Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Please Be Kind To Us At GenCon

And by "us," I mean, "the people who are demonstrating games."  By "GenCon," I mean "at conventions, game stores, in libraries, and elsewhere."

I'm going to use the Asmodee booth as an example throughout.

Expect Rules Mistakes and Omissions
New games since last year (games marked with an asterisk are games I don't have, yet):

*7 Wonders: Leaders,Double Agent,7 Wonders,Expedition Altiplano,Dice Town Extension,Felinia,Gosu,*Claustrophobia: De Profundis (expected to release at GenCon), *EVO (a re-release with some rules tweaks), *Dixit Odyssey*FabulaIntrigo,*Quebec, SobekTikal II: The Lost TempleWater Lily ...

And  that's not including the last-minute surprise games that they inevitably spring on us and the games from previous years that we'll be expected to know. Or the games I have inevitably forgotten.

For obvious reasons, not all demo teamers are expert on all games.

Some booths will have specialized team members - "You get Table 1, and will teach games X, Y and Z."  Some booths will have team members who know every game. Some booths will have a bit of both.

What it boils down to is this:

When you visit a booth at GenCon that has multiple games, you may have to wait to learn a second game (or a first game if there is a game that is more popular than expected). Or you may receive a partial demo. Or a demo with an incorrect rule or two. If a game has multiple levels of play, don't expect to learn the deeper game. Felinia, for example, has a basic game and an advanced game. The basic game is not bad, but the advanced game is much more interesting. The advanced game is also slower to teach.

We're Volunteers, Most of Us
When I go to conventions other than GenCon, I usually do so on my own nickel. And then I spend that time teaching people to play games because it's what I like doing, not because anyone is paying me.  At GenCon, it varies booth to booth who are company employees, who are paid volunteers (like me), and who are unpaid volunteers.

This means that a not insignificant number of people working in the Exhibit Hall don't do this for a living. We don't know why Game X was delayed or what the release date for Game Expansion Z is. We're not the people to look at your portfolios (but we may be able to point you at someone who can). Don't ask us about the metaplot of the game - we may be passionate enthusiasts, but that doesn't mean we know everything. Are you an unpaid freelancer? We're not the people to scream at (this hasn't happened to us, but I've heard of it happening at other booths).

In general, please remember that we're there to help you have a good time. While we may be having a good time ourselves, that's secondary to our goals.

That's right: I'm not there to have fun. I am there specifically for you. This doesn't mean I'll necessarily let you win, but I will show you why I do what I do (for some games), and make suggestions for you in other games.

If They're In Uniform, They're Usually There To Work
Not all booths have uniforms, it's true. In the Asmodee booth, we've gone through a variety of T-shirts. One year, they were construction-worker orange and spray-painted. One year, they were maroon with the Asmodee logo in front.  We got Repos T-shirts one year, too.

My wife works the booth, too. She demos games just as well as anyone else in the booth (better than some, actually). All too often, she'll offer to demo a game and be ignored. Or someone will ask her when one of the demo guys will be available.

This happens less and less, but it still happens. And it's frustrating for the whole team, not just Stephanie - it's work for us that she could do. Better than most of the guys in the booth.

We May Not Remember Your Name or Face
Believe it or not, we see a lot of people. I know. Shocking.

There are people for whom I have run at least one demo per year for the last seven years. There are people who seek me out. There are people who seek Stephanie out.

We still don't always recognize them.

That Doesn't Mean We Don't Remember You
Because we sometimes do. But don't count on it.

There is one group who comes by every year - we don't know their names. We recognize their faces by now. During most of the year, they are "The Canadians" to Stephanie and myself. We look forward to seeing them every year, because they remind us of the groups we game with - they spend the game loudly deriding one another's abilities and generally just laughing their way through the demo.

But I wouldn't be able to pick them out of a crowd.  I didn't see them last year - and Stephanie only saw one of them. "I saw the tall guy," she said, "but the rest of the group was missing."

This Doesn't Necessarily Mean We Don't Know Who You Are
I read a lot of blogs. Too many blogs. I listen to a few podcasts. I'm active on BoardGameGeek.

What does this mean to you? If you're a blogger, a podcaster, or a BGG regular then there is a good chance I will recognize your name. And I'm not the only one in the booth who does.

Don't expect special treatment just because your badge says "Press" - if you push it, we'll hand you off to the full-time Asmodee employees and go back to running demos for the general public. If one of the full-timers hands you back to one of us, it means that they trust us to run the demo right. And your demo will be the same demo any attendee will get.

There's more, too, but it feels like I've already written a novel, and I have things I need to get done before we leave.


  1. I will say, the first GenCon I worked for Asmodee I did get hollered about a delay for Mission: Red Planet. It was literally stuck on a boat from China, and this guy would not stop yelling at me because clearly, I personally put the games on that boat and told them to take their sweet time. *eyeroll* It gets better, eventually, once people realize that the demo team doesn't really have the power to make business decisions - we just demo games.

  2. James Geluso3:18 PM

    One of the things on my list at GenCon this year is a demo of 7 Wonders. It'd be cool to get one of you to do it.

  3. James, I'm pretty sure you could probably convince one of us to teach it. Just keep in mind that it plays differently depending on the number of players (the rules and mode of play are the same - the strategy is radically different).