Conventions and Events - Games on Demand?

Posted by: Newt Newport On: Aug 29th 2010 edited

Ok looking for a bit of advice of the pros and cons of running 'Games on Demand' at conventions, since I'm seriously considering it in the near future - I've got a good portfolio of stuff which I've got quick start scenarios for.

Whats the basic set up?
What sort of things to be aware of?
What's the ideal sort of situation where GoD thrives and conversly when does it become an excercise in futility?
Is there a sort of game that is better for this sort of set up?

I think that's it for now, but I'll chuck in more questions when they come to me.

Posted by: Neil Gow On: Aug 29th 2010

OK, having read the thread that this has spawned from, be sure that you are talking about GoD and not rolling demos, as they are different things. Also be aware that, like so many things in gaming, some people have different definitions of what 'Games on Demand' actually is and personally, I find the term slightly deceptive.

I have seen a really functional and energetic GoD 'community' evolve at Conpulsion under the guidance of Per, Joe Murphy and Pooka, and I have seen clusterfucks of miscommunication and confusion at other conventions, including GenCon US.

Games on Demand works by having a group of GMs offering up a selection of diverse games to a pool of players and those players deciding which games they would like to play in. What occurs is a sort of group consensus over the games that will happen in that slot. You might not get to play the exact game that you want, but you will get a game and you will have some sort of choice.

What Games on Demand is NOT is the ability to rock up to the GoD area at any point in time and expect to have a GM waiting there, ready to run a game for you. Similarly, it is not a slot where you can rock up and say 'I want to play Skyrealms of Jorune using the Harnmaster system. I demand it!'

These basic building blocks dictate how it can be ran well. You need to stick to the convention slots, much to the chagrin of people who think they can just toddle up and demand a game. You need some way for the GMs to communicate their games to the players. You need someway for the players to indicate which games they want to play. You need an area for this to happen.

You should probably be aware that many of the players will not have played the games they have chosen. GoD is usually a place where people try to play 'those games' that they have heard about but never had the chance to play. Therefore the GMs have to be pretty good at quickly bringing them up to speed. They are also 'convention games' with all of the pros and cons that this brings.

What sort of games thrive? The ones I have seen have been pretty low learning curve, low prep, high player input indie games. That said, the best GoD I have played in was Per's Burning Empires game... take from that what you will

For me, its the expectations that come with the 'on demand' title that cause many of the apparent issues. Find a different name and some of the problems may evaporate.


Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Aug 30th 2010

I have always preferred the name Indie Games Track.

What works in my experience is a whiteboard, a pen in the hands of a facilitator (to make any discussion focused), a broad but limited choice of games on offer, fixed slots (even making a regular slot into two half slots is fine), eager GMs and a positive/flexible/friendly attitude.

Here are the games we can run, here is when they're on, let's work something out.

And if you want to point out where they can buy the games afterwards that's very cool. But no hard sell would be my advice.

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Aug 30th 2010

Just to add to the very valuable information already imparted by Neil and Gregor.

The Games on Demand room at KapCon 2008 and 2009 (the main games convention in Wellington, New Zealand) was pretty much the model of a well-run GoD event. People turned up for a given slot (say, 9-12, 1-4, etc). We, the facilitators, each had games with us that we were personally very keen to offer and had great enthusiasm for (that, for me, is key). We didn't try to offer every game in our collections (we learned from 2008 and really streamlined the offering for 2009).

When people turned up, they could browse the games on offer and decide what they wanted to play. Choices were written on a whiteboard and then a show of hands would narrow it down to the two or three games (depending o how many people we had) that would actually run. Generally people always found themselves in a game that they were at least interested in, and often were in a game that they were very keen to try.

Having a handful of experienced facilitators, who know the games and can help make the most of what is quite a compressed gaming experience, is a must. If someone pops out for a slot, then feel free to remove their particular games from the browsing section.

Games that lend themselves to quick setup and getting straight into play are generally the best: 3:16, Contenders, Shock, Primetime Adventures, Best Friends, Remember Tommorow, Hell for Leather, Hell 4 Leather, My Life With Master, Mountain Witch, Dust Devils, and so on and so forth.* With certain games (Shock, for example) the facilitator should be quite rigorous in not allowing too much back and forth in the game creation phase. If you're going to offer games with more involved setup - Duty & Honour, Hot War, Cold City, Covenant, Dogs in the Vineyard - then having a pre-generated situation and characters that people can embroider for themselves is a must.


*With that line up, the event could probably be named 'Gregor Hutton on Demand'.

Posted by: Joe Murphy On: Sep 14th 2010

(Gregor on Demand - hehe!)

What's really helped in some GoDs I've run is:

They're one or two hour demos, typically for gamers who haven't signed up for anything else. At some cons, we've also tried long sessions, but I personally find it difficult. If I'm to run a long session, I want to mentally prepare. Prepping for 4 hours of _something_ is tricker.

As Malcolm said, only offer games you're enthusiastic about running. You have to be capable. It _sucks_ working out the intricacies of Grey Ranks mid-session.

If some generous and easy-going people appear, hang on to them. You'll need their energy when people start complaining - the complainers are hard work. 'It's Sunday evening and my only choices are Mouse Guard and Hot War? Waaah'.

Your slots might have to be flexible. If you run out of players due to everyone going to lunch, perhaps it's better to run two demos of something rather than a solid 4 hour session of something else. That way, if people arrive later they can join in sooner. Hard to say, and that'll vary depending on the size of the con and how appealing the table is.

Make the table appealing. Learn names, pay attention to visitors, offer some books for others to skim. Shake hands. Say hi. At many cons, you'll be unique. :p

Allow visitors and onlookers. I had a bad experience with a GM in a previous con who was rude to a young kid who wanted to watch. The kid never came back. With short demos where the object is just to hook people with a few scenes of Contenders, say, do allow other people to look in. I've had players join who thought indie games were a whole other hobby, so sometimes all they need to do is listen in. It helps that indie games bring the awesome _quickly_, and player empowerment gets everyone chuckling.

All the suggested games are good. I'd emphasise PTA and Contenders and add Zombie Cinema.

Posted by: Per Fischer On: Sep 14th 2010

I can only add bits and pieces to the already good stuff that's already been said.

I'm not sure what the difference between GoD and Indie Games Track is, except perhaps that under IGT we pre-plan which games are running when, so people can sign up. I like the flexibility of GoD, but the bitch is that the people responsible each have to prepare a shitload of games (I did 8 once - way, way too much), most of which are never going to be played anyway.

So, agree among you who are preparing which games to have a range of different games on offer. Be aware of "trends" - so if I was doing it soon, I'd include Apocalypse World and Remember Tomorrow fx. If you have a chance to get a feeling for what people are looking to try out, take it!

Some games have really really solid demo adventures - Burning Wheel, Burning Empires and Mouse Guard spring to mind, including some CE games I believe. I recommend using those, makes life a lot easier.

Oh, and remember that it's the con visitors who are demanding games, not you, so if you do offer a game be prepared to run it with gusto and conviction.


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