Let's start with a couple baseline statements:
Again, this isn't anything even being considered for 2016, but more of a question that has tickled the back of my mind for a while and when I started pondering some "obvious" adjustments, it led me down a rabbit hole that I thought I'd invite y'all into.
So, if we were to change up event types, what would be some good ways to do it, both big and small?
In some cases, simply renaming a category might be useful or sufficient. In others, categories could be merged or broken up into smaller categories.
And, just to be clear, I don't think we will ever get to a 100% rigid event type list. Some unique events will always pop up that straddle the lines between event type categories, so I'm not worried about getting a perfect taxonomy.
To my mind, the point of event type categories are to help attendees find the events they want to attend - and to discover new events they might be interested in. Event types help players to know what to expect and to trim the list of possible events down into more manageable chunks, so it's not quite so overwhelming.
With that in mind:
There are a number of specific questions or potential changes, and I'd love to hear everyonee's thoughts on other possible ideas or approaches. I really want to know how people use event types, and what changes they think might be useful to general attendees.
What even is an event type?
So these are thoughts and questions, not necessarily agendas or decisions. I'm very curious how valuable everyone finds the current event types, and how they might remix them to be a bit more useful - particularly which ones might be easily combined or ones that need to be broken up.
Remember: nothing is going to change in 2016 and ultimately maybe nothing will change at all, but I wanted to have the discussion to get some other perspectives and see if there is something worth digging into further. I fully expect some ideas may not be feasible, but some things might be relatively easy to implement and others could be set up as goals a year or two down the road.
So. Now that I've finally gotten that out of my brain - anyone have any thoughts?
Thanks in advance for the input & contributions.
Gen Con LLC
How many event types? 2006 had, if I counted correctly, 19 categories. That's feeling on the high end. If there were some clear benefits, I could see adding a few more, but not many. A little bit of pruning might be nice, but I'm hesitant (more on that).
How many events per type? In a perfect world, less than 1,000. But given that we've got a lot of types already, it doesn't seem practical. 300 is a pretty comfortable number for skimming all of them, but that seems completely impractical. So perhaps break up the worst offenders (BGM and maybe RPG) and live with the rest.
To my mind one of the biggest advantages to the types is that I can skip over ones that are highly unlikely to have events I'll enjoy. So in a handwavy way, what large sub-groupings of events are there that attendees will be uninterested in.
I've been out of miniatures wargaming for a long time, but my perception is that there are large contingents of NMN and HMN that are actively disinterested in the other. Those probably need to stay separate.
MHE could be merged into other categories (probably mostly WKS?), but it's a comfortable size and reasonably well targeted. Were it to shrink down a lot, I'd folk it into othe categories.
Breaking up RPG seems tricky, but one suggestion: "Living" events (Living Greyhawk, Pathfinder Society) vs one-shot events. The living events require much more buy in. As a result people into it tend to seek it out, and people not into it tend to avoid it. The RPGA/RPG split always seemed unnatural to me. The part I cared more about was the living event. Beyond that I don't see a way to split things up that wouldn't be annoying with minimal benefit. So perhaps move RGPA back into RPG, then split out the living events? (LRPG? Probably too close to LARP. CRP - Campaign Role-Playing Game? Erm, wait, no, I now see the problem with that one...)
I'd love to see ZED thinned out, maybe even eliminated. It's such a grab bag, I don't tend to look into it, but there are things I'm interested in. I'd make a more aggressive effort to shoehorn things into other categories. Anything boardgamegeek.com would list is a board game, so 18xx, Ace of Aces, and Are You a Werewolf all move to BGM. Anything where you stand up is a LARP, so off go Foam Fighting Arena and the Escape Room. Two Room and a Boom and Amberden Affair are probably LARPs or BGMs. Games on Demand is overwhelmingly RPG. I'm interested in all of those things, and those are the categories I'd expect to find them in. The signings feel like ENT. The photo shoot, SPA.
Although it's small, I'm very much in favor of KID. It's incredibly strongly signalling "Yes, I intend to juggle a bunch of kids" in a way that's different from "I'm running an RPG, and if some kids show up, that's find." Today it's events I'm not interested in. But I know I'll be very interested in a few years.
