Official Response From Conception 2002 Organisers
Dear Critical Miss,
I read your article with interest as, being one of the organisers of Conception 2002, I am always interested in reviews and opinions raised by our offerings. As a personal opinion, it is fine but does seem to be based on one souring experience which you had the misfortune to experience. Not only will I apologise that you wasted a journey, your time and money but will endeavour to address the problems raised by your article.
We, the organisers, wished at its "conception" it to be something different to other conventions. We wanted the emphasis on playing games (not just D&D) and creating a social, relaxed atmosphere, to this end we needed to do some things differently. However, as anybody who has been to all three will tell you we are adapting, improving and expanding each year. As an example, this year we handled the accommodation for the first time, this proved to be a success (being the only positive aspect of your "review") but even this will be improved next year.
Getting to the crux of your problem. Marshalling and tickets. Games are the most important thing about a convention if you don't play them you won't feel satisfied. We wanted a "generic" system for ticket sales without becoming bound to a strict published schedule. There are reasons for this which you obviously don't understand (nor attempted to find out).
1. We need to balance several things in order to get things "right". Players, games and referees.
Your analogy with a Multiplex is correct. However, bear in mind that if Star Wars wasn't showing you probably wouldn't have gone to the cinema in the first place. If it was scheduled to run but for unforeseen reasons it didn't you would either get your money back or go and see another film.
We have limited resources, can only run games if we have referees and a scenario. Should a player only like playing "Bunnies & Burrows" we are unlikely to be able to accommodate them this year but should demand dictate will do something next year. As previously mentioned we are adaptable and would expect dedicated gamers to be the same. If your favourite game isn't running, for whatever reason we would expect a gamer to either have the willingness to try something new or refund their ticket. We obviously would prefer the former. We do not poor scorn on those who want refunds but you do need to ask for them, the charitable aspect is a by-product not the main intention of the convention.
2. We think of ourselves as an independent convention, true we are all RPGA members but we are not all employees of the almighty HASBRO. The two can be different.
To which end, we want to encourage independence in others but without sacrificing an ordered "slot" system. This year, we encouraged independent and fledgling DM's to write and run games within our slots on an "as you like" basis. We only NEED TO KNOW WHAT AND WHEN so that it can be advertised as part of a unified schedule. If there isn't a unified schedule then the slot system disintegrates and other, more serious, problems arise. If we aren't sufficiently warned of an event then we can't advertise it. Such was the case with your game. I personally didn't know it was a CCG until reading your "review" had I have known this it wouldn't even have been ticketed. If it didn't run then it was because it wasn't sufficiently advertised beforehand. We can't be blamed for players not wanting to play it. Many other card games and board games were run successfully without any effort or controls on our part.
3. The problems you faced regarding marshalling/games were not exclusive to Conception. Even with a strictly defined ticketing system and better marshalling problems still occur. The DM may be ill (hungover) or not turn up or, as has happened at previous conventions the players have failed to turn up to a slot despite having a ticket for the event. This causes even more problems since the remaining players are then disappointed. Not having a defined ticket alleviates that problem to some extent because expectations are different but does put the onus on us since we then can't then blame the slackers who would rather exercise their democratic right to become intoxicated the previous night (or build sandcastles on a beach) than play a game.
We are revising the marshalling system (taking your points on board), however the generic ticketing stays.
4. You are correct in assuming that there was more than one convention held at the site. We had a large contingent of "Living" environments running at the convention. These they had dubbed "Chaletcon" with the intention of utilising their own chalets to run games rather than using the tables we had provided for them. Several other organised games were run in chalets but these (usually) were ones which were likely to run past 12 midnight. As all the marshalling was done in the same place for these games this wasn't a problem. In addition, there was a lot of political wrangling going on which I shall dub "Whispercon" most of which I was not privy to. It's a free country, if they want to spend their time bickering well so be it.
5. Directions to the site are to be improved as are locations of local cash points, supermarkets and taxi firms etc. These will be included on next years website/literature. As a point in our defence, the correct title for the park was Naish Holiday Village only recently has the name been changed to Hoburne Naish to improve their corporate image. I wasn't aware of the change...sorry. As a matter of added confusion another park actually called Hoburne Holiday Park (also owned by Hoburne Holidays) is also on the A337 (even their own suppliers have problems!).
The rest of your article seemed to be centred on your own personal problems and lack of money management. I need not continue. However...I will. Attending conventions is expensive, I can't justify the expense to myself to go to many of the conventions around the country. This is one of the reasons we conceived Conception, the only one on our "doorstep". Residential conventions are expensive (mainly because of the accommodation costs) and are intended for gamers who wish to game constantly (with only occasional breaks for alcohol, junk food and breath) . If you only buy tickets for three games out of ten slots then quite frankly you were not trying hard enough to use the time effectively. When working your expenses out you hadn't really thought about it. What do you eat normally? Is it normally free? (I suppose you could still be living at home with parents in which case it might be free but the rest of us normally go to the shops to buy food regardless of where we are). As for your travel arrangements, it was your choice not ours to use the most expensive method available.
What I find particularly disagreeable is your attitude to my fellow organisers, volunteers and gamers. We admittedly had not briefed all of the people who eventually helped behind the admin. desk so it isn't their fault. Role-players are weird (we admit it freely) but are friendly and sociable. Most conventions are run by enthusiastic volunteers, this doesn't mean that we are complete amateurs who care little about the organisation of the event (many having a professional outlook which is out of place for a hobby which revolves around fun). Should the convention be organised by a "suit" then the event may have been better organised but the costs to the gamer would quickly rise exponentially.
I found some of the points raised and views expressed confusing. You seem to make a point of your links to the gaming world as a "professional" but appear never to have been to a convention? As many will tell you, Conception wasn't intended to be like other conventions, so don't tar others with the same brush. We are big boys and can handle the criticism, we do have failings and are by no means perfect. Your group represented about 2% of the people that attended Conception, it is a measure of the other delegates response to your article which should concern you. Many of your points are valid but much of your article concerns your own failings. Which, unlike the convention and without the assistance of a trained psychiatrist, sadly, I'm unable to do anything about.
What did I Do?
I organised the accommodation/bookings both
before and during the
How much did it cost me? Approximately £110 and
130 hours of unpaid
Copyright © 2002 Andrew Mussell