An Open Letter to Gen Con

As I’m sure many of you did, I just got my request for feedback from Gen Con. They asked, so I obliged. Here’s the essay I put into their “anything else?” box: 

Fix event registration. Fix housing registration. In both cases, the ridiculous crush is stupid. Instead of letting everyone register at once, please stagger access to both of those over a few days or weeks (as needed).

In the case of housing, it’s a lottery now, anyway, so why not make it actually a lottery and eliminate all the frustration from crashing servers or failed registrations. And, if at all possible, get more housing! Apparently the only way to get a room downtown right now is to register within the first 15 minutes, and be lucky. That’s ridiculous, and is going to drive away first-time attendees who don’t know they need to try and register on opening day if they want a hotel room downtown.

In the previous decade+, I would’ve said that socializing was tied with gaming for why I came to Gen Con. However, the last two years we were unable to stay downtown, and that meant I didn’t really get any socializing in, because in the past the socializing has been late at night, downtown, after we’re done playing games. If I continue to be unable to get a room downtown, I may stop coming. And I haven’t missed a Gen Con in 22 years.

In the case of event registration, so many of the events only allow a very few people, and many of those are extraordinarily popular. And with the ability to buy tickets for your friends, too, it is possible for whoever lucks into position #1 to completely fill up the only slot of a hot new game. (The following is based on the 2013 event pre-registration; it was such a miserable experience that I didn’t even try to register for events for 2014 until May. So if it has already been fixed, you can skip the rest of this paragraph.) Instead of running through the first round of registration at the opening of registration, you should iterate through everyone’s shopping carts one item at a time. First do the #1 choice of the #1 person, then the #1 choice of the #2 person, and so on, and once all of that is done, then go to the #2 choice of the #1 person, and so on. And do all that *before* the opening of event registration, and without requiring user intervention. Run them at midnight before event registration opens (or something similar), rather than at noon when general registration opens and there’s the additional crush of people trying to register in real time.

Give a pro-rated admission discount for GMing. I discovered a few years ago that running 16 hours of RPGs was just a bit too much to also have fun while I was there–it didn’t leave me enough time for the shopping, socializing, game-playing, and seminars I wanted to do. I figured out that 1 game/day on the full days (Thurs-Sat) was about perfect. On the other hand, I get zero recompense for doing that, so why run 3 games? Why not run 2, and be a little less tied down? I can have just as much fun playing a game as running one. And, finally, this year, I didn’t run any games for the first time in 15 years. The main reason was that we couldn’t get a downtown hotel. Having to carry my game-running stuff with me all day because our hotel is out by the airport killed me in 2013, so I just said “heck with it”. When I could stay downtown, I could run my stuff back to the hotel room between games, and then I ran more games. Some years many more than the 4 minimum to get my badge reimbursed.

Finally, please please please please please bring back a little more structure to the scheduling of events. Even just decreeing that all events longer than 1 hour start on an even hour would be a vast improvement in scheduling as both a GM and a player. It is very frustrating when events overlap just a bit and mess up the whole day’s schedule. If they all happened in 2-hr blocks, then things would more often be either at the same time, or overlapping significantly, or just at the same time, instead of having 4-hr events at 9am and 10am, and noon and 1pm, and…

Gen Con continues to be awesome, but it’s despite the registration/scheduling process, not because of it. And it’s been a little less awesome each of the last two years, in large part because of the lack of downtown housing.

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