We threw a wing-ding, all right!

NarraScope 2019 came out better than we could have dreamed. No, strike that: NarraScope was exactly the conference I dreamed of. But you don’t expect your dreams to work out perfectly.

This weekend, mine did. I’m still floating.

I have many thank-yous. Thanks to Adri, my co-chair. Thanks to the committee, who worked for a year to put this gig together, and the volunteers, who worked tirelessly all weekend. Thanks to the Education Committe, who ran the workshops. Thanks to our sponsors and to everybody who supports IFTF.

Thanks to Natalia Martinsson, who launched the weekend with her electrifying keynote talk on the emotional life of her characters. Thanks to all the rest of the speakers and panelists. And thank you all for coming and being part of what we did.

I had a lot of goals for NarraScope. Of course I wanted a diverse and blazingly intense program of talks and panels. But I also wanted everyone to feel welcomed. I wanted indies, academics, players, and students to all show up and be part of something. I wanted the event to be personal. I wanted the event to be kind.

You can’t force that; you can only invite it. We made a lot of large and small decisions to extend that invitation. Having lunch on site was an obvious one. It kept the crowd together, intermingling, continuing conversations. The expo room wasn’t full of expensive booths; the tables were for anyone with a laptop and a project to show.

But there were little details too. A few people noted that we didn’t have separate “Speaker” or “Panelist” badges. The only attendees specially marked were the volunteers, who wore brightly-colored leis. (Organizers wore the same leis, because we’re volunteers too.)

I wanted people to sing the show out with me on Sunday. That was one of my dreams. You all did.

The good news: there will be another NarraScope. The (actually) also-good news: I am stepping back as conference chair. As of this blog post, my tour as co-chair is over. I’ll still be a part of the committee — but I’m only doing one job, instead of the three-or-five jobs I did in 2019.

Therefore, Adri is looking for someone to co-chair NarraScope 2020. The committee is seeking new members, as well. Now that we’ve been through the fire, we have a better idea of what the jobs are, and we’ll need some more people to fill them all. If you’re interested in helping out, please contact narrascope@iftechfoundation.org.

Where will the next NarraScope be? What will it be like? These questions are open to discussion! 2019 was in Boston because that’s where Adri and I live. If my replacement knows another city better, maybe the conference should relocate. The committee will decide.

(Of course I like Boston, and MIT has been an excellent and affordable host. But we’re aware that Boston hotels are expensive. And a non-US locale would be less politically fraught for some travellers. There are lots of factors here.)

We’ve had lots of feedback about the first NarraScope. We’re still collecting it. (Check your mailbox for the feedback survey link.) So there will be changes. Some are obvious oversights and shortcomings from our first go-round. More signage, a chat forum, recording of every speaker who is willing to be recorded. Keep registration open longer. Stuff like that.

Other changes may go deeper. Do we want more focus on historic and golden-age IF authors? A break in the program schedule for the entire conference to explore demos? Travel grants for disadvantaged attendees? Closed captioning? More tracks? Fewer tracks? Karaoke? We don’t know. Again, the committee will decide.

What I can assure you is that we will still have a slate of the most interesting, forward-looking speakers and topics in the world of interactive narrative and adventure games. And we will be kind.

A few more details…

We had 250 people registered, and about 230 on site. The event cost about $16000 but it came close to breaking even. We’ll post a financial transparency report soon, once all the invoices are paid, the receipts are reimbursed, and the spreadsheets are reconciled.

We’ll link to audio and video recordings and presenter slides as they become available. (If you’re a speaker with a slide deck on your web site, please send us a link!) We’ve already put up the list of favorite games which was posted in the Expo Room.

Finally, if you’re native to the Boston area, you’re welcome to drop by our monthly IF meetups at MIT. These are much smaller than NarraScope, and you’ll have to supply your own doughnuts, but it’s still Adri and Nick Montfort and me hanging out to chat about narrative game news.

Again, thank you all. You were the best crowd we could possibly have assembled.

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