Every year it is someone’s first year attending a convention and sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming. So consider this as a friendly guide to how to get the most out of convention attendance. This is by no means a policy guide or anything of that nature, just tips of things to do in the convention space.
- Play Games! A gaming convention like Enbicon exists to give people the opportunity to play more games. Even if your normal gaming group is attending and the normal GM is running their normal RPG or Board game that you love, branch out. Try something new. The vast majority of games run at a gaming convention are there for people to try something new. Never played a miniature game but it looks cool? Talk to the person running the table about it and odds are there’s a time for demo games. Heard good things about that new RPG that someone is running? See if there’s space to sign up. A convention is a low cost way to try a variety of games outside your normal.
- Play with different people! Even if you are dead set on playing D&D or Vampire or Twilight Imperium or whatever other game is “your game”, see if there’s a table where you can play with people outside your normal gaming group or friends group. One of the best ways to grow as a player and as a GM is to play with other people. Everyone brings something different to the table and every group has different dynamics. Playing in or running a convention game is an amazing way to get different experiences.
- Support the Vendors! Conventions are expensive to put on, even a small one like Enbicon and the Vendors and Sponsors do a lot of heavy lifting to keep the costs as low as possible. For Enbicon they let us charge the attendees half of what the ticket prices would be without them. In return it’s nice to support them if you can. If you know you’re going to be attending a convention and have the means to set some money aside for vendor support it’s highly encouraged. Many of the vendors, especially for Enbicon, are small local geek centered businesses and convention support means a ton.
- Volunteer to run something! One of the reasons people attend gaming conventions is to try new games. Role Playing games, card games, board games, miniature games, complex games, simple games. If you’ve got a favorite game then offer to run it. For many conventions it is better to contact them and schedule your game so you are guaranteed table space. Some conventions also have dedicated space for “pick up games” where unschedule games can be run, though this usually works best with relatively quick board games and card games as it gives attendees something to do in between their scheduled events.
- .Volunteer to help with the convention! Many conventions, especially small local ones, are done by volunteers and it is a lot of work. Not only leading up to the convention but also at the convention as they handle badge pickup, attendee registration, answer questions, serve as gofers and so much more. If you can volunteer, work out specifics with the staff. Volunteering “to do anything” is well meaning but it’s far better to say “I can work Registration for two hours on Saturday morning”. If you are going to volunteer, make sure it is something you can commit to. Volunteering and then missing your shift stresses out everyone.
- Ask Questions! Respectfully of course but if there’s a game that catches your eye then ask about it. The GMs running games are doing so because they love that particular game. They are, for the moment, unofficial ambassadors for that particular game. It’s best to ask questions during the game setup or tear down and not during the game itself but sometimes people running board games will answer questions during play. RPGs though you should wait but perhaps if there is a break you could talk to the GM.
- Observe things! Watching a game can give you a good idea as to what it’s like to play the game, what’s involved in the set up, how long it takes to play, how the turns work and so much more.
- Have fun! Everyone at the con is there to have fun and play games and (generally speaking) talk about games. People from all walks of life and of all ages come to conventions to share their passion for games – board games, miniature tactical games, card games, role-playing games. Talk to the vendors about their wares, pick up a new game from one of them and then just ask “hey, who wants to try this?” and see what happens.
By Chris Fougere