My friend and founder of Legion Events (and longtime judge) Steve Port recently stepped back from running his physical stores, taking on some new challenges. In light of the fact that Steve has been running Magic events for such a long time, and that Fate Reforged presents the first time in many years that he is not first into the fray, I asked him to write a bit about the history of PR events. Without further adieu, I give you Steve Port!
Over 20 years ago, I ran my first sanctioned magic event. 17 years ago this month I was running my 2nd ever Magic Prerelease and my first ever event in the Minneapolis/St Paul Metro area. That event was Stronghold. We pulled some 420 players for that event, an event where we were expecting at most 350. The event was tied to a small game convention in St Paul called Con of the North. (Con of the North is still active and running, another long-term survivor!) When I arrived at the venue on Friday night, it was clear the 350 chairs I had asked for were not set; it was set up for about 150. More problematic was the room that… no matter how many chairs we put in it, was not going to be able to hold 350 people. It was significantly smaller than it needed to be.
We set about finding every table and chair we could and, without question, had many of those tables much too close together to be comfortable–-let alone to enable judges to get in to help players without supreme amounts of effort. We got set as best we could then sat in to wait. Early Saturday it was clear we were going to need more space. So we commandeered a couple RPG rooms the con had (and the tables and chairs that went with them) and had a small row of players playing on the floor in the hall marked off with tape.
Back in those early days venues hadn’t heard of Magic, Judges were hard to find, and since this was before the full proliferation of the internet, information was much harder to disseminate than it is now. I was blessed in running into a couple local active judges who offered their services for the weekend. I don’t recall the entire crew, but I think we only had about 3 or 4 floor judges for the whole 420 player event. Barratt Moy was my head judge.
One of those judges was Kevin Dolbeare, who is still an active judge and currently teaches science in Alabama. Another was Marc Dudda, who has worked for me on and off these past 17 years and is currently the manager of Legion Games, my former store in Burnsville, MN. Former store. There it is. It’s not mine any more, I sold it as of Jan 1, 2014. That brings me to the reason why David asked me to write a little something. As of this prerelease (Fate Reforged) I no longer have direct involvement with Prereleases for the first time in over 17 years. It’s pretty fantastic to think about the changes that have happened over that time.
In the beginning the prereleases were spread across the country, only 20 or so for the entire country. They crept up in number slowly until the change came to bring them to the store level. The number of events exploded, making prereleases available with limited commute time to virtually everyone in the country, and to a lot of the rest of the world too.
Finding staff used to be an incredible challenge. It basically came down to knowing people. Someone I knew, knew a guy who said he was interested in judging once. You’d call, MAYBE email and set up the event… then hope they showed up. It was so difficult to find staff for these very early events that even if someone bailed from an event they promised to be at, I’d often invite them back for another event anyway, because hey, they showed some interest, right?
Now, thousands of Prerelease events happen around the country over the weekend with tens of thousands of players, supported by hundreds of judges. Thanks to this community, Judges are significantly easier to find than they were back in the “old days”. The judge community has grown and expanded into something that would make 1997 Steve weep with joy.
Thanks, Steve, for being a part of the evolution of Magic events. And thanks, judges, for helping these events to run smoothly!