I don't know if this has come up before, but I propose that anyone who GMs a game should have "Gamemaster" printed on their badge. I don't mean they should get a free badge -- the EH policy currently refers to "complimentary GM badges", but they don't have to be the same thing. You should still need 70 player-hours of events to get a complimentary badge (*), but running a single game should result in an indication of that printed on your normal full-cost badge.
The first reason for this is that it's an incentive for people to run games. There was a thread a couple years ago looking for ways to convince people to run games -- adding some kind of recognition to their badge is about the simplest thing Gencon could do, while still being a nice perk. There could even be different iconography/terminology to distinguish people with 300 player-hours from people with 8, if that's a thing that people would find valuable. But right now people who run less than 70 player-hours get nothing, and this seems like a trivial thing to reward them with.
The second is so that players are less confused when they walk up to the table. Everyone on this forum realizes that it's not the case that only people with GM badges run games, but I think this confusion still exists amongst a lot of Gencon attendees. In two of my three games the first player to arrive walked up, looked right at my badge, and asked me if I was the first one there. Both times they seemed surprised when I said I was running the game, even though I was actively setting up the game board. After one of the games a player asked if I worked for the company who made the game, and in the resulting conversation it was clear that he had no idea people unaffiliated with gaming companies/groups ever ran games.
I don't really see a downside to this, but possibly I haven't thought of something? The general theory I've seen on the forums is independent GMs who don't have enough hours for a GM badge should find a gaming group to join, but I don't really want to leech off a group for a free badge -- if I'm going to get a free badge I'd like to earn it. It does feel like I've "earned" a GM badge though, I ran a non-zero number of games. I see little reason for these things to be coupled this way.
(*) I also think there's an argument to be made that either every player-hour should count towards 1/70th of your badge price, or player-hours should carry over from one year to the next so you can e.g. run 10 hours a year and get a free badge every 7 years, rather than there being a hard line at 70 hours. But that's a totally separate thing with a lot more potential for problems; I didn't want to get too sidetracked in this thread.
Unfortunately, this is not something that will be happening any time soon.
It's not a simple thing to either just add "Gamemaster" to badges or to accurately identify anyone who is a GM to have it added to their badge. Both would require fairly significant development time and we have many other priorities that should have a more concrete impact on show experience for a wider group of attendees.
We do have badge ribbons available for anyone running a game (whether or not that they have an explicit GM badge) if folks are particularly concerned about recognition.
We will also not be enacting partial or incremental reimbursement, at least not as a broad policy. The bar to get a GM badge is low enough that it is unlikely to be a significant hurdle for most folks.
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And just a note about gaming groups...they don't have to be all huge and formal. Create one with yourself and a couple people. Each person gm's the ten hours you mention...rotate each year who gets the free badge. So you keep track yourself!
Although it might be easier to make it eight hours...
FWIW, one year they did give many more people, even those without enough player-hours* for badge reimbursement, "badges with GM printed on them"...that they then had to pick up at GM HQ instead of with their Will Call stuff or being mailed out. Added an extra hour of standing in line to my Wednesday night and I was late to that evening's activities.
So yeah, a badge ribbon seems to be a good compromise for those who care. Otherwise, keep educating folks that anyone can run a scheduled event!
* Or perhaps badge points; it's been so long I don't remember which year it was exactly and the destruction of the old forums means I can't go look it up.
The only thing I would like to add to this is that it would be nice if GMs didn't have to wait until 5 PM on Wed to pick up their badges. Is there a logistical reason why it has always been coordinated like this (for the last few years I've been getting them).
On the normal to not quite GM Badge anecdote: I've only been an independent GM, so I've always paid for my badge in advance. I don't believe I ran enough for reimbursement that year, but I've been on both sides of that threshold in various years so I don't remember. In any case, it wasn't a GM Badge by the definitions of the Event Host Policy.
On being required to pick up GM Badges: It's because they were organized per-group and only the authorized person for the group was allowed to pick up their group's packet. That allows the group to handle things as they see fit and Gen Con to make sure someone in charge got them while also offloading some of the distribution work to the EOs. For a single-person "group" it's just another line.
On the GM booth/room hours: I believe that, in previous years, a shortage of trained personnel at a very busy time was the stated reason pickup hours haven't been expanded. It would be nice for EOs if it was, though.
For groups that have taken care of things early and (particularly) those that need their badges early for some reason (they'r doing Wednesday setup, etc.) you can email [email protected] to arrange for early pick-up. As long as your stuff is in order and you don't need to make any onsite changes, it's not usually a problem.
The easier you make it for them when registering your information the easier it is for the GM's :)
I'm a VIG and my wife is my companion. Last year, we attended Trade Day for the first time and were given VIG stickers to add to our Trade Day badges. Could something similar be done for GMs? A few rolls of GM stickers at GMHQ and a sticker given out when someone checks in to run their first game?
It is kind of similar to the ribbon I guess; I just thought it would look more formal as it goes right on the badge and is the same mechanism as the VIG sticker. Anyone can give out ribbons and a GM ribbon can get lost among the many (many, many, many) ribbons that some attendees accumulate.
Just an idea.
We have ribbons at GM HQ that folks can ask for, so basically the same idea.