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No, I Didn’t Go to GTS This Year

posted Aug 8, 2012, 11:52 PM by Douglas Sun
Originally posted: April 19, 2009

Over on his LiveJournal, Ken Hite addresses this year’s GTS trade show only indirectly, with a Tim Powers-laced meditation (and if you haven’t read Last Call, well, why the heck not?) on how Las Vegas is deep in a funk these days. Check out the entry for 4/19/09, if it has scrolled off the front by the time you get to it.pastedGraphic.pdf It’s Ken in fine form, and as such it is worth a read even if you don’t know or don’t especially care about the subject.

I didn’t go to GTS this year, even though it would have been an excellent chance to touch base with my friends and acquaintances from the game industry (including Ken Hite, of course, but also a lot of other folks who happen to live in the hinterlands and beyond). GTS long ago ceased to be a show just for publishers to connect with the rest of the distribution chain; now it’s also for creative-types like myself to connect with publishers and each other. When I went several years ago, there were plenty of panels for writers and designers about the ins and outs of freelancing and other such topics, as if the show was really for them and this matter of selling games to distributors and retailers was peripheral. 

For a brief, glorious stretch of four years I was able to use GenCon SoCal as my time and place of reunion with my peers, but of course that is no longer. And I miss it, since you won’t find a livelier set of minds than a gathering of top-flight game designers and RPG writers. So I should have gone to GTS.

As to why I didn’t, well, I suppose it boils down to money being in short supply at the moment — par for the course for a game industry professional, but more so now. My travel budget is rarely flush, and I have another trip lined up this month — GMT Games Weekend West, so I’m off to Hanford next Thursday — and another next month (my first, and possibly only, trip to ConSim World Expo in Tempe). Ken would upbraid me, of course, about how there are always ways to get to events like GTS for free and even make them pay off for you, but I don’t have anything resembling his gift for figuring out such things. And independent of such considerations, I also know from personal experience that Las Vegas is the most forlorn place in the world when you’re feeling the bottom of your wallet. Regardless of the ebbs and flows of the macro-economy, regardless of whether or not the King of the West has been usurped through the migration of souls, Vegas just feels like a waste of time if you don’t have much of a bankroll.

As to whether the game industry shares the gloom in which Las Vegas, with stagnating tourism and a real-estate market in sharp decline, finds itself.... Well, the word I’ve been hearing is that attendance was down modestly, and some fairly major publishers (like Paizo, Fantasy Flight and AEG) did not take out booths this year. The glass-half-full folks seems to think that a less crowded show meant that those who were there had fewer distractions, and that more actual business got done. I hope that’s so, and I remain convinced that the industry will continue to pick its way through the rubble for the duration of the current recession. Games remain an excellent entertainment value. You can spend $100 on RPG books and have everything you need to participate in a campaign that lasts a month of Sundays; sidle up to a craps table on the Strip with that kind of money and you shouldn’t be surprised if it’s gone in 15 minutes.