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  • Donald J. Bingle, Writer on Demand TM

I Was First In Line For GenCon Event Registration

For those of you obsessing today over the queue for event registration for GenCon 51, going beserk over the minutes that have gone by without complete satisfaction, please do remember there was a time (yes, in those distant dark years before computers were everywhere) when GenCon's pre-registration booklet was sent out by mail. Worse yet, it was bulk mail, which meant wide variability on when different people in different places would get it. Worst, your registration (with check for fees) had to be sent in by mail (don't get me started on the fiasco of fax submission). That meant that when you got the bulk mail pre-registration form, you immediately started planning your schedule (I always started by creating a grid of RPGA events, semis, and finals because that is what I did every day eight to noon, noon to four, four to eight, and eight to midnight). No key word searches--just read the booklet and write things down. Make up a schedule, write it on the form (complete with event number), calculate your fees, write a check, make out an envelope, stamp it, then rush to the post office to get it in the mail as soon as possible. One year I was out of town on business when the booklet came in, so my wife called me at the hotel that evening and we worked out our schedules on the phone for a couple hours so she could send things in first thing the next morning. Though nerve-wracking, this process was generally effective in getting me the events I wanted ... until the unthinkable happened. You see, one year the folks at TSR got the forms back from all of the compulsive types on the first possible reply date, opened them, cashed all the checks, then lost/discarded/fireballed? the forms without processing them. I knew there was trouble when I saw my check had been cashed but I was mailed no tickets. Frantic calls trying to fix the situation did nothing to help. And so, I arrived at the University of Wisconsin Parkside the Wednesday afternoon before GenCon with no tickets. By the time I got there in the afternoon, the line for onsite event registration was already mammoth and it would not open until 8 a.m. on Thursday. Sure, it was a friendly crowd (except when the guy with bagpipes played for too long in one spot) and many, many gamers I know met lifelong friends in that line, but that line would not get me the games I wanted. Worse yet, the entire onsite process was pretty much a disaster in those days. You see, they would put up these giant pegboards with pegs on them. Each peg would have the pre-printed tickets for a given event hung on the peg (one-hole punch). In the room with the pegboards, there would also be a giant blackboard at the side with a list of sold out events listed by event number only. People would be let into the room ten or twelve at a time and would submit lists of six or so events to runners, who would then go look on the peg boards for the events and grab tickets, which could then be purchased near the exit. You had five minutes in the room, then were shuffled out with whatever you had managed to snag. There was a lot of pressure to get your first ask correct, because there was little time to figure out and ask for any replacement for a sold out ticket. Worse yet, since there were many single run, non-sanctioned events which were not in the pre-registration booklet, you had to do this on the fly once you got the onsite registration booklet, which they didn't give you until you got in the door and were in the last thirty feet of the line before you got shuffled in to make your selections. No pressure, no pressure at all. That wasn't going to work for me. No way, no how. But, what to do? Well, my brother, Rich, and I (probably Linda, too) wandered around the building at Parkside trying to get in so we could make our plea about lost forms to someone with authority. It being a large public building, we eventually got inside. In the course of our wanderings, we managed to snag a couple of the onsite registration booklets. SCORE! After plotting out our events, we then found some crazy busy TSR functionary and made our plea for special treatment because of the lost forms. No go, but they had lots of work which needed to be done before morning, so we struck a deal. We would carry product into the dealers' room and sort tickets for the pegboards ALL NIGHT for the privilege of getting to walk up to the table for on-site event registration right before they opened the door to the public. That's how I got to be first (or maybe second, behind Rich) in line for event registration at GenCon thirty-five or so years ago. We worked all night and they were continuing to work us without respite as the sun rose. In fact, they would have continued to work us for a number of more hours, except at five minutes to eight, we just stopped what we were doing and walked up to the table for event registration with our lists in hand. The people in line outside the glass doors were not exactly happy we did so, since they'd been there for the better part of a day and night, but they hadn't been carrying boxes and sorting tickets. Heck, they might have even gotten some sleep. So, when you pressed the button on your computer today for event registration for GenCon 51 and had to wait thirty, forty, or even more minutes for the computer to tell you what events you got, after doing your wish list with keyword sorting at a relaxing pace over the last several weeks, don't expect too much sympathy from me. First, I was there right along with you--I got only 4 of my 11 events after having hit the submit key within a second of it becoming active. But, more importantly, even though I spend more time writing than gaming now (, I've been there with you for close to forty years and I have old, single-hole punched, pegboard tickets to prove it. Donald J. Bingle RPGA# 19722 P.S. You can pre-order my latest spy thriller, Wet Work, on Amazon at .

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