Stacy Dellorfano is the Founder and Lead Convention Organizer for ConTessa. For ConTessa 2013, she ran the entire show and wore all of the hats necessary. For 2014, she's got a lot more help, but is still the visionary force behind the convention. Stacy is a Front End Developer by day and is building a publishing business by night. Stacy is also the Lead Curator for Randomocity, a quarterly RPG Zine full of gaming material produced by several contributors, and she's writing her own tabletop game which is currently in alpha playtest called Precious Dark. She also sometimes posts gaming stuff and her photography on her blog, Frivology. She also podcasts for Geeky Voices Carry, and (when she can make the schedule) This Imaginary Life.
1. Who are you and what do you do for ConTessa?
I am the Founder of ConTessa. For ConTessa 2013, I did everything from coming up with the idea to making sure that it was executed smoothly. I made a majority of the material that went into our swag bags, did all of the packing and shipping, developed the website, organized the convention, acted as help desk, support, marketer, project manager, and everything else in between. I also ran a number of panels for the convention, was the brains behind the OSR Dungeon Competition, and ran twoplaytests of my own game - Precious Dark - during the convention.
For ConTessa 2014, I've got a lot of additional help from some truly exceptional people who have blown me away with their talent and dedication. That doesn't mean I'm taking a back seat, though. Their help has made it so that I can expand the work that we're doing to keep ConTessa growing, and to make sure ConTessa leads the way when it comes to the technology and methods of running an online convention. I've been able to expand our web presence from just the blog with some forms and special posts to show the events into a fully-fledged application that takes away the complexity of finding and signing up for online convention games.
Here's a quick look at the coming interface to our events:
On top of that, my new staff has made it possible for me to focus on the bigger picture most of the time, then swing in for detailed looks at various parts of the convention as we're going along. Though our IndieGoGo campaign launches on Monday, the 11th of November, we've still got a lot of work to do to prepare all of the events, contests, and content for ConTessa 2014!
2. Fill in the blank: Gamer by night, _______________ by day.
Well, I'm really a gamer all the time, but my day job is that of a Front End Developer. I've been a tech-head of one sort or another since I was 16 and first got my hands on someone's 8088. Since then, I've done everything from building computers and working as a Network Technician to my current career of web development. I've been slinging around code on the web since before CSS existed - since before background images existed! I've worked for big companies and small companies alike, and spent about ten years of my career working for the (at the time) MMORP giant SOE. Now, I'm working in the much quieter field of e-commerce.
At this point in my life, however, I'm ready to move in a new direction, and with initiatives like ConTessa, my curated RPG Zine Randomocity, a few writing gigs that I'm picking up here and there, and the RPG I'm writing - Precious Dark - it looks like that direction is going to be all tabletop RPGs all the time.
3. What sorts of games do you play?
I move back and forth between different types of games for different reasons at different times. More story oriented games like Changeling let me get into working on characters and having fun crafting the story, while more OSR oriented games like Swords & Wizardry let me get into the nitty gritty of classic dungeoneering. In general, I appreciate a mix of games and game types and I've become pretty fond of trying out new things and playtesting systems and ideas.
4. What is the appeal of gaming for you?
It's a great combination of getting to spend lots of quality time with your friends and getting to open the broad vistas of your imagination. A little like writing a book together while you simultaneously read that book with some mechanics thrown in to make things interesting, and lots of in jokes and snacks. I love creating things, and as a result I've always been the one in the group who grabs a game and five minutes later wants to start running a session. When I was younger, I was always too eager and excited to play to ever actually do any prep, but we'd still play all night long, then sleep all day, then start over and binge game again. Man, I miss my teenage years and early twenties...
Now, I get the same things out of it, but since I've also learned the value of putting time into prep work and the patience required to do it, I get even more out of gaming. The people make up a huge part of it for me, though. The right group means absolutely everything.
5. Explain ConTessa from your viewpoint.
Honestly, I started ConTessa because I got tired of only being asked to speak on Women's Issues topics. While I think those topics really do need to be talked about, the point of talking about them is missed entirely when a majority of your time within a hobby is talking about what it's like to be a woman in that hobby. I got into gaming to game, and I got into the communities to talk about gaming, and to share the things that I've made, and to learn new things, and to meet friends. I didn't get into it to spend all day and all night talking about how it feels to be underrepresented. I'd say it got to the point where I was talking about being a woman 80% of the time, and only talking about gaming 20% of the time.
So ConTessa was my shout into the darkness, my attempt to change that. I wanted to switch it up so I was talking about gaming 80% of the time, and my gender 20% of the time. I wanted to stop getting requests to argue with people about things that we disagree on, and start getting requests to make more new stuff and do cool things. The great thing is ... it worked! It isn't as though I never talk about those things that fall under Women's Issues anymore, there's just another focus, and that's a really great one.
6. What is it about ConTessa that made you want to get involved?
Well, I started it, so this question doesn't apply to me so much, but I'm going to answer it from a different point of view... What is it about ConTessa that KEPT me involved?
The people. The stories. I've had several women tell me that prior to ConTessa 2013, they never considered GMing, but as a result of their involvement with ConTessa, they wanted to start. ConTessa 2014 will have a number of women GMing who got their start right after ConTessa 2013. That's amazing. Plus, I have women telling me that they've been inspired by ConTessa to run games at face-to-face conventions. That alone would be enough to keep me going and want to pull off even bigger and better versions of ConTessa, but there's more. Every time I hear a story or witness a connection that was made around ConTessa, it makes me want to do even more and make it even better so that even more people can have great stories.
7. How did gaming change your world?
That's a tough question to answer. For me, gaming has always been a part of the tapestry that is my life. Even when I wasn't doing tabletop gaming regularly, it was still there in the background. It gave me this great way to unleash my desire to keep creating new things and new worlds and new people and new stories, and a group of people to share all of that with. Since I can't imagine my world without gaming in it, I have a hard time figuring out exactly how it's changed my world... but then, maybe that's the answer to the question right there...