When many people think of ComicCon – or any kind of event of that caliber – they tend to think of decent sized queues, but nothing too long. Maybe a 15 or 20 minute wait to get in, and maybe something similar to see some of the special guests. With that said though, most people would expect some kind of pay off for that wait; meeting a celebrity you’ve always wanted to see, or just plain enjoying yourself.
GamerCon 2017, however, didn’t seem to get that memo. Chaos reigned across the two day event, which took place at the Dublin Convention Centre on March 18 & 19. Like all good ‘Cons tend to do, the event attracted thousands of people from across the country, all of these ranging from children as young as five or six to adults in their 20s and 30s. According to several different reports, GamerCon 2017 sold an estimated 25,000 tickets across both days, in an event center that holds a maximum of 7,000. If you caught the difference in numbers there, you’re clearly smarter than Ferdi Roberts, who founded GamerCon and ran the event. Ferdi, if by any chance you’re reading this, that’s 18,000 tickets more than the Dublin Convention Centre could hold. 11,000 if tickets were spread across both days.
Because of these severe overselling on the part of Mr. Roberts and those who helped plan GamerCon 2017, as well as the lack of planning (which will become obvious soon enough), ticket-holders were left in the queue for up to three hours (as was my case on the Saturday), with some waiting longer and being told that they simply wouldn’t be left in. Many people (myself included) know that planning and running any kind of event, no matter how large or small, can be a challenge. This is especially true when it comes to first time events. With this event in particular, it certainly wasn’t the first of its kind, even though it is the first GamerCon to take place; ComicCon has taken place in Dublin for several years, and now has an event scheduled for Kerry in the next few weeks. These would both be perfect examples of how to pull off an event of this caliber; after all, both events draw a fairly similar, if not identical, fanbase.
Seems like it should be pretty much ComicCon, except solely focused on Video Games. So, why not just copy how ComicCon runs their events? They’re successful, wait times are minimal, and both attendees and those who they come to see are left happy. Seems easy from the outside looking in, but you’ve got to factor in greed on the organizers part, which tends to complicate things slightly.
To date, neither Mr. Roberts nor GamerCon have issued much in the way of a proper apology (aside from brief words along the lines of “we didn’t think so many people would turn up”). However, GamerCon may have been a bit busy, what with them deleting most of their contact information from their website (including phone numbers, contact forms and almost all references to any email addresses). They’ve also tried shifting the blame onto Dublin Convention Center, who repeatedly warned that they could not hold the amount of people that Mr. Roberts and GamerCon 2017 said they wanted to come (although Mr. Roberts has, in fact, gone on record saying he hoped that many people just wouldn’t turn up for the event before any of this happened). After Mr. Roberts attempted to shift the blame onto the Dublin Convention Centre, due to what he called an inability to deal with crowds, he was quickly shut down by many critics – both media and non-media alike – who were all perfectly aware of where the blame lies.
When issuing his first statement about the fiasco unveiling itself on March 18 & 19 (which didn’t include much in the way of an apology to the children still in tears), Mr. Roberts said the following:
“There were also issues with queues within the building. This was not under GamerCon’s direct control – the Convention Centre Dublin are responsible for people management and public safety within their building. The Convention Centre Dublin were fully aware of the ticket sales and expected numbers of attendees as this was discussed in the months leading up to the event.”
However, the Convention Centre in Dublin fired back at the allegations, releasing a statement saying:
Clearly, the Convention Centre Dublin didn’t take too kindly to being thrown under the bus for something that wasn’t their fault. After the curtain dropped, and Mr. Roberts and GamerCon 2017 still attempted to give people the runaround, Mr. Roberts finally issued some semblance of an apology, writing on Facebook:
“This outcome [ticket-holders waiting 3 hours or more in a queue] should never have happened and the responsibility lies with me to ensure that it didn’t. To ensure that the venue was capable of handling the demand was my responsibility and this clearly caused the overwhelming majority of problems experienced on the day. How or why I made the choice to work with the Convention Centre is now immaterial and any previous comments I’ve made about the venue were not designed to pass blame on any party. I made the decision to use the venue, I sold the tickets and for attendees, that’s all that matters – I am the one responsible, irrespective of discussions or planning with any other party involved in the event. You deserved better and I accept that and want to reiterate how incredibly sorry I am for what happened.”
What’s been left out of this narrative so far, having only being touched upon, was the reaction from kids who were eagerly awaiting the event. As TheJournal.ie points out, parents had bought tickets to the event months in advance. One of those is Susan Forsythe. She had brought her nine-year-old son Zach and his friend Daniel from Belfast to the event. She described how “devastated” the boys were when it emerged that they were not going to get into the venue to see their favourite YouTube personalities. Forsythe had paid extra for VIP passes when it emerged a meet-and-greet with the online vloggers could only be secured with the more expensive tickets. As Mrs. Forsythe told TheJournal.ie:
“To see the devastation in their wee faces was horrible. We had a family ticket which we had saved up for as a Christmas present for him. He was so excited, it was like another Christmas. He was counting down the days and then he was devastated when we got to the front door and were told we’d be better off going home…We were there waiting for 90 minutes or thereabouts in the wind and the rain and then security came and said we’d be better off going home. We were sent away. The kids were there in their fancy dress and everything. It broke my heart. It’s not the money aspect really. How can you pay the price on the kids disappointment? It was sad to watch your child look forward to something for so long and then have it taken away from him.”
As a final word to Mr. Roberts (thought I’ve several other names that I could use here): a half baked apology and half hearted attempt at a refund isn’t what the kids who were turned away in literal tears from your event want or deserve. Instead of issuing pre-written statements on Social Media and removing any and all ways to contact GamerCon 2017 through your website and Social Media – as well as dragging your feet on refunds – why not just stand up, tell us why you really planned one of the worst fan events in modern Irish history, and give ticket-holders their money back? After all, they earned it. You didn’t. As for GamerCon 2018, I think many people are in agreement with me when I say that I hope it doesn’t go ahead. Ever.