It is generally accepted that Gaming Conventions are both awesome...and stressful! Sometimes, they are said to be a great deal like a theme park: you just can't see it all, and may feel like you didn't get all you wanted out of the experience. Well, there are a few things you can do to "hit the sweet spot" in conventions!
First, think relative to your budget obviously! Can you afford to go to the convention that is around the world just to play some games? Or is there something else you are wanting to get from the experience? For me, I've never gone to GenCon...not because I don't want to mind you; but primarily because it is too much to absorb in one go for me. The only real reason I would go to GenCon is to meet people and chat; it wouldn't be so much for the gaming at all. Only recently has GenCon had appeal to me simply because I have started meeting a lot of people online that I would like to meet in person!
I'm not going to go into crunching numbers on what you can "afford" because I'm not just talking about money...but time also. Time is more valuable to me than money. How much fun can I get in the time that is available...that is my measure. So what I WILL do is give an example of what I think would be a worthwhile convention for me to go to:
Looking at this convention, it has four primary things I'm looking for:
- Mature Audience: I know lots of people like to game with their kids...I'm one of the first to say that some of my fondest memories of gaming are the looks on my wife and kids' faces when cool stuff happens. However, sometimes you just want to "Adult" a little, and CafCon would give me just that. It means I can be myself, and not worry about saying "f***" if I miss a saving throw! It means I just get to relax and enjoy myself!
- Content I Relate to: the folks over at one of my favorite Facebook Gaming Groups are heavy into this one...so I know I'm going to relate to what is going on! There will be people there who game like I game, and who like what I like. I know I'm going to KNOW people when I go.
- Affordable: I'm talking time and money here. At only $4 to get in, it is a steal! I get to decide which games I want to play and only pay for those...a big bargain for me. As far as time goes, it is a sweet weekend deal: starts Saturday Morning and is done by Sunday evening...so I can fly in on a Friday Night and fly home on Sunday Night...or however I want without too much time from home and still get to have fun and pack in meetings with awesome friends. Location is good too. Morganton is fairly close to Charlotte, and for me a ticket round trip (from SeaTac to Charlotte) is under $400 and room there is inexpensive too. For a nice mini-vacation gaming weekend, I think that is well worth it. Compare this to a flight for me to GenCon with rooms, and I break down quickly into spastic fits of rage because of the hiked up motel costs alone!
- Quality of Fun: I've hinted at it in a couple of places already, but this one is the most important to me. Am I going to remember what I did for a long time, is it going to bring me fond memories, what is the convention offering that I'm going to laugh at and enjoy over all? Well, CafCon has the likes of Chris Larr, Andrew Hughes, Randall Perry and many more involved that are cool as hell...I KNOW I'm going to have fun. We have a blast on the AD&D Uncensored Page. If you want fun, make sure where you are going is actually going to be fun!
Some people like to talk Pros and Cons when it comes to things...but it feels weird to think about Cons when talking about Conventions. The only thing I don't like about CafCon is that it isn't in my own state!
Just remember that a Gaming Convention is supposed to be fun. If you find that you are lagging ass and feel miserable after a Convention, well, maybe you didn't have as much fun as you could have. There are some rules that I stick to for gaming:
- If I'm not having fun, I'm not going.
- If it is boring, I'm not going.
- I'm not going to go into debt for something.
- My vacations should include gaming, so conventions are the rule.
That is it folks, seriously. Gaming conventions should be fun and easy. They should be small enough (or your focus should be on a small section of the convention) so that you have fun and don't get overwhelmed and fatigued. So, make sure you get what you are going for...don't just go for a name and you will enjoy it much more!