Ever since I attended Combo Breaker back in May—and quite honestly before that—I have been thinking about what would be necessary to bring a regional fighting game community event to the St. Louis area.
The Midwest has a good number of regional events. So why not something here in St. Louis?
I want to take the things I have learned from paying attention to various events and in the small picture I was able to form from volunteering at Combo Breaker and apply those things to creating a new event here in the St. Louis metro area for the FGC. I figured I’d sit down and compose some of my thoughts about this concept and process while I reach out to other TOs to get their thoughts.
The event should be:
- Fun. We should have a realistic understanding of the capacity of the space and metro area and make sure we can serve attendees by providing them with a well-run, on-time, and professionally-managed event.
- Well-located. We should find a venue that is willing to work with us in crafting a positive, professional, safe, and exciting location, in terms of the available facilities, room accommodations, stream capacity, and walking-or-transit-distance food and entertainment options.
- Open. As much as possible, we should be open, available, and communicative regarding as many aspects of the event as possible. This should include costs, schedule decisions, and community concerns. We should gather feedback from attendees and report on that feedback after the event is over, then act on that feedback in successive years.
From volunteering and listening to what TOs have said and how other tournaments are operated:
- We need to set expectations well ahead of time. Things like game rules, scheduling slots, codes of conduct, and player on-time expectations should be written out and communicated repeatedly and as early as possible.
- Events like this can run on time. By setting those expectations for being on-time, training judges properly, and having overflow time built into the schedule, the event can be created in a way that it should stay on-schedule (or at least as close as possible).
- We have examples and other TOs to learn from. This doesn’t have to be from scratch. Events like this have been done before and have been done well, and we can learn from and build on that knowledge to create something uniquely St. Louis but still in the image of other established events.
- It’s not going to be big the first year. People probably don’t want to take a chance on a new event with an unproven staff the first year it’s out. The goal should be to make the event the best possible event and build reputation over time. That’s how you grow.
- It needs a time of year that stays away from as many major events as possible. Yeah, right. Have you seen the calendar recently? :) But with St. Louis heat/humidity, I’m thinking late March is a pretty good target. It avoids the pre-Evo road of Combo Breaker and CEO. It’s usually not crazy cold, but it’s not summer, either. And it avoids both hockey playoffs and the beginning of baseball season, both of which will affect hotel availability in this city significantly.
It’s really hard to get started with this thing when there are clear holes in knowledge that appear to have been passed from TO to TO through private channels rather than in the open. Because of this, I have questions given that I have not been involved in an event beyond the floor-level. Here they are, and if you can help me with these, please drop me a line and let me know.
- How do you plan for demand? To reserve space, I have to know how much of it I’ll need. And that contract is going to have to be signed MONTHS ahead of time. How do you find out what that number of people to plan for is?
- How do you cover costs? All the math I have done on venue fees tells me that they are not going come close to covering the costs that such an event would incur. I want the event to be cash-positive, mostly because I can’t afford to eat any costs we don’t make up. Where does the money come from?
- How do sponsorships “work?” This is pretty unclear to me. Is there a standard “agreement” floating out there? How do you set rates when you don’t know the size of the event?
- How much organizational prep is necessary or desired? Do we set up an LLC for the event planning purposes? A bank account? An accountant? Does the event have to pay taxes or report taxes on payouts?
- What are the actual event planning priorities? I know the things I want out of the event in a perfect world, but it’s not a perfect world. From a logistical standpoint, what do I focus on first?
Again, if you can help me with some of these questions, please let me know as I know that the time available to plan an event for next year is rapidly dwindling and I might already be looking at planning something in 2018 instead. I’m willing to think long-term here. I’m not leaving St. Louis, I’m not leaving the FGC, and after having a great experience of my own at other events, I want to help others have a great experience here.
I’ll update here as the process continues and time allows.