Big House this year and beyond #TBH12

July 9th, 2024|0 Comments

Hi everyone, I’ve received a lot of questions on Big House this year and I want to provide a status update. I have a lot of thoughts to share, and my only request is that you read this completely to the end and do not pass along any tldr; summary version. A lot of it is personal and multi-layered, and I really struggled to find the right balance of sharing my honest internal dialogue while also keeping it concise enough for the general public.

For context, I’m Robin Harn, and I’ve been the head organizer of Big House since its inception in 2011. The event has taken place in October for each installment, minus the two covid years. Ever since I started hosting Big House, my reasons for doing it have largely remained the same:

  • I want to challenge myself as a project manager who has visibility on every part of an org chart: logistics, marketing, finances, people management, etc.
  • I have an entrepreneurial itch to host a large-scale event and find a way to put all the necessary pieces together
  • I want to fulfill a creative vision for how an event can look, feel, and be experienced, and have the resources to achieve that vision
  • I feel a duty to raise and sustain the quality of events to empower future generations of attendees to enjoy a great experience at them
These reasons have always been in harmony with the following assumptions in my ability to host events:
  • I have enough time over the summer and fall to dedicate towards planning a Big House in October
  • I feel I can give 100% of my energy and effort towards making the current year’s event the best possible product it can be
  • I have the financial stability in my personal life to be able to cover any potential losses if they come up at the end of the event
  • I feel the desire and hunger from the community, sponsors, and partners to support the event with the resources it needs

Over the past year, some of these assumptions have shifted. I’ll go through them one by one.

Time, energy, effort: I’ve recently been hired as varsity volleyball head coach at a high school near and dear to me in Michigan. I absolutely love doing it, and it satisfies a lot of the challenges I enjoy — if you replaced the word “event” with “volleyball program” in my original list of reasons I host Big House, you’ll find that my motivation and fulfillment are similar for each. This role not only involves coaching a varsity team, but also managing the entire high school program in all aspects such as hiring the JV/freshman/assistant coaches, budgeting, fundraising, coordinating gear, running youth camps, TOing, and networking. Previously I had only coached club volleyball, which runs from December through June and conveniently allowed me to focus on Big House in the summer and fall. But now I’ve stepped into managing an entire high school program, and the volleyball school season runs from August through October. Given that overlap with what is the traditional peak of Big House planning season, I won’t be able to give another project 100% of my energy during those months. If you know anything about me, you know I approach every project I take on with the intent to make it the absolute best thing possible, which requires all my energy and effort. This year, that means putting it towards my new role leading a volleyball program.

Financial stability: As much as I love my new role leading a high school program, it’s not a full-time job at the end of the day, and I currently don’t have the financial stability of a full-time job as a buffer. My last full-time job ended in extremely disappointing fashion, and I honestly lost faith in certain industries and positions of leadership in that process. So I’ve been living off personal savings and random gigs for the past few months in an effort to find inspiration with a possible career pivot, but I want that to be organic and not force myself into a new opportunity if it isn’t the right fit for me. I don’t know how much time this will take, but I feel very strongly that I have to let it naturally play out. Without this buffer in my personal life, I don’t feel it’s responsible to take on hosting a large-scale event that has almost always cut it close in terms of breaking even financially.

Community and partner support: With each recent installment of Big House, it’s become increasingly difficult to find sponsors and partners willing to financially back the event, and our general attendance has hit a plateau of around 3000 people. The combination of these factors makes it increasingly difficult to host a large-scale event at the creative level I want. When organizations like Panda, Beyond the Summit, and Golden Guardians go away, it has unfortunate ripple effects on events like Big House. The past two years, my staff and I dug deep to put in extra hours during planning season to still find a way to make it work, and against all odds we produced what we believe are the two best Big House events ever, creatively and logistically. But when the effort and stress level of making it work keep increasing while the big picture financial feasibility keeps decreasing, eventually it reaches a breaking point where we can’t keep pace with these two trends drifting in different directions.

All this is to say, as of right now, Big House is on indefinite hiatus. The door is open for the event to come back in future years, but it would require a shifting of several reasons and/or assumptions I listed above. That could mean it happens at a different time of year, or it’s led by a different head organizer, or it’s more financially feasible given some combination of increased partner support or shifting community expectations. I think […]

Splatoon 3 at The Big House 11

September 3rd, 2023|0 Comments

For the best interest of everyone involved, we the Splatoon tournament organizers alongside the head TBH11 event organizers have made an extremely heavy decision to cancel Splatoon 3 at The Big House 11.

At the onset of the announcement of Big House, Raze and myself were approached to consider whether it was best to pursue running Splatoon again. Even during that first conversation, we knew things would look different this year. Various circumstances that allowed us to create the success of last year were different this year, by factors outside our control. After the awesome event we had last year and especially considering how much The Big House helped us and nurtured a relationship with the community, we both wanted to make the most of what we could and show our devotion to working together on creating an exciting experience for players.

One of the factors is the calendar of events. The saturation of tournaments was something the SplatLANs TOs have been discussing since early last year. More LANs are great, but our playerbase doesn’t have the density nationwide to make events that happen at the frequency we see with Smash, so the audience we see at these events is made of repeat attendees. Everyone’s wallets are hurting this year, and most players can’t afford multiple trips in such a short time, or if they can then they also risk burning out. Combined with the timing in the school year, Big House fell on a very awkward spot on the calendar for players.

Another factor is the personal bandwidth we have this year to support and run the event. Even knowing this and the risk it posed to how the event would perform, we wanted to try and overcome that with a marketing presence similar to last year. However, many things in our personal lives prevented us from pushing the tournament as much as we had liked. For both of us, we had bitten off more than we could chew.

Delivering a proper tournament experience is why players sign up. Without the proper mental and financial resources to put on an event of a reasonable caliber, we feel that to continue forward would not meet the expectations of anyone involved with the tournament. We also want to announce this far enough ahead of time so that the few players who have already signed up and made travel plans would be given ample time to adjust their plans. Canceling now will help us maintain a mutually beneficial partnership, in order to create something special for the scene in the future, something that players won’t want to miss out on. Everyone involved with making this decision is in agreement on one thing: we’d like to maintain a good faith partnership between Splatoon Community and TBH for potential future events.

This decision was not easy. I feel as though I’m admitting defeat, but in my mind, I know this is the most responsible thing I could do. If anyone is upset with this, I want to hear them out and talk with them personally. By the time this is posted, I’ll have already communicated with the players signed up for the event. There’s still a lot of Splatoon to be played, and I know for a fact bigger and better events are to come, but this one wasn’t able to bloom. Thank you for reading this, and I hope to see you all at another event soon.

Magic8Ball (Splatoon 3 tournament organizer)