Friday, March 26, 2010

Interview with Karl Pajak

Texicon is a gaming convention to be held on May 21 thru 23, 2010 at the Sheraton Hotel located at 1701 Commerce Street Fort Worth, Texas, 76102. There will be RPGs, miniature games, board games, and seminars.

The cost to attend is as follows: for pre-registration, which ends May 7, it is $35 for a full convention pass. A full convention pass will be $40 if bought the weekend of the convention, and must be paid in cash. A one day pass is $25.

Texicon is the creation of Kevin and Karl Pajak, and here is the Mission statement for the convention:

Texicon seeks to support game manufacturers, game
stores, and gamers. It will do this by providing a friendly
and fun atmosphere for everyone to interact, which will
allow the gaming community to become enriched and grow.

Karl Pajak agreed to be interviewed, and answered my questions via email.

How long have you and your brother been gaming?

I've been gaming for thirty three years as a table top type gamer, but I grew up on games and have been gaming in that fashion my whole life. Kevin has been table top gaming for a bit less, probably twenty seven years. He is my younger brother though...true it's only by two minutes but still.

What was the one thing that made you decide to create and organize Texicon?

It's something that Kevin has always wanted to do. We cut our teeth in the early eighties on conventions out in California. Our very good friends Dave and Carol Turrietta, both of them passed away in 2003/2002...they are missed, helped us become more involved in the gaming community and game conventions. Of course there's all the other guys we know that are in the industry and part of this community. Hey Marcelo!

In the past I have attended conventions, and the 'gamemasters' were for the most part, not that good. It's one of the reasons I stopped going to gaming conventions. What will you and your fellow con organizers do to properly vet gamemasters?

From the way you phrased the question I'm assuming you meant Role Playing Game Masters? As you may, or may not know, GMs at conventions are typically volunteers. They are volunteers at Texicon as well. This means that we can only offer you games hosted by people that wish to volunteer for us. This also means that some of them may not be as seasoned as what your looking for. See our vision for Texicon was to assist the community as a whole. This is one of the reasons we're offering seminars. Some seminars may be focused on how to create games for specific settings, some might focus on how to sculpt and cast miniatures, others will focus on how to Game Master. Each GM is different and they all bring to the event their vision for the game they are running. Look at it this way: if I took five people and simply asked them to write a scenario where Phill was captured and held prisoner in Castle Keep Phill but the adventure was to revolve around breaking Phill out of the Castle. You'd have five different scenarios. Each GM has a vision of who Phill is, and why he's been taken to the castle, and what it will take to break him out. It's not the scenario that's important, it's in the telling of the scenario. The short answer is that we'll be looking for good GMs, we'll be asking for feedback from the convention attendees, and working with our GMs to make them better gamers. But don't take that like we think we're the be all end all of gamers...heavens no. We all need help. I remember this one group I consented to host games for. Sadly it's was the only group of people I GMd that didn't like my style of gaming. That particular group didn't last that long. Other groups I've GMd have lasted for many years. Sometimes it's just not a good fit. I suppose the long and short answer is that we are looking to the community to step forward to run our Board Games, Role Playing Games, and Miniatures Games. Out of the people that step forward we'll laud the ones that are great and work with the ones that need some seasoning. Some of them will be perfect fits, others may not be a good fit for us.

Having said all of that I would like you to understand how we setup Texicon. It is true that Kevin and I are the owners of the convention but we're not in charge, per se, that is we've chosen people we are calling Magnates. They are in charge of their area of the convention and decide what goes on in that area. Greg Pitts oversees and schedules the miniatures events, Ken Burt oversees and schedules the board games, and we've recently added Jake Cook as this year's Role Playing Magnate. We are entrusting the success of the convention in their hands. They'll be watching and assisting the GMs in their areas. We'll be looking to them to do the vetting for us. But we also need the players help. We want the players to let us know how our GMs are doing. That's why our GMs will be handing out a form that we're asking the players to fill out. There are several things we are doing to ensure that both the players AND the GMs have a good time. That's what this is about...creating communities and helping the gaming industry.

In my experience, most gaming conventions charge a small fee for the different games, i.e. anywhere from two to five dollars for a four hour session. Nothing about this is mentioned on the Texicon web site? Will 'slots' be free, or has that been decided yet?

