Identifying and Understanding Motivations In Gaming

I swear I live in the wrong part of the country. All the huge amazing conventions are either in the northeast or on the left coast. Don’t get me wrong there some great conventions in the southeast, but nothing like PAXEast, PAXWest, Origins, GENCON, GaryCon (ok, not huge, just amazing) and many more. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great conventions in the southeast like Storm-Con, Dragon*Con, Connooga, MegaCon and PrezCon just to name a few. Despite these conventions being great events, they lack the size and draw of the previously mentioned conventions, ok, well, the one exception to this might be Dragon*Con. It’s huge, but more of a party.

I have been pondering what truly makes a convention attractive to congoers, but defining this is not easy! Everyone attends conventions for different reasons. For example, I attend to meet up with old friends and generally to play roleplaying games and given the chance I would love to meet some of the authors and publishers of my favorite games. Others, might attend to try out the latest and greatest games to hit the market. While others are there for the cosplaying and anime attractions. As someone in the industry, both as a convention organizer and blogger, it is important for me to zero in on individual motivations.

Attracting people and motivating them to attend a convention is a challenge. First, we have to offer a rich and robust game schedule. This takes volunteers and dedicated individuals that enjoy organizing and running games for attendees. Zeroing in on Gamemaster motivations is a separate topic. Diversity is the first key to success for any convention, regardless of size. Attendees at a game convention are there first and foremost to play games. Whatever those specific games are is important! They are also there for a myriad of other real and viable reasons and knowing your audience is crucial to success.

The same thought process can be applied to individual gaming groups too. Clubs and groups are most notably a microcosm of a convention, in a sense. Players join groups and clubs for many of the same reasons mentioned about. So, it is equally as important for club organizers know and understand the dynamics of the group and what motivates each person to attend and keep attending. It also will help organizers to more fully understand what may have promoted someone from leaving the group.

Locally, the game club I helped to start nearly eight years ago has morphed and changed in a variety of ways over the intervening years. Everything from being almost expressly focused on wargames to being more of a mix of Euro games with a splattering of RPGs and wargames thrown in for good measure from time to time. The group has no dues (never did) yet it still exists. Members have come and gone over the years depending on what it is they wanted out of the game club.

The club itself is really a microcosm of the local convention scene, specifically the events I am part of. Due to the ever evolving nature of the club it has been hard to really zero in on what motivates the club members to attend local conventions, but in focusing more on their motivations, I am seeing parallels between the group’s motivations and convention goer motivations. The parallels are striking. For example, the club was founded on the idea of no dues; no one at the time wanted to pay to play. That model has been in effect since its inception. This anti pay to play motivation can been seen in the attendance level of club members local conventions and small events that charge admission. Conversely, there is modest number of club members that will travel out of the local area to attend conventions. I see parallels in what types of games club members like to play and of those that travel out of the local area to attend events, in some cases they are traveling to play these games or even meet an author (in the case of RPGs) or designer (in the case of boardgames). When these same game types are held locally some, but not all will attend. That pesky pay to play mindset rears up again. I admit that there are other motivations at play than these two things when it comes to deciding on how to spend one’s entertainment money. None-the-less, there are parallels developing that I am just beginning to watch how they develop.

Bringing this full circle, it is imperative to learn, understand and act upon people’s motivations when it comes to organizing any type of convention, special event or even a club. the ‘build it and they will come” model only works in Field of Dreams. This model has no place in the dynamic and ever-changing gaming environment.

Lastly, I would like to point that Mrs. Modoc has vetoed the idea of moving to another part of the country just to facilitate convention going!

~ Modoc

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