I Love You GenCon. Please Stop Hitting Me.

Posted by Mike Provencher II in ,

As some of you may know, this year marks the second time our gaming group, The Viking National Guard, will be attending GenCon. In fact, last year was the first time any of us had ever made the trip to attend the convention, and we all had a blast. Labyrinthian has talked about some of the things that we did or saw last year, and if you stick around for long enough, eventually we’ll start telling you about the Lost GenCon Tales. But despite the great times I had last year, there was a darker side to the trip. Something that happened over a month before the actual trip that managed to cast a shadow over the entire ordeal: I never got my badge.

If you've never been to GenCon, the way registration works is that you order your badge sometime before May. You can get a couple bucks off if you do so in January, but I think last year we didn’t actually register for our badges until March. Sometime at the end of April or the very beginning of May you can start buying your tickets for the events you’d like to attend, be they seminars, table-top games, board games, or a number of other offerings. They start sending out badges in June and continue to send them out until mid-July. Last year I happen to know that they sent out the last shipment of badges on July 15th, because when I sent an e-mail to their customer service department on July 19th, that was the response I got. When I still hadn’t received my badge on July 24th, I sent them another e-mail, and was told that I had opted for USPS delivery, and since the USPS doesn’t offer tracking numbers on packages sent through them, there was nothing they could do about tracking the shipment, so they have to assume that everything they sent out was received successfully. They pointed out that since the badges aren’t personalized, any badge they print out will be active, and this prevents people from getting multiple badges sent to them and bringing their friends for free. They went on to say that I could buy a brand new badge for another $80 when I get to the Con, but there was nothing else they could do for me.

Now, I understand that they don’t want people to get into the Con for free. I can respect any decision that’s made for business reasons, but the fact of the matter is that this still doesn't excuse shitty business practices. Because I’m not the first person this happened to this year, and, in fact, it’s something that’s been happening for years. Years. If this was an unavoidable situation, I wouldn’t be angry about it, but it’s not. After finding out about the situation, I figured out a solution in about thirty-six seconds. Because the USPS actually DOES offer tracking number, it just costs $.75 per package. I’m going to say that again in a different way, just so everyone can be sure they read it correctly. The USPS will give you a tracking number for your package if you give them seventy-five cents. I had to pay over 100 times that amount just because GenCon couldn’t pony up three freaking quarters to make sure nobody has this problem!? And you know what? I’m more than willing to accept the cost of my badge going up a buck just to avoid the one in a thousand chance this doesn’t happen to me again, and I’m willing to bet just about everyone else feels the same.

By this point, you’re probably wondering why it took me almost a full year to complain about this. And that’s a valid question, but the truth is that I really did have a blast last year. I got to hang out with some of my close friends for a few days away from the daily grind, I got to meet some cool people, play some cool games, and just had the best vacation of my life. I was pissed going into the Con, but coming out I was more than willing to let the whole thing slide. So what happened between then and now to bring all of my bad feelings back to the surface? GenCon Event Registration 2011. Every year on the same day, thousands of people log onto the GenCon servers at the same to register for events. The way it worked last year was that everyone could manually register for each event individually, and if you could get your tickets into your shopping cart first, those tickets were reserved for you until you checked out. So if someone was running a Ghostbusters d6 game (a game that’s very underrated, but also extremely rare to find someone actually running), the person who got the tickets was the person who managed to get to them first. Kind of like shopping on Black Friday, only instead of 100 units of one item, there are often only six.

This year things worked a little differently. Instead of registering manually, you built up a “Wish List” containing all of the events you’d like to attend. When you set up your list you did so in order of priority, so the first item on your list was the event you most wanted to attend. It seemed like a great system until registration opened at noon this last Sunday. Our group had a meeting on Friday night that lasted almost six hours, figuring out how our Wish List should look, and when it was finally set up in a way that everyone was happy with we nominated The Professor to be the one to process it on Sunday. There was a grayed out box that said “process list” under our Wish List, and all he had to do was press that button at exactly 12 p.m. on Sunday morning. The problem came about when he actually pushed the button, because despite the fact that it was exactly noon when he set our Wish List to processing he was greeted with a message saying our list was 1269th in line. At first I assumed that they were going to go through and process the highest priority on each person’s list one by one before going back to the beginning and doing the same with the second highest item, but that wasn’t the case. Instead, they processed #1’s entire list before moving on to #2, then #3, then #4, and so on, until they got to all of the lists in the queue. I’ve heard that there were over 3000 lists in the queue at one point, but all I know for sure is that of all the events we tried to sign up for, we got almost none of them, and only one that was in our top ten. There was a guy on the GenCon forums who said out of the 50 events he signed up for, he only got into three.

Our group is having an emergency meeting tomorrow afternoon to try and figure out a way to patch up what was looking like an amazing trip, but why is it even necessary? We didn’t get into all of the events we wanted to last year, but at least we were able to get into the ones that we really wanted. I’ve heard people say that this year’s system was less stressful, and I can see how that’s true. Last year was a frantic dash around the site, trying to gobble up tickets to the events that we wanted, and this year we just let the system do the work for us. But I would much rather take the semi-stressful, completely frantic hour from last year over the less stressful, anger inducing experience from this year. As someone on the GenCon forum put it, “The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.”

The truth of the matter is that we’re still going to have a great time this year. Because in the end, the fun of GenCon is in the experience and memories, and everything else are just details. But as fun as the event itself is, should I be forced to get this angry and disappointed every year? I guess all I can do is fall back on the old proverb: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times? I’m going to Origins.”

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 04, 2011 at Wednesday, May 04, 2011 and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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