Sign Up Systems in New Zealand?


Hi all!

I’m currently developing an idea for a Game Wrap article (Game Wrap is NEIL’s publication about the art and craft of LARP… and it is accepting submissions for volume 3, by the way.

There’s more variety in sign-up systems than I originally realized. A lot of conventions and individual LARP events use a first come, first serve system, but there are a bunch of others out there, too. For example, the UK Freeformers use a lottery that is weighted in favor of newbies.

I’m wondering what the systems for Chimera, Medusa, and Hydra use – is it first come, first serve? Or something else? And if it is something else, is there anyone familiar with how the systems developed that might be willing to be interviewed online for the article?


Ahem. You’re missing Phoenix and Cerberus on your list (the South Island conventions).

For Cerberus (I’m on the organizing committee) and similarly for the other conventions - although I don’t know their specific behind-the-scenes actions - we have a “Shark Week” where people sign up for the games they want in each round, ordered by preference. At the end of that week everyone is assigned to their first pick in every game, and from there if any game is oversubscribed we (in Cerberus’ case) manually shift people (at random) into their 2nd choice game. This is repeated until no games are oversubscribed.

There is a very strong rule that no-one gets two “2nd picks” while anyone on the list still has all of their first picks. So far this has not been an issue*, and typically it will only be 20-30% of people who have any second picks on their allocated games at all.

After Shark Week game picks are processed in the order they come; that is to say players are placed in their games as soon as they sign up. Preference here again is to (obviously) give them their first choice games, but if they choose a game that is already full, they are placed in their second choices. Here, it is possible to get more than one 2nd pick, as we will not move players that registered in Shark Week out of their first choice games in favour of someone who signs up later.

* This year unfortunately was a bit of an exception, as we had to cancel three games due to lack of player numbers. The games that were cancelled were the ones that had the least number of signups but inevitably they were the 1st pick of those players, so if I recall correctly there were some players this year that did have more than one 2nd pick, but that was because the games they picked were cancelled, not because we wanted to give them that many 2nd picks. There was quite a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth on behalf of the organisers when this happened, particularly with regard to one player who had selected all three cancelled games :frowning:


Phoenix uses the same Hungry Shark Week system as @Viperion described (I’ve been involved in organising that one for the last few years in various capacities), plus a heart pick or star pick - everyone who signs up during Hungry Shark Week gets to choose one game that they’re guaranteed to get in, unless the game fills with other people who’ve also used their star pick on that game.

As far as I’m aware, Hydra uses the same system.


In terms of the history, Chimera (the first NZ larp con, now sadly on hiatus) used first-come, first-served, leading to “hungry shark night”, where everyone would sign up the moment registrations opened (2010 experience here). Despite perceptions of missing out, it worked OK: according to @Anna_K, “75% of [first-week signups] ended up with all first choice games. The remaining 25% ended up with one second choice game and five first choice games”.

Hydra in 2012 started the “shark week” system. Chimera adopted it that year, and everyone else followed suit.


My sincere apologies for missing two of them! I was taking the names from the categories on Diatribe, and clearly failed to scroll far enough down for Cerberus. (And I see Phoenix is under Christchurch.)

I love the name Shark Week.

Let me see if I understand correctly – For each round, people pick their top two LARPs (out of all of the ones running at the con? Or for a given time slot? I’m looking at the Cerberus website, and it looks like are only one to three LARPs in each round?)

Does the heart pick or star pick basically allow the player to tell the staff “this is the round where I most want my first pick”?

(I’m fascinated by the posts in the links in IdiotSavant’s post. I see Intercon’s system was mentioned. Out of curiosity, what is the objection to asking people to pay before being able to sign up?)


Largely because it Wasn’t How Things Were Done. At the time, participants for all events registered online, then paid by bank transfer or (rarely) in cash at the event. However, in some regions this led to a significant problem of people being slow to pay and having to be chased up (or even not paying at all), and in the past two years most major NZ larp campaigns have moved to using online ticketing systems like EventBrite. This led to some grumbling about the need for credit cards and ready cash, but seems to have been accepted.

The surviving cons all still use the old system though.


Wouldn’t people need ready cash either way, just at different times?


Yes. But because when events opened for registration wasn’t necessarily signalled in advance, there was often less planning time. Events which use online ticketing now tend to give people a month’s warning on when sales will open, and the grumbling has mostly disappeared. Alternatively, the people who don’t like it are attending events which don’t use it.


Related to this topic: one thing I’ve noticed with the move from “shark night” to “shark week”, or from first-come, first-served to “we’ll hold spaces for a month for returning players” for games using EventBrite, is that signups appear to have dropped off. This may be due to a shrinkage of the NZ larp market over the years, or it could be a result of the signup system. While first-come, first-served is unfair in all sorts of ways, one thing it does do is create and leverage a fear of missing out and so push people to sign up now, rather than putting it off and then forgetting about it out of slackness.


Sorry, I’m confused again. Doesn’t shark week hold spaces for a week, not a month?


Shark week lasts for a week.

Some NZ larp campaigns use a system where they initially only offer tickets to returning players for a month, then work out how many spaces they have for new players and open for general signup. There are obvious reasons for this: rewarding loyalty, getting a consistent group of characters to plot for, and a more consistent story. But the side effect of long sign-up windows is more time for people not to sign up, and more time for them to forget about it. And it does seem to be correlated with a drop-off in numbers.


Ah, but none of the conventions featuring mostly one-shots have a one-month thing (nor, I imagine, would they want to reward loyalty at the expense of newbies?)


Nope - the cons just use shark week. And there seems to have been a bit of a drop-off there as well.


Is it safe to assume there aren’t any public documents with specific numbers indicating how severe the drop offs have been?


Sadly no.