An Interview with Angelia Parenteau, one of the many great minds behind TotalCon.
As promised last month I am here with Angelia Parenteau, Promotional Director and all around wonder woman of Total Confusion Gaming Convention. Angelia has agreed to answer some questions about the convention and give us a taste of things to come as the convention nears its 30th anniversary here on the South Shore. Without to much ado let’s get right to it.
OL: First for all the uninitiated, what is TotalCon?
AP: Total Confusion is New England’s Largest Table Top Gaming Convention. That means the majority of event offerings are geared around gaming events like role-playing, board games, miniature games and card games. We do offer panels, movies, and live performances to give attendees a complete fun-filled weekend. The majority of attendees, however, are there to play games first and foremost. TotalCon is held each February in Massachusetts for 4 days. TotalCon 29 will be held Feb. 19-22, 2015 at the Holiday Inn in Mansfield, MA.
OL: Can you tell me a quick history of the convention and how it came to be the event it is today?
AP: Total Confusion actually started as MassCon which ran for two years before the team decided to part ways. Over the years, TotalCon has been held at various locations but has always been in Massachusetts and always the weekend after Presidents day which corresponds with the MA public school vacation week. Wes Carpentier, one of the original founders of MassCon. Wes is still a staff member of the convention and is a permanent VIP at the convention.
OL: What were some of the main highlights this year? I hear there is a great deal of qualifiers that go on at the convention.
AP: There were a lot of good things going on at the convention this year. First, we have a power house of talent represented in our Industry Guest listing. We are honored to have them come in to run special events, premiers, panels, live podcasts, and offer fun swag to the attendees. Then there are national qualifiers like IRON GM, Catan World Championship Qualifier, Ticket to Ride Qualifier, and the 40k NOVA qualifier. In addition, we host several New England Regional Championships as well. We had Dorks in Dungeons and Matthew Ebel, join the RKO Army in providing live performances for folks. We also get to host the battle interactives for RPGA and Pathfinder. Also new this year was being able to host proto-type reviews for game designers. Finally, another special highlight was having the honor of hosting the wedding for Industry Guest James Carpio and his finance Mary Lindholm at the convention on Saturday night. There are simply too many fun things to list.
OL: How did you come to be involved with the convention?
AP: I started to become involved when my ex-husband joined the staff. I got to know the staff and hung around at the convention meetings. I started slowly, doing some behind the scenes work like editing and minor tasks. The more I got involved, the more I liked it. Eventually I felt confident enough to take on bigger roles and was happy that they gave me the chance. Fast forward, ten years later and I am now a senior staff in charge of the PR Department, Exhbitors, Vendors, and on-site Green Room.
OL: What makes TotalCon different from other conventions in the North East?
AP: First, it is important to know that there are many types of conventions in the New England area that cater to different aspects of “geek culture”. There are pop culture events like PAX East which focus on parties, shows, lots of exhibitors, costumes, etc. There are fan-based cons like Arisia and Anime Bostion which host lots of panels, star signings, flicking, and many parties and specific costuming based on the themes of the convention. All offer tabletop gaming events but it is not the main focus of those conventions and they do not offer the amount of scheduling that TotalCon does. TotalCon is “gaming” convention where the majority of programming is based on scheduled gaming. So we are different from others due to our event schedules and overall theme.
When compared to other “gaming” conventions in the area like Carnage, OGC, ConnCon, and Anonycon, TotalCon stands out for its Industry Guests, large number of events, offering other programming like panels and live performances, large number of qualifiers, exhibitors, and vendors. TotalCon has grown to become more than another local gaming con. It has become a regional event pulling attendees from all across New England and beyond.
OL: A few years back attendance seemed to be dwindling at the convention. How has it been turned around? What has relighted the spark in attendees?
