A week from now we’ll be at GenCon, spending time with friends we aren’t able to see that often and soaking in all the gaming glory. We’re still pretty new to GenCon ourselves, but we’ve picked up a few pointers and learned a few things from years past that we try to keep in mind so that we have the best time possible. With the convention right around the corner we wanted to take a few moments to share some advice (even if some of it is fairly obvious).
On that note lets get the obvious stuff out of the way first:
- Eat: Duh right? Yes, but for some folks it is easy to forget to go grab a burger between events and before you know it 7:30 pm has arrived and the last thing you ate was half a banana from the continental breakfast at the Sheraton by the airport. Protip: pack some hearty snacks, not only will they keep you going throughout the day but your friends will thank you.
- Stay Hydrated: Coffee and beer might be great but they aren’t what your body needs. Protip: Bring a water bottle, there are water fountains all over the building and your wallet will thank you too for not paying inflated convention center prices for a bottle of water.
- Sleep: Drew is known to get pretty cranky by Sunday morning, and it is probably because he was up too late every night since arriving in Indianapolis. Protip: make time to sleep even if it is in the form of a power nap in the afternoon and missing that early morning event might be the right call if it means you’ll be alert the rest of the day.
- Shower: Whether you have your own room all to yourself or are sleeping on the floor of one with twelve of your besties please please please shower… each day. And wear plenty of deodorant. Protip: You don’t want -7 to charisma do you? Just do it.
Alright so what about our actual tips, well here’s what we’ve learned…
Drew: “Avoid playing games you already own. Try something new. Try something you might not have ever played otherwise. Try something you don’t know the rules to. Playing in a tournament for your favorite game might be neat, but will it really be any different than your typical Friday night at the card shop? Play something that you’d never see yourself playing and you’re much more likely to come back home with a few cool stories.”
Courtney: “Don’t underplan your convention. I know there’s a lot to take in, and it’s easy to think you can just drop in on a game here or there when you feel like it, but especially as a first timer, it’s easy to get caught up walking the exhibit hall and gaming floors over and over but never jump in on a game. My first GenCon in 2014, I spent a lot of time solo as Drew was playing a digital TCG a lot and we realized at the end of the convention we hadn’t played any games together. We remedied it a little by playing what we bought with friends in their hotel all night Sunday after the show closed, but it wasn’t the same. There is still plenty of time to sign up for things, go find something cool!”
Drew: “Try before you buy. I’m pretty good about not letting money burn a hole in my pocket, but there has been a game or two that in hindsight I wouldn’t have picked up. Nearly all of the publishers at the convention have a demo team of contractors working the convention for the sole purpose of teaching you games, sometimes I’m one of them! These people are getting paid but they’re also doing it because they LOVE teaching people games. Go up and ask to demo a game if it looks interesting rather than feel intimidated. The person demoing it might be busy already but if that’s the case they will probably know when is a better time to come back and they’ll be super excited when you do!”
Courtney: “To go along with my other point, don’t overplan either. Pick a couple events or panels that seem interesting and get tickets for those. I usually try to leave at least 2 hours between event end/start times, and try not to plan more than 3 events in a day. You do want to be able to walk around and enjoy things without rushing from room to room. This is especially important this year with some events being held at the football stadium, and panels being held at the hotels nearby. GenCon is a sprawl of a convention and with so many people, you want to give yourself ample time to get where you need to go without feeling rushed or anxious. You won’t enjoy it.”
Drew: “Be socially aware. Please… please don’t be that guy. You’re making us all look bad. I know I’m preaching to the choir here… but just don’t be that guy. If you think you’re about to be that guy, don’t do whatever it is that you were about to do.”
In short, many of those can be summed up in one important note, slow down. Gen Con might be “the best four days in gaming” but four days just might not feel like enough! That may be so but if you’re gonna make them count don’t rush yourself or those around you. Take your time and enjoy it while it lasts.
Okay but YOU came here for the real protips, “I knew all of that, where are the protips you promised.” Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered:
- There is a GenCon bag, it is both awesome and free! There’s usually a booth at the edge of the area where you get your badges / tickets etc and there will be someone that will punch a hole in your badge and give you the bag if you wait in the line for it. The line moves fast and is totally worthwhile. The bags usually run out rapidly on the first day but come back later and their stock will be replenished. Each year they have a different design and they are really cool.
- There are additional areas to sign up for events within the event halls. What they offer might not be as robust as the main area but most people don’t know about this and you can usually avoid waiting in line if you’re on a crunch for time. Keep an eye out.
- Many of the smaller / indie publishers have some great games with them that you might not ever have another chance to buy. These folks are usually operating with smaller print runs and the games are unlikely to ever see a reprint, you’ll be able to find stuff from the big dogs once you get home if that’s what you’re worried about.
- Check social media for some of your favorite publishers. I’ve literally watched someone walk up to a publisher and receive a free copy of a $60 game because they were talking like a pirate. Sometimes folks are feeling wacky or generous and it pays to be paying attention.