The Future of Mysterium

Hey Folks

Sorry we’ve been so quiet lately, but I swear we’re still working on Mysterium 2012 behind the scenes! We planned to have the logo chosen for you this weekend, but it has been surprisingly difficult to get us all together to choose one. Hopefully by next week! But that’s not what I’m here to talk about right now. Instead, I want to discuss the future of Mysterium and get your input. Note that this is largely just me talking unofficially, Eleri and Odo may not agree with some of my points, and no decisions have been made yet.

Most of you know about the Falling Man Group, which was created to act as a non-profit to help with Myst fandom events (namely Mysterium so far). The board is made up of 3 people who have run Mysterium in the past, and so have experience doing so. The plan was that 2012 would be the last time that the three of us would take a front-line role in planning Mysterium, at least for a while. Instead, we would solicit bids from others who had a team and wanted to run Mysterium. This would help bring in new blood with new ideas to help carry Mysterium forward. We expected that the people running it would probably live near the city they proposed, and so would have an easier time getting everything together than we have doing it remotely. The FMG board would provide guidance and funding, and would also lend a hand as needed, but the chosen team would be the leads. This is totally viable conceptually; Zib, Tanshin, M13 and I did this same thing last year when we ended up running Mysterium 2011. However, if no one were to step up to make a team and run the show, it would also mean there wouldn’t be a Mysterium. That would be unfortunate, but at the same time Mysterium can’t happen unless people want it to happen.

So that was the idea… but now we’re not so sure it’s the right idea. We’ve been brainstorming possibilities, and I wanted to just put them out informally. Please feel free to leave a comment here if you have thoughts. This is *your* convention as much as it is ours, and we want to take your opinions into account when we make this decision. Also, if you are someone who would be interested in bidding, let us know that too so we can see that there are actually people who would want to do so.

Anyway, here are the ideas we’ve come up with so far:

1. As currently planned, soliciting bids from outside, and FMG oversees the committee.

Pros: More control over who is running it, new blood brought in

Cons: Potential of no one stepping up (or just one bad group stepping up), little location control, inexperienced teams could screw up?

2. Alternate Seattle/Boston each year, run by the FMG

Pros: Consistent date/location schedule, major cities, can establish relationships with hotels

Cons: Not good for non-coastal people, no new cities to explore, FMG staff will burn out (that’s not a “may” but a “will”)

3. Encourage people to run mini-Mysteria when/where ever, provide supporting grants from FMG

Pros: Low oversight needed, people can gather regionally as desired

Cons: No large yearly gathering, dilution of ‘Mysterium’ brand, etc

4. No formal Mysterium outside of Spokane every 3 years (starting with the Myst 20th anniversary in 2013)

Pros: Less work, familiar location, easier to involve Cyan, possibly larger attendance

Cons: No yearly gathering (easier for people to lose interest), harder to keep consistent staff, harder for people outside the west-coast to go

5. 4-year cycle: Alternate Spokane and one of the other options (bids, Boston/Seattle), with a year of nothing between each one. So an 8 year cycle would be: Spokane, nothing, bids, nothing, Spokane, nothing, bids, nothing

Pros: Have it in Spokane/at Cyan more often, keeps it moving around a little, having a Mysterium every-other year may help to deal with the declining attendance numbers we’ve been seeing.

Cons: Complicated, not quite yearly and may actually lose people’s interest, still leaves us with the problem of what to do that alternate years when it isn’t in Spokane

-Taniith

Edit (6/14/12) – Thanks for all the comments everyone. Things are hecktic at the moment, but Maker willing I will respond to them this weekend. I want to make sure I have time to give them some real thought before I respond. Note also that if you are interested in getting involved in the planning or running of Mysterium at any level, either leave a comment or send me an email through the contact form.

Posted in General, Location, News.

