Monday, May 16, 2016

Chupacabra Con - Recap

Swordfish Islands at Chupacabra Con 2016 - A Recap

The Good Things:
People said some very nice things about Hot Springs Island, the highlights being: About The Dark of Hot Springs Island (The GM book) "I've never been so excited about a book I can't have". About the Field Guide (paraphrased) "[The Game Master at my table] said your book was the best $20 he's spent at this convention and that I needed to buy a copy too, so tell me about your game."

If people would give me 10 seconds, they'd almost always end up giving me several minutes of their time, and probably money or at least an email address. They also appeared to be legitimately enthused when they walked away, or at least more animated.

The Bad Things:
Chupacabra Con has an innate hierarchy. Attendees -> Vendors -> Guests -> VIPs (and it may actually be that Guests are the top of the food chain). Ostensibly these distinctions are not inherently bad, but here's an example of how it plays out. On Friday night, around dinner time a staff member of the convention began walking from vendor table to vendor table, or so it seemed. I couldn't tell what they were doing 'till they got to the table immediately to my left. Then I could clearly hear them ask the vendor how things were going, if they needed anything, and then offer them water and snacks. The staffer then walked directly past my table, without even looking at me, to the next table, where they repeated the pleasantries. Feels bad man. On Saturday, the same thing happened, only the staffer passed me from right to left, and was going around to have people sign a shirt for the silent auction. At this point I realized that they were only going between Guests. These were literally the only interactions (non-interactions?) I had with staffers aside from signing in at the convention, and one "hey how's it going?" in passing. Is it a big deal? No. Did it feel like I'd paid for the privilege of being pseudo-shunned? Yes.

Possible solutions: There were only about 20 vendor tables, and you can buy packs of water and snacks in 24 packs. Why not just offer it to everyone? If that's too much to ask, why not arrange the vendor tables in such a way that guest vendors and paid vendors on opposite sides of the hall, instead of interspersed?

The Terrible, Horrible Thing I'm Ashamed Of.
While at the convention, I saw a young artist approach the creator of a million dollar kickstarter and _I think_ (but am not 100% sure) to check out the portfolio of work she was holding. I wasn't paying attention to the conversation until I heard Mr. Kickstarter saying (paraphrased) that if he looked at an artist's resume and saw that they did small amounts of work for lots of different people that he would assume they were a bad and/or difficult to work with artist. A good artist should be called on repeatedly by the same clients. There's nothing inherently wrong with this but it made my ears perk up because of the finality(?) of the statements. Over in the DIY pits, I see freelancers doing work for many different people, constantly, because no one has the budget to pay for an artist repeatedly. So someone good, in a year, could do work for many different people _because that's where the money is_, and not because they're a bad artist, or difficult to work with.

Mr. Kickstarter then asked the artist if she knew who Alphonse Mucha was. She didn't , and he said "Alphonse Mucha _invented_ art noveau, but he didn't do art. He did advertisements." And then I started feeling ill as all of Mucha's beautiful work was dismissed as just "coke ads", to build up to the whole point of the conversation being: "As an artist you give the people what they want because they're paying you for it."

And I did nothing. I sat there, a lame ass eavesdropper, and felt sick, and pulled up the wikipedia article on Mucha because I was pretty sure he wasn't just an "ad man", but wasn't fully confident, and didn't want to interject on a million dollar earning authority without all my ducks in a row. So I was a coward, and I still feel awful.

I should have stood up and said "Hold on guys. The stuff about Mucha is bullshit, and there is another way. The artist does _NOT_ have to be subservient to the writer/creator. It can be a collaboration. In fact, a collaboration between an artist and creator from the beginning is where you can get your strongest stuff. Form a feedback loop. Be equal partners. A writer can allow themselves to be pushed into strange and wonderful new directions by the art they receive, instead of saying "this is beautiful, but not what I wanted so here's your $10 kill fee." And I could have fought a fight that needs fighting.

But I doubted myself, and the thing I was making, and the system I believe in, and said nothing. And they went to lunch. And all I did was publicly overshare on the internet.


  1. Feel free to turn that paraphrase into a full blown quote! Guys, I was blown away by your book and I cannot wait to back this bad boy on kickstarter! To anyone reading this comment the upcoming The Dark of Hot springs Island, is the spiritual successor to books like A Pirates Guide to Freeport by Green Ronin Press. This is a fantastic SYSTEM NEUTRAL, guide that can be played in ANY game system from Dungeons and Dragons all the way to Fate. The quest hooks and (completely optional) randomization of events tables are a lot of fun. Each area feels very real and the factions aren't necessarily good or evil, they just want different things. I can't stress enough if you like pirates, tropical islands, and exploration make this the kickstarter you back.

  2. This is not the first time that a total asshole has made a lot of money, and it won't be the last. It also isn't the first or last time an asshole who made money bloviates.

    It was probably wise of you not to waste your breath on Mr. Kickstarter, who probably would have taken the opportunity to be even more obnoxious.

    I am glad you've said what you wanted to say now, on your blog.

    And there's always next time.