With #E32018 fast approaching, you may have landed yourself a ticket to the Holy Grail of Gaming Conventions. And even if you haven’t, there are plenty of other Cons out there. Here are a few tips to help new convention goers prep for the events.
What to Bring
Now that you have your ticket, it’s time to figure out what you will be bringing with you. Of course, items will vary on how you are traveling (driving, flying), as well as the amount of stuff you want with you, but here are some basics you should absolutely have with you.
Comfortable Clothes and Shoes
You may want to bring a bunch of nice clothes that will be impactful if you’re able to meet actors, developers, or anyone else that holds celebrity status in your mind. Don’t. You are going to be doing a lot of walking, standing in line, and depending on the time of year, dealing with a variety of weather. Comfort is waaaaay more important. Make that your priority with maybe a few flashy items or accessories if you have room to bring it.
Like I said, you may be doing A LOT of standing in line. Even when I attended E3 before they opened ticket sales to the public, the line to test out Legend of Zelda was 3 hours long. So if you have a 3DS or Vita, why not bring it? A paperback book or tablet would be a good choice too. Also, you should invest in a portable charger. Once in the convention center, you may be fighting for access to outlets, so having one on your person at all times can be a lifesaver.
Travel Size Everything
Again, if you are staying in a hotel, this may seem super obvious. But I’m not just talking shampoo. Have a small deodorant on your person, maybe even some toothpicks or toothpaste for when that garlic noodle food truck sounds irresistible. Even a small hand sanitizer. You are going to be touching a lot of things that 100’s of others have as well. These are all small items you can easily bring along with you. And, whether you love or hate backpacks, having one will be your best asset in the convention. So being able to fit the small items inside while still having room for posters, shirts, and other giveaways or purchases from the event will be a huge help.
Now these things you don’t NEED, but they can help enhance your experience if you have them and/or have the packing space for them. Internet is always provided at big convention centers, but EVERYONE will be using it. So if you have a Hotspot, bring it along. It may help you out when the systems are bogged down by traffic. A small, handheld fan can help cool you off when the crowds make everything seem hot. Whether you plug it into your phone or have one you wave by hand, it can help anyone who hates the heat. And, instead of a plastic water bottle you refill, consider having either a thermos or, my personal favorite, a CamelBak bottle. Something leak proof.
Apps and Passwords
So now that you are packed, here is another thing you can easily prep before you travel. Conventions like E3, PAX, and PlayStation Experience make use of Apps. No matter which convention you are attending, check on their website or in the Apple or Andriod App Stores for any of these special, event-focused downloads.
Apps created by the teams running these events have maps, and information, as well as schedules for panels and demos. And, for E3 especially, they may have sign-ups for different testing opportunities that you can only access through their app. So having it on your phone will be handy and get you into some private events and showings.
And don’t just have apps for the event. At E3, the big developers are there in force and may have some neat digital exclusives or things you can do within their own private apps. So have yourself signed in to your PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo apps, as well as any for EA, Ubisoft, or even ones tailored to specific games. You never know when it could come in handy.
Food and Drink
Let’s talk about the most basic of necessities, what you will be eating and drinking during the course of the Con. Convention food and drinks are often very expensive, and if you are traveling, paying to stay in a hotel or other temporary abode, and paying for rides via Uber or Lyft, you probably don’t want to spend a ton of extra cash on food.
If you are able to before traveling, stock up on snacks, portable lunches, and other food and drink items that are easy to keep in a backpack. This will save you some money and allow you to cherry pick what you are eating, especially if you have any dietary restrictions.
If you are catching a flight and can’t take food or beverages with you, not to worry. Most conventions are in major cities so you can either buy some food supplies or go outside of the convention to eat. A lot of times, food trucks camp out near the convention centers. Or if you’d rather have a dine-in experience, using apps like Yelp can help you find good restaurants near-by.
If you are staying at a place with a kitchenette, one of the best things you can do is take a quick trip to a grocery store. Even just having some bread and PB&J can be a lifesaver if you’re trying to save some money. And when not in the convention, you can make use of a coffee maker, microwave, stove, oven, and so on.
Be mindful though, you will be around a lot of expensive tech. So food and water may not be allowed in certain areas, so keeping it in a backpack or purse and in resealable containers is a must. So having some Ziplock bags or boxes as well as your own, easy to clean utensils will come in handy as well.
And another thing that is obvious but needs to be said, don’t bring something that needs refrigeration or microwaving into the convention. There is no guarantee that you will be able to do either of these things.
Planning Your Days
Be mindful of how many days you plan to attend the event as well as what is going to happen in those days. If you are only there for one day, you don’t want to waste it by waiting in line for only a few games.
Both online, on apps, and in pamphlets you can get at the event, you will be able to find information about every event, panel, demonstration, and where everything will be held.
If you are traveling with a group, it may be a bit easier to leave things up to chance. Especially if they don’t mind the occasional place-holding in line so that you don’t miss out on something really important to you.
If you’re going stag, you have to be mindful of wait times. Unless you meet a really nice stranger who is happy to hold your spot in a line you’re going to have to hold your own place.
In either scenario, it helps to remember that weekdays are slower. A lot of people can only make it for Saturday and Sunday, so if you are able to score some tickets for the weekday, lines will be shorter and you can plan to do the bigger things, like that huge, triple-A reveal you know people will trample others to get their hands on. And that means you can hit up some of the smaller booths on the busy days, fitting a lot into the hours you have.
A helpful tip is to also weigh how much you WANT to do something. Of course, everyone is going to want to try the BIG game of the year, but maybe there are titles that hold a certain spot in your heart. Don’t miss out on something you love. It may not be demoed again or, if the company that owns the game or developed it has multiple titles they are showing off, they may only devote a single day to a few games and then move on to other titles. So knowing the schedule will help you make these choices and get you playing and testing way more than just walking in and seeing what’s up.
Yep. It happens.
Just like you being around expensive tech, a lot of people will realize visitors have some goodies too. Smartphones, handheld consoles, tablets, computers, chargers, headphones. Even passes get stolen if you aren’t mindful of where you keep it.
Pretty basic tips here. Never leave any of your belongings unattended. Keep your pass (which you can’t get into the event without) on a lanyard that is fairly sturdy. Usually, at big events, the showrunners will give you your pass already on a lanyard, but you can always buy a better or sturdier one if it will put your mind at ease. And even if you think it’s nerdy to wear it around your neck, not many thieves are bold enough to actually rip it off of you.
Be careful not to show off or flash your items. Take them out only when you are going to use them. And just be mindful of your surroundings. Keeping an eye out and being aware can sometimes be enough to show people you aren’t the one to mess with.
Finally…Just Have Fun!
Once you’re planning is over and you are in the event, just have a good time! You’ll be having fun in no time…well, maybe sometime if you are waiting in lines. But there will be so much to see and enjoy. Tournaments, giveaways, meetings and talking to developers at all levels.
If you ever feel like you need to stop and get your barrings, do it. Stepping off to the side and just looking up at the signs can help you.
If you see something awesome happening you didn’t work into your plan, go for it! It is a live event after all and things may change, get canceled, or get planned on a whim.
So of all the tips and tricks to make it a smooth convention, the most important thing is to immerse yourself in what is happening and just do it!