28 Comments

  1. I was able to get to the Seattle (just prior to Uru Live) and the Chicago Mysterium. I had a fantastic time. Having the event only coastal does leave a lot of us out, logistically and financially. (St. Louis area) I would love to get to another one but it’s harder to get to the ones on the coast. (I really wanted to see Cyan so I made the extra effort to get there.)
    I know these are a lot of work to plan and pull off. I’m not sure how many came to the 2011 one. I’m afraid that if they start going every four years, most interest will fall off completely. A revitalization of the Cavern, somehow, would do wonders to get more interest in the Mysterium. I say that and even I haven’t been in the Cavern in over a month. To think of the hours a week I spent there and planning events for there, not that many years ago!!

    I think I like the mini-Mysteria idea. At least that way, they might be accessible to more people.

    It might be time to let go, too. Things have their time. I cherish the time I spent at the ones I was able to attend.

  2. I honestly don’t like any of those ideas. The first proposed is the best of the one to come from the committee. However, (I’ve had this idea since last year, so now that you’re asking…) I personally would vie for doing Spokane once every four years (and anniversary years) and the three years in between having the community vote on the location.

    Basically, have people throw in location ideas, and letting the committee chose the top five or so of the proposed locations and letting fans vote. (This would be done based on the location itself, relevance, meeting space, and activities in and around the area.) The pros of this is it allows folks who wouldn’t normally be able to attend the Boston and Seattle meetings to meet fellow fans and allows a potential greater variety of local activities, while the pros would be not providing lots of leeway for the committee (i.e. traveling to inconvenient locations.). However, doing so this way has it’s ups and down, as do the other proposed methods.

    The other big advantage of only doing one convention per year is the issue of fatigue. I don’t see anyway every attendee will be able to attend every convention this way. You’d hate to have a fan plan a con to only have three people show up;that’s not good for anyone nvolved in my opinion.

    Anyways, I look forward to any decisions you all make! 😀

    • The problem is that we can’t just have people vote on whatever they want. We need to have at least one local person who is dedicated to the Con to help deal with the large number of local things that come up. It’s just not feasible to do it all remotely. The more local people involved, the better (which is where the idea for bids came from)

  3. @Trekluver: The voting on proposed locations has been done before. That’s how we got Minneapolis in 2010, for example. Also, when it was done in the past the committee looked for local reps to help handle things like the hotel seeking, and it was hard to find people to commit to that lesser work. Getting 3 or 4 fans in an area together to put in all the grunt work of running it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Running a Mysterium in general isn’t easy. And, like was said, it’s quite possible there will be years no one can step up and get it together, and then you don’t get anything! So relying on local teams to work every year is risky and will lead to years of no Mysterium, imho.

    Also, I don’t see why every attendee should have to attend every convention a year. Many people don’t even get to attend the one we currently have! Say there’s 2 in one year for some reason, one in PST and one in CST. Why is it bad? The people who can’t make it to one due to timing or cost might be able to make it to the other, giving a wider amount of fans the chance to experience at least one of the events. I don’t see how that would be bad.

    My thoughts:

    I can see advantages in each of the methods. I wonder if you could hybridize some of the methods. It’s obvious that Seattle and Boston are (comparatively) easier to put together bids for because we have experienced FMG members near each one. And you’re right that staying in the same places allows building of contacts with the same places, which is good. How many months before the event do things like hotel need to be settled down? Because what if there was a situation where “We’ll allow community teams to put together city bids in the fall and have the community vote on them in January. If the selected local committee does not have everything nailed down by mid-April and it seems like their proposal won’t work, we announce a Mysterium in (Seattle or Boston, depending) and switch over to that one”. Or something vaguely like that. That way there’s always a “backup” chance for Mysterium in the pocket if a local-sourced one doesn’t happen.

    I also think that strong FMG support of mini-Mysteria, regardless of what happens with the annual one, is a good idea. Maybe come up with some formalized rules on that (you must have like 7+ attendees or something?). It gives people who might not be able to travel cross-country or cross-continent the ability to still go to some kind of meetup.

