26 April 2006

Pre-GenCon Angst

EDIT: Written late at night, on not much sleep, after a frustrating conversation with Ben. I'm rethinking a lot of the things I said here, so please don't judge me too harshly. I am someone who admits their mistakes and posting this at the height of my angst was probably not the best idea. My apologies.

I'm not feeling so emotionally hot right now.

I'm in the middle of going through my adolescence as an active member of the creative community that surrounds roleplaying. I spent several years at the Forge studying what other people had done, but, really, much of the time I felt like I was spinning my wheels and wasn't able to discuss the kinds of things I wanted to be talking about and work on the projects that really moved me. Then, when the call for the diaspora went out (Ron's "Go away, please") I left and have been having a much more productive and fulfilling creative life since then (for a number of reasons). Projects like Push and some of the short games I've written have renewed my faith in myself and given me a sense of personal identity as a game designer.

Things haven't all been great. I'm like a kid who's left home for the first time and there are some awkward mistakes that I've made and will continue to make (and hopefully learn from). I've unintentially pissed some great people off by trying to distinguish myself from them and get a better sense of who I am and why I'm doing this. But, all in all, things feel good and I'm moving in the right direction. Most importantly, it feels like this is something I'm really doing for myself, not for other people. I worry less about people appreciating the work I do.

But this GenCon stuff has fucked all of that up.

There's something in my gut that, right now, tells me that I don't want to work for the Forge Booth. I've spent the past year and a half trying to distance myself from the Forge (which is part of what's pissed some people off, and I'm sorry for that) in order to create a space in which I feel comfortable working on the projects that most interest me. This has more to do with ME and where I am right now than with the Forge Booth in particular. I feel like this is when I need to step awkwardly into the world. I don't want to delay or put this off any longer. It doesn't matter if I make mistakes or if it isn't perfect. Sometimes you just have to do things and deal with the consequences, whatever they may be.

This may be me just be bratty and selfish and stubborn and adolescent, but, dammit, that's the place where I am right now. And being inauthentic to myself is something that I don't want to do. I don't really want to go and have the typical GenCon experience because, frankly, it doesn't really sound all that great to me. I'd like to go and try to make a different kind of experience for anybody who's interested in doing something else.

But then, I start talking with other people, people I really respect and whose opinions I value (like all the folks who responded to the last post), and they say:

1) You don't really know what you're doing.
2) You don't really know what GenCon is like.
3) You could lose a whole heap load of money.
4) You could do all this neat stuff and no one could care.
5) You should wait and do it next year.

And all of these things are 100% true, but the rockstar in me says, "So what? Fuck that. I'm not going to spend my whole life waiting for the right opportunity. It doesn't work that way." I am the person I am for having made some foolish decisions without knowing what I was doing, like going off to China when I was 16. And I'm a better person for having taken those chances and having made a bunch of awkward mistakes.

Sure, we could do something astoundingly awesome next year. But we could also do something pretty dern awesome this year. What if stuff goes down so that I can't make it next year? What if I'm in China? What if I get cancer? What if I die in a car crash? Shit happens. I don't want to have not done things because people made me self-conscious and I wussed out.

And now I have to go to bed, because I have to teach tomorrow. Gah! I hate going to bed in a bad mood. I wanna be excited about GenCon again, not frustrated!


Anonymous Jere said...

My way of thinking about it is this way (and yes I have attended GenCons and worked much larger conventions in the past).

Convention booth design, like most other activities, is a process and a craft that can be learned. There are some darn good resources out there.

GenCon isn't really all that different from a large scale convention of any other nature and thus can be learned from these experiences.

The first time you run a booth/area you are going to make mistakes. Whether you sit in another booth and work it or not.

In my mind the only barrier of entry is thus time and money. You don't have much time (and you do from my outsider way seem awfully overcommitted). And the money would certainly scare me away.

My advice, for what it is worth, is figure out how much its worth it for you. Given from the post (and the previous one) you seem to be fairly passionate you need to determine if you can do the time and the money. If you can and feel good about it, then do it.

9:07 AM  
Blogger Matt Snyder said...

1) You don't really know what you're doing.
2) You don't really know what GenCon is like.
3) You could lose a whole heap load of money.
4) You could do all this neat stuff and no one could care.
5) You should wait and do it next year.

Jonthan, if the above are 100% right (and they are) and you still don't care anyway, then when the heck are you trying to accomplish? Because if these are 100% and also not your goal, then you're not trying to:

1) Use your own money efficiently.
2) Actually contact other people and, presumably, make some sales.

So far, from everything you've said, I'm getting only one goal here:

1) Feel cool.

And, you know, more power to you, I guess. I just think it's fucking NUTS to feel cool, be rebellious, and wear a chip on your shoulder about the pushy Forge guys by setting up a GenCon booth for anywhere from $300-$1,000 or more, to say nothing of all the work required to get it set up.

I have one piece of advice.

