Saturday, October 16, 2010

Guest Blog Post - Show “that guy” the door … by Doug Daulton from Neoncon

Doug Daulton of Neoncon in Las Vegas, NV was kind enough to write a guest blog post for us here at In The Mind of a Mad Man, about an issue that anyone who has gone to a convention can relate. Hope you enjoy!

In 2009, NEONCON invited our first wave of industry guests.  By all accounts, they had a great time and our audience enjoyed having them there, both as fans and as their students at GamesU (now named CreativeU). Of all of the comments I received from the pros and the fans, one really stands out. It goes something like this:

“Thank you for telling people to take a shower and act like grown ups.”

Specifically, they were referring to the following sections of the “Guidelines for Fun” printed in our show book.

Personal Hygiene

We recognize cons are an opportunity to play long into the night. But please, maintain your personal hygiene. Nobody likes to sit next to someone who hasn’t showered in a couple of days.

Ethics and Conduct

Stealing, cheating, lawbreaking, rowdiness, harassment, or failure to conduct yourself in a mature manner will be grounds for removal from the convention without refund.

Four years ago, before launching NEONCON, I might have thought such statements unnecessary and found it strange to receive those comments (and high fives) from pros and fan alike. Sadly, I was mistaken.

You see, conventions can bring out the worst people as well as the worst in otherwise good people. Before I go on, I must be clear that 99.99% of our attendees were perfectly nice, well groomed and well mannered. However, there is always “that guy”.

You know him. He does not sleep the entire show. Instead, he games 24/7.  If he does sleep, it is generally at the table, forcing other players to wake him up to take his turn. In his mind, because he does not think he needs sleep, he likewise thinks he doesn’t need a room with a bed, either. As a result, he usually doesn’t even bother to get a hotel at the show.

In most cases, no hotel means no shower and no toothbrush. By Day Three, you can see the Cheeto crumbs in his five o’clock shadow and smell the onions from the hoagie he ate on Day One. And, he seems to feel Mountain Dew is a suitable replacement for mouthwash. 

Then, you have the bad behavior. Folks who make the choices described above generally don’t make the best choices about how to interact with other people.  When rulings don’t go their way, they often react like angry, petulant children. Tantrums … fueled by sleep deprivation, malnutrition and years of having this behavior indulged … are more common than any one would like to admit.

At NEONCON, these shenanigans are easily handled. I run the show like a house party for 1,000 of my closest friends.  If you interrupt the party with bad hygiene or bad behavior, you are politely shown the door. And, even though our guest policy says I don’t have to give you a refund, I generally do any way.  Why?  Because, some one has to show these knuckleheads how grown ups behave.

Bigger shows and those run by committee cannot always be as blunt or decisive about this sort of policy. I understand. And, I also know that, when they read this, some of my team will scold me for being too honest, especially three weeks in front of our show.  The problem is, this sort of behavior is tantamount to bullying and I never could tolerate a bully.

More to the point, our policy reflects a sound business decision.  We believe that, by building a reputation for ensuring a good experience for the majority of our patrons, we ensure that our patronage grows over time. “That guy” and his friends may be unwashed, but they are the minority, not the masses.

Still, though in the minority, “that guy” has a profound impact on the hobby games industry and the fans that support it.  Unfortunately, he is, more often than not, the face of the “gamer”.  As such, he shapes public opinion about the rest of us. In short, “that guy” gives us all, professionals and fans alike, a bad reputation. Instead of being seen as creative, clever and quirky, we gamers are labeled as weird, odd or misanthropic.

In 2010, hobby games have enough trouble fending off console/computer games, cable TV and the Internet for the attention of the market and fan base.  Can we really afford to be forced to fight misperceptions of the community based on the poor behavior of a minority of its members?

No. We cannot. Everyone, professionals and fans alike, needs to show these sort of disruptive malcontents that this sort of behavior is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated. 

So, I will try to gently correct “that guy,” but if he fails to take the hint, I’ll show him the door. And, if you are “that guy”, try to take the criticism in the way it was intended (to help EVERYONE have a good time) and then try to change your behavior. And if you can’t handle that, then just grow up. If you do, I’ll let you back into the party next year.

Once again thanks to Doug for his great post and if you are near Las Vegas go check out Neoncon!  Talk to you later...