    • (Probably repeating things that are said in other comments, but anyway…)

      The problem with running two main cons at once is that it will invariably lead to smaller numbers at each. In any given city, there are people who will only go to that one because it is close, and then there are the people who travel every year (or some years) to go. But if there are two, then the people who travel will be spread out. The con is only feasible money-wise if we get enough people, so trying to hold two main-cons isn’t good imho.

      Mid-April cuts it really close. We pulled that off last year, but personally I’d rather have things nailed down by January. True, we do now have a set weekend each year, so that removes the issue of needing to re-schedule, but if the location changes drastically then it could screw with people’s budgeting and such too. And if we expected to have the year semi-off to recharge, it would be a kick in the gut to suddenly have to scramble and get things setup in the backup cities. It is an interesting idea on paper, but I’m not sure about it in practice. It requires further thought.

      I do want to support mini-meetups. There’s no reason they have to be full mini-cons or anything like that. They can just be one-day meetups. The question there is how we raise the money for supporting those. One thought that comes to mind is that if those smaller meetups charge an admission fee or sell t-shirts, we could get some of that as a return for fronting money.. or something. IDK.

  4. Couple of thoughts:

    What about a hybrid of 2 and 5? A 4-year cycle that went Spokane-or-Seattle, bid, Boston, bid. The bid years would hopefully function as an off year for FMG. If no city had a group of fans step forward to bid, it would just be a break year for FMG. And there’d be a sturdy skeleton of guaranteed every-other-year events. This would require FMG to grow enough to be able to effectively delegate/spread out labor enough that non-coastal Mysteria were non-taxing enough to feel like a break

    In the interest of encouraging non-coastal groups to get cohesive to the point of putting bids together, what about making a “how to host a mini-Mysterium” guide? There could even be an official suggested month/weekend for people have mini-Mysteria. Perhaps release some kind of puzzle/riddle trail via email just for mini-Mysteria so that there was an incentive/excuse for people to put together small local meetups. (Please consider me a volunteer to help with this if FMG thinks it’s a good idea!)

    • Hrm… interesting. This makes me think about something where some off years could intentionally only have mini-cons. We could do a global puzzle-chain/arg/etc, and help promote mini-cons and meetups to happen on the same day or weekend. That would allow us to have full cons every-other year, and then at least something on the off years to keep people interested.

      We’ll likely be in touch ;p

  5. Personally, I cannot stand the thought of a year without Mysterium. I love the way it used to work, a different region every year , but I understand why that didn’t really work. I like the 2/5 hybrid proposed by rivenwanderer above, personally. I promised myself I would never miss another Mysterium, I don’t think I could survive a Mysterium-less year.

    As convenient as it would be for me if Mysterium were in Boston every year (or even every few years), one of the best parts of Mysterium for me was having an excuse to explore the rest of the country (and Canada, I suppose). I want to do whatever it takes for that to stay a reality.

  6. I agree with Rivenwanderer and Zib. I live in the Cleveland, Ohio area, and I don’t have a car or steady monetary income, so the way things have worked in the past is best for me. If that is not practical, as you say is the case, then the only way I can easily attend is if there is a chance to bid for a closer location every other year. Of course, I’d love to go to a Spokane Mysterium, but so far the only one I’ve made it to was Minneapolis. Please note, I’d be happy to help organize a Mysterium in Cleveland, especially with the new attractions that have opened in recent months and years, and those upcoming!

  7. I think all of the above ideas have some relevance, and that we shouldn’t write off any of them completely–except for a no-Mysterium-year….definitely not!

