Fixing Origins

So Origins screwed up a variety of games through scheduling errors and general incompetence/carelessness/whatever. I don't know what went down behind the scenes but it was painful to witness. I feel lucky that I didn't have any problems.

What can we do to make sure it doesn't happen again? Michael Miller, who worked hard at damage control during the show, has some thoughts here.

One thing I really missed was a dedicated games on demand area, or even an informal place to hang out and make matches. It seemed like a lot of that was happening electronically, via twitter or by phone. At a physical event where there are real people to talk to, that seems less than optimal. Thoughts? Ideas? Can we work with Origins to help them? Should we route around Origins to help ourselves? Both?

Comments

  • Let me just divulge what information I gleaned about why this year was so badly run, before I speculate at all on how to improve for next year.
    • There was a big leadership shakeup in GAMA between last year and this year. So, for many of the top brass, this was their first year on the job, or the first year in their current posistion.
    • I heard a number of volunteers complain about the "new database software." It seems that this was the first year for the program they track events, sell badges, sell tickets, etc. So, not only were they dealing with bugs in the software itself, but a group of volunteers who were unfamiliar with it.
    • This was the first year since the convention center was remodeled. Previously, the breezeway was THE open gaming area, with a few dozen tables. It was exactly the kind of "hang out and make matches" place you mention. Now, the remodeled breezeway is a loitering-unfriendly wasteland, and open gaming was shunted off to a remote exhibit hall.
    • It seemed that a lot of information on updates, schedule revisions, etc. existed, but had a tough time filtering down the the level of "volunteer that would actually speak with people."
    • I heard a rumor that a number of experienced volunteers did not return, and thus many of the volunteers and especially senior volunteers/supervisors were also new.
  • I would say work with Origins. The attempt should be made, anyways. Bring up the concerns and ideas to them directly. If this type of thing is happening with you guys, it's probably happening with lots of other groups too. If they're unreceptive or unwilling, then I would go around.
  • Posted By: Michael S. MillerPreviously, the breezeway was THE open gaming area
    That's funny! I moved three of my five games out there because it was so quiet and open by comparison. But I was totally hacking their intentions for my own benefit.
  • They need a database specialist with event management experience working in-house and fulltime on the system leading up to and during the event.
  • How do you create an esprit-du-corps in the volunteers? How do you encourage them to be helpful and enthusiastic? Methinks this calls for a system redesign.
  • I think it probably does, but given the realities of con-dom, if you want to fix Origins, you (general you) need to first get involved in the organization running it.
  • Volunteer management is also a full-time job and needs someone who has experience and expertise in the field (or the natural skills and wants the experience).
  • OK, assuming:

    1. We can't really demand that Origins add full-time professionals to their payroll and
    2. We're not going to run Origins for Origins

    Does that leave us back at "route around the malfunction?"
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarDoes that leave us back at "route around the malfunction?"
    Perhaps.

    Maybe request an entire gaming area for the con: Like 6 tables to be used for every session, all day every day. Call it the "Demand For Games" area or something.

    Then, within that, a few people set up a gaming event registration system, to run events within that area.

    A con within a con.

    At least that way Origins can't possibly fuck it up. Even if they don't list anything in the book, those tables will still be empty, and the Demand for Games con can continue on.

    It provides a service to GMs and Gamers of all walks of life: "Register in private over here for 'Demand for Games', and /we promise/ we won't fuck up your event."

    I'm sort of being sarcastic, sort of being realistic. It's like Games on Demand/Indie Explosion, but without the tie to "only indie games", and with more teeth and scheduling organization.

    -Andy
  • If Indie Explosion became more like the Looney Labs Big Experiment, it would likely get a skosh more attention and accommodation from Origins staff. (This is in part because the Big Experiment is like a self-running mini-con. There are still scheduled events, though.)
  • Posted By: misubaLooney Labs Big Experiment
    Yeah, tell me more. Those guys seemed to be really on top of it.
  • They are a special case in some ways. The Looneys are well-known to a lot of GAMA old guard, is part of it. They also demonstrated the capacity to entertain huge groups of people by jumping on the Werewolf thing early. (That's Are You a Werewolf, not the White Wolf game)

    Maybe if Luke and Jared made a bigger deal next time of Parsely activities and that other big social game thing?

