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Philip Philip
Sep 22

(or, How will Go Play NW 2021 Online work?)

What’s the donut?

The donut is a pitch circle, a method of getting people together into games on the spot without scheduling in advance. When done in person, it’s typically a large circle of prospective players ringed around a small group of volunteer game facilitators, much like a donut shape, hence the name.

Why do we have the donut at Go Play NW?

One of our goals for Go Play NW is no player left behind—we want all our attendees to be able to get into a game every session. We found that not everyone is prepared to sign up for a scheduled game in advance, and often there aren’t enough games proposed in advance to accommodate all the attendees. That’s partly because some people prefer the spontaneity of pitching a game on the spot, or waiting to see what games are pitched on the spot and jumping into whatever strikes their interest and has open spots. It’s a great way to meet new people and make friends!

Why are we having only donut pitch circles for Go Play NW 2021, and no pre-scheduled games?

First, the donut is a characteristic feature of Go Play NW—a lot of our attendees look forward to participating in the donut every year, so we knew we’d want to facilitate that if possible. Second, it took some work (including some custom Discord bot development by our staff member Star) to figure out that we could automate enough of the process to make the donut worthwhile to do, so we want to put that to use. Third, scheduled games can be done pretty much any time; spontaneous pitch circles are more difficult to do outside of the structure of a convention like Go Play NW. Focusing on the donut feels like the best way to devote our efforts for an online Go Play NW in 2021.

How many donuts are there?

Each game day—Saturday and Sunday—we have two main session slots, a morning/midday one and an afternoon/evening one. If you’re attending Go Play NW 2021 both Saturday and Sunday, you’ll have the opportunity to get into four donuts (and so four games). We can manage up to about 35 people in a donut session, so if we have more than that attending, we’ll split each session into two groups starting an hour apart; at most, we can host 70 players each day, in two different donut slots each session.

How does the donut work?

Each session (or donut slot, if we’re doubling up) we’ll start by gathering everyone in one audio channel called a stage, where our donut moderator will explain the full donut process. In brief, the moderator will ask for volunteers to pitch games, and those volunteers will each have a turn to talk briefly about the game they want to facilitate and how many players they can have. Once we have enough volunteers and games to take all the available players, we’ll get the individual game channels set up, post summaries of the available games, and open them to sign-ups by the players.

How can attendees help make the donut work?

Although the donut is spontaneous in concept, it will definitely help to consider in advance whether you know a game that you can facilitate effectively online. For the donut to work, it’s important to have people willing to step forward and volunteer to facilitate a game. We’re putting together a list of games that are freely available, require minimal preparation, and work great for online play; we’ll have that list available before Go Play NW 2021 starts so you can look it over for inspiration. But games don’t work without players, either; even if you don’t feel up to facilitating a game, come with enthusiasm and openness to meet new people and try new games!

Finally, remember that we have the “lobby con” social time on Friday evening from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM (or later) Pacific Time, open to all attendees—in addition to letting you meet up with old friends or make new ones, it gives us an opportunity to go through the event check-in process with everyone, so that on Saturday and Sunday we can jump quickly into the donuts and get games going!

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