Today is the second day of GenCon. I’m not sure what attendance numbers will be this year, but many conventions are starting to see numbers close to what they were getting in the ‘Before Times’ (i.e. before 2020). Thing is, I’m not going to be there and I’m okay with that.
I attended GenCon consistently from 2006 to 2017 and I had a fun, if exhausting, time every year. My experiences ranged from absolutely amazing games to some of the most cringe worthy gamer horror stories in my repertoire. I came to know and love the downtown area surrounding the convention center and still happily share my convention going knowledge with anyone who wants to listen: stay hydrated, wear good shoes, bring extra socks, shower each day, eat at least one decent meal per day, and most importantly, don’t hurt yourself trying to do everything.
That last bit is why I made the call to stop attending GenCon. For me, it was getting logistically, financially, and physically taxing to make happen, so it made sense to pull back and put my focus on other events that provided an equal or greater level of fun, but at an easier cost to manage. I was initially worried that I was going to be consumed with a deep sense of missing out during the con when I didn’t attend, but that didn’t happen quite as badly as I thought.
Since then, I have been quietly examining my personal levels of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) related to all things gaming. We live in a society that encourages you to treat yourself and do all the things you desire but doesn’t acknowledge when that’s unfeasible or just not a good idea. As a result, we’re always wrestling with FOMO for the things we can’t do, regardless of why. With conventions like GenCon, it can be hard to see all the social media posts from your friends that are attending, forcing us to wrestle with finding that balance between being kind to ourselves and feeling sad we’re missing out.
I think this is especially crucial for all of us RPG players. By the very nature of the games we play, there are a limited number of seats at the table. Most RPGs can handle between four to six players. Once those seats fill up, whether it’s a convention one-shot or someone’s home game, that’s it. If you’re not in one of those seats, you miss out. There are other games to play, but that doesn’t always ease the sting.
This is something I’ve dealt with on many levels: Conventions I can’t attend, games that friends are in that I’m not, new games or game products I want to buy, but can’t or shouldn’t. The more friends I make in the gaming community, the more opportunities there are to game, but also the more opportunities there are to feel like I’m missing out.
So, what do I do?
- Remind myself that I can’t be everywhere at once. Just the same as the reasons I stopped going to GenCon, there are financial, physical, and logistic reasons that sometimes you need to miss out. Life is complicated and busy and we have to make our choices carefully. For me, cutting GenCon allowed me to invest more in other conventions and focus on other financial goals.
- Know that it’s not personal. Look, we’ve all got our mental health issues we’re dealing with. It can be very easy to see friends getting together without you and assume the worst. Even for those of us who aren’t dealing with clinical anxiety or depression, the brain weasels like to help us make the worst assumptions. It’s probably not any kind of drama that’s excluding you. And if it is drama? Well, you’ve got other issues to deal with than a game you’re missing out on.
- Be happy for other people doing cool things. Hey, those friends of yours getting to go to a convention you can’t, or play a game you’re not in? They’re still your friends. Celebrate the awesome experiences they’re having. Ask them how it went and enthusiastically listen. I love getting to hear about my friends’ campaigns, and all this week I’ve been checking in with my friends going to GenCon and encouraging them to have a fantastic time (and sharing my geeky knowledge of downtown Indy).
- Plan your own fun. Take the energy of your emotions related to missing out and turn it into other opportunities. There’s nothing stopping you from reaching out to folks you want to game with and see if you can pull something together. With all the virtual options we have today, distance isn’t even as much of a factor. Can’t afford to attend a convention? Invite some friends for a gaming weekend and make your own mini-con from the comfort of your own home. When you feel like you’re missing out, it’s time to look for the ways you can make cool experiences happen.
I still encourage everyone interested in conventions to try GenCon at least once in their lives, but I’m honest about the reasons I no longer attend. I’m at a point in my life where I make sure I get as many gaming experiences as I can and mitigate that fear of missing out because I know I’ve got something cool coming just around the corner.