2022 was a year of recovery for the IGA, centering on returning to an in-person Gaelcon and embracing a range of new possibilities for future development.
At this point, 2023 is less upbeat.
On the positive side, there have been significant achievements. We have moved Gaelcon to a bigger venue, and the Warhammer games are back in the main venue. The Merchants Cup is new. We have a Guest of Honour for the first time in many years. There has been more outreach to college and community gaming groups not only to have them attend but also to share knowledge with them about conrunning. We have a team from Fingal Libraries running games aimed at younger players. These are all good and significant achievements.
But – there is always a but, and we have several
Venue costs have been a concern for several years now, and this is fast approaching a decision point. Hotel venues now cost significantly more than before the pandemic. This year we have also been caught with some unexpected venue related costs (VAT, extra tables) which have pushed the cost up. To run a hotel based Gaelcon and break even based on current costs, we need to sell over 300 full price weekend tickets and it looks like that target is out of reach.
Team is also a big problem. The current Executive and current Gaelcon committee have relied on the same group for six or seven years now with few changes. A combination of issues are affecting the team: people are moving on in their careers, several are involved heavily in Glasgow2024, and other issues. Energy levels are down, and I have spoken to people in other organizations so this is a general problem, not one confined to us, which affects the pool of available people to replenish the core team.
These mean that we will in all likelihood have to downsize Gaelcon in 2024 and 2025, using a smaller non-hotel venue to rebuild the war chest and rest the team. It may be that we find ourselves in a cycle of several smaller cons interspersed with a big hotel based one every few years.
We also need to think about the role that Gaelcon and the IGA can best fill in a very different gaming world. Previously, there were fewer conventions and almost no gaming groups outside the colleges. Now there are several new gaming conventions as well as the college based ones, and many many gaming groups around the country. Additionally, some games which were staple events in previous years are changing as larger firms are more driven by marketing and “shareholder value”. This is balanced by more awareness of community created and open content based on open licensing. What and how we provide for in the Gaelcon programme needs to reflect the needs of the community, so we need to plan future activities to better support the community and Irish creators, both commercial and fan.
(postscript – I wrote this about 2 weeks before Gaelcon 2023. Since then the numbers on venue side for 2024 have got tighter, but, while we have lost a few people from the team, we have also got some folks who put their hand up to help, especially on the IT and social media side of the house. We will be detailed the impact of these in later posts, including sharing the overall accounts for Gaelcon 2022 and 2023 so people can see how it works.)