Interview: Craig Dedrick, PrairieCon XXXII in Brandon, Manitoba – June 3-5, 2011

As PrairieCon gets ready for its 32nd annual gaming convention in Brandon, Manitoba on June 3-5, 2011, Craig Dedrick has his hands full. He’s been involved with PrairieCon for more than a decade, first serving as a member of the organizing committee for PrairieCon XIX and later serving as President of that committe for PrairieCon XXI to XXV and PrairieCon XXX and XXXI. With XXXII less than a month and a half away, I was happy to get a bit of his time to answer a few questions…

Q: It’s impressive that PrairieCon has been running for more than 30 years! Congratulations on your history and continued success! What do you think keeps people coming to the convention year after year?

Thanks Brian!

The convention has changed alot over the years, but I think that the core philosophy has always remained the same: Fun and Fair Play. That is the attitude that permeates the convention more than anything else. I have been to alot of conventions, some good and some less so, but the engergy around PrairieCon is unique. Even in the tournaments, there is an element of sportsmanship that is unparallelled. New players can expect patience and even assistance from veteran players, even in our most competitive tournament events. The great prizes are just a bonus to most of our attendees – they are there to have fun, meet new people, and spread some love for their favourite games.

Q: Over more than three decades, you have a unique perspective on gaming and how it’s changed since the 1980s. What are the biggest changes you’ve noticed in the last few years vs. back when the convention began?

Unfortunately I was a bit young when the convention began in the 80’s, but I am friends with many of the people involved with the convention from that period. When PrairieCon began, it was all Dungeons & Dragons all the time. As it evlolved through the 80’s, it was still 75% role-playing games, with a bit of Warhammer and Star Fleet Battles thrown in, and the attendees were all teenage boys and young men.

The biggest change in the past few years has been the number of families that attend PrairieCon, and attribute that to the rise in popularity of board games. We have seen a staggering increase in the number and variety of board games that we offer. Now that gamers have grown up a bit and had families, we are able to offer games that appeal to all types of players.

Q: You have a great selection of events, hosting everything from board and card games to tabletop roleplaying and miniatures games. What events are you most looking forward to this year?

The cornerstone of the event always has been the Dungeons & Dragons tournament, and this year is no exception. Unlike most other conventions, our tournament emphasizes role-playing and problem solving over the hack-and-slash style, and this has made it the longest-lasting and most popular event that we have.

I am also looking forward to watching a bit of Clay-O-Rama, which is
often hilarious because it features a mix of younger and adult players battling with combatants made out of modeling clay. Nothing is more entertaining than to watch a Warhammer player, who spent twenty minutes getting the details right on his clay tank, get beaten by a 10-year-old girl who managed to scuplt a unicorn out of Play-Doh.

Fitz: I *LOVE* the concept of Clay-O-Rama and think my daughters would really enjoy it!

Q: This year’s tournaments also present some interesting choices, from board games like Settlers of Catan and Puerto Rico to card games like Magic and roleplaying games such as Pathfinder from Paizo. But what stands out is the game Pandemic, which is mentioned as one of the most popular events at the PrairieCon XXXI. What’s the game about and why do you think it was such a success last year?

Pandemic is a cooperative game in which the players work together to stop the spread of diseases across the globe. The game has grown in popularity in the area, and last year it took on a life of its own. We originally offered an event with 3 boards (maximum 12 players) and it filled up so quickly that we kept adding boards and expanding it until we ran out of room at 24 players. Because it is a cooperative board game, the tournament had a fun and light atmosphere, with prizes awarded for best team as well as most spectacular failures, quickest cures, etc. Some players came dressed in labcoats and masks! All involved had a really fun time.

Q: Obviously giving back to the community is important to you and the convention – have you decided which charity you’ll be giving a portion of the auction proceeds to? Why was that charitable organization chosen?

For the past few years we have donated the auction proceeds to the Westman Women’s Shelter, which is a great local organization that takes in women and children who are in need of a safe place to stay during what is often a difficult period of their lives. When searching for a charity, the committee is always looking to support something that helps children in the community.

Q: What has surprised you the most over the last few years of PrairieCon?

The growth of the convention. We have moved from an attendance of 200-250 people to 300-350 in just three years, which is incredible. Our gamesdays, which are smaller one day events held throughout the year used to draw 20-50 people. Now we get in excess of 100 people. A big part of the growth is due to Facebook, which has allowed our community to stay in touch and grow like never before.

Q: I can only imagine that planning and executing a convention like PrairieCon is an enormous undertaking. How many people help in the organization and how many volunteers do you typically need for an event of this size?

You are right – it is a big commitment. We have 14 people on the organizing committee, and more than 60 game masters and other volunteers who help to run the events and the canteen over the weekend.

Q: What events have been the most popular year after year?

The most popular events are the Warhammer 40K Tournament, the Dungeons & Dragons Tournament, the Magic:The Gathering Tournaments and the Settlers of Catan Tournament. Those really are our signature events, and they are consistently the most popular.

Over the past two years, the late night Are You A Werewolf? event has also been a big hit – there is nothing like arbitrary accusations to attact a crowd!

I want to thank Craig for taking the time to answer my questions and hope that PrairieCon XXXII is another huge success this year. For information about the convention, be sure to check out the PrairieCon website, which includes all the information you might need – from a schedule to where to find accommodations for your stay. If you happen to be anywhere near Manitoba in June, be sure to check it out!

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