I am gearing up for the spring and summer gaming convention seasons and I constantly run into to the same old problem, what RPGs to run. Try as I might, my attempts to curate information about RPG trends at conventions it is harder than hell. Getting good data is nigh impossible.
There’s a regional convention, of which I did not attend, held over MLK weekend about two hours up the road that always draws large crowds. During that weekend I was hearing and seeing social media reports of RPGs being canceled due to a lack of participants and also hearing that Pathfinder Society was again the favored RPG to the determent of other RPGs. In my attempt to determine if what I was hearing was indeed fact and or just an upset attendee or GM, I took a local/regional RPG Facebook group looking for anyone who attended that could verify the claims or not. I all I got in return was vagueness from an attendee who just didn’t know. Though a con organizer did chime in to tell me what was played in the vaguest of terms and who would not comment any further.
I am left to wonder why conventions are super sensitive about this topic? We all know that not all games will happen at a convention, it’s the nature of the beast, but there are lessons to be learned by sharing this type of information with GMs and publishers. I like to know what games are not trending favorably in different parts of my region. It helps me make informed decisions at to what games/genres I should consider running at cons in my area. Why would I want to spend hours in prep time and creative energy to prepare a Numenera game if previous attempts at nearby cons have failed?
Convention organizers should be proud of what they accomplish year to year. Regardless of the fact that not all games will “make” and will be canceled for one reason or another.
I posed this very issue on social media last night and I was asked if there is a financial incentive for conventions to be forthcoming with this data. My response was pretty fragmented (I blame Twitter), but in short, there is a financial incentive–pulling together GMs willing to run games that will draw people in! If we GMs know that a particular game is not popular in a particular area we can simply remove it from the list of games we might offer to run. Popularity varies from area to area; just because I like Fiasco, doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for all conventions.
GMs need to be just as informed as convention organizers. As a past organizer myself, we shared our information with anyone that was interested; though not many were. It also helped us immensely in deciding which RPGs to allow or not allow the following year. Now that I am back in the GM seat full time, this information is more than helpful.
I know a number of GMs that would love this type of information as they are making plans to offer games at a variety of conventions around the country. Let’s not overlook the value of this information for publishers. Sales trends may or may not be a true indicator of a failing game. For example, Fiasco has long been a hot selling item all over the country, but good luck at getting a table of players in many of the smaller conventions in the Southeast. It just doesn’t seem to draw people in like it does in New England or in the Southwest. It’s a great game, but not outwardly popular in this area. I theorize that publishers might be able to adjust their marketing strategies to raise awareness in low-interest areas. Anyways, I am not going to speculate any further on the benefits to publishers, it’s really out of my lane.
This should not be secret squirrel data! Cons want to draw crowds and GMs don’t want to waste their time preparing to have an empty table. Seems like some common ground to me!
Weigh in with your thoughts. Am I way off base here?