Saturday, July 25, 2015

Where's The Ball Pit? Or Why I Left Dallas Gaming Expo

For the frequent convention goer the term "ball pit" is used to link a miserable convention experience to the travesty that was known as Dash Con.  As a frequent and confident con goer, I never thought that I would attend and even moreso be a guest at an event which was on the near side of being an equivalent. This weekend is the Dallas Gaming Expo, a video gaming convention that had hired me to be their voice of the convention and help them run their gaming tournaments. For the first time ever as a guest, I left what would have been a paid convention gig due to disgust, disbelief and a good conscious.

The Dallas Gaming Expo turned out to be a classic example of a promoter looking to make loads of money off of the gaming community without really knowing what the should be done. This expo was presented with huge expectations with loads of guests, arcade gaming, skeeball, video game tournaments and more! Unfortunately what attendees got Friday night was a ball room full of chairs, 4 wobbly projection screens and about 6-7 TVs with consoles. As a guest of the event I smiled, and hoped for the best and said I was having fun, well because that's what ya do.  I also wanted to see this event succeed. I thought maybe more would be coming and hopefully it will be better in the morning. I stayed through the night and ran the Super Smash Bros tournament along with guest Natalie Green, which honestly was a lot of fun for me to watch and engage in. On the flip side the tournament itself had quite a few snags including casual rules for tournament play, broken controllers, lagging screenplay, no official forms, and the reliance on a group of volunteers that tried it's best to make things work. Considering the winner took home $1000.00, I would have hoped for a bit more organization. I will say that the volunteers were very nice and did do their best to find the answers that they clearly unsure of. While on the subject of the volunteers I found it odd that the volunteers were not provided with sodas and food throughout the day, since some of them were there for free. I also found it a bit odd that when I as the MC for the weekend, asked for a soda, was requested to please drink the water provided in the tanks around the hotel because the hotel was charging $4.00 a soda. Okay now maybe here is where I'm thinking too much of myself, but this is when I sort of started to cringe, like wtf? You cant even provide me a soda for a six hour shift im dedicating my voice to you?  What was even more cringe worthy is that the promoter hadn't thought of getting a couple of coolers filling it with ice and then filling it with canned sodas purchased elsewhere. Am I wrong or naive in thinking wtf are coolers of drinks? Maybe it's because I've seen a lot of cons that apparently spoil the guests by proving them caffeine and hydration in their green room to keep their pep up as they work hard throughout the day. It is possible that I could have used money to just go buy a soda myself. Okay so what I did do the next time I wanted as drink was ask for the per diem I was told I would be receiving so I could go get food and drinks and not bother the promoters with my diva wants of caffeine. 
  At the end of the night when the tournaments were over I made my way to the main suite to make my request. Although it was less than a third of what I was contracted to receive, I was thankful and made  my way to Taco Cabana and then retired for the night. As I laid in bed while watching Cartoon Network, I started to replay the day in my head and think about how sad it was that an event touting itself as a gaming tournament had only ONE gaming guest on the schedule. I thought about the arcade room was with it's 5 cabinets of games. I started to think about how four guests had cancelled and how the expectations of the attendees were going to be crushed. Then I realized that the event itself was a ballroom full of half empty chairs and handful of TVs and then I realized, I was duped. I was at the Texas Dash Con of gaming. I remember walking with Natalie and saying "Are we in the ballpit?" 