    How large is the Origins story-gaming contingent really?
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarDoes that leave us back at "route around the malfunction?"
    Engage with the Origins people. Wait a few weeks until they have time to sleep, recover, do their own retrospectives, etc. Then get in touch with them, let them know what the problems were, and work with them to figure out constructive solutions. There was a lot of turnover in the operations side of Origins this year. No one wanted to cause these problems. The trick is to make sure that they're aware of what the impact of the mistakes was and that they have a reason to want to fix them.

    --Paul
  • Posted By: misubaIf Indie Explosion became more like the Looney Labs Big Experiment, it would likely get a skosh more attention and accommodation from Origins staff. (This is in part because the Big Experiment is like a self-running mini-con. There are still scheduled events, though.)
    They put a ton of effort into promoting themselves at Origins though (I'm less sure about operations at other cons). My one friend volunteered for them, and his job one day was just to stand outside their area, talk to people, hand out flyers and try to entice them in for a demo.

    Looney Labs also carefully tracks tickets and generic tokens, because that's part of how GAMA decides how important your group is. More tickets for GAMA=more support from Origins.

    Looney Labs has a year round email list for volunteers and started drumming up volunteers for Origins before GAMA did (and had volunteer schedules worked out sooner as well).



    Things that Looney Labs does that can only help draw people in: branding. Looney Labs has their own area, with lots of identifying signage and distinct visual aesthetics. (Person in lab coat plus tie dye = Looney Labs volunteer.) Everyone could identify them at a glance.

    They also are very consistently open and friendly and welcoming (again, one guy's job is nothing but being open and inviting.)
  • Posted By: misubaMaybe if Luke and Jared made a bigger deal next time of Parsely activities and that other big social game thing?
    Action Castle was off in the Larp basement, which was less than ideal. It really seems like it could benefit from being in a very public space: dudes walk by, here "Take branch" and remember the glory days of Infocom. They come over and start throwing in suggestions, and play and are hooked.


    Initially, Are You A Werewolf was played out in the hallways, near the Looney Labs stuff. This was because we couldn't fit groups of 30+ people in the Lab (then much smaller). Werewolf would get a lot of people wandering by at midnight after a game ended but before they wanted to sleep. They'd come and play a game or two and then be hooked.

    It's now been moved to boardgaming, where it's fairly visible to the boardgamers but not so much to anyone else walking by.


    Parsely games are inherently more limited than Werewolf, though. I've played Action Castle once and bowed out of playing it a second time. I've played dozens of games of Werewolf but keep finding it compelling and fun. You'd need to be able to funnel people from Parsely off to other games if that was the strategy.
  • I like all these ideas. I'm not sure which one will triumph, but I think we should push the Indie Games Explosion thing! The Miller's organize the official games that are run, right, so maybe we could just sprout little buds of open gaming off of that. All in the same physical room there.

    I'm in Columbus, so if that's of any use, I'm here to help! Assign me more projects, she says apprehensively.
  • Less of this, please.

    image

    Your (un)friendly, neighborhood event volunteer, Snorlax.
  • This is a picture of the War College table. Most of teh attendees of the War College have ribbons so there is not much (if any) ticket collection. I do a lecture for the college every year and have to say they are actually nice guys - largely old time wargamers. They had a meeting at the end of the con discussing practically the same things talked about here so don't write them off completely!

    I ran all my games through Rogue Judges - a GM collective of Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Ohioan gamers. I work with them at Gen Con as well. They submit their games as a group and get a few priviledges because of that. They have an area dedicated to them (though it is in the farthest hall - one hall beyond where the open gaming area was). At Gen Con they have a nice local in the Convention Center. In the past I hooked up with Interest Group Milwaukee who did the same thing when Gen Con was up there. What I'm getting at is that Conventions like dealing with collectives. Organizations that can guarentee games (ie generate ticket sales) get attention. That is all that Looney Labs is doing - or the Mayfair gaming area for that matter, having company sponcership helps of course. If you don't submitt games collectively you get shunted off to the Hotels - far away from the center of the con.

    So I urge us to form an organization and submit games together. First contact GAMA and ask how they want this done. They will negociate - just don't expect to get the best area the first year. Can we get any big names to be part of it? The more the better.

    This is so totally doable. I'd certainly run a couple of games through it - not to mention the free badges and if you run enough games free hotel rooms.

