Gaming conventions are a great way to meet new people, hang out with old friends, and get the inside scoop on all things related to the gaming industry. They are used for networking, promoting, and just having an all around great time. With PAX Prime just a week away, a lot of convention goers are going into panic mode, grabbing last minute flights and trying to find hotels that aren’t 50 miles from the convention center. For me, it’s been a few years since my last big event, and the excitement is mounting.
A lot of people I talk to are intimidated by the idea of these large conventions (Blizzcon, E3, PAX, MLG, WCG…) To be fair, it can seem a little overwhelming. For anyone who hasn’t been to one of these events, if it’s your first time, or if you could just use some tips on how to make the process a little easier, I’ve made a list of things I think everyone should know.
1) The earlier, the better.
If you are even CONSIDERING going, buy your tickets in advance. I mean WAY advance. Like the day they come out. With gaming conventions getting more popular every year, the tickets to these events are selling out faster and faster. It’s a lot easier to sell a ticket if you can’t go than to find a ticket when you realize that you can go. If you’re going with a group and have the extra cash, buy an extra ticket. There always seems to be one person that says, “Oh sh*t I didn’t get mine in time.” Also, if you’re going solo, check the boards for people looking for roommates, and save yourself some money.
2) Don’t trust the airline.
This year at PAX East, someone I know ended up getting her luggage lost by the airline, along with all of her clothes, and her badge for the event. She had to buy all new clothes in Boston, and luckily they made an exception for her and let her into the convention when she told them what happened. Your carry-on should consist of your badge, and at least one change of clothes. If you are planning on cosplaying, do yourself a favor and make damn sure that’s in there, too. If the airline loses your checked bag, at least you have your costume that you can wear each day.
3) Prepare for the plague.
Large conventions are known for the aftermath of sickness that runs rampant through the masses of people that attended it. Put tens of thousands of people from all over the world in one place in close quarters for a weekend, and you have yourself a petri dish of bacteria and viruses that might in fact one day be the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. Vitamins are your friend. Take good care of yourself for the weeks leading up to the event. Pre-game with some OJ and immune-supporting vitamins. Sometimes, it’s better to request a day or two extra off of work just in case you do get hit. Also, personal hygiene goes a long way.
4) Plan your day ahead of time.
Too often you hear things like, “Oh! I didn’t know they had the Super Awesome Guys Who Make Really Good Video Games panel today! I would have really liked that one.” Before you start your day at the convention, take the time to look at the schedule. See if there are any panels you’d like, where they are, and whether you can make it between one and the other in time.
5) If you REALLY want to play that long–awaited super popular demo, be prepared to wait for it.
The lines to play demos of games like SWTOR or Diablo 3 can be eight or more hours long. No joke. If you’re going to just die if you can’t try it out, be prepared to wait. A long time. A very, very long time in some cases. Some of these booths will give out tickets like a deli counter for you to come back. Others don’t. Find out before you spend an entire day worth of convention in a line. On the bright side, you can get to know your fellow die-hard fans waiting with you. If you aren’t ready for commitment, you can check out some of the less trafficked (but not necessarily worse) booths. There’s going to be a ton of stuff there you haven’t heard of or don’t know much about.
6) Being social, and dealing with cosplayers.
The people running the booths want you to ask questions. They want you to show interest in what they’re doing there. Talk to your fellow gamers. Be social. Don’t be shy. As a general rule, it’s impolite to ask someone who they are supposed to be cosplaying as. Some people may get offended. I know if someone comes up to me next week and asks me if I’m supposed to be one of the Mountainclimbers, there’s going to be a beat down. On the other side of that, cosplayers love it when people take pictures of them. Make sure you ask them before you point and click, because usually they will want to get into character and pose. Don’t take a picture of them while they’re eating a cheeseburger in the foodcourt, and ask before you get into the picture with them. If you like someone’s costume, let them know!
7) Have fun.
Take the weekend to let your hair down. Go to a party or two. Just try to stay sober enough to get back to your hotel. There is always something going on outside of the convention as well. Look at the boards to find out where people are meeting up, but remember to stay safe. Don’t do anything you’re going to regret (like having sex with someone you just met–especially an unattractive person– in a bathroom and then announcing it to the entire party in a drunken stupor).
See you at PAX!