The only thing that remains constant in this world is change.
The title of this post is sensational, and perhaps unfair. However, GenCon has announced they are scrapping the Industry Insider Program for something different. Instead of a couple dozen Industry Insiders who speak on panel discussions and presentations at GenCon, they will now being inviting only a “small group” of Industry Guests of Honor. The full press release can be read HERE.
I was an Industry Insider for 2015, and it was a very positive experience. I would never have had such an opportunity — to be a guest and a panelist at GenCon — otherwise, and I’m grateful for it. I view it as one of the most positive efforts the Convention and staff made to help bring a larger number lesser-known, talented game designers and artists to the stage so that fans could get to know them better. For that very reason I’m deeply disappointed that this program is ending. It’s difficult to say for certain what exact form this new program will take, and I could speculate idly about it for weeks on end and maybe never hit on exactly what they intend to do. We’ll just have to wait and see.
In the mean time, the other initiative, mentioned in the second half of the release, is to record and stream presentations for the wider world to view. “The goal of this transition is to narrow the focus and expand the reach of some of the industry’s brightest talents.” This idea is long overdue, and may provide an additional income stream for GenCon. I expect that, in the near future, people unable to attend will be able to, for a small fee, live-stream presentations and discussions they’re interested in to watch at home. That in itself may take some of the pressure off already overtaxed facilities, opening up hotel rooms, tables in restaurants, and other necessary amenities for those who need to attend GenCon for business. It also expends the already substantial reach of GenCon, perhaps giving the idea of virtual conventions a bigger boost and greater visibility.
The cynic in me sees this as a way to better monetize the big names who attend GenCon every year, and if that’s the case, the good done by the Industry Insider track may well be a thing of the past. Again, I am speculating without the knowledge to back it up, which is foolish, but my fear is that those smaller-name designers and artists are about to be pushed back out of the spotlight. People pay good money to meet and have experiences with the Big Names in Gaming, and without something like the Industry Insider program to help counter that, small-timers like myself won’t have as much chance for fans to get to know us. In an age such as this where self-promotion is not just necessary but crucial for those of us who aren’t big names, this is one less avenue to help build our respective brands.
I hope I’m mistaken in my gloom-and-doom pronouncements, and I look forward to seeing exactly what the new initiatives have to offer. I’m sure they will be good for GenCon, but I’m less certain of anything else.