G.A.M.E. EXPO the Final Chapter
I’m Chris Stuart, Chairman of Eclectic Endeavors. We bring you the Gaming Arts Media & Entertainment Expo. Otherwise know as G.A.M.E. EXPO.
We started off in 2009 with the first G.A.M.E. convention, with a shoe string budget and loan from a fellow team member to get the event up and running. That first year we learned a lot, and did so many things wrong.
Through sheer determination to see G.A.M.E. become a success we continued on into the following years. For several years, we kept coming up short. Our expenses were far higher than our income.
As we reached 2013, for G.A.M.E. Year 5, we were at a point where we couldn’t continue unless we came out in the black. That year, we cleared $5. So … onto Year 6.
Each successive year became easier to meet our expenses, and soon we had enough reserve funds that the next year could be planned with 100% certainty.
In the beginning our focus for G.A.M.E. was all about gaming. Table top, RPGs, Video games, etc. This was the kind of convention we wanted. Other conventions provided celebrity guests and activities that were not part of our core focus.
As the years continued, we expanded some of our activities trying to appeal to larger crowds. We hoped to see an increase in attendance and began viewing that metric as a measure of a successful event. In 2016, we reached a peak attendance of almost 800 people. We had steady growth each year, and felt we were on the right track.
Unfortunately the following years were the beginning of the decline. In 2017 we had a 30% decreases in attendance and revenue. The previous years left us with enough of a reserve to continue, so we did. Then 2018 decreased another 30%. We looked at our event, and tried to figure out what we could do to attract people to the event. What were we not providing that we could add to G.A.M.E. that would draw people in.
We had said from the beginning that we were not going the direction of “comic cons” that focused on celebrity attendance and having an event that was only deemed successful based on the guests list. We wanted to stay true to our focus on gaming. We looked to have guests that were “industry insiders”, game developers, comic artist, cosplay stars, etc. We always wanted to have guests that would enjoy being at our event and play games with us as well as being a Guest of Honor.
In 2019 we were pleased to bring back Keith Baker and Jenn Ellis of Twogether Studios. Years earlier Keith Baker had been our Guest of Honor and was one of our favorite guest to hang out with and play games. We also were able to get Satine Phoenix! Satine has many many accolades of geek gaming credit. Everyone who heard about Satine coming to G.A.M.E. in 2019 was very excited about meeting her, and being able to play in two games she scheduled to run during the convention. We advertised on Facebook and digital billboards in Springfield and the surrounding areas.
Despite our efforts to grow the event in 2019, we had yet another decrease of about 30%. It was time to face the facts. Three years of decreased interest, we were not providing the kind of event that this area wanted. We committed to the same level of work and activities that got us to the peak in 2016, but attendance was shrinking year over year.
As 2020 came into being, the plan was that I was going to hand off the reins to new leadership. I personally had reached the limit of effort I could put into this event that started 11 years ago. I throughly enjoyed everything over the past many years, but my effort was exceeding my enjoyment as time went on.
I had talked to Phillip Landrigan about taking over the Chairman position. At that time, Eclectic Endeavors volunteer staff had begun to shrink as well. People had their own lives that took them out of the volunteer positions they held, and we truly needed more help to keep the event going.
As I was planning my departure, John Macdonnell who started all this with me back in 2008’s planning stages, was also ready to retire from the leadership roles he held. We both planned to help out with 2020’s event. Just one more year, and then we would be done.
Well, as 2020 came on and a worldwide pandemic threw all our lives into chaos, I had a year off and time to reflect on what GAME EXPO had meant to me over the years. This past 2 years being “off” from G.A.M.E. also made me realize how much of my time I had been volunteering. I was able to get other areas of my life back.
I realized over this time that too much of GAME was tied to my efforts alone. Not saying I was working alone, I had a fantastic team, but I had taken on too much of the work myself. I was running Registration, Exhibitors, Guest of Honor Managing, Website, Print & Design as well as Chairman. Over the years I had tried to hand off responsibilities to others, but found myself jumping back in to ensure tasks were completed as we had people come and go from various roles.
With myself and John leaving, this would mean the all of these efforts as well as running Electronic Gaming would fall on Philip Landrigan. John had trained Greg Pholman on how to run the table top gaming HQ desk, but even so, this would have left 2 of our officers (Philip and Greg) alone to bring in others and try to get it all up and running after 2 years of no events at all.
I realized that I had not prepared others to take over anything. I also realized that once I left, GAME EXPO, could change completely and become something I never intended for it. Too much of me was in the DNA of GAME and I didn’t want to see it become something else or fall apart simply because we could not finding enough people to run everything.
I talked to Phillip and Greg about all of this. Told them both that the amount of work I was throwing in their laps was setting them up to fail, and I couldn’t do that in good conscious. 2021 was already upon us when these realizations and conversations were happening. On top of which the City of Springfield had restrictions in place that would not allow our size of event to take place. These restrictions were not lifted until May, and the August dates we had set with University Plaza were WAY too close to plan an event. We couldn’t do it in 3 months.
Plans were set for 2022. We would go back to October, which had been our event month since 2009. This would be our last GAME EXPO. Better to have one last good event, focus on what we do well, and close out the books.
So that’s our plan. On October 14, 15 and 16 of 2022 we will hold an event that is focused on gaming. We will only have the activities that people are willing to run. Very soon we will have the website open. This last year, we will not be focused on raising funds at all. We will make sure to meet our expenses and any additional funds after the event is over will be dispersed with the help of the Springfield Regional Arts Council to qualified charities.
Some quick points of info that we can share right now about this last G.A.M.E. Expo:
• Admission to the event will be $10 for the whole weekend or 1 day. All the same.
• GMs running 4 or more hours of pre-scheduled gaming will get in free.
• Volunteers who work at least 2 pre-scheduled shifts, a total of 4 or more hours will get in free.
• We also plan to give back to all our past financial supports. Exhibitor space be given away this last year. We have plan on how we will be doing that based on a ranking system for the number of years each sponsor or exhibitor has been with us. More to come about that later.
So, stay tuned for more info. We will have updates on the website and announcements on Facebook.
Thank you to everyone for making the past 11 GAME EVENTS memorable, and looking forward to number 12 being a fantastic time for all.