    The way it worked for a long time–Spokane every 3 years, and the 2 years in between chosen by the community proposing locations, narrowed down by the committee/community, and finally voted on by the community–was good, but I understand that it might not always work out nowadays, given the somewhat stagnant state of the community. Last year’s mini-Mysterium-turned-main-Mysterium in Boston worked out great, even though it deviated from the normal routine; we had a decent fan base there to handle planning since the committee was busy with FMG stuff, and it was a blast! This year’s Mysterium in Seattle instead of Spokane deviates from the 3-year pattern, but it works out okay since there’s a fan base there to handle planning, and motivation for a Spokane/Cyan Mysterium isn’t as high right now as in the past given the current state of the Myst franchise. It’d be easy to insist that we pick a single pattern and stick with it, and to be dissatisfied if it doesn’t work out that way; I’ve felt that way for a little while before. But the more I’ve learned about past and present Mysteriums and Mysterium committees, I’ve realized how hard it can be to plan a Mysterium (and how grateful everyone who attends needs to be to those involved!), and because of that, I think flexibility and simply ensuring a yearly Mysterium are more important that predictability.

    Having locals to help with planning is definitely a plus, but past Mysteriums have shown that it’s not absolutely required; I’d like to think that if the community really wants to have Mysterium at a location where there’s few (if any) locals, that we could work through whatever difficulties there might be. I’m not sure about the details….it might just come down to the FMG asking for additional help from the community regardless of their locations, or it might be something else altogether. In the end, we want to continue visiting Spokane–and consequently Cyan–occasionally; the solid fan bases in Seattle and Boston make those locations worthwhile destinations as well (for the purposes of not only attendance, but planning as well); and visiting new cities is always exciting. Mini-Mysteriums are also awesome, and I sincerely hope they’ll continue, but I don’t feel like they need to in any way replace the annual Mysteriums.

    I’m kind of rambling, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that as….comforting(?) as it might be to establish a pattern, a more realistic, flexible, and workable solution might be to avoid establishing a pattern….to keep all of these ideas in mind every year, but to approach each year individually. We could organize and hold community discussions at any point(s) after a given Mysterium–held via web-boards, Cyan Chat, and/or in-Cavern (Uru)–probing the community for what would work for them the following summer: Do a lot of people seem to want to go back to Cyan soon? Are more east-coasters or west-coasters or central-people hoping to go to the next Mysterium (or some combination thereof)? Are there any locals from a not-yet-visited city that want to bring Mysterium to their city, and that are willing to spearhead the effort? Are there no volunteers, necessitating a default to Seattle/Boston? For a little while, at each Mysterium an announcement was made about where the next one was made; a year’s notice is nice, but it’s not always possible; the above-described community discussions could start soon after a given Mysterium, and could state early on that if a final decision isn’t made by X weeks/months before Mysterium, a default to Boston/Seattle/Spokane would take place. Basically, diverse possibilities every year, plenty of time to plan, plenty of community/FMG input, and predictable, default “back-up plans” when necessary.

    The way I see it, the future and nature of Mysterium will differ each year, depending on the state of the community/franchise and the interest of who/where. For what it’s worth, K’laamas and I are interested in spearheading a Salt Lake City Mysterium at some point, so don’t doubt that there’s still plenty of options floating out there 🙂

    Wow, this turned into a long post o.o I think I’ll shut up now >.>

    –M@
    Lord of the Squees
    Mysterium Enthusiast
    🙂

  8. I think returning to a Rotation Schedule might be something to consider (as was discussed a few years ago) – Keep it as the West, East, Center rotation.

    This way – It gives a bit more of a fair chance of people being able to go [West and East can meet in Center, Center can go to either Coast…about the only problem is the East-West visiting]. This way, you get the charm of all three and more people have a chance to go (as they could Drive/Fly with whatever financial mean they have)

    Likewise, there is a slightly more complicated option for the Coastal: Simultaneous Mysteriums

    Have one group run a West Coast – the other run an East Coast. Link the two via Projector screens and web cams. With this, there can even be East vs. West Competitions. Not to mention – this would also allow for the live stream for those who can’t make it to either, and for people to feel like they are at both. Yes, this would mean a little more work. Yes, it would mean more planning on everyone’s parts…but the result could be quite worth it (I noticed this caused some fun with PAX and AB this year)

    • Very interesting idea! But still, it too could turn out to be too taxing on the FMG and cause convention fatigue for Mysterium goers as well.

