Convention Report: Midwinter Gaming Convention 2018

I’ve been vending at Midwinter Gaming Convention since the first year they opened up a exhibit hall in 2011.  I missed two years, 2013 and 2014, when I had stopped sewing for a while.  It has been a pretty family friendly event.  My family and I have LARPed and played games there so that it was a bit of a mini-vacation while I worked.  All that said, this is my last year vending at the event.  I’ll be moving out of state in a few months, although even if that weren’t the case I doubt I’d be back.

It comes down to money, really.  The first two years I vended I made a great profit, enough to pay for the trip and then some.  My gross was never spectacular.  But it was a nice first of the year convention, and again, I treated it as a gaming retreat that I could enjoy with my family.

However, over the last three years I’ve made less and less each year.  I attribute this to falling attendance.  It’s hard to judge membership numbers from exhibit hall traffic, but this year’s lack of attendees was painfully obvious.  The trickle of people strolling through the hall was never more than twenty at a time.  There wasn’t even the usual rush of people between events.

With a lack of traffic, vendors and exhibitors had plenty of time to gossip.  Scuttlebutt was that some of the larger LARP groups hadn’t come back.  Last year a largish vampire LARP group had set up their own event the same weekend, which happened again this year.  One game developer said she shut down demos in the game room at 8:30 pm both nights because no one showed.  Wandering outside the exhibit hall it was much the same.  Lots of empty tables that were set up to host pick up games and a game room that was only half full every time I peaked my head in.

The lack of marketing didn’t help, either.  In year’s previous links to vendors have been posted on the Midwinter Gaming Convention website, as well as blurbs posted to its Facebook page in the run up to the event.  This year none of this happened.  There was a new vendor room director, although I don’t know if their job duties included online marketing or just onsite organization.  Either way, the running of the exhibit hall left a lot to be desired, too.  There was never a final call to inform people that the exhibit hall was closing each day, so people were still wandering around as vendors were trying to shut down to go eat.  Similarly, people were allowed in early on Saturday and Sunday before the official start time.*

I didn’t lose money on this weekend, but that’s just because I was there on my own, I was able to crash in a friend’s room, and people fed me all weekend long.  As it was I made a third of what I did that first weekend in 2011.  And as disappointing as that is, I’m upset with the way that the whole exhibit hall is being run.

From talking to other vendors I found out that the convention is charging $200 a booth for new vendors. I am a legacy vendor so I only pay $50, which is what a booth cost in 2011.  Seeing the drop in numbers, I don’t feel the new charge is justified.  Especially when it seems that the convention is inflating its number of attendees.  I have e-mailed the convention a couple times in the last few years asking what the end number of attendees was for that year’s event.  The answer has been a steady “thousand”.  This year I heard that the convention was telling some people that this was their best attended event to date.  The highest badge number I saw was in the 960s and was a Sunday day pass.  Yes, technically, one could round up and claim a thousand attendees, but that then leads me to question how this can be the best attended event.

Look, I get the semantic tricks one can employ to make an event look larger than it is.  But for vendors and game developers, having accurate information is essential in deciding which events to attend.  Travel, hotel and food costs all have to be taken into account along with the booth fee.  When you are told that an event gets a certain amount of attendees, you can figure how much you expect to make and decide if it is worth your time to go.  You can’t do that if conventions mislead you.

Charging $200 for a table at a general gaming convention that gets less than 1,000 members is too much.  Midwinter Gaming Convention has just announced it will be expanding the exhibitor hall for 2019.  That announcement makes me nervous because I doubt they’ll lower their booth fees, and so they’ll be making more money off the wallets of vendors.  If this expansion isn’t met with increased outreach and marketing on their part, it will hurt future vendors even more.

Honestly, I want Midwinter Gaming Convention to succeed and grow.  It would be great if they played up their family friendly atmosphere; perhaps offered some sort of family pass.  Reaching out to the Gothic Lolita and steampunk crowd would help as well.  I know that at least one year they had a Lolita fashion show.  I also hope they reconsider their booth pricing.  Otherwise, I suggest other vendors take a pass on this show.


*I’m not referring to the early hour on Friday when VIP are allowed into the exhibit hall and hour before official opening.  Instead I’m talking about coming in ten minutes before the hall is supposed to be open on Sunday and finding members browsing.

Making it Work: Myself Amplified

Well, we survived 2017, a feat that I think deserves a round of applause, or a stiff drink.  While last year was especially tough because of a few things I’ll get into in a minute, it was also a year of good things for me personally, professionally and mentally.

On the professional front, 2017 saw my best income ever.  I grossed $10,000 from sales at conventions, commissions, work on e-book and book layout projects and the sale of my first book.  And while my net was a little less than half that, it still is better than I have ever done.  I really wasn’t doing anything different from what I’ve done in the past, so I think this is more a result of the other gains I made over the year.

Creatively, this was the most full-filling year I’ve ever had as well.  I took on lots of commissions that required me to learn new skills and level up in my sewing technique.  I felt confident in my abilities and really enjoyed the work and the challenges it presented.  And getting back into writing with Sew Craft was like coming home.  I have wanted to see my work published since I was a child.  So fulfilling that goal has given me a boost that no amount of money can match.

It hasn’t all been awesome commissions and writing about magickal properties of fabric, though.  Emotionally, this year was rough.  My depression and anxiety are being controlled, but are still present and not being helped by the monthly uncertainty of whether or not I’ll have health insurance.  Also not helping is the situation with the house, and the custody battle with my ex-husband it has triggered.  I have spent a ridiculous amount of time pulling together documentation, talking to lawyers, and sitting in courtrooms when I could be working.

With all of those external stressors, it would be easy to write 2017 off as a bad mental health year.  I have had one success, though.  I have, for the most part, killed off my Jerk Brain.  It hasn’t bothered me for months, and the couple of times it has reared its malicious head, I have vanquished it easily.  This bugaboo has plagued me my entire life (my first memory of it comes from kindergarten) and I had resigned myself to living with it my entire life.  So to say that getting ride of my Jerk Brain has helped my overall happiness is an understatement.

It’s been mostly the happenings in the larger world that have been awful and taxing.  I’ve tried to not let things like the recent passing of the tax plan, or the repeal of net neutrality get me down.  I keep thinking about places like Puerto Rico and Flint and the people there who are living with far more imminent dangers.  The events of 2017 have pushed me further left, to the point where I am no longer coy about my more “radical”* beliefs: Universal Basic Income, universal healthcare, federal legalization of marijuana, federally mandated equal pay and family leave.  I used to keep these beliefs to myself, and I understand now that doing so has contributed to where the country is now.**

Overall, what 2017 taught me was that I needed to embrace what makes me happy and act on it apologetically.  The world as it is will put pressure on me to give up on my happiness.  It will be unmovingly cruel, it will try to break me financially and emotionally.  But I owe it to my past self to stick to my happiness.

I’m not the same person I was a year ago.  I am myself amplified.  That is what I take with me into this new year.


*”Radical” to the conservative members of my friends and family who still believe in prosperity gospel and bootstraps and the like.

**Not that I am blaming myself, individually, for the current state of affairs, but there seems to be a large, silent majority willing to let bigoted family members go unchallenged, for example, just to avoid confrontation.