Convention Season: Pacificon

[This is the second in my series of game convention retrospectives, in an attempt to draw general conclusions about improving attendees’ and organizers’ convention experience.]

Sponsor Care: Pacificon

(Santa Clara Mariott, San Francisco Bay Area)

Pacificon Game Expo, held every Labour Day weekend from Friday through Monday, is another well-established convention of 31 years; it’s best known for its wargame and miniatures game section but with significant board gaming and role-playing.  It is run for-profit by a group that bought it about a decade ago from the previous organizers, and the current direction is to encourage more role-playing.

Edmund and I have volunteered as staff for other events run by the same organization before, and we were asked to run games this year to showcase the Mistborn Adventure Game, the new game published by the biggest sponsor of the convention, Crafty Games.

(Things that went well, things that went poorly: after the cut.)

Things that went well at Pacificon: The miniatures and wargames spaces were as usual well-attended, with many beautiful displays by dedicated GMs.  The Young Players’ Room, which offered games for kids on Saturday and Sunday with adult supervision, was very well received by budding gamers; it’s a great initiative and I hope it gets even more attention and effort in the future.  And although there is still more work to be done, the role-playing section was enthusiastic and seems headed in a good direction.  This time, several individual rooms were dedicated to RPGs to provide more quiet and concentration than the large open gaming areas offered.  And finally, there’s a nice big Dealers’ Room and flea markets.

Things that went poorly: Like Dragonflight, Pacificon is trying to make more use of social media and the Website to get the word out, but they too have some progress to make yet.  Another small annoyance was that it was hard to find some locations, particularly the role-playing rooms; there were few signs, if any, until Saturday.  In the same vein, the game descriptions for upcoming and current time blocks did not start getting posted until fairly late, and because of some problem in using the database, some games simply never made it in the print descriptions even though they were in the program.  (I don’t know if it was an operator or software problem.)

The two biggest problems I observed, however, did not in fact cause any disaster (that’s good!) but have the potential to do so in the future if they are not corrected (that’s bad!)  First, sponsor care: two RPG rooms were dedicated entirely to the main sponsor, Crafty Games but (1) there were no signs to find them and they were the hardest to find because of the distance from the registration desk; (2) there were very few games scheduled (two, I believe), except for one each for Edmund and I; (3) every single Crafty Games event was among those which the database refused to spit out in printed form; and (4) no staff person had been assigned to coordinating with Crafty Games reps, who were tied up in the Dealers’ Room.

I think it was hoped that I would act in this role of sponsor liaison, but it had not been spelled out so I was not as ready as I might have been, but we corrected the problem promptly.  Edmund added a few more game events showcasing Crafty Games’ Mistborn Adventure Game and they turned out very successful.  I first made some handwritten signs to direct players to the correct rooms and then later on Friday night was able to make printed ones; and we kept in close contact with Crafty Games to make sure they knew what was going on and could direct potential players to us.  So things worked out on that front, but simply telling me (or someone else) in advance what all was needed would have made things even better.  If this happens again and there is no one to step in, a big sponsor could leave very disgruntled.

Finally, the conventions seems to have no written policies, at least on their website or in the program, particularly as they relate to some important topics like children, harassment, adapted access for disabled persons, etc.  I’ve already posted about a disconcerting experience I had on Monday with two very little boys being just abandoned at my game and the parents ending up offsite.  When this happened and I finally realized the full extent of the problem, I searched both program and Website for the policies so I would be able to talk to the mothers about the issue, but I found none.  I know damn well that Dragonflight, for example, has them because I was one of the people who made sure they were in place.  This time, nothing horrible happened but the convention is open to problems, from accidents to lawsuits, to worse, unless it puts in place such policies.  Besides, they’re just helpful for everyone concerned.

4 thoughts on “Convention Season: Pacificon

  1. I really enjoyed meeting the folks from Crafty Games and demoing Mistborn for them. I thought that overall the convention was run in an average manner for conventions – some bugs owing to the volunteer system, inertia, and occasional breakdowns in communications, planning, and prep, but nothing too serious.

    The debacle with the small children on Monday was truly horrific, and an awful game experience for all concerned, but despite the lack of concrete rules on the subject I consider the parents to be the major cause of the problem. Any parent should know better than to dump very young children, unsupervised and unfed, on total strangers at a convention and then go offsite. That’s just crazy. I’ve never had children and I know that’s crazy.

  2. I had a slightly annoying incident on Saturday when I ran kids game. One of the kids who came over was 5. I do have games at home that are good for five-year-olds, but due to limited space I didn’t bring any. I tried some older games with him, but he got bored easily. Since his parents were at the next table, I should have sent him back over to them sooner.

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