Ahhh...what you've experienced is the larger conventions then. Like GenCon and Origins. It is true that they charge a price for the events. We do not. Which isn't totally true, we do have our Ticket Book which can be purchased at registration for $20.00. The ticket book comes with "coupons" that you'll tear out and give to the GM as your entrance fee to the event. Let's say you really really wanted to come and participate in the Lost Worlds Tournament that is being hosted by our special guest Rick Loomis, one of the founders of the industry...I mean who wouldn't want to play in that Tournament! But that's really all you wanted to do simply because you couldn't get the time off work to attend the convention. Here's the difference, you'd pull out your coupons and hand them in. After the Tournament you could use the coupons as payment for items at any of our on site vendors. But that's the only way you'd be charged a fee for entrance into an event. See most people don't understand the dynamics that are taking place. There is a tipping point that conventions can charge people to attend the convention. I used to think that it was wrong for conventions to charge an event price plus the convention badge price. I understand why they do it but it's not something we're considering doing. So yes, the only cost you'd incur at Texicon is the cost of the entrance pass (full con pass, or day pass). Personally Kevin and I think that it should just be part of the convention pass, but I now see that if the cost of the badge goes over a certain amount the attendance drops. So you have to balance the factors. You want to create as large a community as is possible but you can't loose money doing so. I don't know what the answer is, for us it's not an issue I hope it never becomes something we have to consider doing.

I think I understand what you are saying, I just want to be clear, a con attendee has two options for the con? One is to pay to attend all weekend, and all the games and seminars are free, and the other is to buy the $20 coupon book, which you can use to attend any events, say if you can only go on Saturday, and what coupons you don't use can be spent in the dealers area?

Almost. They can purchase a convention badge (either a daily one or the full con one) OR they can purchase the ticket book. Really the ticket book gives the parents the opportunity to come and enjoy some board games or play in a single game with their kids. It offers the gamer that can't make the con an option as well.

Yes, usually the bad experiences I had are with role-playing gamemasters. Everything else was usually fine, and I understand about the volunteer thing. As far as paying for gaming "slots", when I ran games at Dallas Fantasy Fair, this is what they did. A couple of dollars a slot, if I remember correctly. The only really big con I went to was the Origins that was held in Dallas one year. The slots were about five dollars or more. It's been a long time, so that may be wrong. However, I really like the approach you guys are taking.

Thanks. We think it's pretty unique and should end up helping the community.

What are you looking for in the way of GMs and volunteers?

Great! Thanks for volunteering. What games are you going to run? Just kidding. Actually we're looking for people that have passion for what they love doing and who want to increase the hobby. Take Brian Guarnieri for example. I'm very excited that he wants to be apart of Texicon. He's got passion and drive. He loves the Dresden Files and is working with that theme to provide great role playing games for people. Since this is our first convention this a great opportunity for the gamers in this region of the country to step forward and get in on the ground floor. If they are here at the start I'm sure they'll be here in the future as we'll be looking to them first for our GMs in the future.

The hotel rate seems to me to be a bit pricey. Is the $119 for a single night or the whole weekend ( Friday and Saturday night )?

The rate is per night. Once again an issue with being a new convention. I'm sure we'll be able to work with the hotel to negotiate a different rate next year. One thing we need though is for people that can afford to stay at the hotel to do so. It will help our bargaining power next year.

In our current economy do you think Texicon will be successful?

We feel that if one person has a good time we have been successful. If you mean "Do you think you'll make money?" We're not doing this to make money so that question doesn't apply. Do we need to make money to continue, of course we do. We have enough umph to get this boat in the water and to start it down the river but we need people to help us row. See...that's where, it seems, that we differ from other conventions. We're doing a lot of special things, like bringing Rick Loomis out, in an attempt to add to the community. Not that other conventions don't do those things too, but we feel that here in Texas the game community needs a bridge between the game manufacturers, the vendors and the gamers. It needs something that has a focus on creating communities and providing a place for that community to exist. Of course we are always open to ideas to make it better.

Is there going to be a dealers room? In my opinion that is one of the best things about a gaming convention.

That topic is a hot one. Initially we didn't want to have a dealers room. After receiving so many requests to have a dealers room we decided to open up two spots inside the gaming area. One of them has been filled by Pegasus Loft, the other by Two Hour Wargames. The odd thing, and I get that it isn't an easy choice for the vendors, is that as we are 24hr gaming the dealers had to consider either manning their booth 24hrs or tear it down when they weren't going to be at their tables. Pegasus is manning their booth 24hrs and Ed Teixeira will be closing shop when he's not running his great games. There just wasn't enough time to have a full dealers room. Next year we anticipate being able to have a dealers room that will have opening and closing times where the dealers can exhibit.

If there are any comments you would like to make please feel free to do so...

I love the fact that I was asked to write an interview for a blog. This was my first interview and I had a blast writing this for you. Thank you for the opportunity. I would like to say to the gamers, the vendors, and the game manufactures that are supporting the convention that we are doing this for you. We hope you'll enjoy what we're envisioning is a vehicle to create a larger community. I also wanted to thank Kevin for having the vision and drive to kick this off. He's the other half of what makes me me. I don't know what I'd do without him.

Finally, I want to thank you for answering my questions, and whether or not I get to attend in any capacity, I want to wish you and your brother success with Texicon.

You're welcome. I look forward to seeing you at the game table,
Karl Pajak

Thanks Karl!  I'm looking forward to Texicon!

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