Timeslots

We recently got done with Forge Midwest, and one of the common issues I saw was a lack of formal timeslots.

The last year or two, the scheduling has been done on a whiteboard, with a list of games, who’s running them, and a suggested time (typically something like “Friday evening” or even “whenever”) The idea was that people can throw their games out there, and you have to talk to people to set them up.  In practice the game events ended up being rather clique-ish, and disparity in timing expectations resulted in people sitting around waiting for people to show up and get back from dinner.

I remember a point though, when even the whiteboard with names of games on it was considered ‘too organized’ by some, functioning as some sort of nebulous tyrannical structure.  Maybe that worked when Forge Midwest was a lot smaller, but the con has increased greatly in size.

I want to stick with the Playcon roots and keep things casual, while providing enough of a structure that people can reasonably find games.  To that end, there will be no pre-con scheduling and signup of events: its okay to say you are bringing game X and want to run it at the con, and it’s even okay to say you’ll run it Friday or that you’d like to play in said game, but please no calling dibs.

There will certainly be no little con booklet with and event listings.

The timeslots are morning, afternoon, evening, and late nite.  The exact numbers need some looking at: what hours do people play anyways, given their druthers?  Something like 9-1, 2-7, 8-midnite, midnite-onward is probably best: if you want a longer dinner break, stop your afternoon game before 7.  People will be strongly encouraged to plan their games around these times.

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13 thoughts on “Timeslots

  1. I like these time slots in general, 8 is a mite early if you want a gamer to shower and eat breakfast. The only tweak I might suggest is to make the dinner break longer. Restaurants have longer serving times on Friday and Saturday nights in general, and we tend to eat in larger groups, so an hour might not be long enough.

  2. I actually think dinner with good company is one of the main attractions, as it’s a great time to have some good conversation, and should get 90 to 120 minutes of “slot.” Slide the morning and afternoon slots up an hour, and I think it will be just about right.

  3. I like the idea of time-slots and the ones you’ve chosen. I’ve found that hitting those start times, especially 9am, is critical. Sleep in a little too late, and you’ll be shifted far enough away from everyone else that you end up with a lot of dead time and participate in fewer games overall.

  4. So here’s the thing: Want to have a longer dinner? Make sure your afternoon game doesn’t run past 6. I get the whole big group dinner thing, but I’m here to game, not sit around and hang out.

    • I think the two hour dinner slot might be worthwhile just to get everyone on the same page scheduling-wise – it’s easier then that extra complication of ‘wait who’s having a long dinner’ to the second-slot discussions, or people(like me) unrealistically thinking dinner will only last an hour with ten people.

      Also, if 2-7 is dropped to 2-6, then everything is in these neat 4-hour chunks.

  5. Is this actually a problem? Did people have a worse time because they couldn’t get into games in which they wanted to play or something like that? Personally, I didn’t think there happened to be a lot up on the whiteboard that really hooked me, so I was content to play it by ear. That ended up in some clique-ish-ness, but I don’t see an alternative in the absence of games I’m dying to play or run. Last year, there happened to be more interesting stuff, and, what do you know, time-slots and sign-ups on the board were firmer because people looked at the board and said, “I have to play that!” I’m not against pre-scheduling or some other system, but I think this year was just a bit of an anomaly and if people want to hang out or default to a clique when it plays out that way, I’m not sure it’s a problem.

    • Yes, it is a definite problem that has been brought to my attention, that I’ve seen at other playcons and was especially attentive about at this one.

    • Paul, I can tell you it’s been an issue for me. If your timing is a bit off, you spend a lot of time sitting around doing nothing. E.g., we finished up out Mountain Witch game on Sunday morning, which “shifted” us by about an hour or so. That meant I was sitting around doing nothing for a good long while, as everyone else were already deep into their games. I ended up playing a little bit more later towards lunch, but it was far less than if I had show u at 9am ready to jump in a game.

      The year previous, when I was sleeping in too late, I hardly got to play anything all weekend.

      Having everyone aware of some basic time-slots is a good thing, IMO.

      • I’m not saying it cannot be or was not a problem. I just always saw people gaming. And I think the scheduling softness this year could just as easily be due to lack of excitement/commitment because of a less appealing line-up for what was being run. If it actually did hamper your time, that’s a bummer, but 1. cause and effect aren’t necessarily obvious or simple here, 2. those down-times can be solved with shorter play board games, and 3. it’s this kind of thing that can encourage people to begin running games, so it could be a self-correcting problem. I know that because of my lack of interest in the games being run, I’m going to come prepared to run a bunch of stuff next time. If just one or two people have the same thought, the schedule will necessarily firm up in order to fit it all.

        I’m not saying don’t have time slots or anything like that. I’d even be in favor of an absolute schedule. My point is that some years will simply be different and sometimes what you think is the cause is a symptom of something else.

      • Paul, this was my fourth year in a row at FMW. What Willow discusses in this post is consistent with what I’ve observed over those four years.

        As for your opinion of the line-up, I’m not sure what to say. Some of the games on the board didn’t get run, and some games that got run were not on the board. In all there were tons of games I’m sorry I missed out on.

        There were lots of people playing. There were also some people (like me on Sunday) sitting around not playing. I think Willow’s proposed slots is a great solution for this.

    • I didn’t spend a lot of time not playing, but I did spend quite a bit of time, even pre-midnight, playing card/board games. Not that those aren’t fun too, but I wanted to play more RPGs.

  6. I’m neutral on time slots. I can see the benefits of more structure, but I was also happy with the amount and variety of my gaming, and happy I didn’t have to spend much energy on worrying about having to be some place at a specific time.

    I would like to see some other way to organize the white board(s). It was already pretty full by the time I got there Friday afternoon, but there was a lot of “I can run any of these five games any time Saturday”. I wasn’t sure if I should squeeze in the ones I wanted to run at the bottom, list a similarly amorphous set or specify exact times, make suggestions for when I would like to see a proposed game played, etc.

    • Yeah, the Big Board is going to be split up- if you want to run a specific game at a specific time, there will be a spot for that. “I can run this whenever” needs to go on a seperate area. There needs to be room for multiple people, so four or five people don’t just list all the games they brought and fill up the space.

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