I think SPA would benefit from new branding. The name caused me to overlook it, and that was a mistake. This is, in some ways, the real Island of Misfit Events, or even more accurately: Fun Stuff To Do That Clearly Isn't Game or Anime Related. Assuming FSTDTCIGOAR isn't an acceptable type, I have no idea how to rebrand it, but it feels like there is something better. (Maybe "FUN" as the code?) It would make it easier to scoot some of the ZED stuff over.
Finally, the 800-pound owlbear in the room, BGM. I have nothing. I can't think of a way to split them up that wouldn't mean I need to check out every sub-category. I will Boldly Assert With Only Anecdotal Evidence that people who think of themselves as boardgamers tend to enjoy a very wide variety of board games. Theme doesn't matter a lot (although lack of theme does a bit). Complexity matters only a little bit. Specific mechanics are too varied to be meaningful. Maybe you could break out "abstract board game" for stuff like Poker, Chess, Go, or Sheepshead, but I don't think that's a lot of events. For a subset of players, "eurogame" and "ameritrash" are meaningful distinctions, but will be cryptic to others (especially since eurogames don't need to come from Europe, nor ameritrash from America (Oh, and maybe "ameritrash" is a terrible type name)). One can roughly map eurogame/ameritrash to shallow theming/deep theming or abstracted/simulation heavy, but those are such incredibly crude mappings, with lots of entries on the edges.
I'm not quite sure who event types are intended to serve.
Are they a tool for people running an event to advertise / set expectations for what is on offer? Are they an internal tool used by GenCon staff to assign resources and the like? Are they a tool for potential players to find events they want to attend?
It seems like creating a rigid taxonomy that fits nicely into a spreadsheet / database and serves all three masters well is unlikely.
For finding & advertising things in other fields some kind of moderated tagging / folksonomy solution has worked. You would need some moderated process for creating new tags to prevent standard troll-style abuse. Then a GM could add some number of approved tags to her game (e.g. #RPG, #WorkerPlacement, #Diceless, #SciFi, #PreGennedCharacters, #PublishedModule, #DarkThemes). Would potential players be able to add or suggest tags? Seems like there could be some abuse of that, but also some benefit in terms of adding aspects of the game that the GM just assumed and didn't know people didn't care about (e.g. you forgot #Cooperative).
My apologies for the formatting; the forum software is horrible. :(
What even is an event type?
Sometimes these two come into conflict. You mentioned Hearthstone (a TCG on current devices) and I'll put up the similar M.U.L.E. (a BGM on old computers). There the convention organizers have to decide what to emphasize. I think forcing both into EGM is correct: Hearthstone has the requirement of a device (perhaps provided by the GM, most likely needing power and Internet) and a Battle.Net account, while M.U.L.E. needs a device (provided by the GM, most likely needing power). Both could create incorrect assumptions if placed into their non-electronic category. (I did that one year with M.U.L.E., which was a mistake on my part.)
For comparison, our local game convention (Con of the North) uses Board, Card, Computer, Miniatures, RPG, LARP, Seminar, and Special. There's also a few additions that can be applied to any game type, like Tournament, Collectible, or Kid-Friendly. (Sort of like the Tag suggestion, but only a few and the available ones are controlled by the organizers.)
How useful is a distinction between an event type and a "program/track"? Are there examples of other conventions that have both that work particularly well?
Once upon a time I did a large comparison of Con of the North to other conventions. Most were tabletop gaming cons of various sizes, but I did what I could to compare it to the gaming sections of some of the well-known large but non-tabletop cons like Dragon*Con and PAX (Prime). What I found was that despite CotN's attendance being two orders of magnitude smaller (500 to tens of thousands), CotN's scheduled gaming was slightly more than Dragon*Con's and larger than PAX's. It was an interesting anecdote, though not all that meaningful towards my comparison of event registration systems.
(Breaking up BGM or RPG.)
Do you need a board to be a board game? Are collectible games different enough to require their own category? ... Do BGM, CGM, and TCG need to be three separate categories?
