This is my final Origins post - what a relief, right? Keep reading for my list of events to avoid and why, along with a review of events that are well run and a few tips on the Origins staff attitudes and standard operating procedure.
Avoid Dealing with GAMA
Origins Game Fair is managed and partially staffed by The Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA). The staff that the common patron interacts with most often is an all-volunteer staff that are in it for the freebies. I don't blame them for this, but there is little to no staff training and a lot of pressure from conventioneers who have been waiting in line since last August for the privilege of buying a single ticket to one event that may sell out at any second, and the clerk is having trouble finding the event on the laptop screen.
The software that Origins runs on is so poorly designed that it could be used in any university I.S. class as an example of what not to do. This poor design means that the customer gets poor service from the clerical staff, none of whom have the authority to make any decisions. That's left to the lordly management that are comfortably reclining somewhere up in the stratosphere, far removed from the great unwashed.
In order to get around this situation, preregister for the convention and for as many events as possible. Buy generic tokens and use them, then come to grips with the cold, hard fact that even if you luck out and find a clerical worker who is willing to help you along, he'll be prevented from doing so by the computer system and by his immediate supervisor. Good luck to you.
Avoid Game Base 7
In theory anyone or any gaming group can volunteer to run a tournament or a single event at Origins, but in practicality GAMA only allows those groups that they are familiar with to run events. One such group is Game Base 7 (GB7), and I'm here to tell you that they do the poorest job imaginable with any event they run. If you see an event is being run by GB7, avoid it. Go spend your money elsewhere.
The typical GB7 event works something like this. You'll report to the designated table for your event and eventually someone from GB7 will deign to show up. A copy of the game will be tossed on the table and the GB7 game master will leave. That's it. No one will run the game or ensure all the pieces of the game are actually in the box. The rules won't be taught, and there will be no help for beginning players. If the game is part of a tournament, the game master may walk past the table a few times but won't bother to check on the play until the game is over, as actually doing their job is too much of an imposition.
Again, no matter how much you'd like to play in a given event or tournament, if GB7 is involved you should take a pass. You'll be disappointed, and you could have spent your time doing something enjoyable.
Seek Out Rogue Judges
Another group that runs events at Origins is Rogue Judges, and I'll be happy to give them credit for an excellent job. The members are well-versed in the games that they are running and they work hard to provide an enjoyable experience. The game master will set the game up and make sure no pieces are missing, will actually run the game and clarify the rules, and will teach the game and help beginning players. If you see Rogue Judges running an event, you may rest assured that the event will be run correctly and the players will enjoy it.
If you see Rogue Judges involved, the event will be a good one.
Seek Out The Boardroom
Some of the most enjoyable gaming you'll have during the convention will be in the boardroom. Buy a boardroom ribbon for unlimited access to the room and just walk around until you see something you'd like to play. Any group looking for players will set out an orange traffic cone. We played several events in the boardroom and had a great time.
If GAMA wanted to provide a better experience for the conventioneers, they could easily do so. They won't improve because they don't care. They're making money off the convention now and that's all they care about. That and being able to strut around wearing the coveted GAMA management badge, that is. They designed the entire convention system around the convenience of the management, not the conventioneer. Case in point, just getting rid of GB7 would provide a major improvement, but they're too fat and happy to do even that.
I'll probably attend Origins again, but only because Big Mike is in Columbus and he'll very likely attend as well. Attendance gives me an excuse to impose on Mike and partake of his stellar hospitality, which I never fail to enjoy. If not for that, I'd pass on Origins.