It only just turned to fall, but Midwinter is coming; Milwaukee’s Midwinter Gaming Convention, that is. CGG’s last article on the convention talked about its origins. I had always known Midwinter as a World of Darkness LARP gathering. I hadn’t known it started as a Toreador Masquerade, but I did notice its popularity among local Vampire and Werewolf players. Growing out of that niche took, and continues to take, some serious effort. Once again, I turned to Anne Holmes, owner of Daydream Productions and the creator or Midwinter Gaming Convention to find out how it happened.

“We’re all gamers here!”

“It was a challenge to be sure,” Anne described, “as so many people were skeptical that we would never be more than a ‘LARP convention.’ Even still, as we are so LARP heavy, there are people who question if the other tracks get as much love. I want Midwinter to be a place where any gamer can come and experience the events they know and love, as well as explore new options. I want it to be the place where people don’t say “those are the LARPers, or, those are the Tabletoppers, ect… I want it to be the place where people say hey, we’re all gamers here!”

Anne seems to have met, and exceeded, her hopes of expanding Midwinter into an inclusive gaming convention. As of this writing, the

Midwinter, it's not just for LARP anymore.

Midwinter, it’s not just for LARP anymore.

2017 convention offers 38 LARPs, but more than 134 tabletop RPGs, and 30 board game sessions. It also offers a large board game library for participants to drop by and use at any point during the convention. There’s even a smattering of card game events available and more events get added daily. Anne also recognized that it takes more than a wider selection of games to attract the crowds.

“There was no way of telling what types of companies would do well at Midwinter.”

“In addition to welcoming other types of games, my convention needed to have an exhibit hall. Because there was no way of telling what types of companies would do well at Midwinter, I cast out the net and offered first year exhibitors free space. It was a gesture of good will that has definitely paid off. From that first year with exhibitors we have retained three ‘Legacy Exhibitors,’ or companies that have been with us every year since. At that first event I joked that in ten years Legacy would mean something really cool and now that’s only three years away!”

Anne readily admits to making mistakes as Midwinter grew. For example, it turned out I wasn’t the only one thinking the convention was limited to One World by Night LARPs.

“We had been around for ten years… nobody had heard of us.”

“… the show was just learning how to reach out with marketing, explaining to people that yes, we had been around for ten years at that point but we had been limited in scope which was why nobody had heard of us. We spent several hundred dollars on terrain and prizes for an event that nobody showed for. We had presenters that were awesome, but not really in our wheelhouse, because we hadn’t gotten completely comfortable with what our wheelhouse was.”

When asked to reflect on the 2010 Midwinter Convention, Anne replied:

“Was the 10th anniversary the moment? Yes and no. I don’t think there will ever be a moment where I say ‘we have made it’, because that feels like saying we’ve reached the summit. We will never reach the top, because then there will be nowhere else to go.

The10th anniversary did show me that we were ready as a show to make the leap into a full convention, and it was an amazing revelation to me that I had been doing this now for a decade. I had ‘made it’ to the point where I knew there was nothing else I wanted to do as a career.

A bigger ‘made it’ moment for me was when the Best Western could no longer host us, we were bursting at the seams with space issues and needed to make the move to a larger venue in Downtown Milwaukee.”

Midwinter Gaming Convention 2017 will be held January 12-15, 2017 at the historic Hilton Milwaukee City Center and will include more events than ever before. 

Photos by  C.Wenzel Photography