This is one of the tougher distinctions, as it was made before we had collectible forms of other game types (miniatures) and before collectible-style games were converted back to single set games ("LCGs"). Personally, I'd merge BGM and CGM and leave TCG separate. I think this serves the concepts of "high-level sorting" and "high-level resource assignment" the best, but I could see squishing them all, creating a Collectible category, or creating Collectible forms of every category where appropriate.
Is a distinction between RPGA and RPG useful?
HMN & NMN vs general "wargames":
ANI vs FLM
The Isle of Misfit Events - ZED and Out-of-the-Blue Event Types
Again, I've never gone to one of these so I don't have much of an opinion about them.
Let me add and answer one question that might also be helpful:
How do you find events?
First I filter by Game System and add any events in favorite systems to my list of potentials. Then I add a few not-so-hard-to-get-into events as fallbacks; things I know I'll play but won't mind if I find other things instead. Then I start reading through my favorite event types to see if/what piques my interest.
Added: I do all of the above in Excel by downloading the events file, not by using any of the online systems.
Maybe RPG and BGM can be given sub-types on top of their main type, thus have two "types" each.
RPG can break down by era/genre, perhaps something like FAN = Fantasy, SUP = Superheroes, SPK = Steampunk, MOD = Modern, HOR = Horror, etc. with OTH = Other as a catch-all for anything that doesn't fit somewhere else. Oh, and NEW = New, for RPGs of all types being released and-or playtested at the Con.
Thus a D&D game would be RPG-FAN while a Call of Cthulhu game would be RPG-HOR, etc.; with the intent being that someone can search for 'RPG' and get all of them while someone else can search for 'SPK' and just get the steampunk-genre games.
BGM might similarly break down (perhaps arbitrarily) into TRA = Traditional (chess, monopoly, etc.), WAR = War-based (Risk, Diplomacy, A&A, etc.), FAM = Family (Catan, etc.; this would be the biggest sub-type), CRD = Card-based (Munchkin, etc.), and so on; with OTH and NEW as per RPGs; so again each BGM gets a sub-type as well e.g. BGM-FAM or BGM-TRA with both the type and sub-types independently searchable.
Another event type that could use a sub-type breakdown like this is SEM. PAN = Panel, WKS = Workshop, PRE = Presentation, BUS = Business advice, etc.; some way of thinning out the seminars - if WotC are running a D&D panel* I could then find it by searching PAN without having to wade through page after page of "learn to write" seminars.
* - pipe dream, I know, as WotC won't be there this year. :(
As for the other types: I find ZED to be useful as I know to look there for offbeat stuff; ditto ENT.
I will suggest one new event type: MAJ = Major Event. Things like the Stink, the Dance, the Costume Contest, Killer Breakfast, the Ennies, etc. would go here.
Part of the case for proliferation of event types is driven by shortcomings in the current registration system. The system doesn't support subtypes, doesn't allow multiple filters (multiple systems, for example) and doesn't support a "not" filter. Having tradeable and non-tradeable card games together would be OK if I could search for "not Magic: The Gathering" or "not subtype tradeable". Having the ability to apply multiple filters would be super-helpful in winnowing the list of events to a manageable number, so I could search Thursday RPG's of "(subtype=organized) and (system not Pathfinder)", for example.
I would agree that putting all the "living campaign" RPG's into a category separate from one-shot games makes sense. That would include RPGA, Pathfinder Society, Living Greyhawk, Shadowrun Missions, Guild of San Marcos, and so forth. Though one complication with including RPGA in a wider category is their requirement for you to purchase a membership in their club in order to play. I'm not aware of any other organized play that has that requirement.
I think breaking up RPG's by genre would be tricky. Some games would be hard to pigeonhole. For example, last year I played in a Tunnels & Trolls game (fantasy rules) set in the modern era that involved an element of horror too.
The distinction between board games and card games can get pretty tough too. I would think of Robo Rally as a boardgame, but cards are an integral part of the mechanics. Ascention has a board, but the board basically serves as a place to put the cards, so it feels more like a card game. And even among distinctly card games, there's a vast gulf between a bridge tournament and a game of Munchkin. Overall I agree that it would be nice to slice both BGM and CGM up a bit to make them easier to browse, but I haven't thought of a great way to do that. Subtypes could help a lot, the problem would be getting everyone to agree what subtypes to use, and applying them consistently so that every game in system X would show up in the same subtype.
