Intercon New England is pretty much the biggest LARPing event of the year for me, so it’s not terribly surprising that I put a little too much thought into game selection process. Intercon has, in general, 5 time slots- Friday afternoon, Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, Saturday Evening, and Sunday morning, each with around 6-10 LARPs to pick from. Every year, around November, Intercon opens its website to allow players to sign up for games in a staggered fashion. Players who have paid for membership to the con can sign up for one game when sign-ups open, a second game a week later, and as many as they like in the third week. This guarantees all con-goers they’ll get into at least one or two of their top choices for LARPs.
It introduces an interesting puzzle. What do you sign up for first? Second? Do you sign up for the LARP you want to play the most? Or the one that’s most likely to fill? Or the one that is the only one in its time slot that really interests you? There’s some very interesting gaming theory going on there. I’m amused and relieved and kind of gratified to know I’m not the only one who puts a ton of thought into this. There are LARPers out there with spread sheets. And that’s awesome.
One thing I’ve noticed people do is that they sign up for their top choice, then watch to see if one of their other choices fill. They might drop one game and sign up for another that seems to be filling faster.
Which creates a snowball effect. Any game that seems to be filling will get more people to sign up to avoid being shut out. It seems to me there’s a reasonable chance that whatever happens to be the choices of the people who sign up first- that is, the people who have their hands on the button, waiting for sign ups to open (like me!) influence which games seem to be filling first, which causes others to pick them earlier in the process.
In other words, if the first people signing up happen to choose LARP A, then LARP A will appear to be filling, and anyone who wants to play will be more inclined to make it one of their earlier choices. And from that, we can conclude that there’s an element of chance affecting which games seem to fill super fast and which don’t.
But I noticed GMs like to watch the sign ups and see if their games fill fast. It seems to be a mark of pride if people are willing to spend on of their precious limited first or second week choices on their games over others. And, conversely, it seems to be a point of stress or disappointment if their games don’t fill.
This seems kind of a pity to me. Which games fill first isn’t really an accurate representation of which GMs/LARP writers are most popular- as I said above, it’s influenced by what games happened to be picked by the first con-goers to sign up. It’s also heavily influenced by other factors, like what LARPs any given game happens to be running against, too. An excellent LARP running in the same time slot as other popular LARPs won’t fill as fast as a mediocre LARP running against games that are even less popular. And let’s not forget factors such as what happens to have run before or is likely to run again (which are less likely to fill, because players know there will be other chances.)
Not to mention size! The first games to fill have only 14 and 11 slots, while tons of other LARPs are over 20 or 30 players. And I can’t help but notice that even our con-chair this year publicly congratulated the GMs of those two games on the con website. I don’t mean to begrudge anyone pride or enjoyment in their LARPs filling fast, but I also hate to see GMs stressing out about their games taking longer to fill.
So here’s my message to people watching the LARPs fill- don’t stress. Some of my favorite games never filled to maximum capacity. In fact, one of my favorite LARPs has failed to fill to minimum capacity before game start and still was amazingly successful.
Intercon this year is going to be amazing. So many fantastic choices. My top choice just happened to be popular. But some of my other top choices don’t have a single sign up yet. Give it a week or two. They will soon.