Interview with Texicon’s Kevin Pajak
Stan Shinn interviews Texicon’s Kevin Pajak. Texicon is a local convention featuring RPGs and other great activities which runs June each year in the DFW area. Visit www.texicon.net for more information.
Stan: Kevin, tell us how you got involved with Texicon?
Kevin: I am glad you asked that Stan. I have been involved in the back end or behind the scenes portion of the gaming industry for a long time. Most of my experience was earned out in California. I worked the con circuit for years, I worked at a distribution company, edited games, worked for and with game manufacturers, etc. As a native Texan, I wanted something for the center of the U.S. that would work to strengthen and grow gaming. Both coasts have their cons, and then of course there is Gen Con. The way I see it is that there is a weak spot in the middle of the country. My brother and I wanted to do something about this. I came up with the idea of hosting a Game Convention. Karl liked the idea. I felt all of my Cali experience lent it self very well to this idea. So, we created Texicon. We picked a con over anything else because Conventions act as oases or gathering places. They are, or should be, the unique moment that brings the game community together. Because of the way Cons work, they act as reservoirs where the community comes to get energized. The con stands as more than just a simple weekend of gaming. They, if done properly, create this moment, a gathering, where everyone benefits. Players make new friends. GMs get new ideas and ways of doing things. Players and GMs encounter new games and game systems. Vendors get exposure and new ideas from other vendors. Game Manufacturers get exposure, new ideas, new clients, new games. What do I get as a Con owner? I get tired. I work on Texicon all year long and if I have done my job properly nobody notices, because there were no problems and everyone had a great time.
Stan: What have you done to get the word out about Texicon?
Kevin: Stan, I am glad you asked. We hired a social media person. She is doing a fantastic job. Also, I we are now reaching out to game stores in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Tennessee, Illinois, Alabama, Kentucky, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona. We have a Flyer Contest. Anyone who brings in one of our flyers gets a chance to win $50 to his local game store. There are three zones, Texas, the surrounding states, and the rest of the states.
Stan: What are your biggest failures?
Kevin: Sadly, I have to report that I was unable to find anyone who GMs Rolemaster or Stormbringer. Also, in my eagerness and tiredness I offended the owner of Goblinoid games. I said that I wondered if anyone still played his games. But what I meant was in the Metroplex. I want to formally apologize again to him about this misunderstanding. I love his Pacesetter games. My last big failure is that there is just not enough me to go around. Things, sometimes don’t get done in a timely fashion.
Stan: What sorts of events can we expect in Texicon’s 2015 convention?
Kevin: Well Stan, as you may know there was a turn over in our Staff. Rollin Kearly was our Role-Play Magnate, but he had to step down. So, I, as the Role-Player, had to fill in until we could find a new Role-Play Magnate. I instituted several new things. I went to OwlCon. I went to game stores. I went to game manufacturers. I hit the blogs and the forums. So, one thing we will see is a wider diversity of Role-Play games.
I would urge all role-play players and GMs to try a new game. They can go back home and still play the same system they have always done. Here at Texicon, they should try something new. After all, life is about experiences. The bonus is that Con games are specifically geared to teach new players how to play a game. The GMs expect it. So, nobody should be afraid to try something new. I sought out more Old School games, but still am bringing a lot of modern stuff as well. I want to provide something for everyone. We have one LARP game – it is a Cthulhu Game.
Another exciting thing, Texicon has just opened the Texicon’s Historical Hall. In it, only historical gaming occurs. I even managed to have one historical role play game.
We also have ramped up our efforts to help those in need. Last year, we partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters. However, I was not happy with the turn out. I wanted more kids. So, this year we partnered with two chapters of BBBS. We also partnered with Johnathan’s Place (an abused children’s shelter), and Buckner (a foster care organization). We are hoping to have anywhere from twenty to 100 kids on Saturday from Noon to 6pm. We love the chance to provide a day of fun for these children who face problems they should not have to face. This has led us to institute the “Kids Track” program. This is a program where we host games specifically tailored for kids. Most of the games are for ages 12+ but some are 8+
Karl is working on getting ASL interpreters for Texicon. If he does, there will be several games that are ASL friendly. We also will have a Role-Play game that is ASL only. It will be designed to act as a teaching tool for the deaf so they can begin Role-Playing.
We have a special guest who should be know by your people, Lester Smith. All I can say is, “What has he not done in the Role-Play realm?” We also have Ed Wetterman of Pinnacle Entertainment Group. They produce Savage Worlds and other things. He will be at Texicon as an Attendee of Note. I believe he will even be giving some Seminars.
Stan: How can people get involved to help?
