For the Love of the Game

As you may or may not be aware, GenCon 2010 was this past weekend. (No, I didn’t attend.) Normally I wouldn’t really talk about it here, since I didn’t go, there’s not really any news from me that didn’t get gleaned from the panels there, and I’m pretty sure no one cares from my end. But that’s okay and pretty immaterial to the following story anyway.

I’d initially thought about not saying anything at all about it, since it really doesn’t need addressed, but a conversation with Brian (JadeHellbringer) last night sort of forces my hand. See, he filled me in on a situation I was involved in at GenCon – despite me being here, nearly a thousand miles away – and I was bemused and a little disturbed at the perspective from the convention-goer’s end. So here’s the story of what really happened, simply to put the rumors to rest. This is something I really don’t want getting out of hand or being told ad nauseum with incorrect facts, after all.

I occasionally tweet with selected fans and a couple of them were going to GenCon this year. In specific, this story revolves around pianobar77 (Joseph), someone I’ve known ‘online’ for a little over a year, ever since I had delivered to him via another friend a copy of Historical: Brush Wars at last year’s convention. (He’d been looking for a copy and I had a spare, so…) Anyway, we tweet back and forth on occasion and mentioned something last Thursday that gave me pause.

Apparently, at CGL’s BattleTech Grand Melee, there was an issue. I know it had a lot to do with multiple, last-minute rule/tournament changes, which isn’t ideal when you’re shelling out $16. So Joe informed me that there was a player who had participated and got pretty well shafted early in the game and left pretty upset. I got Joe to spill the details, of which I’ll let the player himself describe from his blog:

Turn one, I advance (walking, not running…) into a river. My mech immediately trips, takes one point of damage, and the right torso floods with water, rendering everything in that section and the right arm inoperable. Turn 2, I manage to stand up, catch a flight of missiles in the chest, and a lucky center-torso crit causes another engine hit, and I’m out. Elapsed time: 45 minutes, 30 of which were waiting to pick a mech and get started. The program specified 8 HOURS, which meant that the whole experience cost me $16. Easily the worst experience I have ever had at a convention. I will very likely not be bothering with BT at GenCon again, unless CGL seriously gets their **** together.

(I was linked to his blog after the fact, so my initial understanding of the situation was a little off – I thought he’d only lasted less than a turn – but the crux of his point remains; he played only 15 minutes out of what most players average about 4 to 6 hours in the Melee.)

Now, I saw a potentially bad situation developing. Here’s what appeared to be a very dedicated BattleTech fan having a pretty bad convention experience on the first day to the point of not playing the game he obviously enjoys. Couple with the relatively bad internet publicity having been foisted upon CGL recently, I came to a snap decision to remedy the situation.

Back to Joe for a moment.

Before Brian (JHB) left for GenCon, I’d given him a small box to hand off to Joe. It was a small gift from me – two Solaris ‘Mechs that had been done and gifted to me about six years ago by a CamoSpecs artist – and I’d wanted to give Joe a ‘thank you’ gift for basically being a good sport and ‘sounding board’ online. (If you’ve not figured it out by now, Brian’s in my local gaming group.) Knowing there were two ‘Mechs in the box, I knew what I could do.

Joe: I know luck is always part of the game, but $16 on a single elimination with water hazards & last minute changed BV won’t gain fans.

My reply:

Ugh, horrible. Do me a favor – split that box with him, as a peace offering from one of the PTB and as thx for being a fan.

Not seeing the guy in the vicinity of the CGL area and not knowing who exactly it was, the hunt began.

I commend Joe for what ensued. He (and I) posted a request on the forums for the guy to meet with him; Joe scoured the various game areas and the vendor hall, putting the word out with the various Catalyst Agents to have the guy find/call him. We never really said why – I didn’t think it was anyone’s business, honestly – but apparently, that didn’t stop the gaming monkey rumor mill from churning.

Anyway, Joe was heroic in his quest for the next two days, sending me periodic updates about the trail. By Saturday night, it seemed it would be a lost cause, as even the sign-in sheet for that event had been misplaced. It just didn’t look good at all. Nobody knew who he was, where he’d gone, and so on. I was out of the loop most of the weekend, so I told Joe he’d done his best and that was all we could really do.

