Monk's Corner - 8/9


Adventures in Hexacon, or “It's Still $10."


(Preface: while its rare you hear me badmouth anyone in this column, this one is definitely going to seem a bit harsher than most of my “rants.” Please keep in mind this is really not directed at any one person (although I think it may seem like I am beating up Ivan at some points), but merely at the frustration of several YEARS of disappointment with a convention system, in Arizona, and, well, read on with that in mind.)


Yes, it’s another week, and… another con! I came back from San Diego Comic Con last week only to receive a call from good guy and local White Wolf representative Dave Martin, calling to ask me what I was running for Hexacon this weekend…


Hexacon? This weekend?


Uh oh.


Hexacon and I have always had a less than pleasant relationship. I actually had said I would never run events for Hexacon again when a gentleman named Ivan came to talk to me through Dave Martin. Ivan was creating his own company that specialized in running conventions, and was helping out Hexacon, all the things I hated about Hexacon would be fixed by him, and would I give it one more try.


Well, for enough money, sure.


Seriously, my thoughts, while not that greedy, were not far from it. It seemed that Hexacon was always a loss event for me, and for a change of pace, I would like to see some money out of sweating out the event all weekend with no fun time for me.


This was one of my earliest big problems with Hexacon. Hexacon was of the belief that everyone should pay for a badge. Everyone, including staff should have to shell out the money for a badge.


Now, I can see where this idea would come from. I have run my own con before, and there are definitely people who abuse the staff badge concept, electing to run one RPG event for five or six hours which, in all reality they were planning on running no matter what, and requesting a full staff badge for it so that they can spend the rest of the weekend gaming for free on the con’s tab. Amplify this situation times 100 and you have an average convention staff request sheet.


So, Hexacon, in a backlash to being burned one too many times by this, simply have a “Event Mediator Badge Fee” which is less than a normal badge, but still enough to make it so the con can make some money off of them. This works for many situations, but not for someone like me. When I go to work a con, its my job to work the con, this means an average of 8-10 hours a day, every day, at various times, doing nothing but running events for them and making their players happy. I run events. I do judge tests. I do deck clinics. I teach people about the game. I even will play with a player every once in a while if it’s slow enough and they want something to do.


I am not there to have fun; I’m there to work. So when Hexacon turns around and tells me I need to pay them to come into their event to work for them, for free by the way as they have yet to pay me for my helping five years, I get a little turned off about the idea.


But Ivan promised this would all be fixed, and he could even get me some payment most likely for the event.  He could probably budget out $500 towards staff and prizes and such. A quick run through in my head indicated that this would probably not equate to a profitable event for me, but for a change of pace it was unlikely to be a loss, and well, that’s a start. With this in mind, I told him I would get the ball rolling and start getting things done.


Future communications did not go so well. I never heard anything about the $500 budget being finalized or not. The deadline for events making it into the program came and went without so much as a reminded. I got one e-mail asking me how much space I needed, and I responded back that it depended on whether I got the budget, what events he wanted, and what I heard back from Upper Deck and Wizards of the Coast about what they could provide me for Con Support. After that I heard nothing back again, so I still was concerned I had no budget, meaning I basically had no staff as well and no prizes.


Wizards finally sent me some information about Con Support, including package deals you could be for prizes at great prices. I sent an E-mail to Ivan about how many of these we would want, and got no response. Upper Deck hadn’t responded, and then did respond that they apologized, were very busy, but would get back to me, but never actually did. So I had no con support from Upper Deck, none from Wizards, and sort of none from Ivan, who I kept not hearing back from.


To step back and give Ivan some leeway here, both Ivan and I appeared to be plagued with e-mail problems during some of this time, and Ivan says he never got some of my e-mails, and that I never got a couple of his e-mails. While I give full credit to Ivan for this being a possibility, I also wonder at what time he was planning on just picking up the phone and going “Monk, wtf, where are my events?”


And to give full blame where its due, perhaps I should have at some point picked up the phone and gone “Ivan, wtf, where is my budget.” In short, it was both of our faults and nobody’s, and I’m really not trying to belittle Ivan’s abilities so much as generally blowing off steam.