    Chris Engle
  • Thanks Chris. I wonder if we could do this through the GPA in the same way DOJ and IPR piggybacked booth space.
  • Might not apply directly to what you are discussing (story games at Origins), but let me tell you, last year GAMA completely dropped the ball with the press. I'm talking absolutely no support. It ended up generating a two-hour bitch session with about 20 media reps and one poor GAMA rep last year.

    This year GAMA made up for that and then some. They took all of the complaints and concerns and suggestions we gave them and made a tremendous effort to help all of us out, whether mainline media, bloggers, podcasters, etc. Even with a few bumps in the road, it was one of the best treatments of the press I've seen from any group in many years.

    So I do think we've got some good people working in GAMA right now who are really wanting to make improvements. If you approach them in a professional way, I think they will try everything they can to help you in return.

    ME
  • The incessant switching of events/seminars from room to room was beginning to wear on me by Saturday. While there may have been an influx of new staff and volunteers, it should not matter as a convention this size should have established systems in place.

    Regardless, I still had a good time.
  • I just want to point out that This thread Steve started about IGE/GOD in general maps nicely to what we're talking about here.
  • Posted By: Geoffrey MartinThe incessant switching of events/seminars from room to room was beginning to wear on me by Saturday. While there may have been an influx of new staff and volunteers, it should not matter as a convention this size should have established systems in place.
    In previous years, they had flyers listing room and event changes, that were put in with the event books available on site and were at the various registration booths and roleplaying HQ. So if you had trouble finding a game, you checked the chart to see where it had been moved to. This year I didn't ever see such a thing.
  • Posted By: Mr. TeapotSo if you had trouble finding a game, you checked the chart to see where it had been moved to.
    Yea, I think that the "RPG Headquarters" tables were supposed to take the place of this. They had big erase boards up that listed canceled or moved events. But I didn't realize that till Saturday afternoon. And I'm not sure how well they were updated.

    I'm still in the "take over a room" camp. There were so many rooms that would work for this back where the RPG's were happening!
  • Posted By: Mr. TeapotIn previous years, they had flyers listing room and event changes, that were put in with the event books available on site and were at the various registration booths and roleplaying HQ. So if you had trouble finding a game, you checked the chart to see where it had been moved to. This year I didn't ever see such a thing.
    The printouts existed, but I think they only made a few copies. Probably one for each HQ area. I was often told that "person X has the update sheet and I don't know where s/he is" or "the update sheet hasn't arrived yet." I understand compartmentalizing information when it's supposed to be secret, but this? Frustrating!
  • edited July 2010
    Hey, everyone-

    In my day job as a retailer, I was involved with GAMA for number of years before taking some time off this year (and missing Origins for the first time in like a decade).

    I am in regular contact with the AD of GAMA and like to think I have a decent insight into what's going on in the org. I do think that the solution to getting a GoD going at Origins is to pitch it to GAMA as a block of events, in much the way it's done at GenCon. Present them with a good, solid program that includes some scheduled indie RPG events and a dedicated slate of GoD events, and I think it shouldn't be a huge problem getting us a room of our own, and that's so where near 90% of the battle. As long as we emphasize the importance of actually collecting tics for games we run there and then make sure to have someone whose job it is to follow up and get them in, it could become a staple event pretty quickly.

    I'm not at all above calling in whatever favors I may have earned over the years to try and help this happen, assuming we can get together and properly organize and lobby for it. Stressing the number of ENNIE and especially Origins Award-winning games are represented by the bloc will only help!

    As others have said, this was very much a 'rebuilding' year for the org, and I think that they'll be particularly receptive in the coming year to any ideas that help them reach out to new markets and especially younger and more 'net-savvy gamers.

    So let's make sure to keep this a front-burner thing and start working on it as soon as GC is in the can; they start planning for the following year as soon as the old show ends, so we want to get rolling on any initiative ASAP.

    Maybe this is something to start a separate planning thread for? I'd also welcome any semi-organized discussion we can manage at GenCon.

    -Jim Crocker, retailer and story-game fanboy
  • Thanks Jim! I'd really like to see this happen. I think we can make a very compelling case, and Games On Demand at Gen Con presents both experience and a model to follow. I have a feeling we could make it ten times more awesome at Origins.
Sign In or Register to comment.