Organizing a gaming event, and the resulting woes - a longish rant

Nov 11, 2013

There is a thriving community of gamers here in Brazil. We have some virtual venues for fraternizing, especially at a mailing list called BG-BR and at a gaming site called Ilha do Tabuleiro, besides a host of blogs, fan sites, local gaming groups, and some gaming businesses. Several local gaming events are organized almost every week in many cities and towns.

However, we don’t have a national con on the lines of BGG.Con or the other big conventions. There has been some talk on organizing such an event in the past, but nothing concrete ever came out of it. Boardgames have been present in the national RPG events, but (obviously) they weren’t the main focus.

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Now, I have been part of the gaming scene since the late 1970s, and something I always loved to do was to bring new people to the hobby. When I was a student at University of Brasilia in the 1980s, several times I pasted signs on the walls calling for people interested in games. I’m proud to say that many of the people I found are still playing, and I found some very good friends this way. I’m also proud of belonging to one of the oldest Brazilian gaming groups still active, Confraria Lúdica (founded in 1979).

In the ensuing years, I have endeavored to continue bringing new people to games. While I lived in Brasilia, I organized several small gaming events, usually at my home, always open to whoever wanted to come.

When I moved to Curitiba in late 2009, I immediately started to spread the word. There were some sparse gamers in the city at the time, but almost no contact between them. I managed to get many people interested in playing games, and through one of my websites I offered them a place to meet. Soon I helped organize a city-wide event (Curitiba Lúdica), which has seen several edition so far.

So I decided to take the next step. In January this year I posted a message to the BG-BR mailing list asking if there would be interest in a gaming event to happen in a rural hotel here in Curitiba. The idea was to book the hotel for one weekend, and to book a room for the games.

There were several enthusiastic responses from all over Brazil. This motivated me, and I began researching hotels. When I found a suitable one, I booked it for the April 26th-April 28th weekend; I created a website with the information for the event (Retiro Lúdico) and people started registering.

The initial response to my query had been enthusiastic. The response to the actual event was lukewarm. Many people complained that they didn’t want to travel for just two days of gaming, and that the event should be longer. Other complained about the cost — surprisingly, many of these were local gamers. Oh well. Can’t please everyone.

The event took place as scheduled and it was a success. We had 45 gamers, some from Curitiba, most from other cities. We had players coming from Brasília, Natal, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Pelotas. And we all had great fun.

At the closing of the event, I presented a questionnaire to the participants, asking for feedback and asking for suggestions for the next one. Many of the responses asked for a longer event.

Right. In the following weeks, I consulted the hotel management and we decided to book the hotel for the second edition of the Retiro, but this time on a long weekend. November 15th is a national holiday in Brazil, and this year it falls on a Friday, so I set this as the date for the 2nd Retiro, and I started to spread the word. The one sour note was that the costs were much higher, due to the higher demand for rooms in long weekends.

If the response to the first event was lukewarm, the response to the second one was underwhelming. Most of the original, enthusiastic supporters of the idea simply ignored it. Many complained about the higher costs. Some of these ones asked for participating in the event for only one day (“day use”), in order to lower the costs; I managed to get the hotel to allow it, but even so almost no one booked even one day.

The event is set to happen in four days time. I have no doubt that the few participants, me included, will have great fun. But it will be a pale shadow of the first event.

Next year will be a tough one for an event like this. Since Brazil will host the World Cup, hotel prices will skyrocket. I don’t know if it will be feasible to have the 3rd Retiro in the first semester, which is what I would like to do. Let’s see.

Why have I ranted about this? Because I would like to hear from other people who may have had similar experiences. Has this happened in other places? How did you manage it?

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Luiz Cláudio S. Duarte

Game studies, ludology, rules, writing, playing, photos, polymathia, philomathia.