Happily, I discovered on Monday morning that we had a fantastic ending. Joe did manage to connect with the guy – Bill Sullivan – and passed on the offering and the apology, and balance was restored:

There was one relevant detail, though. I had missed it initially, but one of the guys from the Clan Grand Melee messaged me on Twitter, looking to meet me. Turns out, one of the line developers that wasn’t at GenCon saw my angry tweet about the event, and wanted to try to make amends. He sent along a painted ‘Mech as a peace offering, and Joseph, the bloke from the game, passed it along. It was much appreciated, and the chance to talk about the game after I’d cooled down a bit was almost as good.

He also shared with Joe – and on his blog – a few ideas to make the Tournament better, which will be passed along to the CDT crew for inclusion and consideration for next year.

So I’m sure everyone’s wondering why exactly I did this?

Honestly, it’s just who I am.

Yes, I’ve got nearly 20 years of customer service experience, and yes, CGL could use all the positive feedback it can get. But I really didn’t do it to bolster CGL’s image, or to “butter up” a fan, or for recognition. (As I said before, I’m simply writing this to dissuade the rumors I’ve heard going on regarding this whole situation – I mean, apparently, some think I even drove from DC to Indy in a fit of rage over the weekend just to find this guy and give him the what-for!)

Our fans are what drives the game and the universe. Yes, many of us – including myself – love to write for the game because we love the setting. But we also love sharing the setting with you – the fan, the reader, the player. Games are there to have fun, not to cause stress and disillusionment. I simply stepped in to make sure that the love of the game was not lost, and to show that yes, we in the ‘upper ranks’ do care about our fans and players, despite what some mouths on various forums blow on about. This wasn’t a CGL-authorized thing to do, or something I was told to carry out.

I did it simply because it was the right thing to do.

Enjoy the Spatha, Bill. And thanks for being a fan of the game! I look forward to seeing you across the game table some day in the future.

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7 thoughts on “For the Love of the Game

  1. I have to say, I was pretty shocked at how much I was seeing my “tale of woe” get passed around on the message boards… I guess I’d better have fun next year, or I’ll get lynched! 🙂

    Seriously, though, like I said in the blog post (the second one, after I was less steamed), bad dice happen. Especially to me. If I had walked into a river and sunk my Summoner, I would have been annoyed, but it wouldn’t have been the end of the world. Suddenly discovering that the mech I had prepared specifically for the event was invalid, then finding out that the list of available mechs was basically my list of “why on earth would anyone ever take these” mechs, THEN getting sunk? That’s just insult to injury to injury.

    Hearing that the CDT is actually considering my suggestions is really hip. I play in tournaments for a lot of games, and with very few exceptions, I have no real illusion that I’m going to win- I just want an excuse to play games all day. Given that CGL is committed to running events that play like the fiction, I can dig that they don’t want to run a swiss-style event (plus that would take like a hundred years depending on forces), but giving players an opportunity to keep playing for the amount of time that they paid for I think will go a long way towards mitigating the “whoops, bad luck, sucks to be you” feel. And yeah, posting rules where they’re visible and responding to email would help too. 😉

    Thanks again, Ben, just knowing that SOMEONE at the company gave a shit about one cranky fan did a lot to keep me from leaving my mechs at home next year. Anyone want to set up some star vs. star games next year?

    • Suddenly discovering that the mech I had prepared specifically for the event was invalid, then finding out that the list of available mechs was basically my list of “why on earth would anyone ever take these” mechs, THEN getting sunk? That’s just insult to injury to injury.

      Yep, exactly. I’ve been in that situation before (twice!) and I know how much it stinks. Which is why I felt Something Needed Done (TM). And so, here we are!

      I’m just happy it all worked out AND that Joe managed to corner you!

  2. Huzzah Ben!

    Like yourself, I have spent the majority of my adult life in customer service. The lesson of “it only takes one bad experience to lose a customer for life” was impressed upon me early. It is nice to see others with love for BT reaching out and making sure “the customer is taken care of”. Far different from my GenCon experience (’98)….

  3. This, I think, is why the game was made to be played with the Lance as the smallest unit and not the individual ‘Mech. Glad it all got worked out. Maybe booby prizes should be part of every tourney? “Most ignominious death” or somesuch.

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