Gen Con ~ How to survive the greatest show on Earth
So now that we have established the why you want to go, (I am looking at all of the red headed step children out there), we must determine what we plan to do. The convention offers alot. It offers perhaps too much in such a short time. Gaming is everywhere. You got cards games, rpg’s, war games, video games, LARPing, and the list goes on. Hell you don’t even need to go into the gaming hall to game. Every bar is filled with gamers, every corner of every hotel has gamers, every coffee shop has gamers and damned near the whole center of the city is full of games at all hours of the day and night.You want to shop? Well you got the dealers room with so many fraking products that it will take a week to truly see them all. You got the auction room where you can get the deal of the century if only you are willing to blow a ton of time waiting for it to arrive. Indy game designers are showing off their stuff and giving out swag. The show has art, books, games, dice, cards, cosplay stuff, and much much more. So bring some cash and a few credit cards as back up. DO NOT buy shit that you can get at home. Only get stuff that you are getting as a deal or that you absolutely have to have.
Now lets move onto the rules of engagement.
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 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. Also do not eat in the convention center. Take a break and head off somewhere else to eat. Outside of the dealers hall you will find dozens of food venders lining the streets during the day. At night you can hit one of the hotels or walk a ways and find a restaurant.
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 one 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. If you are going shopping take an empty backpack. Travel light and give your back a rest. Otherwise you will spend the week after the con suffering with pain.
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. I truly beg you to bring an adequate supply of deodorant and clean clothes. Nothing is worse than an unwashed geek that smells like a wet Wookie.
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.
So lets look at what you definitely need but might not think about:
- Good walking shoes
- several changes of clothes
- breath mints
- your core gaming supplies
- hand sanitizer
- some Aleve or other pain killer
- some kind of snack bar or energy bar
6. Con Crud/Con Plague/Nerd Cooties/The Walking Death
Don’t let the Con Crud get you sick. Don’t shake hands. Use hand sanitizer alot. Wash your hands often. When you meet that person of your dreams in a cosplay outfit and want to sneak off to a hotel room for some adult fun, DO NOT GO. Disease flourishes in a crown and at Gen Con you have over 50,000 people with poor hygiene and even worse eating habits. 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. I know this may sound like paranoia but let me tell you that I have seen so many gamers fall prey to this disease that I am very very careful. I load up on antiviral and antibacterial supplements starting a week before the show. On top of that I carry hand sanitizer and wash my hands at least once every half hour. DO NOT take this lightly or you will fall victim to the Con Crud. I have been fortunate enough to not get sick at a con in years but I know that all it takes is one of the unwashed to grab me and I am done for. 8(
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.
Buy some Generic Tickets. This is how you pay for gaming events that you have not scheduled. Many games only accept Generic Tickets and if you don’t have any then you are SOL. Some events will require more tickets than others. I like to buy forty dollars worth of tickets and replenish when they run out. The problem with replenishing is that you waste an hour in line. So buy more if you are the kind of person who can’t handle a line.
Can’t find a pick up game. Start your own. People will flock over to play and you will be the queen of the prom. Just make sure that you know how to run a game before taking the plunge or you will get some troll that will crush your ego and spit on it too.
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 at 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. To be honest I have rarely ran into a creep at a con but I always hear the horror stories. It is better to play it safe than to become the victim of one of those stories.
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.
Also remember that people coming to Gen Con are coming to have fun. So have fun. If a misunderstanding happens, apologize and let it go. If someone says sorry to you, let it go. Have fun is the rule of the land and you must strive in every waking moment to have fun and to help those around you have fun. Game masters are in charge so don’t argue the rules just play with his rules and deal with it. If you run into a dick head go the other way.
Safety is always a concern so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most geeks are very helpful and if you ask will be more than happy to help you out. If you feel unsafe, make a bee line for a con worker, security guard, or large group of people and make your presence known. Do not be meek if you are afraid. Be loud and demand help. Some gamers will have a purple ribbon that says Back Up on it. They are people who are offering to help if you need it.
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