So, back to this past week, here I am at home post Comic Con, trying to get post event paperwork done, and suddenly Dave Martin is asking me what events I am running. My first response is “Well, none, I mean no one ever got back to me,” but I really didn’t want to leave the players high and dry, so I resolved to call Ivan and try to work it out.


The call to Ivan was not spectacular. It basically came down to us slightly arguing about the lack of communication both ways, and Ivan being stressed about everything coming last minute. No mention of the $500 budget, and at one point he just said, “What if I just give you $100 and you see what you can do with it?”


Well, the easy answer to that was “pretty much nothing,” but it wasn’t beneficial to say so, so I just resolved to make a schedule for him and told him I’d need two badges, one for me and one for Jay Webb, who you should know from our earlier adventures. Jay would primarily just be my backup and coverage guy, and was nice enough to be willing to do the event for free just to hang out. However, he could only work Friday night and Sunday, so the rest was up to me.


No biggie.


I whipped up a schedule, two Magic events a day, two Upper Deck events a day, and two total Lord of the Rings events. It wasn’t a huge schedule but it was good enough to make the players happy. Then I looked at what extra product I had and was willing to just give up in the cause of gaming, which proved to be about 1 booster display each of Fifth Dawn, Dark Steel and Mirrodin, about 15 Tournament Packs of Mirrodin, and 3 Booster Boxes of Versus Marvel. Mike Girard of Decipher came through at the last minute tossing me some foils for Lord of the Rings and dot hack, which another volunteer was running, via Fed Ex.


I then submitted it rather haphazardly to the Hexacon web site form, and Ivan, to his credit moved it over quickly and even went so far as to print up some “late addition sheets” which he posted up to the wall by the event sign up areas.


So, I arrive on site, can’t find parking, curse, drive around, curse, find parking, and go onto the site without any of my equipment. I want to check in first, then see if there is a loading area or not.


I find registration easily and ask for my Staff Badge. They don’t have a badge for me, but check for my name on the list. I am told I need to fill out the registration form since my badge is not pre-made, which I gladly do. She takes my sheet, looks at the list, tells me she sees my name and all is well, yay! So I figure all is going well, until I hear the fated words, “So, how will you pay for your badge?”


And, here we go again. I politely explain that I am staff, not a patron, and am there to work the event.


“Oh, well then its $10 instead.”


No, I am not discount staff, I am real staff. I am only there to work, not play.


“Oh, Ivan told me about you! You’re working like 30 hours right?”


Yes, that’s me.


“It’s still $10.”


And thus Hexacon almost had no TCG events, if not for her quick thinking follow-up statement of “I think Ivan is actually paying for your badge, just go find him.”


I set off to find Ivan, and sure enough, he came back with me and paid for my and Jay’s badge. I still argued with him that, essentially, HE should not be paying for my badge either, but by this point I just wanted to get in and get done, and I hadn’t even entered the site yet. Not a good sign.


I went by to check out the posted schedule and, unfortunately about three of the events were wrong, which, I think was entirely my fault. In doing rapid entry into the Hexacon web form I appear to have missed some clicks and a couple events ended up listed on the wrong days, with one event saying I provided all the cards, which of course I could not.  Nonetheless, we quickly fixed the schedule and were on our way.


The weekend as a whole went fine. Most of the players were very casual players, and I cringed occasionally at some of the plays I saw, but they were all having plenty of fun, and that’s really all that matters. We started off with one booster draft scheduled, but ended up running three due to popular demand. Average attendance for events was rather small, ten people or so, but again, it was all for fun, and to be honest a more competitive environment would have been less fun for everyone not more.


I hope everyone has enjoyed this glimpse into Convention life over the past three weeks. Its not “Magic related” so much as a view behind the scenes that I don’t think most players ever get to see. Next weekend I run a PTQ in Phoenix, and with any luck will have a lot more Magic related things to talk about. Thanks as always for reading!