Soapy Bearbox – Organisation, Organisation, Organisation

Strange happened recently, someone volunteered to be a guest writer on here :O

I know rigth, any Ant has been checked out by the doctors and is appratnely not insane. So without further ado here is his take on some organsing that we wargamers are well…..someone else will do it 😉

Fancy reading more than make sure to check out his blog HERE;

Organisation, Organisation, Organisation: Venues and Gaming Clubs

 This one is going to be brutally honest, because it needs to be. So, perhaps you are considering starting up, and running your own gaming club? My first suggestion would be to consider long and hard as to whether or not you actually should. Because if there is one thing any hobbyist learns, is when actually organising a group of any enthusiasts, the amount of problems that rise from doing so are enough to prematurely age a teenager into a grumpy sod in their 50s within weeks. Running a gaming group is one of the most stressful, thankless, and frustrating things you can possibly do, and I work in the care profession!

So why is it so fraught with peril? What are the pitfalls? How can one avoid them? The sad truth is that there’s very little you can do to avoid some of them. One thing I never begrudge GW staffers is the act of having to run campaigns and gaming nights, and having to keep gamers happy. That’s a tough enough task without the added baggage of having to also go to the effort of actually establishing a venue as something that people should bother to attend.

The best place to start with such a venture is to look at yourself. Can you do the job? Being in charge of a club requires certain values, which you really need in order to keep going at it. The primary one is patience. You may think you have patience, but do you truly have it? A few hours of being in a position of responsibility and stress will quickly determine if you have, and it will usually inform you that you don’t have any, or at least certainly not enough of it.

Managing people will be the main source of irritation. If you are easily stressed, upset, or in a particular position in your life that brings on stress (such as uni, tough patch at work, just had a new child, etc), then such an endeavour should ideally be avoided. Why? Because people are annoying, and Gamers are exceptionally annoying; they expect something to be done about gaming, but you can count on one hand the amount of people who will actually do anything other than maybe turn up when all the work is done, and expect a game. If that annoys you (and it will), then you need a contingency for it. You need to prepare yourself mentally for a thankless job, because it almost always is a thankless job.

Now, you can certainly benefit from a bit of an easy-going nature, but you will need drive as well. You need to effectively be a dictator, because you’ll have a large mix of the uselessly indifferent and a select group who fancy they can do it better. There will be tension. There will be exchanges of views, and you need the self-certainty to be able to plough through that process with firm ideas. You have to be prepared to fight your corner, be awkward, and to confront people, especially if you are charging admission/membership to pay for the venue. Because people wont pay if there aren’t sufficiently noisy authority figures. People will take facilities for granted. The only way to guarantee payment is to prevent entry without it. Never accept IOUs because you will be waiting far, far too long for them.

You also need to be ruthless, especially if your venue has strict rules about cleanliness and contraband (i.e. do they let you bring your own food, pop, alcohol etc). If you’re getting the venue at particularly low rates, or even for free, it’s usually a good idea to use your camera phone, and take before and after pictures each time the facility is used, at least until you determine that your hosts aren’t going to be awkward. As someone who has also been in a band, you have to be really careful, especially with jumping between multiple venues. Your hosts will be ruthless, and I have had cases of staff saying lights have been left on; tables have been left a mess, etc. It’ll come down to your word against them, so you either need evidence (hence the camera suggestion) or be prepared to find another venue.

It’s also worth trying to talk sense to, and indeed haggle with hosts. It sounds mad, but I have regularly got the impression that most host venues would be happier if you weren’t using their facilities. Rates charged could be unrealistic, they’ll be awkward about packing up (turning up early to remind you to pack up is a party favourite), and they’ll generally go out of their way to make you feel like you’re a burden. Do not accept it. Always be polite, clean, keep your ship in good order, but remind them that you pay a rate, that you’re using the room (i.e. it’s not going to waste), and you’d be happy to recommend their facilities to others (although be careful about this one, as it seems many hosts actually hate having work to do, and by work I mean sitting on their arses all day and at the end of it you give them money. What a chore it must be to be them!). Don’t be afraid to give your members a hard time if they’re letting the side down too. Many a gaming club that actually had cushy facilities has fallen on the wayside by a few bad eggs spoiling it.

Also, make sure, absolutely sure, that payment is given properly. Often individual staff can sink so low as to pocket your admission fee for themselves and say you didn’t pay. Make sure you give the money either to a trusted member of staff, the manager, or at least have plenty of witnesses. If you are all quite young, pay at the start or end of your session and make sure an adult relative or guardian is on hand to witness what is paid.

One way to keep the budget down is to set up a society if one of your members is at university. Obviously, this is temporary, and some universities might not allow the general public to join them. It does come with issues though. I did this, and in spite of my gaming “buddies” getting a free venue to game, they managed to muck it up for me, and whilst I had genuine stresses at uni, they succeeded in adding to them. I do often blame a little part of my transfer from Durham to Teesside (brought on from smegging up my first year of Anthropology) down to having to look after a bunch of gamers after GW turfed them out. There were about 30 of us. TWO of us looked for venues.

So what about other venues? Well, it pays to think outside the box. Community centres and sports facilities tend to be the obvious ones. I’ve had reasonably mixed results from those, but depending on your area they may be the only choice. Pubs are best avoided in my experience; pub staff can be the least reputable when it comes to fees. Also, don’t forget to check your local area. There are often other schemes that are looking for community based activities, and it’s also surprising how many existing gaming clubs can actually fall under the radar. Explore word of mouth; see what’s out there.

Obviously it depends on your area. It’s important to cultivate every possible relationship that can be useful. Find out if any of your group have friends or family in council positions, or in a position to offer advice on potential venues, or put in a good word for you with one of their own. I also know of groups that actually own their own facilities, and membership a year is steep per person, but you can go in wherever you like. There are lots of options, and potential out there, you just need to keep half an eye open for useful opportunities. Just remember that finding a venue isn’t even half the work!

So you have a bit of a taste there. The important thing to remember is that gamers are absolutely bloody useless, and in spite of this, some of the most expecting, exacting and whiny gits that the universe has ever spawned. So understand that when setting up clubs, you’re doing so on the back of a massive disadvantage, which is that most people take everything for granted, and will never appreciate the value of something you work so bloody horribly hard to provide for them. If you’re still happy to give the smelly gits a place to game after that realisation, then you’re the kind of worthy, almost saintly person who needs to do just that. Who knows, you might even enjoy it!

Not likely. But what else is there to do? Take up golf? Politics? Cross-stitch? Go into a GW? See, there are a few bonuses…

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