  Oooookay, so when I awoke this morning I was optimistic and proceeded to get ready with flair and busted out my rainbow and tiger striped DC high tops and biggest smile. It was when checking my iPad did I see notifications regarding posts about the horrible reviews the Dallas Gaming Expo was receiving online. I saw people who sharing posts who had actually spent money, hundreds of dollars, about how disappointed they were in the event and they felt like they had been scammed. Total sucker punch and I thought "damn, I really hope more people don't feel this way". I seriously couldn't be a part of an event where anyone thought they were being scammed at. (A petition on has been set up to ban this promoter from setting up another con, btw.)So I proceeded down the rabbit hole and started to notice, quite a few people did indeed feel the same way about being scammed. I read how their VIP packages were a waste of money and they hadn't received their gift bags because none of the sponsors wanted to pitch in. How they were expecting an actual con, not just three rooms with TVs.  Although the vendors there were incredible and had good variety, maybe if there had been more vendors, maybe that would have given them something to do. 
Anyways  I went downstairs to the restaurant to order a glass of sunshine via mimosa and even thought that didn't work out I said fuck it and had a tournament to run. I went to the main area and met up with the promoter and cleared a few things about the system link we'd be using for the tournaments. I then questioned when the skeeball, Daytona racing set ups (advertise as tournament) or if other games were going to be arriving, I was told that wouldn't be happening. These games were apparently too big to bring in through the service elevators or get in the building. This was another moment I cringed. I thought damn dude that sucks... and like literally right when I said that the promoter aloud said "yeah it's a shitty arcade"... a final moment of cringing. It's like dude, you just told me you realize that your heavily advertised as a "free play arcade" the very basis for your gaming expo is shitty!!!? Things go wrong I get that. I do... but it's how you handle an unplanned situation that sinks ya or keeps ya swimming. Here is where I really started to feel uncomfortable about being there and by uncomfortable, I mean like I don't want my name or face anywhere near this event. I mentioned to Natalie how I was already disappointed in the way things have been happening and lacking and how I was not very confident that would we be getting our full promised payment for three days of working.
While waiting for the tournament registration to open, the thoughts of the whole situation kept going through my head and I say aloud I sort of just want to leave, cut my losses and keep my name out of this event before it goes down. Thankfully I wasn't the only one who thought this so we causally and quietly packed up our hotel room and checked out. 

This was an event that was run by a promoter with no convention experience. I get that. But being a music promoter is way different than promoting conventions, especially gaming. DGE was set up by a promoter who already stood to loose about 30k, his words. I feel terrible for that. This is also a fucking example of how people who don't know what the fuck their doing shouldn't be charging people money to come to their half ass event. And the worst part about all of this, is he had people from the gaming community willing to help him. Knowledgeable, trusted people. The promoter even had someone send him the proper EVO gaming rules, he had numerous people tell him picking this weekend in an already saturated gaming weekend was a bad idea. (three gaming conventions and one pop culture con happened today in Texas) This is an example of someone seeking to take advantage of a community salivating with eagerness for more exposure to gaming events. This was an event that charged 40$ a day to attend a room full of chairs and a couple of TVs.  Attendees also had the option to pay for celebrity photos, autographs, sit in their panels if they didn't want to free play in the 5 cabinet arcade. FORTY DOLLARS for one day, 60$ for all three days and $150.00 for VIP that wasn't very important. I feel like the promoters of this event knew going into it they were going to lose money but decided to hold the event anyways. I also feel like they knew they were overcharging but didn't realize that this community is pretty strong and knows when it's being duped. the bands booked were great and so entertaining but barely got an audience becaue of the early time slots. I feel so sick about the whole situation. I hate that anyone feels like they were scammed, I so sorry about that, which is why I left. I couldn't in good concious stay involved in an event where people were saying it was a scam... especially since they were right. Had the promoter cut back on ticket prices and offered refunds of some sort as a good willed gesture I might not have felt so miserable Bout the whole experience.  But he  knew it was a shitty situation and knew that guests still advertised on his website weren't going to be there. He knew he had cancellations and no replacements... so like why didn't the price drop? He stayed in an executive suite at the hotel for five days. If you know youre going to be losing money, you don't do that...unless youre okay with screwing other people over. I think this is long enough but wanted to give a good detailed account as to what it's like to actually be inside the "ball pit"  It's terrible.

If anyone wondered on how I got into this, it's because I genuinely believe that this promoter was going to do something good for the community.  In theory it's a great idea, but in the hands of someone looking to capitalize on a community it just shitty and I didn't want to be apart of it. I didn't want to take money from someone who knew  was misleading. I'm a fan first, a guest second.  -tafefta darling.

here's my video I made at quakeCon but couldn't upload until now, because I was at QuakeCon.

please excuse typos and grammar for now this was written in haste on a tiny laptop keyboard and I have fat hobbit fingers.