Are any gaming conventions fun?

I’ve read a few blogs from people who went to PAX East over the weekend. And what they had in common is that no one really found the convention itself to be all that fun, it was more about being able to meet up with fellow bloggers/ guildies/ etc there.

Now last year I went to a couple of conventions. One was the Eurogamer Expo, which is a gaming convention, has a show floor full of demos that you can try, and that’s about it. I wasn’t impressed. I wonder if it was partly my own fault – what did I really expect from a gaming convention anyway? There were games, right?

The other convention that I went to last year was Eastercon, which is a sci fi convention. We had a blast! There were panels on all the time, there were films to watch, demos to take part in, panels with well known authors who you could go talk to, a chocolate tasting (yes really). even a room full of board games to play. Some of the panels were even about games, and we also got to meet friends from around the country.

I know which convention I would go to again and it would be the scifi one. But why the big difference? I wonder if it’s because sci fi conventions tend to be fan run, with lots of volunteers stepping up to offer to run sessions on just about anything under the sun, lots of families and family oriented activities, and people with years of fandom under their belt who are keen to welcome newbies into the convention scene.

Maybe it really is about the people, and not about the big shiny demos that you need to queue for hours to play or the devs who probably don’t have time to talk to you anyway.

In any case, me and Arb are going to Comic Con 2011, one of the biggest conventions of them all. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous. Will it be more like the scifi conventions with fans, fan run activities, panels and crazy things to do, or will it be more like the gaming conventions with silent anonymous queues to see the good stuff.

Has anyone actually had fun at a gaming convention? I wonder a bit about Blizzcon too, because really the main fun there seems to be meeting guildies which you don’t actually have to do at a Blizzcon.

29 thoughts on “Are any gaming conventions fun?

  1. Comic con has mad queues, but they’ve always been chatty affairs with lots of cool costumes to watch walk past. Plus the panels are fantastic. It is nervy but I think I now know some tactics to ensure you enjoy

  2. Never been to a gaming convention, but I’m sceptical from what I’ve read. However I’m planning to attend a fan-run SF convention this year, the first I’ve been to for a couple of years. It’s in English, with an audience coming from all of Europe and takes places in Sweden i June. Can I possibly tempt you to come over for it?

    • I am very very tempted (a workshop on elven calligraphy – that’s so cool!). The only thing with this summer is that my holiday budget is pretty much spent already ;/ I will see what we can do though, since this sounds really cool.

  3. I think part of it is that the ‘con’ scene in the UK tends to be centred around sci-fi rather than out and out gaming. Plus we just have a much smaller con scene in general. I was looking for a local equivelant of PAX East and didn’t really come up with anything.

    • I think the nearest we have to PAX is probably the Eurogamer Expo, and although they did have demos for games like DA2 when I went last year, the focus did seem to be more on big action/shooter type games. It was def. catering for the 18-30 male gamer population.

  4. The complaints of people who didn’t enjoy PAX East seem to be centered around A) personal issues having nothing to do with PAX itself, and B) having gone to PAX Prime, and PAX East simply isn’t as good.

    I went to PAX Prime this year though, and I can tell you it was one of the best experiences of my life. The people were awesome, the events were awesome, everything involving Gabe and Tycho was awesome.

    What I’m trying to say is (while I can’t vouch for PAX East), PAX Prime is awesome.

  5. Sometimes I wonder if people mention meeting other people as highlight because everything else was so not worth it?

    Apparently some had a good party night at PAX! I personally felt it was not worth the trip when I was at Games Convention some years ago.

  6. Thank you for your kind words about Eastercon 2010 – hearing that people enjoyed it never grows old for me. I’m running the 2012 Eastercon again and it will be in the same hotel, with most of the same team helping out so do please come again and bring your friends! Offers of help and/or suggestions also very welcome 🙂

      • Excellent! I’ll point our programme head in your direction in a couple of months time 🙂 My focus is on making Eastercon a broad church where fandoms can come together and input from those of us who enjoy gaming is a vital part of that strategy.

  7. I used to go to cons and sign up for the silliest RPG’s available, and usually had a lot of fun. Paranoia games tend to be huge fun. Gaming cons are only really fun if you play games, I can’t see the fun if you’re not involved.

  8. Never been to a gaming convention, but I cannot tolerate huge crowds so I have never really felt the need to go. Well, I went to SOE Fan Faire once, and that was lonely because I didn’t know anyone and have no plans to go again.

