Why Con games sometimes fail

So yesterday I got into a conversation with gspearing about some feedback he’d gotten about a game he ran at Concrete Cow. Evilgaz had talked about his experiences in that game and concluded it scored 7/10. From him, that’s a decent score. Some posters took issue with the film review style of Gaz’ opinion. They also thought it was taking gaming a little too seriously.
I disagreed.
Today I see a thread on RPGnet about worst Con games ever, and it reinforces my opinions. A decent sized proportion of Con games are dreadful. Really bad. So I think it helps to look at what went wrong in these games so that I can avoid making the same mistakes myself. Of course, you need a fairly thick skin to take feedback, its not comfortable. However, if it leads to better games, then isn’t that worth it?



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8 responses to “Why Con games sometimes fail

  1. I piled into the discussion in a supportive sort ‘don’t let the bastards grind you down’ (not that I think Gaz is a Bastard by the way, more off a cute and cuddly Psychopath who’s firmly on our side) since two really experienced and classy GMs where appearing shaken by the idea that they could scored by their mates in such a way.

    I’ve got more ideas on this, but I think it merits a post of its own on on my blog. Quality control in Con GMing is something that’s always on my mind, even more so now that I have the Room D101 demo team.

    Perhaps its time to have a dedicated UK GMs forum/website and thrash some of these issue out, in a fun sort of distinctly British sort of way.

  2. Seen it and linked it (http://bhctroop.ukrpgblogs.net/)

    But I was thinking more a shared resource rather than the work of just one group.

    • I actually think scoring the game is not bad, but it needs to be all players, it needs to be anonymous and it needs to be private. It also probably needs far more granularity than a score from 10. For example since different GMs and players have different expectations then it would need be more like an assessment or categorisation.

      Maybe a series of statements and agreement levels?

      1: Was the game paced fast or slow: fast/slow
      2: Was the game GM or player led: GM/player

      and so on..

      • That would be like turning it into a game of its own! No!

        I’m not looking for a national standard, in the same way that you don’t see all newspapers review films or books the same way. I don’t agree with private/anonymous either I’m afraid, that’s not how reviews work is it? Fine for your home game, but Cons are ‘public’ and so should be opinions if that’s what the reviewer wants. None of this replaces a chat at the bar post game, it simply adds to the good GMing vibe.

      • Baz

        Many roleplayers are borderline or even fully socially dysfunctional.
        Roleplayers vary greatly in their views of what is a good game.
        It is rare for people to be paid for this.
        Egos are either big or fragile amongst gamers
        Lots of rpg games in people’s houses are pretty weak, but people enjoy meeting and interacting.

        I like the positive attitude that you and Evil One have about giving good GM advice, I even agree with most of it, but frankly some people just can’t take that much gung-ho frankness.

        If it was work then fine, but this is for fun, and often the fun isn’t actually coming from where you think it is..


      • Good points all Tom. Something for me to think about there.

        You may not know, but I worked in the ‘industry’ for 10 years and one of my roles was to drive quality in demo games. I’ve taken those lessons with me into my personal gaming life, where I’ve met with a lot of success. Because I see Cons as a half way house between home gaming and pro gaming (you know what I mean) then I probably push too hard to get standards raised. It may be that gamers don’t want to change, yet I still see complaints, and I still see poor gaming.

        Out of sheer courtesy I ask GMs if it’s ok for me to give feedback, privately or publically. If the answer is ‘no’ then that’s an end to it. No one has ever said ‘no’ so far.

        I’d also like to point out that I personally like to ‘catch’ GMs doing something well. My reviews are generally positive because I want to encourage good GMing.

        Anyway, thanks for the advice, it’s all sinking in!

      • Hello Baz,

        Rather than clog up your comments section, I’ve posted my fuller thoughts on convention GM peer reviewing and its efficacy in improving quality on my journal. Stop by!


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