I’ve loved playing games from a young age, and in the last 10 years that’s spiked from loving it to having it as a massive part of my life. Sure to some it’ll just be a hobby, but to so many like me it’s also a major social experience. Some people go for comics, fandoms, cars, but for me it’s tabletop games. And these people with passion often organise to meet up to celebrate all things within that topic, be it Comic-Con for fandoms or Rolls-Royce Meets (dependent on your flavour of hobby). I guess it’s a way to not only verify the hobby to oneself that it’s of value to more than you, but it’s also a way to link up, make contacts and stretch the knowledge around the hobby. Effectively, it’s probably the most social element of any hobby.
Now I’ll be honest from the outset. I’ve never been to a convention of any sort; I’ve just never gotten around to it. When I was younger I’d have loved to but money was the issue (well that and actually needing to make the effort to go). Ironic as it is, it’s only as I’ve gotten older, now in the busiest and most full on part of my life, that I’ve actually managed to organise to get down to one, and it’s the United Kingdom Games Expo (UKGE). I’m incredibly excited, but also pretty damn nervous. Never mind being an adult, new stuff is still pretty scary. It doesn’t matter how well experienced I feel I am in playing games or how open I’ll be to new ones, nor how confident I may feel in social situations, it’s brand new. So how best to deal with any level of panic? Let’s get rambling.
Here’s my semi-blind guide to what I think will be important to consider based entirely on everyone else’s excitement, advice and some good old fashioned common sense!
Apparently, technology is useless. Or so I’ve over heard! Card transactions are possible, and can happen, but each vendor will rely entirely on their own connection to the World Wide Web. Poor, janky or no connection will mean an awkward wait before your card is declined or the server fails. Having cash to hand may be more reliable: you’ll have a cap on spending, there’ll be no awkward retries with your contactless, and, best of all, money can be traded for goods and services. All wonderful things! Naturally I’d advise keeping your cash safe and sound, not carrying ridiculous amounts at any one time, so it may even be wise to leave some in your hotel room (should you have booked the luxury).
This may sound obvious, or pointless to some, but water is important. Staying on top of your hydration levels is key to survival! I’ll admit that I’m terrible for it, I’ll be 5 hours into work or something and have not had a drop. Then bam! Headache! Nothing kills a good time like your head feeling like it’s got nails being driven into it. And I’m not one to assume water will be expensive to purchase within the venue, but people have to make a living and supply and demand screams for profit… just makes sense to take your own water. And drink it. Don’t go all raisin-ified through dehydration.
Politely Say No
This one was passed on to me directly when I asked for advice about convention etiquette; I was told that you are allowed to walk away. Now hear me out, my bane in life is the inconsideration of others’ feelings; you shouldn’t be unnecessarily rude! But, from what I’ve heard, you’re there for your benefit. Content creators and vendors want to get you trying out their games and sparking up conversations to both advertise their products and get feedback. You’re not obligated to stay. Feedback is important, and if you’re not feeling a game, politely say no thank you, it’s going to be more beneficial for both you and the stall holder. If you’re in the midst of a game, be fair and give it time before you give up on it. Then, if it truly isn’t your cup of tea, give constructive criticism if applicable or honestly explain it’s not for you. No need to be prickly or unjust, just be a decent person!
Know Your Limits
The biggest thing I’ve noticed when researching what to do and not to do is to not over do it. Apparently it’s very exhausting being at an expo! I wouldn’t have expected it! Common sense screams to take a break every once in a while, but I myself am shocking at knowing when to take 5. A tired gamer is a ratty gamer, and no matter how hard you try you may end up coming across as unintentionally rude. It’s an excuse to eat and drink more than anything, and it’ll give your brain a break from tactics and play.
I’m usually one good at going with the flow. No plan? No problem! Just go with it…. But that probably won’t work here. This is based on what I’ve seen by liaising with different creators going to UKGE this year; get a plan. If there’s a game you’re dying to see tested or participate in a play of, or if there’s a specific talk or tournament you want in on, sort it out and go for it. Book slots, ask for times, establish when things are, organise when to be in certain places! Only by sheer coincidence have I booked to play two games I’m interested in, and luck isn’t always there. The days are going to be long and you shouldn’t ever be at a loose end!
I’m incredibly excited for UKGE, but as I’ve said, very nervous as well. Human nature. But honestly, I think the hype outweighs the fear in this instance. Talking to others and establishing what they’ve learned through their experiences has helped me feel more prepared, but one’s own experience is what will be the best guide. Maybe there’s an element of “jumping in at the deep end” and just going may help, but I’m not a trial and error sort of guy. Alternatively, if my rambles haven’t helped (which they may not have) UKGE have produced a first timers guide which can be found here! Anyway. If you see a tall northern bloke with a moustache wandering about UKGE, it’s probably me, so come say hey. Have a great time and stay hydrated. Don’t be a raisin.