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Game Dream #6: Defying Convention

In the latest Game Dream, Doc steers away from gaming itself to ask some general questions about one of Gaming’s institutions: the convention.

    Have you attended a game or media (i.e. comic book / SF) convention?

Yes; several of the first and a few of the second. The roleplaying con scene was going strong in Sydney during the nineties, and I started attending not long after I got into the hobby. I’ve had fun and won the odd prize or two (from blocks of wood to RPG product). As for media conventions, I think I’ve only been to around… three SF conventions; two mainly Star Trek-oriented and one B5 oriented. I’ve seen Réne Auberjonois and Bruce Boxleitner speak at different cons, and took footage (eventually un-used) for a high school video project at the third. Comic-book conventions? Yeah, I think about three of the local OzCons as well, and one, maybe two of Games Workshop’s annual Sydney Games Days.

    If not, what's kept you from doing so?

I’m going to interpret this question a little differently than I think it was originally intended. I only ever attended two SF cons because the entrance fees – which have to cover off both appearance fees for the stars and donations to a charity – were rather steep, and my disposable income both shrank and was redirected elsewhere. Comic cons I simply couldn’t be bothered with any more, and I decided to leave Games Workshop behind when I realised I couldn’t stand the thought of painting an army’s worth of miniatures.

RPG cons are a slightly different matter, and they amount largely to two factors. One is the fact that I’m now a taken man, and as the time my lady and I have together is limited by her working three nights a week, I don’t like spending the leisure time we do have without her. Getting to and from a con, while probably no less awkward than it used to be, is nowadays more of a chore, and playing in, or even more so, gamemastering, a con module means that Vickie has to sit around twiddling her thumbs for a few hours a day (she’s not a great one for convention gaming).

The second one is… I’m just not as interested in convention gaming any more. When I see pamphlets for gaming conventions, very few if any of the module blurbs strike me as particularly interesting, and I tend to stick with systems I know, which restricts my field a little bit. That, plus the above, has reduced my con gaming to pretty much zero; a couple of times, I’ve even promised just to drop in to one or two to catch up with a few friends there, and instead Vickie and I wind up doing other things.

    If so, how was your experience, and what can you share with others to nudge their decision one way or the other?

Okay. Let me break it down:

  • If you enjoy listening to commentary tracks on movie DVDs, I’d recommend going to SF “star-appearance” con. It means you’ll be sitting with a whole bunch of people in a hotel conference room or auditorium somewhere, and you mightn’t have the best view, but seeing and listening to the person who plays your favourite character talk about the experience of making a science fiction TV show and/or movie is good fun, especially if they have Q&A sessions. I enjoyed seeing both Réne Auberjonois and Bruce Boxleinter (especially Bruce); they’re great speakers and they knew how to have fun on stage in the casual-chat format SF cons do so well.

  • If you’re a comic book collector or just in the market for a cool t-shirt, a comic con is always worth your while. You might get the opportunity to get your priceless mint condition Issue 1 signed by the author and artist, and if not, there’s always lots of drool-factor in wandering form stand to stand.

  • And if you’re a roleplayer, cons are always worth your while. Even if there aren’t any dealers’ tables where you might be able to snag something cheaper than usual on the last day, you have the opportunity to visit strange new worlds, make new friends and join new gaming groups, to boldly roll where no dice have rolled before! (ahem) Seriously, I’ve met some of my best friends at cons, up to and including the last couple I attended, and not by coincidence, they’re also welcome in any campaign I run.

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