During a recent appearance on Happy Jacks RPG Podcast, Stork suggested I somehow record the details of the convention planning experience for posterity. I’ve actually always been a fan of trying to include the outside world in my more unusual endeavors… When I went into the studio a few years ago to record a blues album, for example, I produced a series of video blogs to share the experience. I imagined it would be particularly exciting for people who had never seen the inside of a real recording studio or had no personal aspirations to record an album but might be curious about the process. It was a lot of fun.
So now I’m planning a national gaming convention here in my hometown. Again… not something everyone gets to do, or has any intention of ever doing, but it’s definitely an experience worth sharing. Before I get started, let me share a couple of links in case you’re interested in the convention:
TsunamiCon 2014 started as an off-hand comment on one of our early podcasts a couple years ago. We had just run the first of many Tsunami GameDay events at our FLGS, an experience that not only connected us with an existing community of gamers in Wichita but also planted the very first seeds of the idea of running a larger game con. Other conventions in our area usually had game rooms, but they were more of an off-hand addition to the conventions more prevalent features. Within a matter of months, our own GameDay events were sporting a larger degree of participation than the game rooms at the local cons. (Of course, it helps that our events are free.)
Tsunami GameDay is just what it sounds like. We take over the store for the day, set up pre-registration online for anyone wanting to run or participate in RPGs, then set up a bunch of tables for casual gamers and go to it. We tie the whole event together with fun tournaments, charity events, prize drawings, and a live podcast at the end of the day. I sell badges for the event to help cover promotional costs, but it’s absolutely free to participate. We hold these events about once per season, and the crowd is bigger at every GameDay.
From these humble beginnings, a plan for a national convention emerged. I should probably clarify at this point that I am neither independently wealthy nor financially well-connected. Conventional wisdom said that running a convention was a task for someone who had cash to throw into the void. I do not. Neither do my contemporaries.
It was early last year when I discovered that convention funding efforts had begun to take serious root on Kickstarter, a site with which I was already intimately familiar (much to my spouse’s chagrin *grins*). A number of national conventions had funded right here in the Midwest. It was like a breath of fresh air across the landscape of my personal ambitions. I just lacked two things… any kind of serious game con experience, and a strong enough community to support it. I solved both problems, as it happens, by tapping the experience of some of the enthusiastic folk who attended our GameDay events.
Shaun and Liz Duncan soon joined the effort. I had experience organizing and running events and my wife Jonikka had experience managing business finances, but we needed people who knew what a game con should look and feel like and how to connect with our local community. Shaun and Liz had been convention-hopping for more than a decade, and they often ran the game rooms for local cons. Our first TsunamiCon planning session was last November. We organized a business structure, starting outlining our needs and plotting the details, and created a plan for raising funds to help get things started.
TsunamiCon had taken it’s first big step toward becoming a real thing, and we were determined to make it happen. We just had a few significant obstacles ahead of us… obstacles that ultimately changed the shape of the con at every turn. In this series, I’ll tackle each stage of the process and try to bring the experience to life in the days ahead. You know… for posterity.