IntrigueCon, a History in Buttons: Part 1
IntrigueCon, a History in Buttons: Part 1
Author: Daniel Hodges Category: Articles
The birth of a con...
IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS ONLY DARKNESS...
The story of IntrigueCon begins in April of 2013. The four of us had been playing together off and on since the early aughts and, in a bit of down-time during one of our regular sessions, we got to talking about going to conventions. We'd been to some, sure, but nothing regularly. As is probably true for most roleplayers, the main obstacle, we agreed, was cost.
Being a relatively obscure pastime meant that there weren’t many events that catered to roleplaying and there certainly weren’t any near us, were there? So we, uncharacteristically, unanimously agreed we should run one right here in Edmonton, after all, it’d be pretty easy to put on a roleplaying convention. As it turned out we were wrong, on both counts. Running a convention wasn’t quite that easy, and we discovered that there were, not one, but two dedicated roleplaying conventions, in the area, Nerdly North at Camp Maskepetoon on Pigeon Lake, and UndergroundCon just down the QE2, in Calgary.
Instead of packing it in before we’d really started though, we decided to use Underground, as an opportunity to learn as much as we could about running a con under similar circumstances i.e. for Albertans in a city of about 1 million people (rather than a live-in con over a weekend). In hindsight it’s lucky a couple of us did make the trip down the QE2 that June morning. UndergroundCon did not return in 2014, nor has it since.
So, on October 18th, 2013, when IntrigueCon opened its doors, we had no idea it had already become, the largest dedicated roleplaying convention in Alberta. This is, of course, not to say there aren’t larger cons at which roleplaying is a part, but, to the best of our knowledge, aside from Nerdly North, there aren’t any others where roleplaying games are front and centre.
While we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished over the years, we’re also well aware that our relative success is, in a lot of ways, tied to one of the major challenges (and subsequently goals) of running a roleplaying convention: bringing roleplayers together. While we were actually pretty lucky not to face any serious logistical problems, the real challenge turned out to be finding ways to reach people to let them know the event was on.
In these times of ubiquitous internet, it might seem counter-intuitive that reaching people was the biggest hurdle, but consider this: people who have formed a stable roleplaying group might well go online to chat about roleplaying, but they are unlikely to go to places targetted at people looking for home games.This meant that, although we could find places dedicated to helping Edmonton roleplayers form new groups, the vast majority of roleplayers in and around the city would never go there.
The second problem was created by the impact of ebusiness. Once upon a time lots of shops would carry a few roleplaying books or related items and even those people with regular groups would go there from time to time. So you could reach them by putting up some posters in those places for when they came to get new supplies or check out the latest games. Now though, because most people buy their stuff online, that avenue also provides minimal returns.
It’s true that there are now many Tabletop cafe’s in the city, but back in 2013 there weren’t any. In fact, I wrote to Brian Flowers, owner of the first boardgaming cafe in Edmonton to see if he wanted to publicize his new business at our first con but, due to delays, he wasn’t even open yet. Since then many have opened and we have taken the opportunity to advertise there but, we’ve found over the years that board gamers aren’t necessarily roleplayers and and central hub still eludes us.
Anyway, when you put these two challenges together, it’s easy to see why a significant number of the hours put into establishing the con were, and still are, spent on finding small pockets of roleplayers within the city.
IntrigueCon 0.1, as we called it, was held in 2013 at the Lansdowne Community League Hall. It was a proof of concept and we hadn’t at this point begun to produce buttons. They were, however, being earned.
Although the event was a success in terms of attendance and feedback from participants, financially it was a failure. It was particularly dispiriting when we met for dinner after the con to discuss how, after all the hours of work, we were all about to get a hefty bill for the privilege of doing it. In short, after that meeting we decided that there was not going to be an IntrigueCon 2014 unless we could do something about it. Something significant had to change.
First,we agreed it was unlikely that we were going to double the number of attendees in the next year. With that in the front of our minds, we were left with only two options: double the price for players or, ask everyone attending to contribute equally to running the event. We opted for the latter, and we’ve unapologetically stood behind the philosophical position that everyone in the game needs everyone else. GMs enjoy GMing and players enjoy playing and, as both enjoy having a con to attend, both should contribute to making that possible. Having said that, we absolutely recognise that GMs do more preparation for the event and so, over the years, we’ve tried to do little things to recognise that.
In future we will find a way to offer tiered registrations and GM discounts but every complexity we add, increases the amount of administration time required to run the con. Although we've put on seven events, we're still learning things and each con presents new challenges that supercede fixing something that's currently not broken. If costs for registering at the event were simlar to others in the city we'd look much more carefully at making payment more granular, but,for now, we operate from a simple principle that people would rather pay a few extra dollars each year than pay less one year and the con fold the next.