I agree that keeping historical miniature games separate from non-historical games makes sense. I don't play either one but I get the sense that people who want to play Warhammer don't wish to wade through a bunch of Napoleonic games, and vice-versa. Keeping the MHE events separate from other workshops also makes sense to me. Miniature events might be a case where subcategories could help a lot. Have one Miniature category, with subtypes of historical, non-historical, and hobby.
I completely support Chaos' statement about keeping the KID designation.
Would it make sense to have an "Athletic" category to catch things like Foam Fighting Arena and Orc Stomp?
SPA events seem like a bit of a catch-all. Some of them are craft events that seem like they would fit under WKS, and some, like the tours, might fit under ENT. Dance lessons, Zumba, yoga and the like could fit under an "athletic" category. I understand that the intention of SPA events was to highlight things to do for family members of attendees who weren't gamers, but I think that could be served as well with a subtype if that were an option.
How do I search for events?
I search first by category. For RPG I filter by system. For BGM I use the Gencon Highprogrammer site to sort by system, then browse the entire list, since there are too systems that I might be willing to play to search them individually, and I might miss some interesting ones otherwise. Then I prioritize them on my wishlist based on a) how hard they are to get into and b) how badly I want to play them relative to other events in the same time slot.
You reminded me that I hadn't said I download the events files and use Excel to search them; I edited that into my post above. Once upon a time I imported them into an Access frontend I'd made to make the event descriptions easier to read, but that became too much work. :)
I like lanefan's breakdown.
RPG needs to be broken by Genre. High Fantasy would include D&D, Pathfinder, etc. Modern is present day. I think alternate reality would be a good 3rd type (eg: Steampunk, Shadowrun). Future could fall under alternate reality or as its own category (eg: Battletech: A Time of War)
Non-Historical Miniatures... uhg. Needs breakup as per lanefan.
Biggest beef is SPA. I hate the name "Spousal Activities". It implies that the spouse is a non-gamer. I think NGA would be better - Non-gaming Activities. It is wider, and allows for more events to be submitted. eg: Brewery tour, trip to the museum, massage.
Last year was my first GenCon, and I was a little overwhelmed looking at all of the events. I really appreciated having categories and being able to search. That being said, the search functions didn't always work out as I had intended, due to alternate spellings or other issues of that nature. I stumbled across a lot of great events, but I also know that I missed out on many others.
Many of the subcategories were ones I felt I could browse through easily and look at all of them: KIDS (please keep this separate; it helps for parents searching for kid-only events, as opposed to events that are for adults but accept kids), SEM, MHE, LARP. But when it came to RPG and Board Games, it was a nightmare. I agree that these need to be broken down somewhat.
Perhaps you could break these out into tournament and non-tournament events? Then people who are serious players and want to progress can search tournaments, while those who just want a casual 'one time try' can look at non-tournaments. Under RPGs, perhaps D&D/Pathrfinder can also have its own section.
To address some of those examples;
Tags are great in an online interface, but won't work as well in those environments. Tags also require a lot more development to deploy.
The same concerns also apply to subtypes and similar avenues: it needs to work well both online and in a much more static presentation.
I do think that it would be good to break up BGM and RPG as big examples, but splintering them into a dozen categories based on narrow themes doesn't seem particularly helpful - not only is it hard to predict what themes are really useful but we would end up with far too many event types to be manageable.
I'd like to dig into difference in gameplay and table exprience, not simply theme. Steampunk vs modern vs high-fantasy can be communicated easily enough via Game System or in the Title and Description. A more useful divide in RPGs would include things like organized play/living campaigns, story games/shared narrative/no GM, OSR/dungeon crawl, maybe even a broad category for d20 & derivatives.
Thanks for everyone's thoughts!
KID Event Type vs Age Requirement
We could either beef up Age Requirement & remove KID or keep KID & change Age Requirement into something more about potentially objectionable material - either a mature yes/no toggle or something that might indicate what kind of topics might be covered? I'm not sure how many people use that to filter their events.
Tournament As A Separate Event Type
Looking at the event data from 2015, here is how the numbers break down for tournaments by event type:
How many folks specifically join or avoid an event because it's marked as a tournament?