What is your ambition in this hobby? Do that then. Stop talking about it. DO IT. If talking about the hobby is the goal, well, knock yourself out. I think the absolute best way to do something at GenCon is participate at the Forge booth and make your contribution.

Stop worrying about whether you feel cool, are cool, or will discover cool. That's wagging the dog. You're talking about doing things because you want the after-effects of feeling cool about having done them ... without actually doing them. This booth will not go well without a plan beyond feeling good about yourself.

You guys have literally said "Well, we know what GenCon booths are and do, and we're totally going to do the opposite. DUDE, we're totally NOT going sell stuff, doesn't that rock?!"

Um, no, it does not rock. It is not cool. It's foolishness. Be foolish all you want, but don't expect anyone to care. And, when you say, "But, Matt, you jerk, you don't get it; I don't WANT anyone to care," well, then, you're right. I don't get it. Do that, and plan on losing my respect and others' respect in the process. If you don't care about that, have a nice ride. (shrug)

9:49 AM  
Blogger Jonathan Walton said...

Jere, thanks for your advice. I'm thinking on it. If I decide to do it, I'll definitely committ to the time and the money. Likewise, if people end up talking me into the Forge Booth, I'll give that my all too. I don't do things half-assed.

Matt, of course I want people to care. I hate feeling like a whiney bratty kid who keeps losing people's respect. That's happened a lot recently and it sucks. And I really hope I haven't gotten all flustered and frustrated over an effort to make myself feel cool.

I guess I see having our own booth as an effort to DO SOMETHING. I feel like just tagging along and talking about what I'm gonna do next year is _not doing something_, just talk.

I'm still trying to think this through, obviously, and I do value your opinions very much. It's just hard to get a sense of things when I'm getting such contradictory messages from a lot of people I respect. And I haven't gotten much sleep this week, which could be contributing to my overall mood.

Don't lose faith in me yet, dude. I'll get though this and come out someplace good, one way or the other.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Jonathan Walton said...

Note: disclaimer added to the top. I just re-read what I wrote last night and realized what a bad place I was in. My apologies, folks.

10:34 AM  
Blogger Bradley "Brand" Robins said...


I know where you are coming from, and I have been there. I do not judge you harshly, and I do not think you are a fool. If you see me on Skype today and want to chat, ring me up.

For now I will say just this, and then leave you alone, because I have a feeling you're frustrated with me lately, and I don't want to push you:

It is good that you went and found yourself. If you hadn't stepped away you might not have grown. But once you have grown, you have to ask yourself where you can best put your energy, and where you can most effect change and growth.

If you left a boy you do not have to return a boy. You can leave a boy and return a man.

1:47 PM  
Blogger Mo said...


I think I get you. You can tell me if I'm wrong. Your plans to get a booth are not just about being cool. I think that your desire to have A Room of Your Own has to do with feeling comfortable, not feeling cool.

It has to with going to Gencon and feeling as comfortably confident in your own shoes as you can be so that you can do your best work and feel your best you in networking, and know that if worse comes to worse in the entirely unfamiliar environment that you are heading into, that you can be guaranteed (because you will at least be able to commune with like minded individuals and have fun) to get something out of the event that you can take home and feel good about.

If I'm reading the situation right and that's the intent, then there's nothing wrong with that goal. There's nothing wrong with using your first Gencon experience that way, and there's nothing wrong with spending 1000 bucks on it - money really is a relative thing. I know folks in business that would gladly spend 2000 dollars on a first class ticket where they know they will be comfortable, well fed and arrive refreshed to their meeting rather than feel haggard and unprepared. It's EXACTLY the same equasion. If you have the money, and that's the way you want to spend it, that's entirely your perogative and nobody can or should tell you it's a dumb idea.

That said, and this is me talking about me, now, not about you. There are other goals that can be had at Gencon, and that's where my hesitancyto join your booth came from. I was originally under the assumption that I couldn't sell at the Forge Booth (I'm a con newb folks, this has been amply corrected) and once I found out that I could, that changed the way I thought about my experience.

I think if I were to come to the Gencommune, I'd feel more relaxed and more safe, but in some senses, relaxed and safe is not what I'm comming to Gencon to do. I'm coming to explore new things, and new parts of me, and to release a game in a serious salable way. I'm coming to fine the place where I will stand in the future. That place may be the same place I stand right now, but at least I will have a better appreciation for who and where everyone else is in relation to me. Finding a relaxed and safe place won't necessarily help me do that.

It's not about who pushes and who pulls, who's hardcore market minded, and who's just in it to design, it's not about where I stand, and where you stand, it's about how we build bridges between those things.

If you can find a way to set and run a booth that optimizes you, your experience and builds a bridge back to the rest of the Indie community, Forge or other, then you're doing a good thing. It doesn't matter what you do as much as it matters how contributive you are when doing it.

Oh, and to raise on Brand's earlier offer, if you need to talk, email your telephone # and we can chat about things.


9:35 PM  

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