Con Survival 101
Gaming Conventions are the Holy Grail of gaming and Sci Fi. They allow us to escape our stressful lives and experience an adventure or two while hanging with like-minded people. It is a brotherhood or sisterhood that is unlike any other and in the end we build camaraderie that lasts. If you have never been to one, drop everything and go. Pick a small local con or a huge one like DragonCon or Gen Con and see what the fuss is all about.
Rule of Engagement:
To survive a gaming con you will need several things or your experience may not be the great one you are seeking.
1. Food and Water
Failure to bring your own food and liquid sustenance will result in spending lots of money on crappy food and soda. Bring your own and you save. You save alot. Hotel prices are outrageous and the stuff in the convention halls is barely above what I would use for roach bait. Remember that at many cons you are competing with tens of thousands of geeks for your food. Lines tend to be long at the concession stands and the restaurants are packed. Don’t lose ten pounds because you failed to bring a few meals.
You need to do a little research to learn the lay of the land. Learn where the food places are that are more than a few blocks away from the con itself. This will get you better seating and if you failed to bring food, better food. Also you will want a map of the convention hall, the hotels, and other things in the area that interest you. Don’t show up without a plan. If you do, you will miss out on more than you can imagine. I remember going to Gen Con with tickets in hand for dozens of events. I failed to map out my plan and missed more than half of my events. It sucked beyond measure.
A backpack is an essential tool for a convention. This works just as well at gaming cons, sci fi cons, trade shows, etc. Lightweight and easy to carry, they make your day go smoother and take the load of weight off of your arms. When you go to a con you tend to spend money and bringing your own bag is the smartest step you can take. Also do you remember that food and water. You can lug it around with you along with game books, dice, and other necessities. This makes the whole con seem like a better place.
I get it; you don’t like to wear the stuff. When you are home it is ok but when you are lugging around a thirty-pound backpack and walking your ass off, you will start to sweat. You will start to stink too. One of the worst aspects of conventions is the Con Funk. Con Funk is the smell that greats you at the door caused by tens of thousand of unwashed geeks who never learned to wear deodorant. Don’t be one of the unwashed. Do us all a favor and use a little deodorant before you leave your room every day and put on some clean clothes. The party clothes from last night smell like a cess pool.
5. Pack what you think you MIGHT need
You obviously will bring your dice, pencils, books, and more but what if you need your copy of the monster manual? If it crosses your mind that you might need it then bring it along. Beware of bringing too much but pack the best damned gaming kit you can. Cover all of the bases and you will be fine. I always carry a few miniatures, core rules books, dice, pencils, paper, and assorted tokens. This tends to cover most games I will join in. I don’t bother with the books unless I am running a game. Let the GM take that load. Zip lock bags work great for organizing these little tidbits.
6. Con Crud
Don’t let the Con Crud get you sick. Don’t shake hands. Use hand sanitizer alot. Wash your hands often. Don’t go off to bang that hottie you saw in the Cosplay contest. Remember that when you get this many unwashed people together, sickness flourishes. Cover your fraking ass. Bring some herbal supplements for immunity, maybe some Aleve or Advil, and a digestive aide is essential. It is better to be a little anti-social than to get the dreaded Con Crud.
7. Event Planning
Some people like to plan every event they will attend. I always feel that they miss out. Plan a few but leave time for pick up games and exploration. You will hear about many things happening not listed in the brochure or on the website. Don’t get stuck missing one event because you planned another. Use social media to keep in touch and stay abreast of all situations. While over scheduling is bad, under scheduling will leave you depressed. You need to find that perfect balance and that will take practice.
8. Con Buddies
Always go with a friend. Never alone. When you have a friend you get to share your experience and split your costs. I never travel with more than one friend because three is a crowd and four is chaos. One buddy and away you go. Also with a buddy you maintain a level of safety. There are all kinds of creeps and cons. They prey on the weak and those that stray from the herd. Keep with the herd and you avoid much of the con drama that haunts these places.
Remember to always be respectful. Just because a Cosplay character looks like a slut doesn’t mean that he or she is in fact a slut. Assume it is a role and don’t fall for the trap of assuming that what you see is what you will get. Many of these young Cosplayers are there to have fun and they do not want to be fondled or told that you “want to bang them” or worse.
I have been attending cons in one form or another since the nineteen eighties. I have learned the hard lessons and hope that my experiences can make your conventions exploration a more joyous occasion for you. Good luck and have fun out there.
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