Starter’s Guide to Attending Your First Video Game Convention
Going to your first convention can be very intimidating, especially if you are heading in solo. Video game conventions especially can be confusing and overwhelming for first-time attendees with little idea what to expect. It might feel like stepping into a whole new world, filled with cosplay, celebrities, fellow super fans, merch, and more.
If you are really interested in attending a convention, especially one focused on video games, there are some things you should know and do to fully prepare for it. This guide can help make sure you have a blast, stay healthy, do everything you want to do, and look forward to doing it again.
Picking the Right Con
There are conventions for nearly everything — model trains, comics, ventriloquists, Abraham Lincoln impersonators, taxidermy, and more. If there is a fanbase, there is a convention for them. There are even different kinds of cons for video games, some designed solely for indie developers, while others are places for AAA game publishers to strut their stuff.
Picking the right con for your first time is important to having a fun time. A big video game con, like E3, might have tons of things to do, but is extremely crowded. On the flip side, a smaller local convention will be easier to attend, but lack the glamour and excitement of a larger con.
Another thing to consider is whether you want additional interests as a part of the con. A local comic con might have some video game booths, but also stuff from TV and comics. An anime con might feature some Japanese games alongside manga and anime. If there are other interests that align with video games, you might want to give those cons some research.
It’s essential to do research to pick a good con. It’s probably a good idea for your first con to pick a smaller convention. Don’t push to attend E3 or Blizzcon for your first time. Consider a local or city-based convention to help ease into it. That way, you can decide if you even like attending a convention before dropping hundreds of dollars to go to a massive one. You should also consider what you want out of a conference. Some focus on holding panels and giving people chances to meet and listen to developer and gaming celebrities, while others are all about playing the games.
Choosing Activities to Do
So you’ve picked a con that interests you. Now you need to plan out what you want to do at the con. Don’t expect to just walk in and be able to do everything there is. Even small local conventions get crowded and busy. You need to be selective with what you plan on doing, or you might be stuck walking around the show floor all day bored.
First, look at events that are one day, one time things. That includes panels, presentations, photo-ops, signings, and similar events. Typically, getting into these is tricky, especially popular ones, which means buying tickets or standing in a long line. Either way, you need to start your con plan there.
After choosing which limited events to attend, plan out what you want to do next. There are booths to see, merch to buy, celebrities to meet, cosplay to gawk at, and video games to play! Having a plan can help make sure you don’t aimlessly walk around and squeeze every drop of enjoyment out. It’s even smart to have a backup plan for each event in case you can’t do it, the event is cancelled, or the line is too long. Speaking of lines…
You’re Going To Stand In Lines
A massive portion of going to a con is standing in lines. Going to a panel, there’s a line. Wanting to get something signed, line. Want to play a demo, prepare for a line. You’ll have line after line after line to stand in.
That means get prepared both mentally and physically to stand around a long time. Wear comfy shoes, have water before you step in line (if the con lets you), and bring something to do. Some lines, especially demos and signings, can last for hours. Accept now that you’ll be standing in lines for anything and everything.
The World of Cosplay
Cosplay started as a way for super fans to show their geeky passion to the world, but has evolved to being a key part of conventions. Tons of people dress up, from amazing home-made outfits, to simple costumes, and spanning every character ever created. Want to see somebody cosplay as Deadpool cosplaying as Betty White? I’m sure somebody has done it.
If cosplaying sounds fun to you, give it a try. You don’t need to have a handmade or extravagant costume to have a good time, a simple cloak and some cheap jewelry could lead to a great first-time cosplay.
Be aware though, if you cosplay, people will notice you. For some, that is too scary, but others enjoy it. If you have a good cosplay, don’t be surprised if people ask to take your photo. If you really want to gain attention, or enter into the cosplay contests most cons have now, do the work to make sure both your costume and your body look great. Often, people appreciate the smaller details in a good cosplay, and it can be a lot of fun planning it out.
With cosplay, there are extra things to keep in mind. Nearly every con has rules against weapons in the con, meaning leave your prop swords, guns, nuclear bombs, and such at home. Also, many cons have size requirements on cosplay too, meaning a massive fairy dress or Iron Giant replica can’t be on the showfloor. Finally, if you want to snap a photo of somebody’s cosplay, ask permission first. Don’t be a creeper about it.
Traveling, Hotels, Food, Staying Healthy
Unless your desired con is in your hometown, you’re probably going to need to travel. That means finding a place to stay, figuring out a way to get there, and paying for food.
Nothing is worse than going to a con only to find you left your limited edition copy of Banjo-Kazooie you wanted to get signed at home, so make a packing checklist and pack early. If you’re heading to a con in a warmer region, like California or Florida, pack for summer and be ready for being in the sun. Bring sunscreen, light clothing, a water bottle, a hat, and more. You are going to get warm waiting to get into the con.
Book your hotel room as early as possible. With every convention, hotel rooms fill up fast, with an entire city’s worth of hotels getting booked within minutes of tickets becoming available. It’ll also help out your wallet. The longer you wait, the higher the cost to book a place to stay.
Make sure to have food plans for before, during, and after a con. Many cons don’t allow outside food in the convention hall, and while there are typically food trucks outside, they might not have what you want to eat. Make sure, though, that you eat healthy, and follow your normal diet patterns. Nothing is worse than spending a con in the bathroom with food poisoning.
One essential thing to pack is hand sanitizer. Cons are filled with people, and people are filled with germs. Especially if you plan on playing demos and games at the con, hundreds or even thousands of people touch the same controller that likely isn’t getting cleaned until the end of the day. After you touch anything, wash your hands. This will at least help lower your chances of catching a cold, flu, or mix of sicknesses. Boost your vitamin C before the con, consider wearing a face mask to help lower airborne diseases, wash your hands, and consider planning a day or two after a convention to recover from any sicknesses you do get.
Conventions are a chance to gather a bunch of super fans under one roof and go wild. Don’t be afraid to make new friends, get outside your comfort zone, try new things, and meet your role models. More than likely, things will go wrong, but only you can prevent yourself from having fun. Enjoy being surrounded by like-minded people and play some video games.