Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Pay To Play

Every now and then the subject of people paying to play gets brought up in conversation. I have yet to see it actually work over more than a brief experiment.

Approximately 25 years ago I was offered a job to DM/GM games professionally for a start-up company just outside of Baltimore. The pay would have been a tiny bit better than minimum wage plus a little extra for having been one of the first game masters to try to help make the owner's dream a reality.

I no longer remember the name of the company or the entrepreneur whose dream it was, and never actually got a chance to participate since a full time job with much better pay and benefits opened up and I took that road instead.

The company did survive for a brief time and I later gained a next-door neighbor who had worked there for a while, but like many speculative business ventures this one could not maintain any momentum.

Whether it is from people having a sense of not wanting to pay for something they can otherwise get for free, or preferring a friend to do the game mastering, this doesn't on the surface appear to be a business model with any endurance. Could it be poor marketing mixed with a lackluster business model?

Thinking about it from another perspective takes away at least some argument against the 'not wanting to pay for it' category. Convention games could easily be categorized as pay-to-play since you pay to enter the convention and at some conventions you have to pay to get a ticket for the session.

Another pay-to-play method I have heard is somewhat successful with some groups is the 'shared expense' model where players pitch in a few dollars each session toward refreshments and food with leftovers going into a prize fund that is used at the end of the year to purchase a gift for one member of the group as determined by a vote of the participants. Of course this doesn't really meet the criteria of a professional GM.

Due to frequent player absences in a couple of campaigns, I have jokingly considered the idea of having players pay $100 at the start of their participation and getting back a pro-rated portion of that based on their attendance. The more sessions they are present, the more of their own money they get back with any left over going to buying more materials for the game (including spare rulebooks, etc). Of course this idea would be unlikely to happen and is only for amusement.

Professional DMing appears for the most part to be a pipe dream. It is difficult enough to get people to pay rent for a dedicated space in which to play, unless it is a rare event like conventions.

If anyone comes up with an idea for ways to make such a think work while providing a comfortable living with health care benefits please let me know. I'd be very interested in knowing the formula behind the magic.

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