Game Conventions are becoming an increasingly important part of the serious gamer’s calendar. Conventions are a great chance to get a preview of hotly anticipated new releases, try new games, socialise with other gamers and check out some incredible costumes. But how can you make you sure you get the maximum enjoyment from your convention trip and not just end up tired and feeling like you missed half of it?
Choose the right convention. Gaming Conventions can differ a lot, so do your research so you can choose the one you’ll enjoy most. Do you want a large convention where you can see what’s new from the biggest gaming studios? Would you rather a smaller, family friendly con where you can try out new, independent games? Is your focus just on games, or would you prefer a convention where games are mixed in other genres, like the conventions organized by people like Ryan Kopf?
Think about practical needs. How far is the convention and how long is it on for? Will you need to arrange somewhere to stay overnight? How will you travel there? Is there public transport or will you need to find somewhere safe to park your car?
What will you need on the day? Many traders at conventions don’t take card, so make sure you have cash before you go to avoid the giant queues at venue cashpoints. If it’s going to be a long day, make sure you’ve got a way to charge your phone in case your transport home fails. Take a bottle of water, as convention halls are often hot places. Take snacks if you don’t want to buy overpriced food at the venue.
Plan out your day. If you want to play new games from the big studios, expect large queues. Get there early and hit your must plays first in case you get stuck queuing. If you want to attend a panel or have paid to meet a voice actor, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to navigate the venue. Crowds and confusing layouts can cause you some major delays, so allow more time than you think you need. You might get to things early, but it’s better than missing out on playing a new game you’re dying to try, or missing an interesting panel because you were lost among the stalls or stuck in a corridor behind someone’s giant cosplay.
Cosplays is becoming more and more popular at gaming events, with almost as many cosplayers as at comic or anime conventions. If you’re planning on joining in with the cosplay, that takes a little more planning.
You’ll need to plan with your costume in mind. Will you be able to change into your costume and store your clothes somewhere at the venue? Will you get ready at home and travel to the venue in costume? If you’re getting public transport in cosplay, be sensible. Hide away any scary looking props to avoid causing alarm, and cover up your costume by slipping jeans and a jumper on top if you can. If you’re getting the train with large props, check the height restrictions before you travel to avoid being turned away. Perhaps try and meet other cosplayers to travel with so you can look out for each on public transport.
Will you need help on the day? Some costumes are almost impossible to get into alone, so if you need help putting it on make sure you’ve got a friend with you who is willing to assist. If your costume will restrict your movement or vision, ask a friend to act as your handler for the day. A handler can help you with practical needs, like helping you navigate if you can’t see much, speaking to people who want pictures if you can’t hear much, and adjusting things pieces of costume when you can’t reach. Ask a friend nicely to help, and offer to return the favour next time.
Take care of your feet! Many cosplayers opt for sky high heels and then spend the day hobbling around in agony. Practice at home if you’re wearing new shoes, and whether you’re in heels or not, take plasters in case of blisters. It’s also sensible to have comfy shoes to change into later on.
Cosplays can be hot to wear, especially in hot, crowded convention halls. If you think you’re going to too warm, make sure you have plenty of water during the day to stop you getting dehydrated. Take plenty of breaks, and take off any especially bits of costume if you can. On the flip side, if you’re going to travel in costume, allow for being cold and take some layers to put on so you don’t freeze.
Pack a bag with items you might need in costume emergencies. You’ll want some supplies for repairs, like safety pins, a mini sewing kit or superglue. Cosmetic tape can rescue you in a pinch too. Pop in some hair pins or hair bands to secure wigs or hair styles that are slipping. Tissues and make-up wipes can save a costume from spills. In case of headaches or killer shoes, take painkillers, as well as those plasters. Remember to take any makeup you’ll need in case of touch-ups too. At minimum, any lipstick you’ve used should go into your bag, and a face powder to banish shine.
Conventions are obviously great fun, but they can be tiring, so make you sure look after yourself so you can enjoy it to the fullest.
If you’re walking around a lot, try to take occasional breaks for a sit down and a drink. You can escape the crowds for a bit and recharge before heading back into the crush. Drink plenty of water, whether you’re in cosplay or not, so you don’t get dehydrated, especially if the weather is warm.
Try and eat something to refuel. It’s easy to get excited and forget to eat, or to decide to skip lunch because of a skimpy costume or the prices of convention food. You need the fuel to keep going though, so and find something reasonably healthy to eat, and don’t just fill up on snacks or junk food.
Be sensible, even if you’re excited. Take a secure bag, and watch it while you’re browsing any stalls in case of pickpockets. Don’t take anything expensive, like a camera, that you won’t need. Be aware of where you put bags when you stop for a rest, and don’t abandon your belongings to chase after a friend or an exciting cosplay you want to snap.
If you’re in costume, be aware of where cameras are. Not everybody has good intentions so be aware of pictures being taken from angles you don’t want. If you somebody is making you comfortable, firmly say no and walk away. Report any inappropriate or threatening behaviour to venue security, and look out for other attendees. If someone you don’t know suggests moving away from the convention to take pictures, be smart and take a friend with you instead of going alone. A real photographer won’t mind this at all, and if they object, that’s a real red flag.
Most importantly, remember that a gaming convention is supposed to be a fun, social experience. Gather up like minded friends, make a good plan for the day or weekend, and stay smart and sensible while you’re there. With some common sense, you can have a fantastic convention experience, with no more worries than which game to test first.