Saturday, April 16, 2022

Was DaveCon 2022 a Failure?

 As mentioned earlier on this blog, DaveCon 2022, a convention taking place on April 8.-11 2022 in Minneapolis Minnesota, was an event to commemorate the legacy of Dave Arneson. In the days following the convention, there have been surprisingly few reports or photos coming out of the event and for the most part the social media connected to the organisers, the event itself and guests of honor were pretty much silent. This struck me as a bad sign. 

Ernie Gygax and David Wesely

However, some reports are now coming out, suggesting that DaveCon was a a great time for those who were there, although a much smaller event than many of the participants were hoping for. In a video by TSR alumni Tim Kask, the former Dragon Magazine editor suggested that the reasons for the convention not being more successful was a schism formed in Minneapolis caused by "colossal egos" and negativity from the Arneson Estate

As a long time fan of Dave Arneson, I would have liked to see this event be an amazing success. It is great that we have finally reached a point in history where people from all corners of the hobby would like to recognise the importance of the legacy of Dave Arneson and his Minnesota group of gamers. As Tim Kask says, it was the meeting between this tradition of gaming and the Lake Geneva group of gamers that gave rise to Dungeons & Dragons. As I have mentioned before, I think it is admirable of Tim Kask, who had a big falling out with Dave Arneson, to be willing to participate in a convention that honored this legacy.

While I am not subject to all on goings over there from where I sit on the other side of the Atlantic, I think Kask is wrong about the Arneson Estate having any blame for what happened to this convention. DaveCon organizer Vic Dorso has previously claimed that he was told not to contact the Estate which seems very strange to me and makes me suspect that this would have been a misunderstanding. 

As to the reasons why the convention was not met with more enthusiasm, I think the answer is a little more complicated than how Kask relates it. Here are a few things:

1) Unfortunate associations with Ernie's other endeavours. While DaveCon apparently has no connections to Ernie Gygax' other gaming industry ventures, having Ernie  as one of the first announced guests of honor was not just an odd choice for a convention dedicated to Dave Arneson, but it also made the bad reputation of Ernie's other involvements bleed over onto DaveCon in the eyes of many fans. It did not help that the DaveCon organiser was observed on social media joking with one of Ernie's less reputable partners about not needing to respect the Arneson Estate. (Note: This blog is not taking an anti Ernie stance or suggesting that Ernie should not have been invited, but given the current atmosphere in many corners of our hobby, perhaps including his name as one of the main headliners was a poor decision from a PR perspective).

2) Although Blackmoor Alumni such as David Wesely and Bill Hoyt were brought on board as guests of honor, there was very little about the convention that brought associations to Dave Arneson or Blackmoor. No photos of Dave were used, no Blackmoor imagery or even much textual description of the importance of Dave's legacy in the promo material. 

3) Failure to involve Blackmoor alumni or hardcore fans. I am not subject to the organiser's efforts to engage the Minnesota gamers, but I know that some discussions on closed forums blew up. On the other hand, The Comeback Inn or the Blackmoor related Facebook groups that I organise saw close to zero engagement. There are many other Blackmoor players from the original campaign still around. The Arneson Estate could have been contacted. What about Dustin Clingman who published Blackmoor with Dave for the 3rd and 4th edition of Blackmoor? Or the producers of the Secrets of Blackmoor Documentary? Now, it is possible that all of these people were being difficult, but that is not my experiene with any of them, especially when it comes to an effort to honor Dave's legacy. 

I would like to stress that I am not saying any of this to gloat. I would like to see a convention in Dave's name be as successful as it has the potential to be. Maybe it could become something like GaryCon was in its early days which I hear was a small, but extremely cool convention. Victor Dorso has already announced that he is planning a new DaveCon in April next year, so hopefully some of the issues with this year's convention can be worked out by then. 

If anyone should want to organise future Dave Arneson related events, I can offer free advice to those who ask! :)


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