way I got involved with the community is writing for a review site. If you can find something like that, get involved. It can be time consuming in some ways, but you can do it at your own pace. It helped in many subtle ways to connect with other aspects of gaming that I would otherwise not get connected with. Working for a gaming store is another easy way to do it. If you run a gaming store, that is a full time occupation and I would not recommend you do anything else. But if you simple work there, you can he involved in the community (see below) and connected to the industry in many ways. Running events at a game store or gaming club is another way to get early experience as well as connected with the community and industry.
Know the gaming community
Join the social media group of your area, and learn how they operate Visit at their events and meet their leaders. Every group have lead organizers. They are good people to know. They are respected in their community and will earn your the respect your event needs from their circles of influence. Some leaders, however, are better than others. This is a total judgement call by the you. Some may be more reliable than others. Some may simply be bad apples and in it for the wrong reasons. You have to put feelers out and learn who are the good ones and who are the bad ones.
If the con does not take place within your own community, it makes it harder but not impossible. Social media becomes an even closer friend. Connect with that community as best you can. Recruit coordinators from the region the con is taking place. Do your best to connect with that community, even as far as visiting the community and running small events there.
If it is something you are passionate enough about to want to run the gaming for a con, be it a sci-fi fandom con or a gaming con, then it is something you should be able to at least connect with a little more to make that con’s gaming a better experience. It’s a lot of work, I won’t lie, but the rewards in the end are worth it.