A Single Games Getting It's Own Event Type
For RPGs, this would be further complicated if we spun organized play/living campaigns off into their own event type, since that would soak up the majority of offiical events for D&D & Pathfinder, for example.
I think the one way I would suggest possibly breaking up RPGs would not be by genre, rules system, etc, but by how easy it is to jump in. I know that the one thing keeping me from signing up for RPG events frequently when I attend Gen Con is not knowing whether or not I need to already know the system or seeing something that looks easy enough but says "for people who already have a character," or something.
I don't know if that's actually a viable way to split it, but I think in general having a category of, say, "Introductory RPG" might help both those people who want to learn a new system in a low pressure environment / run or play a "tutorial" or level 0 adventure and those who are looking for family gaming or gaming with children.
Likewise, I love the idea of Organized Play becoming it's own category beyond just RPGA. Love love love it.
"Can I jump into this game without any prep?" is supposed to be what Materials Provided is for, and event organizers can use the description to go into details about what players will need to bring.
Is that unclear? Should it have more categories beyond Yes/No?
As for introductory, that's also covered by the Experience Required field - it calls out when rules will be taught to new players, and events are often submitted as "Intro to ____" - does that not feel robust or immediate enough when browsing/searching?
If either of those fields aren't working right, what could we add or change in them to improve them?
First, I agree that "RPGA" as a type shows its age, but I agree that a generic "organized play" event-type (whether for PFS, or whatever the next "living world" setting is) has value.
So let's assume for the moment that we separate away the PFS, et al, games into their own category.
At that point, how many "RPG" events are left?
My experience with RPGs seems to be that there are two main "sets" of folks (with admittedly some overlap, but not significant). "Folks who prefer D&D-lineage games" and "folks who play everything else".
By "D&D Lineage" I would include D&D, AD&D, The various "box" editions, D&D SRD, and Pathfinder. Any of the systems who lineage is directly linkable back to original D&D gaming (essentially).
Now, I know that there will be a response that this is an artificial delimiter, or that it preferences one RPG over another somehow, etc. All of which is true to a lesser or greater extent.
But - from a practical standpoint - it's a distinction that actually has value to many RPG folks. By putting all of that "family tree" together, it becomes easier for "D&D gamers" to find their games, and for folks who are of a non-D&D bent to not have their event type cluttered up with the 30-odd variants that they would need to exclude in looking for their non-D&D games.
I do avoid events marked tournament, for two reasons: First, I tend to register for games that I haven't played before at Gencon because there's such a great variety of new (to me) things to try, and I wouldn't expect anyone playing a tournament to take the time to teach a noob. Those folks are there looking for a competitive game against someone who understands the rules. Secondly, being in a tournament means that I would have to schedule around every session of the tournament even though I might be eliminated early, or double-book and be a no-show for another event if I do advance in the tournament.
I don't think that I ever noticed that the Age Requirement field had a "Kids Only (12 and Under)" value I thought that it was like movie ratings where adults can always see G rated movies. Interesting that there is a kids only value. I wonder how many people have the same misaprehension.
There is certainly some better education & communication that could be made regarding event variables, both to event organizers & attendees.
Some of the answer to some of these questions might be "What we have is fine, but we need to use it better."
"Experience Required" - "none, rules will be taught" is pretty obvious, and "expert" is also pretty obvious, but I've found "some" tends to encompass a huge swath of territory and could use some subdividing - maybe into "a little", "some", and "quite familiar" (or better words that mean the same things).
What specific options would you want in a universal drop-down? What is absolutely required - and broadly applicable?
There's also the question of how many RPGs really require all the players to bring dice, pencils, paper, or rule books? At least to the extent that you need to bring your own cards to a game of Magic or your own army for a Malifaux match? Those can be helpful, but they're varey rarely strictly required.
It's not often i saw something in the middle called out, but it naturally needed some middle ground between the two.
This was backed up when looking at how often people used the different gradients in the old system, which I believe had 5 tiers: either extreme was common, as was the middle. but levels 2 & 4 were pretty rare & arbitrary.
That certainly could have been due to how we phrased things, but that's the logic behind the current options.