AP: Yes, TotalCon went from 1200+ down to 350 at its low point, TotalCon has come back stronger than ever with attendance this year estimated at 1350+ (badge count, not turn-style). I believe a big part of this was recognizing that change was needed. We listened to the attendee’s feedback. We found some the best organizers in the community and brought them on board to help with the different departments. We dug in and gave our best to those that remained loyal and it paid off. Once a great team was in place and quality came back to the con, time was spent trying to offer things other gaming conventions weren’t to fill in gaps that we thought were missing in the community like bringing in Industry Guests and special events. Our motto became “Bringing the best in gaming to the heart of New England” and I think we are reaching that goal with each passing year. It truly is a team effort. I believe attendees appreciate the passion we have for gaming, for the New England gaming community as a whole, and know that they are appreciated at the convention. The best reviews of the past few years all say the same thing: what a fun and welcoming atmosphere there is at TotalCon. We are large enough to have some seriously cool happenings yet still small enough to retain a personal connection with attendees. It appears to be a winning combo at the moment.
OL: For those who missed the convention, what are some of your favorite highlights of this and previous years?
AP: Well, as a member of the staff, I don’t get to participate in the convention the same way you or another attendee would, so my perspective is a bit different than most attendees. One big highlight for me was doing a panel discussion on women in gaming with three very talented and exceptional women who are a big part of the gaming community in this area. It wasn’t a big audience but afterwards, one person came up to me and thanked me for my thoughts on the matter and said she learned something. Knowing that I reached someone like that was very cool. Other highlights always include getting to visit with our Industry Guests, returning vendors, exhibitors, performers, and certain friends I only get to see at con time. Anytime I get to meet new folks that are awesome it is always a treat too. This year that list included Stefan Pokorny (Dwarven Forge) and his lovely gf Lulu, Sandra Qugley (Quigley Cakes), and Art (Tabletop Revolution). For me, it’s always been about the people so my experiences at TotalCon are on a more personal level as well as professional. I go to other conventions for gaming and other fun.
OL: Are there any events planned to help people survive the long wait until next February?
AP: Yes, but the dates have not been set yet. There will be game days in May, July, and September. In addition, senior TotalCon staff members will be going out to other conventions to run events and lend support like ConnectiCon and Carnage.
OL: What are some of your favorite games to play?
AP: I originally got into gaming by playing D&D back in 1985. These days, I most play board games since I do not have time to engage in long term RPG sessions. Anything horror based is right up my alley like Arkham Horror, Z-pocalypse, and Mansions of Madness.
OL: Can you give us any spoilers of things to come at TotalCon 29, any little tidbits to whet our appetites for games?
AP: TotalCon 29 will be setting the stage for the big 30th annual event. We already have confirmation for a new Industry Guest who will be a very exciting addition to the list. And we are in talks with another Guest who, if we get him to come, will be Huge. In addition, we have already received input and ideas for some exciting events. There is a lot of brainstorming going on and it’s very exciting. Wish I could say more but you’ll just have to wait. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
OL: If there was one thing you could tell people to make sure they did while at the convention, what would be your must do?
AP: I would tell folks not to be afraid to try something new. It is always fun to show at a convention and see old friends and play favorite games with them. However, conventions are also a great time to expand your gaming knowledge, try something you’ve read about, and make new friends. We have a good board game library for people to use. We have industry guests offering some fantastic RPG events, mini’s guys offering unique non-league play games, and other things like panel discussions and play testing games with design companies. Make it count!
OL: Where do you see the convention going in the next few years? Any dreams of its bright future you can share with us?
AP: I am hoping that the amount of exciting things we can bring to the New England gaming community will continue to grow. I’d like to see more quality Industry Guests, more championships with national convention ties, more quality entertainment, and more fun. Again it comes back to the motto “Bringing the best in gaming to the heart of New England”. If we can continue to push the envelope and offer gamers a unique experience, I see continued growth on multiple levels.
Sadly we have to bring things to a close with Angelia. A big thank you to her and all the other fine staff that help bring TotalCon to us each and every year. Having been a long time guest of the convention I can’t help but hope you will check out the great games and people that make up this one of a kind event. A few days can make a lifetime of memories and build new friendships that you might never have had.
If you are interested in learning more about TotalCon and how you can stay up to date on all the latest events and happenings, check out their website at:
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