Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Scottish Tabletop Games Convention Scene

Off the back of my post(s) about Conpulsion and indeed the multiple references to conventions throughout the blog of late I figured I should share my thoughts on "The Scottish Tabletop Games Convention Scene".

To do that I need to be clear about what I mean when I say Tabletop Games Convention.

Ok so be clear then Dave!

A tabletop games convention is an event where attendees are there primarily to play games.  A convention is invariably about the act of participation in the hobby in which you are conventioneering erm upon...

Ok so that's simple enough Dave, but why are you defining it like that?

Well...  In Scotland we're blessed with a reasonable number of Wargames Shows (note: not conventions) like the fantastic Carronade in Falkirk. There are others such as Claymore, Wappinshaw, Targe and Skelp.  I've not attended any other than Carronade (600ish attendees this year) and whilst I'm not a wargamer I do enjoy attending.
So why aren't these conventions?

Play is not at the core of these events for the attendees. Yes there are games being played but these are primarily showcase events with an element of participation events too. The core of these shows (based on my limited understanding granted) is the traders who are there to sell products to attendees and obviously to present the variety of options available within the wargaming format.
This is an important distinction because these events are largely (stress largely) separate from the Convention calendar in Scotland.

So that brings me to what Conventions do we have?

Well... Other than Conpulsion we don't really have any. Or more precisely if there are any I've no idea where or indeed when they are and trust me, I've looked!
Yep there used to be Conflagration in Glasgow run by the university and there used to be Drakcon in Aberdeen (which was primarily a D&D Living Greyhawk event) but other than that? Oh wait there's D-Con in Dundee but that's an Anime convention with gaming (primarily CCGs) bolted on.

So where are the gaming conventions? Well the rest of the UK has several as Phil Master's UK Convention Calendar demonstrates but none are in Scotland.

WHY?

Probably too big a question to answer I suspect but I'll have a stab at it.

Conventions are not simple things to organise.  I'm a project manager by trade and I've organised gaming clubs and obviously ran events on a small scale when I had KoA but that's not the same. All that means though is that I empathise with those who do organise conventions (and indeed shows like Carronade).

The thing is that there's really no money in it.  Sure there is some money in it but we're not taking about serious profit making entities here.  So that means that the people who are doing it are usually balancing it with Real Life(tm) type stuff.
Even the most successful convention in the UK i.e. UK Games Expo, is run by a team of largely volunteers who share a desire to create such an event and do so largely through spare time and forgiving families!

So is it simply down to there not being any people with similar intentions / desires in Scotland? Maybe.

Reflecting a little on my previous post about the negatives of Conpulsion, I'm sure that the team who organise that go into it with the best of intentions but the question is whether they are committed to meeting the desire required to make it "the best that it can be"?  Without knowing really any of those involved I can't really comment but as an outsider looking and based on the evidence I have the only answer I have is no.

The other possibility is that there just isn't appetite for a convention scene in Scotland.  I fear that this is actually the truth of the situation.  I recall a conversation I had post KoA closure with someone (who shall remain nameless) about the Scottish Gaming Community.  I'll distill that semi-rant (hey my business had just ceased to be, I was allowed to rant) into a few comments.

  • There is no Scottish Gaming Community - at least in the sense that we do not have a joined up community of people across the hobby.
  • Gamers are primarily aligned with a combination of game clubs (of which we have many) and game stores (of which we have several).  Their allegiance tends to form around those entities first and foremost and unless a convention (or wider community event for that matter) offers something more than what their club or store offers to them on a day-to-day basis then they are not interested / motivated in supporting it.
These 2 elements combine to suggest (stress suggest) that we have a largely casual gaming population with a couple of exceptions in relation to CCG/TCG tournaments and some wargaming tournaments where there is a clamour from those audiences to attend.

I'm going to close this post with a question and would welcome feedback on what I've said so far.  Even with all that I've said above I do believe that Scotland could have a strong and distinct (if discreet) convention scene and I have some thoughts on how to address that but that's likely a future post.

So the question I find myself asking is - What would a Table Games Convention have to offer to get a 500+ attendance?