Philip LaRose Philip LaRose
Oct 06

Well, the weekend is over, the Discord server spun down, and we’re pleased to announce that Go Play NW 2021 Online was a success! Thanks so much to everyone who registered for the event! We literally would not exist without your participation, and we also greatly appreciate your willingness to give an online version of the Go Play NW experience a chance to succeed. It was great to see a lot of old friends and make some new ones as well, and we hope you’ll all join us again at future events.

We (the Go Play NW executive board) want to give a shout-out to the volunteer staff who put in a lot of hard work to make the online event possible: E.T., our volunteer coordinator, donut moderator, and all-purpose meeting manager and organizer; Star, our Discord wizard who tested several different options for online hosting and tools before we settled on Discord, and built or modified several Discord bots to automate as many of the processes as possible; Jerry, who’s stepped in as our webmaster and helped us get both our website and email in working order and prepared for future development and improvement; and Angela, who served as our safety team for the weekend and is providing valuable consulting to help us better provide a safe and welcoming environment to a broader diversity of attendees. We also want to thank everyone who participated in our two pilots to test out our Discord server and procedures, and the Go Play NW friends (and former attendees) who volunteered to help us discuss and organize an online event and whose willingness to participate in meetings in 2020 for that purpose helped us keep the concept alive and prepared us for this year.

While we’re shutting down the Discord server we used for the Go Play NW 2021 event, we do have another ongoing Discord server for general Go Play NW discussion, which also has some channels set up for online gaming. Join us there at Also keep an eye out there or on Twitter at for news as we discuss our plans for future events, including possibly hosting another online event in the near future—now that we have proved the feasibility and have the Discord set up, we know we can do more with little additional effort—and whether we’ll be returning to an in-person event in 2022 as we hope to do. We’re looking forward to seeing you next time!

Philip LaRose Philip LaRose
Sep 24

We’ll be kicking things off on Friday, October 1 at 5:30 PM Pacific with our “lobby con” social gathering and check-in event. We do urge everyone* to attend if possible, as the more people we can get checked in on Friday, the less time we have to spend on Saturday and Sunday with check-ins before we start the donuts. The Friday event will run at least until 8:30 PM. *(Friday’s lobby con is free to attend with a purchased or sponsored ticket for Saturday or Sunday.)

Saturday October 2 and Sunday October 3 will have similar schedules. The morning donut will begin at 11:00 AM Pacific with gaming time running until 3:30 PM, and the evening donut will begin at 5:00 PM Pacific with gaming time running until at least 9:00 PM—we’re still figuring out whether we’ll need to have a hard stop at that time or can allow games to run later.

As we mentioned in our previous post about how the event will work, we can manage up to about 35 people in a donut, so if we have more attendees than that, we will open up a second track starting an hour apart. We’ll post in advance of the event if it looks like that will be necessary, and email attendees to notify you of any schedule changes.

Philip LaRose Philip LaRose
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!

Philip LaRose Philip LaRose
Sep 16

Registration for Go Play NW 2021 Online is now open on our Eventbrite page! Tickets are $12 per day for Saturday or Sunday, and the Friday night “lobby con” is included with either day. We’ll have two sessions of games each day on Saturday and Sunday, using the “donut” pitch method that many of you will know well from previous Go Play NW events. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the donut, we’ll post more about that soon.

In some respects, an online event takes more staffing and more time to manage than an in-person event does. In order to provide the best experience we can, we do need to limit the number of attendees to 70 people each day, Saturday and Sunday. Also more as per usual, we will need to close registration a week in advance so we can make final preparations, so ticket sales end early in the morning of Saturday, September 25. Get your tickets soon!

Community-sponsored tickets are available!

As we discussed in our previous post on funding for Go Play NW, we have been working to make Go Play NW more welcome and accessible to a wider variety of people, which has included offering sponsored attendance to people in need. We’re continuing that practice this year by offering a ticket option called “Sponsor an attendee!”—each sponsorship allows us to bring in gamers who might otherwise not be able to attend.

If you would like to attend Go Play NW 2021 Online but for whatever reason the cost doesn’t work for you, please reach out to us by email at to request one of these sponsored tickets. We will not be doing any means testing or inquiring into your situation; these are available on the honor system, on a first-come first-served basis.

We’re excited to see everyone on Friday, October 1 for Go Play NW 2021 Online!

Philip LaRose Philip LaRose
Sep 07

When we hold in-person events, it’s not hard to see where the price of the event goes. We have to rent space for the convention itself, we may offer overnight rooms at the convention, at Seattle University we’re contractually obliged to include some meals for the attendees, we have some physical supplies such as signs and badges, we produce shirts for the event, and we have admissions and sales taxes to pay afterwards. (In addition, we have general operating costs such as maintaining our registration as a corporation and licensing as a business.) With our event this year being held online, the obvious expenses of an in-person event don’t apply, which may raise the question why we’re charging for the event at all. We thought a brief explanation would be in order.

Since our founding, Go Play NW has been supported solely by our community; we do not have corporate sponsors or other funding sources. This year’s expenses include approximately $500 in general operating costs and approximately $200 toward the technical infrastructure (Discord boosts and bots) needed to hold the online event. Our base daily ticket price for this year’s online event reflects our minimum estimate for attendance, the funds needed to cover our expenses, and our desire to be as welcome, and therefore affordable, as possible. Excess funds from this year’s event will go into our foundation funds.

