Gaming conventions while very exciting can be terribly daunting, especially for your first time. With dozens of conventions worldwide housing hundreds of video games, thousands of attendees and only a few days to cover it all, it can be hard to know what you should be doing with your time on the show floor.
After a few years of attending conventions you begin to learn a few simple tricks and truths that will help you make the most of every show. From time management to reality checks, there’s more to these events than meets the eye. Here are a handful of tips and some advice which I’ve put together mostly from my own mistakes and experiences…
Don’t Neglect the Indies
It’s easy to get distracted by the flashy AAA titles boasting giant booths, competitions, giveaways, first-looks and more. Whilst of course you should make sure to have a go at the games you’re most excited for, don’t let it swallow up all your time. The games will be out soon anyway, and your time will get swallowed up by queuing two hours just for one match of Call of Duty.
An increasingly dominant section of the show floor is the indie games zone. With hundreds of individual games to try out across all genres and hardware, there is absolutely something for everyone. Some of my all-time favourite event memories have come from indie titles like Blockships, Screen Cheat, Black & White Bushido and more. The more intimate environment allows for an even greater sense of competition and frenzy, and you’ll get far more game time in two hours thanks to the lack of long queues.
Also, be sure to have a chat with the developers, they won’t bite! The beauty of the indie section is that the staff on each booth are almost always the folks working tirelessly behind the scenes to craft the game you’ll play rather than just hired show floor help. They’ll be thrilled to tell you all about their game and will want to hear what you think! You can directly impact the development of these incredible games and learn a lot about what goes into them just from a 5 minute chat. Please, support your indie developers!
Suck it up and Get Queuing
With all that in mind though, it’s inevitable that you’ll want to jump into the big new titles revealed at E3 and beyond. Unfortunately, so does everyone else. Expect AAA games to have queues anywhere from 45 mins to 3 hours depending on the title, content and time of day. It can be very tempting to scour the show floor waiting for one of your favourite games to have a shorter queue. The fact is though, it’s very much a case of luck and not timing. You may think that going at lunch time and eating later or earlier will get you a shorter wait, but I guarantee you there are always hundreds of others doing the same.
What do you do then? I’m afraid you just need to suck it up and jump in line – simple as that. You’ll spend far longer going from booth to booth looking for a short queue only to jump in a normal queue anyway, than if you just pick and game and strap in. Bring your DS or Switch, a book or a friend and just wait it out. It’ll be over quicker than you think, I promise!
Get Up Early
Occasionally there is one thing you can do to help your queuing chances, and that’s a nice early start to the day. Get up in good time, grab some breakfast, grab a coffee, and head to the show entrance with 30 mins to spare. Being one of the first on the show floor will sometimes bag you a tidy queue-jump provided you know where to go and walk with a purpose.
Don’t Forget to Eat
With so much going on it will usually feel natural to just keep bouncing from station to station, game to game, show to hotel, and it is exhausting. Your legs will ache, your eyes will tire and if you’re not careful you’ll crash (Lord knows I have). There is a very easy fix though – remember to eat!
Bring a bag with you, grab a couple of snacks on the way down to enjoy in the queues, and make sure you stop for at least half an hour around the middle of the day and grab some real food. Show floors usually house several eateries both takeaway and eat-in, so take advantage and pick something that will give you the energy you need to dive into the action all afternoon!
Not Everything is on the Show Floor
Just because the show has closed for the day doesn’t mean it’s over! Check the event’s website and hunt around online for details on night-time panels and shows, community parties and more. These events are usually awesome social gatherings where you can meet new people, wind down and relax after the day’s excitement and sometimes bump into cool industry folk also looking for a rest!
Bring a Pal or Make One!
Having been to shows both alone and with friends, both definitely have their perks. The less people you’re with the more freedom you have to go where you want, when you want. (Tip: You can also sometimes hack the queue and jump ahead 10-20 people when they need to fill just one more station!) But with that in mind, these events are typically better when you’re with like-minded pals. You can chat in the queues, share experiences of the games you try, challenge each other and take each other’s pictures.
The great thing about gaming conventions is you’re guaranteed to be around people who all share your interests. If you haven’t got a friend with you, strike up a conversation with your fellow attendees! It can be scary at first so maybe find something you have in common with them – fans take great pride in their branded clothing, bags and merch so maybe throw them a compliment and start talking from familiar ground. Who knows, maybe you’ll make some new friends and gaming partners…
Plan ahead and book travel plans carefully. You’ll thank yourself later for it. Booking yourself a hotel “in the area” without doing your research is a proper pain in the behind when you need to make a merch drop-off or change clothes when your hotel is 30 mins away. (Speaking of which, leave yourself plenty of room for merch – you’ll have more than you think!)
Book well in advance, grab yourself a spot nice and close to the venue, and bask in the glory of the easy life throughout the event. Even if the hotel itself isn’t exactly five-star, remember that most of your trip will be spent outside of it. That room is your bed and storage room for all the cool free stuff and shopping you’ll be doing, nothing more. Know where all the nearby facilities and services are, know where to grab dinner, know how to get to the venue from your hotel and you’re covered.
For example at EGX, people often scoff at me when I tell them I’m staying by the airport. What they forget is that for the trade-off of plane noises which are easily ignored, I get a cheaper room, easy 5 minute journeys to the venue, 10 minute trips to the city centre and loads of eateries within 10 minutes walk, with loads in the airport itself. Do your research, think smart and everything will come together nicely.
Say thank you!
Whether it be an indie developer showing off their new game, a community manager for your favourite AAA franchise, or even just a member of staff on the booth – make sure to thank them!
These guys work extremely hard to bring these amazing events to life and working a show floor is one of the most exhausting things you can do. With thousands and thousands of attendees, there are a lot of stations to set up, clean, fix and supervise so if you get the opportunity don’t forget to say hello, have a chat and please do thank them – it’ll mean the world to hear it!
Whew. That just about covers the basics, but there is so much more to learn, experience and enjoy about these unique events that I haven’t even begun to explore here. The best way to make the most of your shows is to just throw yourself head-first into them and get involved with as much as you possibly can in the all-too-short amount of time you have there.
If you have any specific questions about convention-going, by all means feel free to ask via Twitter or in the comments! In related news if you’re headed to EGX 2018, I’ll be there for the whole event so be sure to say hello, and have a great time!