To end my series of posts on Intercon O, I wanted to share a few of the non-LARP, non-panel/presentation/workshop things happening at the convention. (Just in time for the post Intercon O/first Intercon P meeting this Sunday.)
As I briefly mentioned in previous posts, on Thursday night, I hung out with a small crowd in one of the suites after the last PreCon panels had ended. On Friday evening, I chatted and danced with other Interconners in a function room lit with black lights where a very well decorated cyberpunk LARP had just run, before heading off to a party in a hotel suite. On Saturday night, I stopped by the Intercon party with the intention of dancing a few dances and heading off to another room party, but the music was so good and over by the water, the conversation was flowing, so I ended up hanging around there until ridiculous-o’ clock in the morning.
And on Sunday, after con wrap, I went to dinner with a small crowd, then back to the hotel to hang out in hotel suites. There’s a small group of veteran Interconners who do this post-Intercon hanging out every year. This was my first year sticking around after con wrap. It’s a much better way to close out the weekend, I think, and I’m planning to stick around on Sunday at future Intercons as well. I had some excellent conversations about the LARPs we had played and the current state and future of Intercon, on some of which I’ve made some notes to mention at this Sunday’s concom meeting.
I think the blacklight party was a really cool idea and I’m very grateful to the GMs who hosted it and kept it going even though attendance seemed low. We’ve never done this before, so it’s not as though we had previous experiences on which to base attendance expectations. But I can say for certain that the attendance for the LARP dance on Saturday night — for which we put out a dance floor and have a DJ — has dropped significantly over the past few years.
I can’t complain too much, I suppose — because there were so few people attending (maybe two when I first arrived, around six for most of the time I was there, and maybe 15 at its busiest), when I requested swing music, I promptly got five or six of my favorite swing songs in a row. (Wore me out!) Whatever my requests, the DJ played them right away.
On the other hand, there were a lot of people attending their first Intercon ever (and plenty more who still think of themselves as newbies to the community) and there really isn’t much general socializing in the common spaces to be had at night at Intercon. Almost everyone who is still awake at those hours are in suite parties, which I do love attending, but they are frequently invite-only, and even if they are open to anyone, it’s not easy for newbies to find them or feel welcome at them. The Intercon party is the open event that everyone knows about, and it’s dwindling.
I worry this makes Intercon less newbie friendly than it used to be. One theory I’ve heard for this shrinking is that the suite parties became much more popular as of Intercon K, where we tried a new hotel. The Westin in Waltham failed to notify us of the laws regarding noise levels at night — in order to throw the Intercon party, we would have had to obtain a permit from the city. By the time we found out, it was too late to obtain one, so the Intercon party was cancelled altogether. (Quite frankly, I place the blame for this squarely on the Westin’s shoulders.) People threw hotel room parties instead, which proved to be quite popular, and the numbers for the Intercon party haven’t recovered since.
I think, despite the low levels of interest in the dance, it’s still worth trying to keep around, if only to have a purely social event open to the entire con. The question is, is there a way to make it more inviting and fun so that newbies feel encouraged to enjoy it, and feel like part of the community when they do?
I’ve talked it over with a number of people at various points — most people seem to think there’s no way to make it as popular as suite parties because it can’t involve alcohol. Hotel regulations make it prohibitively expensive (we would need to hire a certified bartender from the hotel), and by contrast, people hosting suite parties offer drinks for free.
We also can no longer really match suite parties for snacks offered. In past years, we’ve had a remarkably generous deal for food with the Radisson Hotel. That is, they’ve let us cater the entire on our own, and we accomplish this through volunteers. This has allowed us to make Intercon a remarkably low cost convention to attend — not only is it much cheaper than most hotel based cons, it also provides meals to con goers. Most hotels will insist that you use their catering, which is where much of their profit for weekend conventions comes from. This year, the Radisson is under new management that no longer wants us to provide our own food, so we worked out a deal where we gave them our food budget (and then some) and they catered the convention. The results were, sadly, a much poorer selection of snacks in con suite. I’m not sure if this can be remedied for the future. (We do have a snow cone machine, though, which has proved popular in at the Intercon party in the past.)
After that, there are other issues to consider (should we turn the music down to make it easier to converse in there? Or turn it up and include colored lighting so that people passing by can tell there’s something fun going on inside? Is there a way to produce more comfortable seating?) If we learned anything from the cyberpunk atmosphere from Friday night’s party, it’s that a themed atmosphere can be fun, but it’s unlikely to be enough to overcome the appeal of suite parties. Con com even asked the hosts of the biggest suite party to start a bit later than usual so that people might consider dropping by the dance party after their last game… which the hosts graciously agreed to, but as far as I know, it didn’t have much of an impact.
Maybe the dance is a lost cause, but I hope the next time it comes up at a con meeting, we’ll have more ideas. In the meantime, I’m still going to pack a dress and heels to dance in.
On a brighter note: the one person who attended my “Make Your Own Banner” workshop recently sent me a picture of another banner he has made for a LARP using the method I went over in the workshop. (He also has plans to make more.)
I think it came out really well! Maybe with the leftover supplies, I can rerun this workshop at one of the Bubble weekends at RPI.