Naming Conventions

Con-news.com linked to Dr. Mark Mandel’s talk on “Conomastics,” or the naming of conventions. The link includes Dr. Mandel’s Powerpoint slides and notes. He talks about the different kinds of names conventions have — geographically or topically oriented, puns on the different parts of the word “convention,” and so on.

I’ve given some thought to convention names, mostly from the viewpoint of branding and marketing a convention. Vermont’s had a few distinct game conventions over the years. Northeast Wars is the eldest. It draws on a toponym, referring to Burlington’s location in the northeast United States, while the “wars” part of the name also ties to the topic of interest, the conflicts and pretend combat that makes up so much of tabletop games.

Conversely, the two successive Burlington game conventions, first Bakuretsucon when it was anime plus gaming, and later its gaming-only sibling, Lorecon, don’t identify with their location, but elements of their respective hobbies. Bakuretsucon draws on the Japanese word for sorcerer, which is associated with anime, following a trend Dr. Mandel notes in his lecture. Lorecon, on the other hand, has a more tenuous connection, linking to imagery of wizards and mysticism associated with some genres popular in gaming; it also has the joke of celebrating the many arcane rules, procedures and secrets our hobby generates.

On the other side of Vermont, Carnage links itself to combat and violent conflict, again recurring elements in tabletop games. The convention’s mascots, the grim reaper and the three — or four, depending on the drawing — horsemen of the apocalypse, reinforce the association between gaming and recurring themes of chaos and ruin.

My feeling is that as part of building a convention’s identity, helping people build a bond with it, it’s helpful to tie it to the region or city in which it takes place. ChiCon, ConJose and Anime Boston all strongly link themselves to their host city. Should there come a need for a new convention in Burlington, I’ve got a name and mascot banked.

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8 thoughts on “Naming Conventions

  1. I have to admit that the Carnage name turned me off to the con for a while since it seems to emphasize a side of the house I was less interested in — I imagined more wargaming and hack-and-slash than is to my tastes. Maybe that used to be right and maybe not, but there was plenty of what I want in a con last year, so maybe the con’s outgrown the name or it was never descriptive the way I imagined it to be. Still, a name can be a self-fulfilling expectation, since it might well color who decides to go and what games they bring.

    • When I first read about Carnage, the name made me trepidatious, too, particularly since there was so little on the website by which to gauge the convention. It wasn’t until a couple years later, when I was invited to go along with some other folks, that I decided to get over myself and see what it was all about. I’ve been hooked ever since.

    • Interesting. I didn’t get any warnings when I last looked at the page, back when I wrote this post.

      I’ve heard there’s some worm going around passed by banners, so perhaps that’s what AVG is detecting.

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