10 Things I Learned Running Game Demos at WonderCon

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at 6:00 am

6. You Have to be Flexible

Julie Scott
Having an easy to learn two-player game available is a good start.

We set up our game schedule months ago and got it entered into the program in a timely fashion. In the two weeks before WonderCon, we had a tabletop boot camp where we prepared the games for easy use and played them to either learn them or remind ourselves how they worked. Real life frequently got in the way, as it tends to, but we managed to get some quality time in with our games. We were ready to go or so we thought. When we actually started the demos, it turned out the flow of people was almost completely unpredictable.

Sometimes five or six people would want to play Munchkin even though it was time to play Castellan. Sometimes people would want to just play the games and didn't want a game demonstrator's help. Some people just wanted to stare at the games and not actually play at all. One person was staring at the game board, so I said "Hey, we're playing Munchkin if you want to join in." Their reply? "I can SEE that. I'm just WATCHING." This was accompanied with quite a glare, so mental note. Some people hate friendliness, and probably fuzzy bunnies and America. But more to the point, they're unpredictable. Be ready to act accordingly.

7. Your Results May Vary

Julie Scott
Much better than empty tables.

On Saturday we had stretches of sitting around and hoping for players, only to find ourselves completely crushed on Sunday. We had only planned 3 hours of demos Sunday, half of what we did Saturday, but we had so many people ready to get their game on that we ended up running demos until the "voice of God" demanded we pack up. This held true for the convention floor as well, which went from full on Saturday to jam-packed on Sunday. My understanding is that there were equally or more attendees on Saturday, so it is likely that the change is due to a reduction in panels on Sunday and a lack of Masquerade.

The celebrities seemed to be equally chaotic - I saw spaces for Mark Waid and Lou Ferrigno but they were both empty. In fact, of all of the names I recognized on the schedule none seemed to be there at the same time I was. On the other hand, we found Kandyse McClure of Battlestar Galactica fame out in the wilds and Chris Hardwick at the Nerdist booth. Well, a Lego Chris Hardwick anyway. Close enough.

Meanwhile, after being told by everyone we talked to that you had to arrive at the Masquerade at least an hour early we managed to wander in at halftime and see a live light-saber dueling show as well as all the winners. So, my message is mixed, much like my feelings about Star Wars: Episode VII.

8. Wondercon Keeps an Early Schedule

Julie Scott
The only "after hours" event we could find.

The local gaming conventions run 24 hours. The last Worldcon I went to had public-accessible room parties put on by publishers that ran into the wee hours of the night, if not later. But WonderCon seemed to wrap up almost completely after the Masquerade's 10 p.m. end time. It was a little strange for me going to a convention with no night events whatsoever, and a little disappointing since we had spent the day either running demos or being stuck in traffic. Some people kept the party going by crowding into the Hilton bar, many still in costume.

Fun to watch for awhile, but when it appeared likely a half an hour wait for a drink, I got less interested. We looked around some but we didn't really see anyone we knew and as I'm not really the kind of person who walks into a bar and leaves with new friends, we headed upstairs. It was interesting to wake up on Sunday not feeling like I had undergone a violent biker initiation the day before, but it did make things a bit short. I know this isn't the venue's fault as I have attended at least one other convention there that went considerably later. At least I wasn't hungry.

9. The Food Is at Least Easy to Come By

There was ice cream! (Yes, the photo is slightly out of focus. Because... con.)

The Hilton has a walkway that leads to the Convention Center, and at the end of that walk way is a food court that has a Baja Fresh and a sandwich shop named Submarina, which was surprisingly decent. We definitely paid a hotel/tourist/convention markup in the form of $50 for three foot long sandwiches, chips, and drinks, but the sandwiches were massive (easily twice as thick around as Subway) managing to serve as both lunch and dinner. This is a pretty fair mark up for convention food. There was also a grill that smelled decent, at least. Coffee, which becomes critically important by the second day or so of any convention, was also accessible. The Hilton had a Starbucks that kept disappointingly early hours but was at least available for breakfast and lunch breaks.

The convention center itself had at least two cafeteria-style food dispensaries with prices in the high single digits, and a coffee bar. The coffee bar may have been a strange kind of booth as the ladies were wearing face paint and tight outfits and it was on the convention floor, but whether they were local or not it had mochas and lattes for semi-affordable prices so blessings upon their houses.

10. It Was a Fun Place to Be

Julie Scott

I had planned to attend some panels immediately before and after our game demos but once we were actually there the convention was too big and we had too many things to carry for it to be feasible. It was still a worthwhile weekend, though. The staff was friendly, and the weather was nice. There were oodles of cosplayers hanging around the outside of the convention hall, taking pictures, posing and generally being entertaining.

Even with 3-4 hours on the main exhibitor floor it still seemed like we'd only seen two thirds of it at most. It helped that the Hilton was a nice hotel. Much as we had to fight with other con-goers for elevator space, the rooms themselves were nice and you couldn't beat the location. I understand the mindset of going super-cheap on lodgings to free up con money, but in this case I think it would have been a bad idea. Being close gave us a base of operations and added to a non-dramatic feel that seemed to permeate WonderCon, as opposed to the pedal-to-the-metal feel of its big sibling, SDCC. It was different, but I enjoyed it and will be going next year, which I think is the best endorsement I can give.

Previously by David N. Scott

Five Games Masters and Players You See at Every RPG Con

Eight Reasons You Should Care About the World of Darkness Reboots

Ten Things We Learned Attending L.A. By Night: The Grey Ghost Masquerade

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