Our foundation funds enable us to reserve a venue for in-person events and cover other functional expenses in advance of opening registration for each year’s event. These funds help us not only be prepared to cover unexpected expenses but also take advantage of opportunities to grow and improve. In recent years we’ve been working toward making Go Play NW more welcome and accessible to a wider variety of people. Our efforts have included offering sponsored attendance to people in need and hiring consultants on accessibility and diversity issues, and we will be continuing to explore more ways to improve in those respects.

Go Play NW is an entirely volunteer-run organization, and neither board members nor staff receive financial compensation for their time and efforts. We appreciate your support!

Philip LaRose Philip LaRose
Sep 03

Just a quick note, it turns out we need some more time to get things in place before we open up registration for Go Play NW 2021 Online, so we’re bumping that to next Tuesday, September 7. Sorry for the delay! We’re eager to get this kicked off but we want to be sure we do things well, and we know you’ll appreciate that. See you soon!

Philip LaRose Philip LaRose
Aug 26

Okay, we’re ready to make this official: we will be holding an online Go Play NW event this year the weekend of Friday October 1 through Sunday October 3. We’ll be using a dedicated Discord server as our base of operations, and we’ll be able to have video, audio-only, and text-only channels for hosting the games.

This year’s event will focus on organizing games through “the donut”, in which we get everyone together and ask for volunteers to step forward and pitch a game they’d like to run or facilitate, and then the rest of the players choose a game to join. Our volunteer staff members Star and ET have worked hard to develop tools and procedures to help make this happen smoothly.

The event will kick off with a social gathering on Friday evening that will give you time to catch up with old friends and meet new ones, and give us time to get everyone checked in for the weekend. Then on Saturday and Sunday we’ll have the game sessions. We’ll announce full details on the schedule and procedures soon!

This will be a paid ticketed event; we’ll be opening registration on Friday September 3. Revenues from this event go towards our regular expenses to keep functioning as an organization; the particular expenses to set up and run this event; and our reserves so that we can host in-person events again as soon as it’s safe to do so—hopefully next year!

In the meantime, in order to help ensure this all works as planned, we’re holding a beta test of our event Discord, and we need around 15 to 20 volunteers to help make that happen! Please join our regular Go Play NW discussion Discord at and check out the #make-it-happen channel to learn more and volunteer!

We’re very excited to bring the Go Play NW experience to you online this year, and we hope you’ll join us!

Philip LaRose Philip LaRose
May 05

Well, it sure has been a year. Here at Go Play NW headquarters, we’ve been hunkered down, doing our best to follow good health and safety guidelines with proper diligence, and we’ve had the good fortune to avoid catching COVID-19. We hope all of you have stayed safe and healthy, too.
Back in February, we were happy to see the hope of effective vaccines start to be fulfilled. But we looked at how much still had to be done and saw that there was still no guarantee that we could safely hold an in-person event in July, so we decided once again that we would not schedule one for this year. Even now at the start of May, with far more progress than expected happening on vaccinations and all of our staff likely to be fully vaccinated by the beginning of June, here in Seattle and King County we’re seeing the likelihood of greater restrictions being rolled back into place as infection rates rose in recent weeks. So caution is justified, and while we miss you all terribly, we’ll stay hopeful that we will reach a sufficiently safe level to hold an in-person event next year.
Meanwhile, we also decided to pick up the work we’d done last year on organizing an online event. Although we know some amount of online fatigue has set in for many people, we still think it’d be good to have some opportunity to reconnect this year rather than keep everything on hold yet another year. We’re not quite ready to announce specifics, but we can tell you that we’re looking at doing a few separate one-day events—a “lobby con” day just to hang out and say hello to friends, a donut day for impromptu pick-up gaming, and a prescheduled day for planning some games in advance. We’re aiming for August and hope to have specific dates to announce soon. We hope you’ll join us!
As always, follow us on Twitter @GoPlayNW and come join us on our Discord server. See you soon!

Philip LaRose Philip LaRose
Sep 02

As the year churns along, we’ve been quietly working behind the scenes to figure out what we can do, what makes sense to do, in these strange times. In the wake of deciding to cancel an in-person event for the year, we put a lot of discussion and some planning toward hosting events online this year. As we went through that process, we realized we needed to do some substantial work to better support the safety and accessibility needs for online games, as well as increase the diversity of our attendees—and that work applies to in-person events as well. We were also mindful that both the pandemic and participation in the protest movement against police brutality may make it difficult for our community to participate. Consequently, we decided to poll our members via Twitter and Discord to see whether people felt that the best use of our time and effort was to continue planning some kind of online events, or to redirect that effort into improving the organization overall and preparing for (hopefully) holding an in-person event next year.
The results of that poll were largely in favor of focusing our efforts toward next year, and so that is what we are now doing. While we’re sad not to host any kind of event this year—our first break after 13 years, since starting in 2007—we believe it’s important to provide the best experience we can, and worthwhile to take advantage of these disruptive times and step back to see what we can improve for future events. We appreciate your feedback and support as we go through this process.
We apologize for being largely silent here on the website; do follow us on Twitter @GoPlayNW, where we’re more likely to post. We also have a Discord server, which we invite you to join.
We love you all, and we hope to be able to see you in person at Go Play NW in 2021! Thanks for being part of Go Play NW with us.