In the socially distant summer of 2020, there are two sorts of gamers in the world – those who’ve been living the online life, and those who’ve been stuck home alone. Most gamers have found out how to get online for games, and found some of the big online conventions, both gaming and non-gaming. But since we announced that Gaelcon would be online this year, a few people have wondered “How are you going to do that?” Well, here is a snapshot of what you’ve missed on the online world this summer to give you some idea. There have been a lot of online conventions so far this summer, of various sizes. I know some small cons which were moved online by a handful people in a few weeks while ConZealand, this years Worldcon, had months of lead in with a big team, hosted 3,000 people and hundreds of panels (including a few games because I got pulled in to organise the gaming) The big gaming convention, Gencon, had, I think if I recall correctly, almost 10,000 gaming events and on the Friday night Roll20 logged over 90,000 gamers on their platform, many of whom were Gencon attendees, and more were just the regular Friday night rush.
Yes, you can run any size of convention online, so the 300-500 people coming to Gaelcon is very doable. Several of us attended or even been involved in running some of the bigger online events, and therefore we have experience, we took notes and we know people who set up the tech. We have people who run online communities over 10,000 members.
The core tech for most cons is very popular in the gaming world – its Discord. The IGA has had a Discord server for years, we do our meetings and admin there, we have a Community Discord which has active games on it.There will be more Thursday night gaming there as we ramp up to Gaelcon
Convention Discords usually start with a Welcome, Code of Conduct and Pronouns channels before letting you past the ‘Front Desk” and into the “Convention Hall”
The actual space can have as many channels as we need – obviously Gaming Channels, one for each virtual table. There are Discord ‘bots’ which nicely handle signing up for (or dropping) games with a simple click. The way to automate the process of signing up for games at a virtual con is now pretty much done and dusted, no queues, no fuss, no hassle (I’m tempting fate here, I know)
Discord is excellent for ‘theatre of the mind’ style games, and with video streaming you can throw up maps and images for players. It provides enough interactively for the majority of gaming groups. For people who like moving tokens on maps, there are several ‘Virtual Tabletops”‘ which we can link out to from Discord. The one most of us use is Roll20, where you can get a lot of mileage out of a free account. We will are thinking about getting a few Pro accounts for GMs to use in prepping and running games for Gaelcon, and I’ll be doing Roll20 for GMs as part of Thursday Night Gaming
Other spaces like trade, artists and exhibition spaces are just channels with different content. People can share links to their existing websites in Discord, or put up content on Discord itself. I’ve watched artists at cons streaming their work in progress as they drew character portraits and talked about their technique, and, obviously, answered questions as they came up.
As for the other big events, we have people who have run quizzes online during lockdown, so yes, that’s on, and we have people who have run actions online during lockdown so yes, the Charity Auction is also on.
Since we know we can deliver all the normal events online, we have a few ideas for other secret stuff to add to the fun.