The d20 LARP on the green demonstrated just how silly standard adventurer equipment could be.
Olympia wasn’t too great, Butlins was a frigging nightmare, then there was a gap and now we were in Reading. I have fond memories of GamesFair in Reading and it was great to be back there once again. Its a great campus, a good area, there’s cheap food, pretty cheap accommodation and plenty of space to play in. I think this is a positive improvement and it seems like Reading will be the home for the con for the next few years – which is good to know. It seemed to me that things were much improved in many regards, particularly in terms of organisation and communication amongst the organisers but there were things that were bad/wrong or that could be done better.
Before I get into my whinges let me say that this was, definitely, a vast improvement and with the basics fixed I think Gencon has the capability to come on leaps and bounds over the next couple of years and to restore itself to its rightful place as king of the gaming cons.
The trade hall business was OK, but not great, it was slow and considering the amount we paid out for it it didn’t feel like great value for money – even with my ‘whacking great pole in the way’ discount. The trade hall was some distance from the other buildings where ‘stuff’ was going on and, apparently, the bigger retailers had their own space away from us, drawing people away from the tradehall. Other problems from a trader point of view were that the scheduling of the tournaments etc meant that people didn’t actually have time to browse and look around out stalls and that the ticket system ate up cash that people should have been spending on our goods and meant they tended to stick to very specific things – cards and figures for their tourneys mostly – and little else.
Most of the traders were mainly selling cards, boardgames and CCGs. RPGs were mostly in evidence only on the bring and buy and in the form of second hand trade. On the one hand this was disappointing, on the other hand we small press types seemed to reap the rewards by being the only ones selling RPG stuff really and maybe getting a bit more business to compensate for the other problems.
Its the tickets and the high day-ticket price that really killed it I think. We didn’t get a lot of casual browsers due to the high day ticket price and with the charges for games (£3 a ticket, multiple tickets needed to play demo games) on top of that people’s money was eaten into and that must have eaten into the trader’s potential business. Not to mention that that, combined with hidden free gaming tables and no real way to advertise pick up games, really puts people off and works against them – if they’re not doing tournament play.
This is the big failing from both a trader and a player point of view.
I was stuck behind the stand all day but we found it to be like getting blood from a stone to find people to take up Delegate Organised Games and then to find somewhere to do them, though Big Steve (all hail Big Steve, friend of Postmortem and provider of crash space) did manage to get a small group together to demo Esoterrorists for Pelgrane Press.
I know, I know, this sounds like a big whinge when my overall impression was positive but it is definitely fixable, there just need to be a few changes to encourage actual GAMING at the con and to bring in more interest, perhaps, from computer game companies etc. I have a strong feeling things will improve over the next couple of years and I just hope that Gencon is able to overcome its past stigma and restore its name and that it isn’t already over the brink.
I’ll be there so long as it’s in Reading and we’ll see if we can do more about demos next time around.