To Volunteer or Not?

by Marinda Darnell

Every year I look forward to three conventions: Gen Con Indy, GAMA Trade Show (GTS), and Origins. GTS this year was a blast. Origins was looking to be a pretty good time while doing the prep work. As usual, I was working as a MIB for Steve Jackson Games. For Gen Con Indy, I have three hats on: The Lady Gamer, MIB, and True Dungeon Wench.

There is something to be said about volunteering for a game company. While I love the large conventions, I really go to see the people. Play games? See a great dealer's hall? Those are just perks; the real draws for me are to see some friends that live very far away and to possibly make some more. While I was there representing The Lady Gamer, that was secondary to my other roles. Through volunteering, not only am I able to help a company out, introduce people to games I love, but I am also able to hang out with a great group of people.

Being a MIB is a lot different then being a volunteer for some other companies. I have worked with many other companies before, but none of them had the feel that being a MIB has. The closeness of the community can easily be felt in most communications and interactions. Since I became a MIB in 2003, I have met some very close friends. I think the closeness of this community can be attributed to how small it is kept. A few hundred MIBs worldwide (with a few being added every month or so) is what makes the group so appealing.

When a player sits down to play in a ticketed event at a large convention, they probably do not realize exactly what goes into running that game. Most GMs do not work directly for a game company. Especially in the RPG and Board Game Room, this is true. When this occurs (and even for some that are working the entire weekend for a particular company) usually the GM foots their entire hotel bill, badge cost, and travel expenses. If a GM runs enough scheduled events, Origins will reimburse them for badge and 1/4 of their hotel cost. Many GMs do not make the high hour requirement or player seating requirements for this reimbursement. So this makes them running a game, really a labor of love. Most GMs do not run a game purely because they want the reimbursement, but because they love that particular system or game, and really want to share it with others. The rest is just a perk if it can be swung.

Would someone be insane enough to run 32 hours or more worth of Munchkin for the US National Championships if they did not really love the game? Or how about the people who decided to have 23 sessions of GURPS with an ongoing plotline between them all during the course of the convention? People like this truly love the games they run, and enjoy running them. All large conventions could not operate with out a large volunteer staff. From the people at the information booth (who actually did know where things were this year), to the door guards on the dealer's hall, to the people running the games, almost all of them are volunteers. The people working to process ticket and badge information, security, and numerous other jobs for the convention, almost all of them are volunteers. These are people who usually end up spending the entire convention working and never once play a game, entirely so others can come and play. Don't get me wrong, it is long hours, a lot of people who have no understanding or courtesy, but it is fun. They get a lot of satisfaction out of the hard work they put into the show, and to see that hard work pay off is wonderful.

If you have never volunteered to run even one game, or to help with the show, it is something you might want to consider for next year. You will meet a lot of people that you could become good friends with, and if anything make your time there even more fun. Trust me, the companies and the show will appreciate everything you do to help, and you just might get some more cool swag out of the deal.

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