      Another idea I came up with this afternoon was (And it appears Riven Wanderer and Zib have similar thoughts as well) to have Spokane be done every five years (Starting next year). This way, each anniversary year (25th, 30th, 35th, ect.) has a Mysterium in Cyan’s neck of the woods. And the other years in between could alternate between bidding/voting and then Seattle and Boston (Or other cities as well.) This way you get the best of both worlds: familiar cities to build up contacts AND cities closer to some attendee’s stomping grounds. 😉

      • I also like this idea. Boston/Seattle are go-tos because we are in those cities which makes it easier. If we can build contacts in other cities with the help of locals, we can add to our pool of go-tos and possibly not be so constrained on non-bid years. And I also agree with the 5-year Spokane plan. 3-years never made sense to me, but 5-years on the anniversaries does.

    • Ack! No! As much fun as it sounds to have east/west competitions, I hate the idea of splitting the community like that. I understand that as it is, some people don’t go to Mysterium some years at all because they can’t get to the other coast, but if you split it, then the people who do make the effort to cross the country wouldn’t anymore, and you’d end up with two small events rather than one moderately-sized one.

      It’s really important for Mysteriums to have a lot of people, both for reasons of fun, and for monetary reasons – Mysterium needs to achieve a certain room reservation level for it to be feasible…

      I don’t know, maybe it would be great, and I’m just being paranoid, but the idea of splitting the community makes me very nervous D:

  9. The biggest issue is really finding the people. Running a gathering of any size is a lot of work and it can burn out people quickly. Whatever plan that comes up needs to keep that in mind. Everyone likes the moving location of Mysterium so that everyone has a chance to get to one. However, for that to be viable, there _has_ to be more people to step up and help with Mysterium. Sure you can try to plan a gathering from far away, but that’s much harder than it seems even with the Internet. There is always a ton of running around to do, and having at least one local reliable person willing to do that, the difficulty increases dramatically (and the possibility of burn out does as well).

    While I think there is a lot of discussion to be had, I really think that no matter what plan is chosen, there just need to be more people to help and commit to keeping Mysterium going. Both for individual years and on a continuing basis.

    • Agreeing in full that more people are needed.

      Perhaps at this years – or even on the website…Maybe an area should be set up where people could post if they would be interested in helping/running a Mysterium. I feel that if it was organized by state – it would help people to see a bit better where potential Mysteriums could be held. In the end, I see two options for those willing to run one coming up:

      A. People in the same state teaming up to run one – this gives a handful of people to choose hotel, location, and things to do based on the area. Not to mention, makes it easier for them to meet in person to discuss various issues and matters pertaining to the con.

      B. Close/Neighboring States team up – this could allow those states who only have one or two fans [Like mine] to form a larger group. For example, New York could team up with Pennsylvania. Sure they would need to choose one state or the other, but this way – City, things to do, and ways to get around are left to the Locals, while the ‘visiting’ state can handle the more practical things [Hotel booking, event booking, ect.] .

      • I think having an at-Mysterium meetup about how to run it as an optional session would be cool. Prior runners could lecture about how it works to people who want to help out and give advice and tips, and if it was recorded it could be added to the site.

        I also like your idea of a close states teamup. I know there’s several of us in upstate New York (5 I know by name, until December), and it would be easy to coordinate with the rest of NY, NJ, and PA. Or we could do a big regional “Northeast” one and expand to VT, CT, MA, etc!

  10. One idea that has occurred to me after reading everyone’s thoughts is that we could mitigate some of the staff fatigue by having two committees. If we could get another committed group of 3-5 people who would switch off years with us, it might make things much easier.

