Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Gen Con Advice To You

With Gen Con almost here and my press badge secure once again, I thought it’d be a good time to put out my annual Gen Con Advice List. If you’re headed to Gamer Mecca for the first time or fourteenth time, here’s a list of things to aim for and to remember:

Wear That Stupid T-Shirt (Once).
You know the one I’m talking about. Perhaps it’s one that has a little too much innuendo for the office (“Rogues Do It From Behind”), or is so incredibly nerdy it would be considered out of place at a Math Club vs. A/V Society Monty Python Trivia Challenge. Gen Con is perhaps the greatest chance you will have to wear that shirt in a social setting.

Don’t Overbook.
The biggest issue I think people have at their first Gen Con is scheduling 20 out of 24 hours of their day in events. Honestly, you’ll find yourself rushing from place to place, or late, or simply burnt out if you do this. Make a list of all the events you want, and sign up for your top 3 or 4. Buy some generic tickets, so if you do have time, you can show right up and get in the game. If you’re busy with one of the hundred other unexpected opportunities Gen Con offers, well, you aren’t out much.

Give Yourself Time For Demos.
This ties into the advice to not overbook. Wander the dealer hall; you’ll find many of the coolest opportunities you have don’t cost event tickets at all. Many booths are happy to run demos or answer your questions. Are the best in life really free? At least at Gen Con, sometimes they are.

Courtesy, Courtesy, Courtesy.
Don’t be That Guy, ok? If you’ve been talking to a vendor for the past 20 minutes and there’s a line of impatient people behind you trying to get the guy’s business, be cognizant that there are tens of thousands of other potential customers this guy needs to have the opportunity to interact with. You can always come back later when it isn’t as slammed. On a similar note, the guy last year wearing the shirt with the picture of Jesus doing something obscene on the front probably didn’t give a crap how anyone else felt, but some things just aren’t cool in a convention with plenty of kids and folks with differing sensibilities running about.

Lines May Spell Your Doom.
At some point, you will be in a line. Perhaps to check out at a booth, perhaps for food. I have had some great discussions with total strangers (the massive line when Pathfinder was released comes to mind), but there is also about an 80% chance someone is going to Tell You About Their Character. I have also noticed that people who like to Tell You About Their Character prefer classes with names and concepts like “Bladedancer”, “Shadoweaver”, “Swordweaver”, “Shadowdancer”, or even “Swordsinger”. Be warned.

Bring A Water Bottle.
I’ve forgotten to hydrate once or twice, and until you do it, you really don’t notice the difference. Look, you’re going to put a lot of crap in your body during Gen Con, no matter what I say here. You might as well dilute it with some water.

Bring Snacks.
One year, I had almost zero budget for Gen Con, so I just brought a giant carton of Slim Jims and a bag of dried pineapple chunks. There have been cities caught in year-long sieges that ate better than I did that week. Listen, you don’t want to pay through the nose for stuff around the convention center. Buy some trail mix, buy some marginally healthy stuff, buy some apples, for heaven’s sake, and throw it in your bag.

Prepare To Feel In Shape.
I am a Midwesterner who enjoys his food, and could charitably be described as “husky” or “portly”. Yet when I go to Gen Con, I am a veritable Olympian. For four days each August, I feel like I could reasonably beat 90% of my peers in a footrace. Further, I also suspect 87% of my peers would die if subjected to that same footrace. Hey, this is your chance to feel good about that sexy bod of yours. Enjoy it.

Be A Smart Shopper.
Unless you’re aiming for something exclusive you absolutely, positively HAVE to have on Day 1, take your time shopping. Dice, minis, and even out-of-print or used RPGs have several different vendors throughout the hall. There’s nothing worse than buying something for $20 on Day 1 and seeing the same thing elsewhere a day or two later for $5 or $10. I like to wander on Day 1, make a potential shopping list, and then go back when I’ve had time to look around a bit more.

Say Yes To Hygiene.
We will assume none of the readers are that guy who smells like a chicken processing plant bathed in Axe body spray by the closing stages of Day 2. Even so, if you want to avoid the post-convention crud, make sure to wash your hands plenty, and possibly consider bringing a small bottle of hand sanitizer. Additionally, if you’re a sweaty type, bring a couple squares of wet wipes. It can really help refresh you when you’re feeling scummy. Look at the attendees of Gen Con, and just think how many rare diseases and skin conditions are probably shared between one of the least healthy gatherings of people outside of a Wisconsin Cheese Festival.

Travel Light.
You will never need as much as you think you will need at Gen Con Indy. Leave it in your trunk or hotel room. That bag starts to get mighty heavy around lunchtime, especially if you add any purchases to the pile.

Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone.
No, I don’t mean necessarily do an Avatar LARP, attend a private hentai viewing, or force yourself to do karaoke night at a local pub. Some horrors are best left locked away, after all. But there are dozens upon dozens of RPGs and games that will be new to you at Gen Con. Look at something a little less traditional, or something that might seem silly or novel. If it doesn’t do anything for you, you’re out 15 minutes of your time. But if it does, then maybe you’ve hit upon one of those hidden little gems that make Gen Con what it is.

Coming shortly, we’ll take a look at some of the types of attendees you’ll run into at Gen Con.


Shawn Merrow said...

A very nice list. My last con the Sunday morning shower was more for loosening up all the knots in my back them hygiene. LOL

Guess I'm to old for all nighters.

killervp said...

Great List!! I especially agree with the hydration- I had a friend at SD Comiccon get heat stroke. I just have one thing to add: stop by the Palladium booth, and buy some books!!

Wymarc said...

Great list. The same is basically true for Origins as well. Looking forward to the next installment. Afraid of how were I will fit in :)

John Kahane said...

Excellent list of suggestions, Zach, especially the business about hydration. (Those of us with type 1 or 2 diabetes need to be cognisant of this, as well as the food issues.)

I would also suggest the 3-2-1 rule... Every 24 hours, a minimum of 3 hours of sleep, 2 meals (preferably one hot), and 1 shower.

Zachary Houghton said...

Excellent points, John!

clash bowley said...

DON'T OVERBOOK hit me last time I went. In the second of three games I ran that last day, I leaned over to grab something off the bag on the floor,

closed my eyes,

and fell asleep.

Just for a second or so.

Leaning over in my chair.

I opened my eyes to see Klax looking at me. He said, very quietly, in a disbelieving tone, "Did you just fall asleep?"

"Totally" I answered.