Gamesday 2013 was going to be a big thing for me. Firstly I was going to be travelling up with my youngest, spending a night in the hotel and then taking her to what has been the biggest event for Games Workshop fans for years.
Secondly, this was going to be my birthday trip. I was going to turn 40 on September 30th and with Games Day being on the 29th it made the perfect ‘birthday trip’.
So, I paid out the £70 for tickets for me and my daughter, the £96 for the hotel room and the £75 for the fuel. As you can see, a big layout, and perhaps you’ll under why I’m so utterly disgusted at what I found.
A few days before the event I started to look for a schedule, but there was none. I googled, I went onto Facebook, I went onto the Games Workshop site and searched there, but nowhere could I find a schedule of the day’s events, something that should have warned me there and then. It did however, start to get me annoyed as I needed to plan carefully where I and my daughter were going to be.
On the day of travel, my daughter decided – for reasons of her own – that she didn’t want to go to Gamesday after all. Undeterred I set off. Thank God she didn’t come.
Gamesday. Games day. Games. Day. All of those words imply something. The 19 years of historical precedent also imply something. That there will be Games on the Day. As one person said, “What do you call Games Day if there are no games? Day.”
And there lies the rub. The number of tickets being sold had been reduced to 4000. That’s nearly half of the tickets sold the year before. The venue had also been changed to the NIA (something that wasn’t very well advertised either).
All of this implied that there would be a much more intimate atmosphere with attendees being able to get hands on and not have to face decades-long queues. So, let’s recap. I spent £35 on a ticket for Gamesday.
Upon arriving I found that the hall was split into two. One half was basically a shopping mall. The other half consisted of booths manned by the Design Team Staff, the White Dwarf Staff, the Forge World authors, the Forge World designs and Fantasy Flight Games and their licensed products. And, tucked away at the far end on a balcony, above the shopping mall, were the computer games. I didn’t find those until near the end, by which time I was too pissed off to be able to appreciate anything.
Where were the games tables? Where were the massive set-pieces that people could play? Where were the tables that contained such brilliant games as monsters vs ogres? Checking the programme I realised that there were no games tables.
Thank God I hadn’t brought my daughter. I’d regaled her with tales of the gaming tables, the cosplayers (of which there were only two worth mentioning), and all the cool things that went on. To say I was gutted was an understatement.
Reduced numbers of attendees should have meant that I could play a large number of games, have a laugh with old friends, possibly make some new ones and just chill out doing my hobby. Instead I was faced with 30-minute-long queues just to pay for anything I bought, and a load of stands filled with people that I had no inclination to talk to.
Previous Gamesdays also had tables where you could enter to paint the best figure in under 30 minutes, grab bits and bobs and see what you could craft, build terrain and numerous other things. All of these tables brought people together. They got people talking, offering advice, complementing each other, swapping bits they didn’t want for bobs they did. Basically building the community.
This time there were no roars of victory, no groans of defeat, no bitch-talking, instead there was the muted murmur of people wandering around talking to the various staff with hundreds sat on the chairs reading their latest purchases. It was as if I was in a Cathedral filled with awestruck tourists.
Only those attending weren’t awestruck. They were dumbstruck. Once the huge queues had died down for Forge World I decided that I would wander over and take a look. Maybe buy something. But meh. Simply meh. The limited edition figure that I might have bought had sold out. The turret that I wanted hadn’t been brought.
Talking to the staff behind the desk, I was asked what I thought of the day so far. “Bit shit actually. No games.” They both nodded and sighed, saying that they didn’t know why on earth that had happened and that they had basically had people complaining to them all day.
It was the same when I paid for my copy of Jonathan Green’s excellent Armageddon Omnibus. To be fair, I pretty much unloaded on the till staff and vented my frustration and disappointment at what I thought was a cynical attempt to rip me off.
So, why was Gamesday so disappointing. Why, even now am I still angry?
1) Tickets were £35. There were no ‘parent’ tickets, which used to be £6. So all those parents who brought their children to the event had to pay £35 to go to something they weren’t interested in. Rip off number 1.
2) There were no Games. Gamesday is supposed to have GAMES. Granted there were FFG and they were doing a sterling job. But I didn’t want to play those games, I wanted to play Games Workshop games.
3) There was no atmosphere. Previous Gamesdays were filled with roars and cheers and geeks and nerds hopped up on too much sugar and imagination. This year was muted. Flat. It completely lacked atmosphere.
4) The sense of community was gone. The only thing that the attendees shared was negative. No one I spoke to was happy. No one felt that they had got their money’s worth. I didn’t lead with ‘This is shit isn’t it?’. Instead, I used my journalist head and asked things such as “Having fun?”, or “What do you think about the new venue and format.” Objective in every way I still got the same answer. Basically, Games Workshop had ripped everyone off and spoilt Games Day.
5) The shopping venue not only hit our pockets, it hit their staff. How so? Because every shop has sales targets. If their punters are encouraged to spend their money at Games Day, their targets are affected. As such I made sure that I got something wouldn’t be sold by them because I support my local shop.
On top of this article, I shall also be writing a letter of complaint to see if I can get my ticket refunded as Gamesday most certainly did not do what it says on the tin.
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