I’m trying to look back at some of the events of the recent Summit, and Game Night was one of these. You can read the announcement, but here’s a few thoughts on how this went.
First, the day started out fine on Thursday. Throughout the week I’d had people come up to me at the Redgate booth and show me a few games they’d brought to play. However, Andy and I weren’t sure that was enough, so we met after lunch to go get some.
A short walk down to Target gave us a few choices, and surprisingly, some expensive options. For example, Risk was $35, and since we’re funding this from the goodness of our hearts, we didn’t want to end up spending $150 apiece.
We ended up with Monopoly, Jenga, Scrabble, dominoes, and something else. I had some Redgate SQL Prompt cards in my bag, and Andy went over to look at Barnes and Nobles for a few more. Our intention was to support about 60 games in groups of 5, so we wanted 15 options.
We were pressed for time, with the #sqldinner meetup, and so after most people were matched up, I raced upstairs and cleaned off the table we’d used, spreading our games out. I’d also grabbed the signs PASS had provided, and in my best handwriting (remember, best is relative), I put up a few signs.
I suspected things would go well when a few people showed up during the #sqldinner. They started chatting as our bartender got set up. Andy had arranged for some tickets to be printed, and he manned the door, checking people in and giving out tickets.
It didn’t take long before the room was almost full. We had groups at every table (10 tables of 8) each playing different games.
At some tables there were two games taking place, but it didn’t seem as though anyone was disturbing any other group. In fact, with 80 people in the room, I could still have a normal conversation with people. That’s exactly what we wanted.
I had to leave early, around 9, but I heard that many people stayed until the room closed, and even then, a group went back to the Sheraton and played there until after midnight.
What Went Well
The concept was a success. Clearly there is a group of people that want a quiet, safe environment to play games. There’s nothing wrong with #sqlkaraoke or a night of drinking with friends, but of the 3000+ attendees, we have a number of introverts, a number of people that don’t drink, or aren’t comfortable in a raucous atmosphere.
Providing some games was a good idea, and allowing people to bring their own games ensured that not only were there enough options, but people had the chance to try different games.
We had some very introverted individuals come, and despite their very shy nature, they opened up and engaged with other attendees. I’m confident that not only did they enjoy themselves, but I suspect this is one of the highlights of the conference for a few of them.
The space was good, and easy to find. Best of all, no security was required. I didn’t hear from anyone that they struggled to find the location on the 3rd floor. The signs PASS provided were helpful. If anyone has thoughts on the location, please let me know. One of the highlights of this space was having Tom Roush (@geeql) show up. Tom wasn’t attending the conference, but it’s always a joy to have a few minutes to chat with him.
The bar worked out well, and everyone was able to get a soda or alcoholic drink at their leisure.
What Needs Work
First of all is the funding. When we approached PASS for this, they gave us the options to rent the room for $500 + guarantee $500 of drink purchases, or rent the Sheraton ballroom for a $1000 guarantee. Andy and I have had success with our events, the idea of putting up $500 for people to have some fun is a stretch for my budget. PASS did agree to cover the $500 room cost, but Andy and I had to guarantee the food and drink spend ourselves, hence the ticket charge.
I’m not opposed to the ticket idea, since it helps prevent people just randomly showing up, or not showing up and preventing others from using a space if we have a limited number of seats. However, I’d like to see the cost match up with the bartender cost and have PASS assume the risk.
I’d also like to organize the games better, perhaps having some people post or list the games they might bring. That could help engage others, and certainly reduce the stress from whoever runs the event. I wouldn’t even think that we need to provide any games next year.
We could use more space, so I’d like to see a second room, or a third, that might allow people to spread out, perhaps put louder games in one room and quiet ones, like chess, in another room.
I’d also like to see gaming on multiple nights. The opening reception and vendor parties end relatively early (9pm or so). I’d like to see gaming options on all nights.
Looking to Next Year
I really hope that Andy and I can convince PASS to just host this. This feels like a way to serve and engage a segment of our community that prefers games to bars. I hope they will add more space, and more nights.
Having refreshments handy is important, so I’d certainly like to have a bartender handy each night. If this requires a ticket to get a free drink (and ensure a minimum spend), then I think that’s a good compromise. Most of us would spend $5-10 at a bar if we were playing games, so I’m fine with this.
I also think there’s an opportunity to connect gamers together outside of the convention center. There are a few bars that host games in the Seattle area, but finding other gamers can be a challenge. I think PASS can do more work to increase the “Connect” part of their message here and help put people together next year.