The Dilemma – Finding Solutions to Scheduling Local Games

I am moving forward with my plans to help bring my local RPG community out its desperate state of mainstream-ism. In the past I have argued that my local area is an RPG wasteland; to the point that if you are not playing one of the five or six mainstream systems you’re not likely to get a game going easily. Therefore, I have vowed to make an earnest effort to bring a wide array of different games to the local community.

I have been searching high and low for an online platform through which to organize, schedule and communicate with local players. Some sites are better than others, but nothing seems to really fit my needs without costing a tidy sum. Here’s a look at some of the various sites I have considered and what my thought are regarding the services they offer.

Features I would to have
– Native integration with Google Calendar
– Ability to specify number of seats per game session
– Ability to promote to on social media sites for wider exposure
– Robust copy/text editor to create nicely descriptive adverts for games

Facebook: Free
Facebook is the biggest and most expansive social media platform out there. As such, there is a large number of gamers there with varying levels of activity. I would need to create a group page to facilitate the process. Unfortunately, Facebook’s event scheduling interface lacks any real robust features. For example, there is no way to tie scheduled events into your personal calendar easily. Though there is a feature to export the event so that you can import it into a calendar (iCal); not very intuitive or user friendly. Secondly, with the type of events that I am schedule (limiting seating) it is hard to assess who marks they’re “interested” versus who will actually be claiming a seat. I need the ability to know who is wanting a seat versus who is just interested and wanting to follow the event. If the built in event scheduling interface allowed for limiting seats and assigning those seats to people as they indicate their attendance, it would be rather useful.

Google+: Free
Google+ (G+) is another great social media site, similar to Facebook, but with a smaller number of participants. Personally, I have found G+ to better than Facebook for connecting with gamers in general, but not necessarily local gamers. As with Facebook, I would need to use this blog’s existing community (which I am currently doing) or create a new community. No matter what platform I use, I would have to cultivate interest in the community or group with my target audience–local roleplayers. When it comes to scheduling events, I do like G+’s event scheduling features. I like custom artwork, begin and end times, but where it shines is its ability to sync up with existing Google Calendars. All-in-all, the features are similar in nature that offered by Facebook, but slightly better and more intuitive. Google also lacks the ability to limit seating, but it does send prompt notices when people indicate if they are attending or not. This at least facilitates the ability to keep tabs on who is claiming a seat and who is not.

Warhorn: Free, Donations Accepted
I have used Warhorn in the past when I was working with several different conventions and organized events. Warhorn is great in that it gives organizers a lot of useful features, but it falls short when looking to schedule recurring type events. Unlike Facebook and G+ there is no social media component to Warhorn which, like several other sites, makes it difficult to get the word out intrinsically. Warhorn does give organizers robust tools that make setting up multiple sessions or tables easy, but again not the best for recurring events. The one area that Warhorn really shines is the ability to specify how many seats are available for a particular game and as people indicate they are going, seats availability is lowered. It will also maintain a “waitlist” as well.

Meetup: Moderate Cost
I don’t know a lot about Meetup, but the features it offers from an end user perspective appeal to me. I have spoke with a number of folks that do use it for organizing local events of all type and they all seem satisfied with the services offered. One aspect I like it the intrinsic functionality of connecting people in your local area (that use Meetup) to find your group. Definitely not on the scale of Facebook or G+, but a nice feature nonetheless. Meetup does have the one feature I desire, the ability to specify the number of seats available for particular game. My only reservation about Meetup is the cost. $9.99/month for 50 users or less or $14.99/month for 51+ users. That is not a cost I want to absorb at this point in time. I have considered approaching the store about cost sharing, but then I would have to give up some of the flexibility to host games on occasion at competitors stores or a permanent change of venue should it ever be needed.

Eventbrite: Free & Paid Services
Eventbrite is a little different than say Warhorn or Meetup. It’s a site that is primarily used for larger scale ticketed events. That aside, it does a function for smaller events and if the event is a free event there is no charge to use their services. Unfortunately, it does not seem to be a good platform for small recurring events like the ones I have planned.

There are a variety of other sites out there that all do similar things to the sites listed above, but very few have the specific features I am looking for. Some seem to more work flow oriented, while other seem to be more socially oriented. Ideally, I would love to find a site that does what Meetup does, but with less of a financial impact on my wallet. I have no intentions of charging for these Sunday games and with no way to realistically offset the costs, I need a cheaper or free alternative.

I have considered trying to partner with some of the existing local Meetup groups, but there are not that many and most seem to be under used. I have also considered trying to work with some of the local game clubs, but that is not really a road I want to go down. One is so small and niche in focus, Facebook works plenty well for them. The other and larger group is unlikely to share the costs since they do not charge dues and currently use Facebook for free.

For now, I will stick with using a G+ community or maybe I will go back to using Facebook, but this is a short term solution that may turn into a long term reality. I would love to hear your thoughts on site that offer the functionality I am looking for, but a cheaper price. Conversely, if you think one of the sites mentioned above would suit my needs and you think I am overlooking something, please chime in.

~ Modoc

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