Being a Better Con Gamer

Last week I talked about my convention carry, and suggested a list of things to bring with you to conventions. This week I thought I would continue with the convention theme and share five tips on being a good con gamer. You might think it’s enough to just show up and play. And maybe it is. But over the years I’ve come up with some helpful convention habits that make your con experience just that little bit better.

Keep it Clean – A convention is a busy place filled with nerds. And where there are nerds, trash is sure to follow as we consume our snacks and drinks, scribble on scraps of paper or character sheets, and generally just live in the convention space for a few days. While no one is expecting you to clean up someone else’s trash, you should always pick up your own. I can promise you, no convention has enough volunteers that they can dedicate them to constant trash policing. Looking after your own mess makes the con space a much friendlier place to be, for both you and your fellow gamers.

And especially at a board game convention, cleaning up after yourself means helping to pick up the game you just played. Don’t be that jerk that figures out his/her final score and then walks away from the table. You played it, you clean it up. If you’re old enough to be going to game conventions, you’re too old to need to be reminded to help put your toys away.

Don’t Be a Downer – You’re at a gaming convention, and of course you want to talk about games. But there is a right way and a wrong way to have that conversation. One wrong way: walking up to a table with a game just setting up or in progress, and saying some variation of, “This game sucks!” It is a fact of life that not everyone is going to like the things you do, and vice versa. Nowhere is this truer than in the gaming hobby. Tastes, preferences, and play styles vary greatly from gamer to gamer. But just because you don’t like a game does not make it a bad game.

Making a table of gamers feel bad for liking a particular game when you don’t is a jerk move. Don’t do it. If you can’t manage to say something positive about it, follow Thumper’s Law and say nothing. And if you do find yourself talking to gamers who are playing a game you don’t like, try asking positive questions. “What do you enjoy about this game?”, or “This game isn’t my bag, but could you recommend anything similar?” are questions which will lead to useful, positive, conversation. Which is a good thing, unless…

Don’t Be an Interrupting Cow – I’m sure you’re familiar with the old joke:

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Interrupting cow. Interrupting co– Moo!

There is a right and wrong time to ask gamers questions about a game. The wrong time is right in the middle of a game, when it is obvious all the players are focused on playing; the right time is just about any other time. I’m sorry you are waiting for your game to start, or haven’t found a game yet, but I’m busy doing the thing I came to the con to do. Don’t spoil that by interrogating me mid-game. If you have questions, wait until the players are taking a break or have finished and are cleaning up, we’re happy to talk then.

The exception to that rule is when I am officially demonstrating a game in my capacity as an organized play volunteer or con volunteer. Then I’m happy to give you a brief bit of information about the game. Emphasis on brief, though, as my attention belongs to the people for whom I’m demoing.

Thank the Volunteers – I’ve said it numerous times before and I’ll keep saying it: without volunteers, cons can’t happen. No convention can afford to pay wages to every person needed to make a con run, and if they tried they’d have to jack the ticket price so high no one could attend. The volunteers at your convention have given of their free time to help put on an event for your enjoyment. They do it without the benefit of pay and with no thought of getting thanked. So thank them. When you see a volunteer picking up garbage somebody left on a table, thank them (and it better not be yours!). When a volunteer gives you your badge, a program book, directions, opens a door for you, thank them. If you see a volunteer, period, thank them. Thank your volunteer game master, thank the room monitor. Just thank every volunteer too slow to get out of range, and shout thank-you to the fast movers. Trust me, they can never hear it enough.

Volunteer – Just like volunteers never get enough thanks, conventions never have so many volunteers they won’t take one more. Most cons have perks for volunteering, which at minimum is usually a reduced price or free badge, depending on how many hours you volunteer. Beyond that, volunteering for your local events is a great way to meet new people, grow your hobby locally, and give back to the community of gamers to which you belong. Plus it can be metric buttloads of fun.

Have any tips of your own for being a better con gamer? Share them in the comments on our Facebook Page.