Sasquan guest of honor Leslie Turek is preparing a 4th edition of the Worldcon runners’ role playing game If I Ran the
Zoo…Con for delivery in Spokane. The cover illustration is by Merle Insinga, and interior cartoons by Steve Stiles. Preorders are being taken by OffWorld Designs.
First introduced and played at Smofcon 3 in 1986, If I Ran the
Zoo…Con lets players lead a committee through the Bidding, Planning, and At-Con phases of a World Science Fiction Convention.
The game has been revised and updated with nine new scenarios, some contributed by Priscilla Olson, Mark Olson, and John Pomeranz.
The new scenarios include a crisis about losing a hotel while bidding, and a thinly-disguised adaptation of the 1997 Disclave flood. Leslie Turek continues: “Other scenarios cover things that are new in Worldcon-running since the 1980’s, such as web sites, social media storms, exhibit space layout, and the Hugo Loser’s party. No, we don’t address the Hugo controversy (too soon), but we do talk about Hugo base design (couldn’t resist the phrase ‘People are losing their balls’ – if you were at N3, you’ll understand that one).”
I was one of the lucky players when the game debuted in 1986.
Here’s is Leslie Turek’s description of that experience from Mad 3 Party #16 (February 1987):
The game was designed to be both an ice-breaker and also something to get people thinking about some of the perennial con-running problems in a humorous setting. (Joe Mayhew referred to it as a consciousness-raising technique.) It’s not clear how many consciousnesses were raised, but there certainly was a lot of hilarity.
First, three teams (known as con committees) were selected by leaders from each region: Mike Walsh for the East. John Guidry for the Central, and Mike Glyer for the West. Game officials were Chip Hitchcock as the SMOF (who read the game scenarios). Alexis Layton as the Independent Accountant (who kept track of the score), and Tony Lewis as Murphy (the element of chance). Murphy was aided in his job by a spinner in the form of a day-glo propeller beanie created by Pam Fremon.
The game took the committees through three phases: bidding, planning, and at-con. For each turn, the committee chose a chairman and also drew a scenario to play. Scenarios, which were written by a number of contributors, including such titles as:
- Choosing the Bid Committee
- GoH Choice
- Pre-Supporting Memberships
- Masquerade Length
- The Big Premiere
- The “Relationship”
- Kids’ Programming
- Ups and Downs (Elevator Management)
- The Contract
- Turning the Tables (No-show Hucksters)
- The Lady and the Snake
- The Ice
- Keep on Truckin’ (Logistics)
As each situation was read, the chairman would be given a number of options to select from. The committee could be consulted, but the chairman had to make the final decision. In some cases, the next situation was a direct result of the chairman’s choice, but in most cases, Murphy was also consulted. Murphy would spin the spinner and the SMOF would select the next situation according to that result. As the situations progressed, the team would win or lose Financial poings (representing money), People points (representing staff effort), and Goodwill points (representing the reaction of fandom and others whose cooperation is needed by the committee).
Many of the scenarios covered more than one phase. For example, a decision made in the planning phase might have results later in the game during the at-con phase. Murphy played a role here in deciding when each team would have to deal with the consequences of its earlier decisions. Murphy’s favorite line began, “Remember when you decided to….?”
The total game consists of 43 scenarios, and in about 2 hours of play we managed to go through only about 2/3 of them. After the game (which was won by the Central team), each member was given a printed copy of the full game to take home with them.
There were big plans in the 1980s to make a text-based computer game from the script. So far as I know that never happened, but MCFI and NESFA have kept the print version going for nearly 30 years.