    I don’t care to stand in lines to play games; I can play games, no lines or pressure, at home. Every video and piece of news from gaming conventions are available same day on the internet; the only reason to go to any of those gaming conventions is to meet people.

    PAX started out as a celebration of gamers, with gamers playing games mostly. Now it’s just another marketing convention, which is inherently uninteresting — like GDC appears to be, where the big news is the game announcements and less of the actual business of game development.

    When I lived in San Diego, my son and I went to SD ComicCon. I didn’t bother with any of the movies or panels; I just wandered the show floor. I did get to meet Billy West and Howard Tayler, who drew me a picture.

    I have been to lots of SF conventions, even way back before they were just built around Hollywood blockbusters. They were a lot of fun back then, but I don’t know if they would be fun any more. Probably just more lines to see summer movie previews.

  9. From my point of view, you haven’t been to a gaming convention. 🙂 PAX and E3 and the like are exhibitions, and to be fair, that’s about all you CAN do with computer gaming events.

    Real gaming conventions are things like Gaelcon and Warpcon in Ireland, and Conpulsion and Dragonmeet in the UK, along with huge numbers of smaller ones.

    See for some more in the UK.

    • I have been to Dragoncon 🙂 It was OK but found it really difficult to get into a game unless you turned up really early. And if you weren’t actually gaming then a quick swing about the shop floor was mostly what was left. (In short: would have probably liked it more if I could have played more.)

      I have also been to a few of the GenCon UKs which were fun in varying degrees, but really a big part of the fun there was just being able to try new board games with the group of people I went with. I dunno why but gaming cons just don’t throw up the fun series of events that the SF cons seem to do.

      Why don’t gamers want to hold panels talking about representations of black people in games, or the evolution of MMOs? I’ve no idea, but it just doesn’t seem to happen.

  10. We actually had quite a bit of fun at Blizzcon last year. We didn’t meet up with guildies (none of ours could go, as it turns out) but we still managed to enjoy the panels, game play, and of course the after-show cocktail or two with other geeks there.

    We’re going back this year and hoping some more of our friends will be going as well.

  11. If you live anywhere near or can get to Rhode Island and have not been to Templecon ( you are missing out. It’s the best 3 days of gaming ever! If you aren’t into gaming there’s a billion other activities to do.

    The one thing I have noticed about good conventions and bad conventions is that good conventions have a multitude of different activities that will apply to everyone and not just the small subject at hand.

  12. I’ve been to a few of them. While I got a kick out of Comic Con, since I’m not particularly huge in the genre, it isn’t as large a draw to me as it would be for others.

    I went to E3 several years ago when I had an incredible opportunity to go on the cheap. That was a fantastic time (This was before it got decimated and then rebuilt, around 2003).

    I plan a trip to Gen Con every year, which houses various gaming platforms, but not that much on computer gaming (Bioware occasionally does a little something). Mostly Pen and Paper, TCG, Board, Table top games and even a handful of LARPs. There is a very surreal experience in a convention in which I can go from one booth and meet the authors of Dragonlance or some of the iconic artists of the fantasy genre, go to another, and see the new variants on Shadowrun and C’thulhu RPGs, go further down and try out and demo several of the new TCGs, and then wander down the hall to see a LARP session doing a Zombie Apocalypse scenario.

    The biggest draw on a lot of the conventions (Beyond the “Holy crap, did they really wear that?” spectacle) is that you’re going to go to a place where you know that the majority of people there will be sharing your interests already. Notice how recently there have been a couple posts about “Closet Gaming,” or even on the Blizzard anniversary “Embracing your Inner Geek” and the big draw on a lot of these is that you are going to be with a group of people you can actually talk about this with, because if they didn’t share the same goals and entertainments as you, they wouldn’t be there in the first place.

  13. To answer the question posed, no.

    To add something humorous (at least to me…does anyone else matter?), apparently there’s shortage of THESE types of ‘Cons’ now, is there?

    Seriously, I bet even Whitby has a Pirate Con!

  14. Well… I don’t know about computer gaming cons. These seem much more focused on marketing, demos and the like, but my wife and I did GenCon, the big granddaddy of the tabletop RPG cons, for years. Tons of fun. Lots and lots of seminars, meetups with companies, and a stunningly huge huckster room. Vastly, vastly larger than something dinky like BlizzCon, with far more activities. GenCon has more activities in any given single timeslot than BlizzCon has in total, and is about half the cost.

