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What You Need to Know Before Attending Your First Video Game Convention

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Video game conventions are places of magic. An entire community worth of people gathering together over a single hobby is exhilarating. People dress up in full cosplay, some of your favorite game celebrities are there, and it’s a chance to play new games before they are released to the public.

Attending a video game convention, however, is not an easy task. It requires planning, confidence, patience, and a pretty big lump of cash. If you’ve never gone to a con before, especially one focused on gaming, there are some things you need to know and plan for ahead of time.

Picking The Right Con For You

There are a lot of gaming conventions and events in the world, and going to the right one can make or break your experience. For example, for your first convention, don’t expect to get into E3 or a similar venue. While these can be a lot of fun and have tons of amazing things to see and play, tickets are nearly impossible to get a hold of.

If you want to attend a large scale convention, consider going to a PAX (Penny Arcade Expo) as they have many of the same demos and attractions as other big conventions, but are a little easier to get in to.

Smaller and more local gaming cons exist too, and there might even be one in your city. These can be a great way to get a taste of what it’s like at a gaming convention without all of the hassle, expenses, and troubles that accompany larger conventions. Additionally, many YouTubers/streamers are starting to host their own conventions, and those in the gaming genres are no different. If you really want to meet a specific gaming celebrity, see if they are part of a specific convention or even hosting their own.

You also need to understand the different purposes of each convention. Some focus on specific types of games, like fighting or games from Japan, while others have a little bit of everything. Others might include other portions of pop culture and entertainment, like anime conventions. Some focus on eSports or tournaments, while others are just a big blend of everything and anything gaming, including tabletop and card games.

Buying Tickets

Tickets for most conventions go ridiculously fast. In fact, for many large conventions, from E3 to PAX, every ticket is purchased within seconds they become available. Meanwhile, other conventions have early bird specials that sometimes run half the normal ticket prices.

Before you plan anything else, you need to make sure you can buy a ticket. No ticket, no convention. Set an alarm, follow ticket buying best practices, and be ready to act when it’s your time.

You should also research if there are specific passes or extra necessities for events at the convention. Often, panels or special events require early registration or purchase for entry.

Paying for Travel and Hotels

Immediately after securing a ticket, you should book how you are going to get to the con and if you need a hotel. If the convention is local, this isn’t a worry, but if you are going to a larger one, it’s essential. Most hotels in a city hosting a major convention fill up quick, and prices can get pretty high.

If you plan ahead, you can find ways to keep costs low, like utilizing a credit card with travel rewards on it, or splitting a room with a friend. If not, plan on dropping a large chunk of money on living accommodations and travel, as often prices skyrocket during the high demand of convention goers like you.

Planning Out Your Days

Leading up to, and the days of the convention need to be extensively planned out. Be prepared to wake up early on any day you plan on going to the convention, as there will be lines to get in. If you have to pick up your pass or ticket for the con, be ready to stand in line for hours. Sometimes, you will spend several hours out in the sun waiting just to get inside. Bring water, comfy shoes, and something to fill your time.

You should also plan out exactly what you want to see and accomplish at the convention. Start with limited events like panels and shows, as these are often first come, first serve. You’ll also need to plan out wait times for nearly everything you want to do, from playing game demos to buying merchandise. Depending on how big the convention is, that wait time could be around 15 minutes to a few hours for each activity. Don’t waste your time trying to decide what to do during the convention, have it planned out in advance.

Most importantly, don’t go to just the convention, especially if you’ve traveled to a new city or country. Plan out time and days to see the local sites and enjoy yourself. Visiting California? Set aside time to hit up the beach or make a trip to a theme park. Get away from the crowds of convention goers and instead enjoy the world.

Packing for Everything

Packing plays a major role in success or failure for conventions, especially if you plan on cosplaying. Plan outfits both for the weather and the convention hall. Cons are very sweaty, sticky, and hot, so wear light and cool clothing. Even if it’s rainy and cold outside, expect the convention hall to be very warm. Similarly, pack a change of clothes for after you leave for the day, as you’ll likely feel very sweaty and gross.

Similarly, pack for other activities you might participate in. Going to the beach? Pack everything you need for a day in the sun and sand. Or, pack for walking around the city or a night on the town.

Have Fun and Make Friends

Conventions are an opportunity for tons of people who share a hobby to come together. Have fun, talk to new people and make friends. Alongside seeing the sights and playing new games, spending time with others who share your love of games is one of the greatest parts of conventions.

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The Author

Ben Allen

Ben Allen

Champion of Hyrule, defender of space, bane of demons, savior of light, and occasional pizza eater.