  11. I’ve never been able to attend a Mysterium, though I’ve wanted to, come close to booking, and have viewed/participated in the online streams.

    That said, here’re my thoughts, worth less than a penny:

    – I agree the Mysterium brand needs oversight and continuity over the years. The few knowledgeable folks that have carried the load for so long (the Falling Man Group board) should not continue to be overburdened, but their expertise should be drawn upon.

    – The alternating East Coast / West Coast concept has been a good one, but localization means that locals are in fact best at locating venues, finding and booking activities, and so on. Also, one of the things such conventions rely on is the various props that help create the right atmosphere; these aren’t the kind of things you want to fly cross-country so keeping a local storage for repeat use is handy. So I’d advocate having Eastern and Western Mysterium teams under the guidance of the FMG for these alternating events (no sense of competition need arise!)

    – As has been pointed out (!), there’s a huge amount of territory between the coasts. And the idea of local mini-Mysteriums is very cool, I think. So why not have an Eastern Mysterium one year, a Western Mysterium the second year, followed by a year in which multiple mini-Mysteriums are held all over the world? That way each committee gets a three-year period to plan their next incredible event, and the FMG gets to operate in an advisory capacity to uphold standards (if they’re willing!)

  12. I do think that Mysterium is going to need more and more people stepping up in an administrative fashion if it’s going to survive, as burn out and cross country planning have already been cited as huge sources of stress. I think it’s quite heartening that when it looked like Mysterium was going to fall through one year, that folks really stepped up in 2011 and were total heroes. One problem that the community has though is that being so small, there isn’t a lot of wiggle room if something goes wrong. I myself have wanted to help, but between a layoff hitting the family, moving (half the family across country), college, finances, health, other obligations, etc., I was barely at a PC at all the past few years.

    I know it isn’t the most popular idea, but something that I think warrants consideration is taking some of the burden off Mysterium by connecting it to another event. Myst itself would mesh very nicely with the crowds of science fiction/fantasy, steampunk, and gaming conventions, and there are MANY of these all across the country. It’s also common for one convention to advertise itself at another with programming or a party. If Mysterium attendees chose one convention a year to meet up at, the financial burden would be next to nothing for the Falling Man Group. Most charity based conventions and quite a few for profit ones allow the community to submit suggestions for programming, with the make or break factor being whether anyone is actually willing to speak on the panel (volunteers for which we already have). The local convention is the one that pays for the event space and panel rooms. Larger cons have larger room blocks and can secure a better deal for all attendees on their hotel room rates. Mysterium attendees would be able to still enjoy the local sights as well as have a larger convention to explore if they can’t get out of the hotel, and the regular convention attendees could potentially be exposed to Myst and expand the fanbase. A hotel party room would be a much more economic option for FMG to host an area for fans to mingle whenever they want. If Mysterium manages to grow a bit after a few years, it will be much easier to make it self sustaining and potentially transition back into a standalone event were it to take this path.

    Now excuse me as I hide from incoming tomatoes. I can hear the target locks already.

    • Interesting… there’s some inherent problems doing the convention that way. However, I personally wouldn’t be apposed to seeing it happen once to test the waters. For instance, Dragon*Con is a mulit-con event. Hence, hosting all of part of a Mysterium at it or a similar con could have its advantages, such as possibly bring in future Mysterium attendees.

      That said, I think Mysterium the way it is has stronger advantages than an incorporated version of it would. For instance, more control over the planning process and attendance fees is had in the current manner.

  13. Thea’s idea of setting up a spot in a larger convention is intriguing and perhaps well worth a try.

    Mini-Mysteria are also a good idea. I have never helped organize a Mysterium event or even been to one, but I would be open to assisting with one if circumstances allowed for it. If I can afford to make the trip and have no prior commitments at the time, I’d like to do this.

  14. Pingback: Wrapping 2012 and the Future « Mysterium

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