I just got back from my most recent trip to the Origins Games Fair. While we Gnomes will be at Gencon en masse, Origins has always been my home convention. Its about 2 hours away from me, has a lot of people I know and they think we’re the source to go to for game mastering advice. Besides the 2 big name gaming conventions and a few big fantasy, comic  and sci-fi conventions, there are a slew of smaller conventions in lots of places. No matter what conventions you might go to, they are always awesome experiences full of lots of new things to learn.

1. Every new type of game you play can teach you something different
One of the things I like most about conventions is the fact that there are so many different types of games to play. Ones I wouldn’t normally get exposed to through my FLGS. There are games with unique mechanics, games with unique settings or just games you always play, but played with new people. Conventions are one great place to go and try new things, because new things are everywhere. Make it a point to try out as many as you can at a convention.

2. Meet and talk to new people
One of the most awesome things I can say about gaming conventions is that they are a chance to meet new people. Most of my time at conventions is spent running demos for my company, but one of the best parts of that is getting to meet new people. While running  a game is an awesome excuse to meet new people, commenting on their awesome costume or kilt, making jokes while riding the elevator or asking someone if they have any good suggestions for games to check out are great ways to start up conversations. These conversations aren’t usually going to lead to lasting friendships, but it is always good to make contacts and meet new people. At conventions, people are generally more friendly and open. Boundaries still need to be respected, especially in more open and friendly situations, but the atmosphere at a convention makes starting conversations easier.

3. Developers usually man their own booths, and are pretty open to conversation
Speaking of conversations, conventions are great places to meet and talk to high up industry people. . . . Wait. Scratch that. There is no such thing as a high up industry person. Most of the people who work in the various exhibitors halls are the people who sit down and make the games. Anything not run by Wizards of The Coast or White Wolf is going to be staffed and manned by people who have a hand in making the things they are selling. Usually. They are also usually pretty willing to talk about their products, upcoming avenues or thoughts on gaming. If you see someone whose name you’ve read on a by-line, don’t be afraid to say hi and ask how its going.

4. Very few people want to hear about your character, but listening to them talk about theirs can teach you about what people like in their games
When you’re off talking to new people at conventions, talking their ear off about your character or game will generally endear some groans and long looks staring into the distance. However, listening to them talk, while you groan and give long looks into the distance, can tell you the kinds of things people like in their games. The people that I talked to at Origins usually had really interesting stories, and kept them at an appreciable length. The thing that struck me about every one of them, was how I’d love to do some of the things they described in my games. Epic battles, long campaigns, interesting takes on old ideas. Every story had a new bit of info that I’ve added to my upcoming game ideas file.

5. Having fun at a convention, like in a game, is one of the most important things there is
Go to a convention. Play in games. Have fun. Get to know people. Talk to the developers of your favorite games. Have fun. Talk about your character and games. Listen to people talk about your character and games. Have fun.

So what are some of your favorite convention moments? Which conventions do you attend? What are the awesome things you’ve learned from conventions?