Kevin: We have Magnates who are in charge of one of the three game types (board games, role-play games, and miniatures). We have one Curator who is in charge of the Historical Hall. And we have Jamie Mathews who is in charge of the General Volunteers. If someone wants to GM, then he should contact one of the Magnates. If he wants to GM in Texicon’s Historical Hall, then he should contact one of the Curators.
However, first and foremost, people can get on Facebook, get on forums, go to manufacturers’ websites and talk about Texicon. Spreading the word through word of mouth is the best way that someone can get involved. I know it is not glamorous, but it is vital that attendees AS WELL AS GMs tell people about both Texicon and the events at Texicon.
Stan: What have you observed about changes in player demographics since Texicon started? For example, are there more Role-Players than miniatures wargaming players? Increase interest in board games?
Kevin: Stan, this is a great question. You are asking about changes to the community at large. I love this question because it reveals what is happening in the gaming community. I am seeing changes. But they are not the kinds one would notice. They are subtle changes. For instance, there are fewer females than there were Texicon year one. I am not sure what to do about this. I think that the smelly kids at game stores and the manliness of the game store tends to make females think that gaming is for guys. This could not be further from the truth. I do not see a wide ethnic diversity at the Con. This saddens me. Everyone should take advantage of Table Top Gaming. It is so beneficial. I do see our crowd slowly growing in that direction, but I want more. In my mind, a healthy gamer population equals a healthy nation. I think most of the United States’ problems could be fixed if we were all gamers. Ha! I can see it now. The President of the United States a role-player. That would be something even better than having a flying car, which they promised we would have by 2020.
Our crowd seems to be getting younger and older. The middle age area seems to be shrinking.
As far as the numbers of players playing what. Yes, there does (and always has been) seem to be a few more role-players attending Texicon than either board gamers or miniatures. This will change in 2015 as we will have 100 miniaturists in our Warmachine tournament.
Stan: What games do you see growing in popularity?
Kevin: Stan, this is a deceptive question. I will address that in a sec. I see Old School Role-Play coming back like wildfire. Warmachine seems to be outpacing 40k. Euro Style board games seem to be in fashion right now. I love em too.
The reason it is a deceptive question is that it actually asks, in a subtle way, a deeper issue question. What mechanics are in favor is what this question really asks. Although, game companies attempt to change this or that, tweak a part of how a game plays, what seems to stand out as innovative are systems that address the changing needs of the gamer community. Currently, people seem to want euro style board games, old school role-play games, and quick to play miniatures games. These are the games that are growing in popularity.
Stan: What are the greatest challenges in putting on a convention like this?
Kevin: Oh Stan, you naughty man. This is a behind the scenes question. I don’t know if I should answer this one, but I guess I will. As a Convention Host, organizer, grunt I face many challenges. Advertizing, organizing, managing. So, the greatest challenge is communication. I have to constantly communicate with attendees, GMs, Magnates, game stores, printing houses, organizations, manufacturers, and of course Stan. I have to be careful to make sure that everyone gets the information needed so that they can do their job. This sometimes may mean that I have to talk for someone to someone–a translation nightmare.
The next challenge is making sure that all of the hardware is ready. Hardware in this case means: any printed material we need, any tables we need, any table cloths, any chairs, stamps, ink pads, and the like are made ready for use. For example, I have to make by myself, fifty four foot by four foot tables for the Warmachine Tournament.
Following that, the challenge of filling the Game Wagon with Con Swag as Apollo puts it is a challenge.
Another challenge is finding time to work on the website. It takes a huge amount of work to get it ready.
My greatest challenge is finding time for Texicon when my number one priority is my wife and son.
Stan: What gives you personal satisfaction in the work you do for Texicon?
Kevin: I love bringing people together and doing the best I can to accomplish this.
Stan: What does the future hold of Texicon in 2016 and beyond?
Kevin: Thank you Stan for asking this question. 2016 will see us moving to our new home at the Hurst Convention Center. We have outgrown the Grapevine Convention Center. This is a daydream question. If we get big enough, I think it would be a hoot to hire three trains to come to Texicon. One from Los Angeles , one from Chicago, and one from Atlanta. I would give out golden tickets to anyone who would want to come via the train. Then, they could game all the way to Texicon and then back. The cost of getting on those trains would be the purchase of one Full Con Pass per ticket holder. I also want to purchase 50 acres of land and build a convention hotel and space on it. Then, we could have a huge area where our LARPers could do their thing. I also want Texicon to be big enough that we can help manufacturers get their product out. I want to get an offset printer and then make games cheaply so the little guy can afford to produce his game. Dreams within dreams. I would like to have Texicon be large enough that we could do a lot of fun things.