Friday, July 21, 2006

Build Your Own Game Convention

Coldfoot has invited me to become a contributor to this site, and you will probably be seeing my musings on Fridays. But sometimes it is better to listen than pontificate, especially when dealing with corners of the gaming world I know little about.

As a member of the Appalachian Gamers club, I occasionally rub elbows with members of the larger local wargamers club, the Kanawha Riflemen Wargming group (which specializes in miniature gaming). This spring, I started hearing people daydreaming about creating a local gaming convention. And then one night, I showed up at Ted Cheatham’s house for the weekly game session and learned that the daydream had become a reality. There will be a new game convention in Charleston, West Virginia in October.

I was delighted to learn that two members of the Kanawha club who occasionally show up at Ted’s house are also two of the main movers and shakers behind this convention: Nick Gillispie and Travis Reynolds. (Anyone who went into the miniatures room at Origins this year will remember Nick’s fantastic Lord of the Rings Helm’s Deep and Minas Tirith dioramas). I decided to do an e-mail interview with them to learn more about how to go about forming a new game con. Travis was the one who had time to respond in detail.

KRIS: What is CharCon? When and where will it occur?

TRAVIS: CharCon is a convention focused on gaming that will take place in Charleston, West Virginia at the Charleston Civic Center on October 6th & 7th.

KRIS: How did CharCon begin? How much money did you guys have to come up with?

TRAVIS: Well, for several years a few of our close knit group have talked about different ways that we could become more involved in the gaming community. Give a little something back. At one time, we were discussing the idea of opening a game store, the kind that caters to the gamers. Life being what it is and always interfering, that never got off the ground. So, we started talking about doing a convention. We casually discussed it for awhile and then Nick and I just decided to get on it, and we are making it happen. I would guess that when it is all said and done, the pre-show costs will be between $2000 and $2500. Hopefully we will generate that much with some left over to get started on next year!

(Note: Nick says that expenses have run about $1500 so far, but he suspects they will rise).

KRIS: When will gamers be able to register? How much will it cost?

TRAVIS: Gamers will be able to pre-register sometime prior to August 1st. We will have pre-registration on our web page ( and at several of our sponsor locations (Treasures, All About Games, etc.). The super affordable price is only $15 for both days and $8 for Friday, $12 for Saturday. Children under 12 get in for $5 a day. Members of HMGS or gamemasters who run a minimal amount of games will receive a $5 discount. Anyone interested in checking things out can pick up a visitors pass for $3.

KRIS: What kind of gamers will the con appeal to? What events will occur?

TRAVIS: Hopefully all of them! We have a large variety of events planned. Miniatures of all sorts. Historical, Fantasy and Sci-Fi. We will have a ton of collectible games like Heroclix, Yu-Gi-Oh, Magic the Gathering and more. There will be plenty of board games for everyone to play. Role Playing Games will be covered in ample supply (including games of Shaintar:Immortal Legends being run by the creator Sean Patrick Fannon!). Plus, many games will be run in a tournament format with prizes for the winners. If we are missing something, please let us know!

KRIS: What are your goals for CharCon? How do you define success?

TRAVIS: that’s a good question. Well first I would like to see attendance be enough so that Nick doesn't take a bath on fronting the money! I want everyone who attends to have fun. I would like to see some younger kids who come in to play say Yu-Gi-Oh see some fabulously created miniature game and say, "WOW! I want to play that!" Then I would like to see some visitors come in because they saw it advertised or someone told them about it and they like what they see enough to upgrade to a real badge, play games and have a blast! If some of these things happen, then we have given back to gaming. If some good looking gamer broad or LARP queen were to fall head over heels in love with Nick because he just has the darned nicest LOTR terrain, well that would be good to I suppose. Oh and if we can make it through the weekend without Dave Gilligan incessantly complaining, that would be ok with me.

KRIS: What has been the hardest part of organizing the con? What has been the most rewarding aspect?

TRAVIS: Trying to remember everything has been a task. We have been pretty lucky in that Nick and I have been able to do most of the planning and we have some people waiting in the wings to help us with key elements. Its kind of a dive to get something like this started. Ask me the hardest part on Sunday the 8th and see what I say! Most rewarding so far would be seeing people we don't know on forums we just stumbled across talking about our Con. That was a rush.

KRIS: What advice would you give other gamers who might want to start a con in their areas?

TRAVIS: First, attend some other Cons. Get a feel for what you want to do and how other people do it. Nick and I spent most of Origins just networking with people and asking questions. Next, establish a core group of people you can count on. We have a board of directors. It includes a Webmaster, a Print Marketing Director, an Events Coordinator, a Customer Service Director. Nick and I are the directors and we pick up the slack on a few other things (like Vendor/Sponsor Liaison, Accounting, Registrations Coordinator). Also, pick one person to be in charge. Matters can be discussed as a group and if everyone agrees--great. If not, you need someone to make decisions. Sometimes things need decided on now and can not wait. I don't just say that because I am in charge of our Con, it truly is a vital piece of the puzzle. After that, pick a venue and reserve it. We went with a high profile venue that gives us lots of space and hopefully will give us some foot traffic. Go with the best thing you can arrange and afford. Once that is done, you only have about 1000 more things left....

KRIS: And is there anything you would like to add?

TRAVIS: I hope CharCon is a huge success and we are able to keep it going for years. Just about everyone we have talked to has been hugely supportive and willing to lend a hand. We don't have aspirations to grow to be a huge con or anything of that sort, but if we can add some gaming to the local area culture and let a bunch of people have tons of fun in the process...great!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A very timely interview for me. I have just taken the reigns/fronted the cash for organizing a local, boardgame focused con in Southeast Idaho, also scheduled for October. October 14th, in our case.
I appreciated the insights in this article.
Good luck Charcon!