    If you like tabletop gaming at all, you should consider it.

  15. Conventions exist to give people an excuse to convene. Meeting up with friends is pretty much the explicit purpose of them. While it’s easy to say “Well, we could have done that anywhere, at any time,” it’s not really that simple. It takes work, time, and money to get everyone together. Your convention fee is basically offloading those organization costs on to someone else. The panels and demos and all that is just gravy; a natural result of a ton of like minded people being in the same place at the same time.

  16. Never been to a computer gaming convention, although I’ve been to a number of pen and paper RPG cons – several of the European GenCons (which have been a mixed bag) and I’ve been to Dragonmeet in London every year in its current form (which is a one day event so no need to fuss about with accommodation). I can’t say going to a big con to queue up to play a demo of an unfinished game appeals to me – I’d rather get solid time in an open beta to make up my own mind, rather than 40 minutes of “edited highlights”.

    I’ve also been to one EasterCon years ago, in St Helier – which I quite enjoyed. While I read a lot of SF, I’m not at all involved in ‘fandom’ which is its own peculiar subculture. However, attending discussion panels with Harry Turtledove and Peter Hamilton was great fun, and getting the chance to sit and shoot the breeze about life, the universe and everything with a couple of the authors even more so. I’ve been talked into going along to this year’s Eastercon as well – being a military SF fan, having the con theme be military SF with David Weber as guest of honour was too much to resist…

    • I’ll be at this year’s event too, though I think I’m only on a couple of programme items (including the Children’s Easter Egg Hunt – don’t ask…) so I’ll mostly be at the Olympus con table. Do come and say hi to me there 🙂

  17. I went to PAX Prime last year and Blizzcon in 2009 and I enjoyed both a great deal! Blizzcon was great because I really felt like I was with my people, as it were. Everyone was friendly in lineups and before panels, and even in restaurants around the area. We were just a bunch of folks who love Blizzard games, and it was a blast.

    I’ve dropped by PAX in previous years, but last year was the first time I made an effort to see everything I wanted to see. Again, there was a real feeling in the air of everyone sharing interests and all being gamers together. While waiting for panels I would pull out my DS and see if any random people in the area wanted to play a game of Mario Kart or something.

    I mean, there was the odd moment at both cons when the crowd and the heat and the noise got to me and I just sat down for a while with a cold drink, but for the most part I quite enjoyed each one and I am pretty happy to be going back to PAX Prime later this year.

  18. I’m actually vaguely considering a trip to one of the PAX’es with the express plan of only purchasing a one-day con badge. My wife and I both have other things to do at either venue, and I’m more sad to miss the unofficial events (blogger breakfasts, MMO studio parties) than the stuff that happens on the show floor and gets reported all over the internets for free anyway.

  19. It was my first gaming convention ever, so I really can’t compare it to anything. I’d heard from others who weren’t so impressed by PAX East, but realized they’d been to the one last year or to PAX Prime. This likely won’t be my last PAX so I’m curious as to what I’ll think of conventions after I’ve had more experience and a couple of them under my belt!

  20. For what it’s worth, this late in the comment game, I’ll say that I went to PAX East last year. It was my first and only gaming convention, and I had an absolute blast. I was set to go this year until the budget for the trip had to be moved to a trip to be in my friend’s wedding (darn him for his inconvenient love!).

  21. My husband and I managed to get Blizzcon tickets for the past three years (2008, 2009, 2010). After 2008, which was almost a spur of the moment decision to go, we definately wanted to go back.

    I like Blizzcon because it’s really focused. There’s usually only 2 panels going on at the same time, along with the competitive gaming (3v3 arena, SC/SC2, and WC3), so it’s entirely possible to see everything you want to see. It’s fairly compact and EVERYONE there is a huge Blizzard fan. In addition to the panels and competitive gaming, there’s the demo stations, all the artwork, and various vendors to visit. It can turn out to be a full and chill day at the same time.

    Sure the lines can get long, but they were some of my high points. I’ve met several friends at Blizzcon and we’ve looked forward to meeting again at the next Blizzcon.

    Plus, it’s hilarious to see Anaheim completely taken over by geeks.

    I always recommend to anyone that if they can afford the trip and can get tickets to go to Blizzcon once.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s