GemuCon (and making a living from YouTube)

GemuCon, a first-time gaming convention, wasn't normally the sort of event I'd go to. Especially not with the £35 ticket price tag.

But it was being organised by one of my friends from my undergraduate, so I agreed to do the website (violating my no-more-freelance-work policy), and having botched together a custom registration system (scope creep) I was drafted in as 'Registrations Officer' on the committee, too. Since I was in Nottingham on the 4th for the Lovelace Colloquium anyway, I had no excuse not to go.

It was a good job I did, as the checking-people-off-who-arrive system was web based, and the hotel wifi was not playing ball from the outset. We'd thought of that of course, and brought backup wifi dongles. Neither of which could get signal. So half an hour before registration opened I was writing a script to export the database into a nicely formatted spreadsheet (sounds simple; wasn't; ask if you're curious) so that we had more than one machine (I had the database locally on my laptop) we could register over 700 people with. Then it was literally non-stop.

The other reason I was there was to morally support my good friend TomSka, who was attending as a guest because he is Internet Famous.

So my time was split between hanging out in the Operations Room (mostly) to help confused con-goers with things like registration, lost property, picking up merchandise, finding the stairs, getting free cupcakes; making myself useful by running up and down ten flights of stairs on errands (until I discovered the service elevator; two 6-man lifts between 800 people hadn't been so accessible); and hanging out with Tom and Matt.

On Saturday I helped him on his merch stall (we sold everything but all of the wristbands and all of the keyrings and earrings).

During the quiet times when there were other big events on, and thus no customers, I had to make my own fun.

On Sunday I live-tweeted Tom and Matt's panel "How to YouTube".

[View the story "TomSka's YouTube panel at GemuCon" on Storify]

This generated a small amount of controversy, as people who have never had to live off advertising revenue often hate people who live off advertising revenue even if it means they have found a way to survive by doing something they love, and can provide what they create to the world for free.

Frankly I'm just excited that we do live in a world where young creatives can be their own boss, make a living from doing what they love, and where the only hoops they have to jump through to do so are getting better at their craft. Whilst the advertising-centric revenue model may be outdated and may be despised by a good number of people, it's working for YouTubers at the moment and I haven't seen a better alternative present itself. Not everyone, particularly consumers of amateur media, can afford to pay for content they consume; accessing content for free empowers consumers too because their entertainment choices are not controlled by the same person who controls their finances (and thus probably most other aspects of their lives). I'm also fairly convinced that if the advertising revenue model falls flat in the future, amateur content creators will be much faster to recover and adapt than traditional media industries would.

The other great thing about this business model - for YouTubers at least - is that many/most don't start out with financial motivations. After a while they realise thier hobby is giving pleasure to increasing numbers of people, so they carry on, and suddenly a side-effect is that they're making money as well, at no cost to their audience. (This may change as YouTubing is acknowledged as a career choice).

Maybe naive or overly idealistic, but I don't believe anyone should be stuck doing a job they hate. It's a very, very long term goal for society, but the ultimate utopia is a world in which everybody is motivated and empowered to develop skills they enjoy or knowledge they're passionate about, and to put their abilities to some use that can sustain an acceptable standard of living for themselves and their family. Technology plays a crucial role in this (for a start, all the jobs nobody wants to do will be automated).

Anyway, Tom and Matt's panel was full of sound advice for digital creatives just starting out, though the current landscape is a very different one from when _they _began their YouTube journeys (for example: no YouTube).

Though I didn't experience much of it myself, GemuCon had all sorts going on. There were a few rooms packed full of video game consoles (for people to entertain themselves at leisure, as well as scheduled tournaments with cash prizes), a room of tabletop games, merch dealers and artists galore, various panels with the various guests, a talent show, a cosplay masquerade, and parties all night every night. Now, I don't like parties, but even I couldn't resist hanging around at a rave for a bit when the music was Pokemon theme remixes, or the Zelda soundtrack. Et cetera.

The most impressive thing about this wee convention (and 700-odd people is wee, compared with similar more established cons) is the air of friendliness and solidarity that seemed to be ever-present. Granted not everyone could have been happy at every moment, and there was definitely douchebaggery from time to time, but in general there was a unification of nerds; an unspoken understanding between the stereotypically socially awkward that allowed people to come out of their shells and enjoy themselves in a way that they might normally suffer abuse for, thanks the the common background provided by video game and Internet culture. This is somewhat tongue in cheek, but... hopefully you know what I mean.

I made a few new friends, too.

If you're thusly inclined, check out 'official' photos (here and here) and videos (here) from Team Neko.

And if you visit the new GemuCon holding page, don't forget to Konami Code.

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