Peter Adkison Interview

By on February 23, 2008
Go Play Espionage!

Peter Adkison, one time owner of Wizards of the Coast, Inc (WotC), now the owner of Gen Con, LLC is, once again, at Gen Con UK (his fourth visit in five years – he missed Gen Con UK 2001). Obviously the main focus of this interview is his intentions for the Gen Con brand, specifically the European/UK aspects. However, there are still some questions left over from his time as owner of WotC and, thankfully, Peter is willing to answer them.

The biggest question revolves around the mass resignations from the RPGA UK at the end of Gen Con UK 1999 and the backlash from that, which many believe the RPGA never really recovered from. Peter’s answer is extremely frank, no one talked to him about the issues in the UK and he was as shocked as the gamers present when John Brown and the RPGA UK Steering Committee resigned.

Following on from that, Peter put David Weise in charge of Organised Play and offered an “open chequebook” to the RPGA. Unfortunately, that didn’t appear to help matters. WotC went through two general managers in Europe and the US side of the company didn’t really know what was happening here. In hindsight, Peter feels that he, and WotC, never did “as good as we could have” in Europe.

Of course, perhaps the biggest failing in the eyes of many UK gamers was the merger of Polyhedron UK, with the US version. Again Peter is frank about the situation, stating that the magazine wasn’t treated very well but that, now it is independent it should do well.

With, perhaps, the more difficult aspect of the interview out the way, Peter is happy to discuss his involvement in the 3rd Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, in which he was very active during the early stages of development. Chief among his requirements were a flexible, modular game and easier layout of the rules, the latter in a bid to move away from the problems that AD&D suffered. That is, the perception that it was a complicated game – Peter believes that AD&D wasn’t complicated, just that the rules weren’t laid out in an easily readable manner.

Perhaps the most interesting news, at least to this interviewer, was that the d20 System wasn’t developed in parallel with Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition, but after it. Obviously, as someone involved with the entire concept, Peter believes that the d20 System has been good for the gaming industry and the gamers themselves, citing the likes of Sword & Sorcery and their rule books. He further believes that the d20 System encourages variety and diversity in products. In fact, the supplement that he himself would love to have written is the Epic Level Handbook.

Moving on to his future plans for the Gen Con brand, Peter is very open on some aspects but surprisingly guarded on others. By way of example, Peter states that he is not sure if Gen Con UK will move to the continent, but then, in an open meeting two days later, announces that Gen Con Europe 2004 will be held in Amsterdam. This one announcement, while not entirely unexpected (rumours had abounded for weeks), throws doubts over the rest of his interview. What other aspects was he hiding until such time as an announcement would be made?

However, that aside, Peter has big plans for the Gen Con brand, including splitting Gen Con US into Gen Con East Coast and Gen Con West Coast; an enlarged and improved Gen Con Europe and, potentially, a Gen Con Asia (Peter has received correspondence suggesting Hong Kong as a potential site for an Asian Gen Con).

Peter’s biggest aim though is to involve as many American companies in Gen Con Europe as possible, in an attempt to increase the size and scope of the convention itself. Of course, as mainstays of the current role-playing scene, the Living Environments will be invited to attend, as will other sections of the hobby industry.

It is the overall industry that Peter is most interested in, as he himself states, “I love the hobby games industry”. As the owner of the biggest convention brand in the role-playing and collectable card gaming industry, he wishes to expand upon it. First in his sights is the inclusion of the likes of Games Workshop and sports trading card games, as he sees them as different arms of the same industry.

Peter also sees laptop computers and PDAs taking a more prominent role at the gaming table, but the one thing he would really like to see is another “face changing” game. By “face changing” he means something along the lines of (original) Dungeons & Dragons or Magic: The Gathering. Something that will revolutionise the way we game and think about games.

Of course, Peter is, above all, a businessman and he freely admits that he has never made a decision where he couldn�t make money. Likewise, he has learnt from the problems in 1999. Each aspect of individual Gen Cons will be run by specialists for each role – no longer will there be one person running everything.

The interview is coming to a close, but I am still interested in who Peter Adkison the man is. In his spare time, he plays in three Dungeons & Dragons games, running two himself and, as would be expected of the former owner of WotC, plays Magic: The Gathering, buying the PCDs for every set. Away from the gaming scene, his favourite pastime is rock climbing and, during his year away from gaming, travelled the world undertaking this hobby. His favourite climbs were in Brazil and London (in a purpose built establishment ‘The Castle’). Divorced with no children, he is due to marry Melissa in September 2002.

I would like to thank Peter Adkison for taking the time to be interviewed and wish him, and Melissa, all the best for the future.

(This interview took place at Gen Con UK 2002 and originally appeared in Issue 1 of Raven’s Eye).

About Dave McAlister

Dave has been roleplaying for over 30 years, having played and/or run most mainstream systems with the espionage genre being an early favourite. So much so that, in 1999, he started Modus Operandi. That same year he joined the Sarbreenar "Living" campaign team as their plotline controller before moving across to the Living Spycraft campaign team (as UK Regional Branch Director) in 2003. 2003 also saw the birth of UK Role Players as well as Dave's first (and, so far, only) freelance appointment (co-writing World Militaries and consulting on both US Militaries and Battlegrounds, all for Spycraft). Since then, Dave has concentrated on supporting the UK gaming scene. He has organised and run several small, one-day, events and was the RPG Area Manager for Gen Con UK in 2004. He is currently the webmaster for Conception as well as, of course, UK Role Players. His current favourite systems are Savage Worlds and Cinematic Unisystem

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